U.S. commander to be given Korean name for contribution to S. Korean national security |
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- The commander of U.S. Forces Korea will be given a Korean name Monday in honor of his contribution to the alliance between Seoul and Washington, becoming the latest senior American figure to receive the honor from a local group.
The move, however, is likely to infuriate North Korea which views giving Korean names to U.S. figures as a "treacherous act."
The Korea-U.S. Alliance Friendship said it will name Gen. B.B. Bell "Baek Bo-guk" during a ceremony at the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul.
"Baek, which has a pronunciation similar to that of Gen. Bell's surname, symbolizes the white color," an official from the organization said. Ancient Korean people were known for wearing white robes.
The name "Bo-guk," which means "defending a country," reflects South Koreans' desire for the commander to make a continued contribution to the nation's defense, he added.
Bell has been leading U.S. troops in South Korea since February 2006. There are about 28,000 American soldiers here.
The pro-U.S. group has given Korean names to leading American figures here as a symbol of friendship and in recognition of their service.
Last year, U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow was named "Park Bo-woo."
"'Park' means 'innocence,' 'Bo' means 'treasure' and 'Woo' means 'friend.' Put together, the name is interpreted as 'everlasting friend of Koreans like treasure,'' the official said.
Bell's predecessor Leon J. LaPorte received the Korean name of "Ra Bo-tae," derived from words meaning a person who has a treasure-like role in South Korea-U.S. relations.
Internet users here also called Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. nuclear envoy, "Han Gu-ri." Han refers to South Korea, which is called "Hankuk" in Korean, and Gu-ri is a Korean word whose pronunciation is similar to the first part of the name Christopher.
Although giving those U.S. officials Korean names is a way of expressing friendship, North Korea has harshly criticized the practice, branding it as a "foolish and treacherous act."
"Those who were given by Korean names from the ultra-rightist group in South Korea are opponents to the unity and reunification of the two Koreas," the North's Cabinet newspaper Minju Chosun said.
They should be called "conspirer" or "war freak" if they need Korean names, it claimed.