Blame it on the South Korean government. 

A while back, the government set up a standard of rules for translating Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) into Roman characters. It was a one-size-fits-all approach with a sledgehammer. A lot of spellings with the Roman alphabet depend on context. That’s also true of some words in Hangeul, but those spellings aren’t common.

The most controversial rule was how to spell this character.

Image result for ㅓ

It’s a vowel, and it’s like the “a” in all or the “o” in song. You could generally say it’s a short O. The now standard way to spell this character is “eo.” 

Yeah, I know it doesn’t make much sense. I heard one government official justified it by using the word “surgeon” as an example. I guess no one told him that the “e” is there to turn the “g” from a hard /g/ to a /j/ sound. 

Ah, well.

That also explains why Seoul is spelled with “eo.”

In Hangeul, makgeolli is spelled 막걸리. Do you see that character in there? 

Now that you know how it’s pronounced, don’t called it “mak-gee-o-li.”

I tell people to just think of a Scottish guy named McCallie. That’s not precise, but it’s closer. 

Now just put the stress on the first syllable or no syllable at all. I personally think “makkolli” is a more accurate spelling, but “makgeolli” is what we’re stuck with. 

Seriously, there were debates in the government and in society about how to spell it around a decade ago.