The Korea Herald


Busan's move to name district 'Eco Delta-dong' irks Hangeul advocates

By No Kyung-min

Published : March 12, 2024 - 14:50

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A rendering of Busan Eco Delta Smart City (Busan Metropolitan City) A rendering of Busan Eco Delta Smart City (Busan Metropolitan City)

Busan city is facing opposition from Korean language preservation groups as it moves to name a district “Eco Delta-dong,” making the first time an English place name would be used for an official administrative unit.

As per the city’s announcement on Tuesday, the district office of Gangseo, Busan, has submitted the naming proposal last month for the new entity to be comprised of three existing areas, Gangdong-dong, Myeongji 1-dong and Daejeo 2-dong.

In pursuit of the national Smart City initiative, which seeks to incorporate "fourth industrial revolution" technologies and foster an innovative industrial ecosystem within the city, Busan initiated the Eco Delta Smart City project in 2012. The area, combining the three dongs, is set to undergo major redevelopment under its project, hence the proposed name, Eco Delta-dong.

Dong is one of the basic units in Korea's administrative jurisdictions, serving as the designation for urban neighborhoods within cities or city districts.

A coalition of 75 groups dedicated to the study, preservation and protection of the Korean language and five Busan-based civic groups is calling for the city government to abandon the plan, arguing that using an English name for a dong will cause difficulties for those who can't speak English.

"It represents a significant infringement on Korean citizens who do not possess a high level of linguistic skills in foreign languages," Lee Geon-beom, the president of Hangul Cultural Solidarity, part of the coalition, said during a protest on Friday in front of the Busan City Hall.

He said if public institutions "abuse" foreign languages, the language people use in society will gradually become overflowing with foreign words.

Another official from the civic coalition expressed discomfort that Busan City already boasts numerous English place names, such as Marine City, Centum City and Diamond Bridge.

"This kind of policy, which excessively uses foreign languages at a time when the world is showing a keen interest in learning Hangeul, the Korean language, is no different from ridiculing the Korean people,” the official stated.

The name, Eco Delta-dong, was chosen after a survey of the area’s residents gave sweeping support to it.

A survey conducted by the Gangseo-gu Office among its 3,719 residents last year, "Eco Delta-dong" emerged as the preferred choice with 48 percent of respondents choosing it, followed by "Garam-dong" with 16 percent support.

They believed that the name aptly mirrors the environmentally friendly character of the new town, considering its location as a delta near the Nakdong River in Busan, an official from the district office said.

The Busan city government intends to review the validity of the naming plan and propose it to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety within this month. The ministry will make a final decision in June.

If approved, Eco Delta-dong will become the first legal district with an official English name among the nearly 3,600 legal districts nationwide.

The initiative to develop Eco Delta City in Busan is a collaborative effort involving the Korea Water Resources Corporation and the Busan Metropolitan Development Corporation, with investments totaling 6 trillion won ($4.58 billion). Expected to be completed by 2028, this residential and commercial city aims to accommodate 38,000 households, or approximately 76,000 people.