Pyeongchang name similarities with North Korean capital prompt rebranding by ’16 Olympic host city


With a one letter shift from lower to upper case, the South Korean venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, hopes to ensure visitors don’t end up flying to the capital of North Korea by mistake.

Briefing the foreign media in Seoul on Tuesday, the governor of Gangwon province, where the ski resort is located, acknowledged that the venue name was similar enough to Pyongyang to lead some winter sports fans dangerously astray.

“Because of the similarity, foreigners can get confused,” Choi Moon-soon said.

“So, in order to avoid further confusion, we have decided to rebrand it as PyeongChang with an upper-case C,” Choi added.

The governor backed his concerns by citing the example of Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, a member of Kenya’s semi-nomadic Maasai tribe, who learned the difference between the two places the hard way.

Invited to attend a U.N. conference on biodiversity in Pyeongchang in September, 2014, Sapit mistakenly flew to Pyongyang, where he was interrogated for five hours by suspicious North Korean immigration officials.

After paying a $500 fine, he was eventually put on a plane back to Beijing.

The official website of the 2018 Games organizing committee already bears the new PyeongChang spelling, as do a series of TV commercials airing on CNN and Eurosport.

Pyeong means “peace” in Korean and “chang” means prosperity.

“We hope the games will bring peace and prosperity to the whole world,” Choi said.

  • Alan Engel

    Except that Internet search engines are case-insensitive.