Putting Korean terms in front of names

This is something that I was curious about since a long time, so I’ll ask it here now.

In the Viki Subbing Guidelines at rule nr 13 is written this: > 13) Titles should proceed the proper name. Not Cha Bong Man Chairman but Chairman Cha Bong Man. Not Lee Eun Jae Attorney but Attorney Lee Eun Jae, Oppa Do Yoon, not Do Yoon Oppa.

I understand that if the title is an English word, but why do you have to write it in front as well when the title is a Korean word?

In Korean the title comes after the name, so wouldn’t it be more logical to write ‘Do Yoon oppa’ in stead of ‘oppa Do Yoon’? That is also how the people speak and what we hear as viewers.

To me it feels weird to hear ‘Do Yoon oppa’ but seeing written ‘oppa Do Yoon’ in the subs.

Can we not just write the title in front of the name if we translate it to English or another language where the title comes before the name and write the title after the name if we keep it in Korean or translate it into a language where the title is place behind the name as well?

One more question; Why are the titles written with a capital letter? Oppa literally means brother, so it doesn’t need a capital letter, right?


I’m an English editor, and that’s what I do. I put an English title before the name and a Korean title after.

What I do: Chairman Park, Manager Lee, So Ra Unni, Kim Yoon Bin Sunbae, etc.

I capitalize the Korean title. It is a title, and titles should be capitalized in many but not all circumstances. If you just have the title alone and you’re talking about that person specifically, then you should capitalize the title.

“Anna, the company’s manager is sick.” (General, indirect)

“Anna, Manager [Lee] is sick.” (Direct)

Hope this helps. :slight_smile:


I’ve been Chief Editor for over 150 K dramas. From day 1 in 2009 or 2010, my subbing guidelines say that the title always precedes the proper name in English writing. Think of the children’s song – “Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John?” A title, whether familial or otherwise precedes the proper name. We don’t ever say John Brother. So I would automatically edit, Unni So Ra, Sunbae Kim Yoon Bin. Some people protest saying the viewer hears Unni or Oppa after the proper name. But the viewer also hears President, Teacher, Manager after the proper name in the Korean dialogue, so the argument that familial titles should be treated differently from other titles holds no water.
Rather than translating common familial terms such as Oppa, Noona, we’ve left them in for “Korean” flavor.
If the title precedes the proper name and is not preceded by a pronoun such as my, your, his, we capitalize. So “My brother John is drinking a coke ,” but “Brother John, have a coke.” If the person is being directly addressed, the familial title is capitalized.



As you know, I have utmost respect for you and I love working with you. But this is one of the few areas that we don’t see eye to eye.
I agree with emmelie and icedthy that seeing Oppa and Unni before someone’s name seems really awkward and it bothers me.

I completely agree that titles like Chairman/President should come before the name since they are titles that are translated into English and that’s how you normally put someone’s title in English.

However, Oppa and Unni are Korean words and English speaking countries do not normally put “Brother” or “Sister” in front of their names. So it just seems strange for me to see Oppa So-and-so, instead of So-and-so oppa. I think whoever knows the word Oppa/Unni should know enough about Korean language/culture that the term Oppa/Unni comes after the name. If we were to actually translate 동욱오빠 (Dongwook Oppa) to English, then we’d actually just say Dongwook, not Brother Dongwook (because Brother Dongwook would imply that he is a priest or something). So if we are leaving in the Korean term Oppa, I think we should just leave it in the way Koreans say it: Dongwook Oppa.

And I respectfully disagree that viewers actually hear the words “President” “Teacher” “Manager” after the proper name. What viewers hear are the KOREAN words for “President 사장님/회장님” “Teacher 선생님” “Manager 과장님”. So what they hear may be Kim Sajangnim, which translates into President Kim. But what viewers actually hear is Dongwook oppa, which is currently written as Oppa Dongwook.

As a Korean English subber and translation editor, it is my recommendation that we continue to put the title in front when we actually translate Korean title to English (like Teacher Lee), but put titles like Oppa, Unni, Ajumma AFTER the name.


At the time I formulated the guidelines in 2009 there were in fact subbers who would be writing subs sometimes as " Kim Cheol So President" so I opted for consistency. I opted for one consistent rule – Titles before names whether they were in Korean or English. And I opted for the optional use of Oppa, Noona, etc. to maintain a Korean flavor to the drama rather than being vanilla American dialogue. Well an alternative which is used by viki’s major competitor in the US is to drop the Hyung, Oppa, Noona etc. completely and just use proper names.
I think older people in the southern states of the US used to say Brother Tom, Sister Mary and not be referring to Catholic monks or nuns too, and I know of people who still refer to sibling as Sister or Brother.


I can totally understand why you went for the consistency. I am also glad that you chose to keep “oppa” and “unni,” etc.

While it makes sense why you opted for that way back then, I still think it may be a good idea to modify the rule at this point. Viki has evolved a lot and Ko-En subbing quality has skyrocketed compared to when I first started in 2012. We now have a lot more fluent subbers, and the viewers seems to be a lot more in tune with Korean terms and culture than before - Thanks to so much kdrama/show watching!

While some older people in the south used to say “Brother Tom,” that’s not the norm, and it also does not have the same connotation as the Korean words. So, I’d still recommend keeping Oppas and Unnies, but add it after the name. When we sub Korean names, we write it the way we hear it; Last name and then First name. So we would write Heo Joon Jae for 허준재, and not change it the way Americans do it and write Joon Jae Heo or even Heo, Joon Jae.

I think most viewers who know what Oppa and Unni means would also know that we add that after the name, not before. For those who do not know what Oppa means, then it shouldn’t matter if it comes before or after the name. If they are going to learn what Oppa and Unni means, they might as well learn it the way that’s correctly used in Korea.

Again, this is my humble opinion and I won’t speak any further on this topic no matter what you decide.



I think to maintain the expressions oppa, unni, noone, etc in the subs supports the Korean culture…

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@icedthy Thank you for explaining about capatalizing titles. I actually don’t know if this rule also must be followed in Dutch subbing but I’ll try to figure that out :slight_smile:

@ajumma2 You expressed exactly my thoughts but better than I could do myself, so thank you for that.


I wholeheatedly agree.
At the time when you wrote this, I was an almost nobody, so I wasn’t in a position to even take part in the conversation between you two veterans - other than a timid heart under your comment.
A year and many dramas later (although, with only 50 projects under my belt, still a rookie compared to you ladies), I am continuing this tradition whenever I am Manager, Editor or C.M. and I get to write rules for subbers.
And, even as a viewer and a Korean learner, I confirm that our non-Korean ears perceive the family terms after the name as extremely weird.

Where can I find these guidelines, please? I can’t seem to find them here: https://nssacademy.weebly.com/subtitling-guide.html

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@worthyromance – that rule is part of the subbing guideline I wrote about 2009 or 2010 and has been used in all the dramas and movies for which I was Chief Editor. Over the years I gave permission to numerous other editors to use the guidelines. Some editors also modified the guidelines for the channels they worked on.


Thanks so much! I bookmarked the document. :grinning: