■ Though the kanji suggest that this word should be translated as "heavy oil"--and it is sometimes translated that way--in most cases the correct translation is "fuel oil" or, in maritime contexts, "bunker fuel" or "bunker oil." As defined in 広辞苑 and other sources, 重油 is mixture of residue from the vacuum distillation of crude oil with 軽油, and it is used primarily as boiler fuel. While 重油 is in fact a heavy oil--that is, it has a high specific gravity--the English term "heavy oil" is broader and includes, for example, crude oil with a high specific gravity. Thus 重油 is heavy refined oil that is used as fuel, while "heavy oil" may not be refined and may be used other than as a fuel.
A Japanese equivalent for "heavy oil" is 重質油.
□ The term "heavy oil" has appeared frequently in news reports about fuel oil supplied to North Korea by the United States in exchange for a promise by North Korea not to pursue its nuclear weapons program. Reports in the Western press have usually used the term "fuel oil," but reports based on Japanese or Korean sources have sometimes used "heavy oil" in an apparent mistranslation of 重油 or its Korean equivalent. Some Japanese-English dictionaries also gloss 重油 as "heavy oil."
(Saga Shimbun, November 22, 2002)
The dispute comes amid tension over North Korea's recently disclosed
nuclear weapons program. The United States and its allies including
South Korea responded by announcing the suspension of deliveries of fuel oil to North Korea.
(Jae-Suk Yoo, Associated Press Writer, "North Korea refuses inspection of demining work for inter-Korean rail project," AP Worldstream, 11-24-2002)
Under the accord, North Korea is required to freeze and dismantle
its graphite-moderated reactors in return for being supplied with two
light-water reactors and an interim supply of heavy oil for heating and electricity.
(S. Korea urges North to ease tensions over nuclear issue, Kyodo World News Service, 11-07-2002)
This entry was created by Tom Gally, with additional contributions by Maynard Hogg.
Created 2002-11-30. "Bunker" glosses added at MH's suggestion 2003-01-13.