noir wrote:이(李) is originally pronounced "리."
But when a word starts with ㄹ the initial sound ㄹ changes to ㅇ, therefore '리' as a surname becomes '이.' This is called 'Initial Law.' -- when the character 李 is placed in the middle or the end of the word, it is pronounced '리.'
It is transcribed into (most often) Lee in English because such law doesn't exist in English. (Well, at least this is my guess.)
Initial Law doesn't exist in North Korean standard language, so their name is written 리 without modification.
Rhee is an alternative spelling but it's rarely used nowadays.
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