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The character 朴 is used in modern Mandarin in the following ways:

  • 朴樹 'Chinese hackberry, Celtis sinensis', 厚朴 'Magnolia officinalis'.

  • [simplified from 樸] 'simple, plain, rough, unpolished'.

However, the Korean surname 朴 (Park) is pronounced Piáo.

Furthermore, it seems that Taiwan uses the reading instead.

How did these readings (especially Piáo) emerge? While in Korean the [pa̠k̚] pronunciation refers to a native word, its phonetic spelling as 朴 has a long history (I believe attested at least from the 10th century), so I wouldn't expect the Chinese reading to be anything but the natural development from 'ordinary' 朴, that is, .

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  • The reason why 朴 pronounces as Piáo in mainland China is that 朴 is also a Chinese surname which reads Piáo. Actually there are 56 peoples in China among which one is Korean. Historically the Korea Kingdom used Chinese letters as noble languages in ancient times. This surname actually originated from ancient China hence follows the Chinese pronunciation. Mar 3, 2023 at 17:02
  • Earlier I asked a question that I think is somewhat similar to yours. My question is about 首相, which are now used for the title of top government officials of some countries, such as Japan, Cambodia, the UK, but in China's history, there was no such an official title using the exact words(宰相,丞相). Mar 11, 2023 at 7:16

2 Answers 2

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朴 as a surname in China somehow has three different pronunciations: piáo, pǔ, fú, at least according to this website. However, the 朴 surname in Korea is completely unrelated. The first person the 朴 surname in Korea was the founder of Silla, whose surname was apparently chosen to match the Korean word for gourd (which is also bak). Of course, hangul had not been invented yet, so the original Korean surname, Bak, had to be transcribed into Chinese characters. So, they chose 朴, which, at the time would have sounded quite similar to bak, at least looking at some of the reconstructions listed on Wiktionary for the first pronunciation, pò.

Now, this is my theory for the piáo pronunciation. When ancient Chinese people read texts about the Korean surname 朴, they obviously did not know about the actual Korean pronunciation, so they just defaulted to the standard pronunciation for 朴 as a surname, piáo, as piáo was the most common pronunciation out of the three possible 朴 pronunciations. This pronunciation carried over into modern times.

As for the pú pronunciation in Taiwan, pú was used in southern China, while piáo was used in northern China, according to this blog post. When South Korean President Park Chung-hee came to Taiwan to establish relations in 1966, the Taiwanese president told everyone to pronounce the Park Korean surname as pú because it is closer to the Korean pronunciation.

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In Taiwan, according to the entry in Republic of China MoE dictionary, when it comes to the surname, both ㄆㄨˊ and ㄆㄧㄠˊ are acceptable.

Based on a post by Taiwanese representative in Korea, the ㄆㄧㄠˊ pronunciation is used in Northern China, while the ㄆㄨˊ is used in the South.

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