ASIAN AMERICAN ISSUES
KOREA OR COREA?
e at GoldSea choose to honor the more natural rendering commonly used in the English-speaking world prior to the Japanese annexation and colonialization of Corea beginning in 1905.
American and English books published during the latter half of the 19th century generally referred to the nation as "Corea" as recently as the years immediately preceding Japan's formal annexation of Corea in 1910. An 1851 map of East Asia by Englishman John Tallis labels the nation Corea. The same spelling is used in The Mongols, a 1908 history of the Mongol race by Jeremiah Curtin, the world's foremost Asia scholar of the day, as well as in several books by American missionaries published between 1887 and 1905.
Japan's annexation of Corea didn't become formal until 1910, but for all practical purposes Japan had become the power that regulated Corea's relations with the outside world in 1897 when it defeated China in a war over Japan's ambition to exercise control over Corea. The only other power willing to contest Japan's supremacy in the Corean peninsula was Russia. When it was easily defeated by Japan at Port Arthur in 1905, the annexation of Corea became a fait accompli. Anxious to avoid a costly Pacific conflict, President Wilson ignored the pleas of a delegation of Corean patriots and their American missionary supporters and turned a blind eye to Japan's acts of formal annexation and colonization of Corea. During that period Japan mounted a campaign to push for the "Korea" useage by the American press. Why? For one of Japan's prospective colonies to precede its master in the alphabetical lineup of nations would be unseemly, Japanese imperialists decided.
Japan's colonial rule over Corea ended on August 15, 1945 when it lost World War II. Now that Corea is eagerly shedding the last vestiges of the colonial period, even demolishing public buildings erected by the Japanese (for example, the monstrously immense colonial governor's mansion), forward-thinking Corean and Corean American journalists, intellectuals and scholars are urging the American media to revert to the original, more natural rendering of Corea.
The changeover will pose a problem only in English-speaking nations as other western nations never accepted the "K" spelling. For example, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, among many others, use the "C" rendering.
English convention, too, is on the side of the Corea rendering. Non-European names are romanized with a "C" (Cambodia, Canada, cocoa, Comanche, Congo, and even old Canton, for example) except where the first letter is followed by an "e" or an "i", (as in Kenya). Other than that, the "K" spelling is used only in connoting childlike ignorance of spelling conventions ("Kitty Kat" and "Skool", for examples).
Therefore, the American "K" spelling is
- offensive from a historical standpoint (remember "Peking" and "Canton"?);
- violates western rendering conventions;
- suggests a lack of sophistication toward Corea; and
- by connoting naiveté, imputes a lack of sophistication to Corea and its people.
The Corea rendering will ultimately become universal when more Americans are educated as to the offensive and relatively recent origin of the "Korea" rendering. The English-speaking world was responsible for agreeing to Japanese efforts to change the spelling of Corea's name in English useage. Who better than concerned Asian Americans to help change it back?
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WHAT YOU SAY
[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
wow! do ya have english-to korean, chinese translation system in ur com?
just out of curiosity:)
Friday, January 03, 2003 at 03:50:40 (PST)
I'm sorry if my previous post was too wordy and unclear. What I was mainly trying to suggest is that both spellings (with a "K" and with a "C") were CREATED BY EUROPEANS and were both USED BY EUROPEANS prior to Japan's having any influence over how European countries might interact with Korea.
Besides, East Asian countries were considered so far-flung and utterly foreign that Europeans didn't really care how they spelled the names, or what they called the countries. Each European people designed their own spelling of the name of each East Asian country so that the spelling would be less obtrusive in each European country's native language. Japan was often written "Cipangu" (c.f. Shakespeare's plays) early on; later, as in modern Spanish, it is "Japon" with an accent mark over the "o" or "Giappone" as in Italian or "Japan" as in English. Southern European languages are mostly derived from Latin, in which the letter "C" (which is actually derived from the Greek letter for "G," i.e., gamma) was used to transcribe a hard "k" sound (this "k" sound later changed to a "ch," then to a "ts" and finally to a "s" sound before the front vowels "i" and "e," demonstrating a phenomenon called palatalization). In Northern European languages, the "k" sound was always written with the letter "K" and not "C" (except in languages like Anglo-Saxon that were heavily influenced by ecclesiastical Latin). Basically, the choice between the letters "K" and "C" for writing the hard "k" sound is simply a historical accident, and in response to this scriptual variation, Europeans normally just chose the letter that is most commonly used in their native language when transcribing foreign words that contain the "k" sound.
As the facts I have just mentioned make clear, neither of the spellings of Korea's name has anything to do with Japanese colonialism. The Japanese, after all, call the country by its native name, which at the time of the annexation of Korea was "Tae Han Chejkuk" (Great Han Empire) or "Choseon" (an ancient name meaning "Morning Vividness/Brightness").
Anyway, it is really immature for Korean people to keep searching for things to complain about on the basis of some imaginary link to the Japanese. I wish they would just stop their pathetic grabbing at little aspects of their reality here and there and associating them with or blaming them on Japan's colonization of the country.
Friday, December 27, 2002 at 13:47:24 (PST)
Hello. I am a white (AKA Caucasian, European, whatever) American male, 19 years old, sophomore in university. I am majoring in Linguistics, and I am an aficionado of historical linguistics on the side. I just happened upon this article while looking through all the polls on this website, and I found many of the comments to be so infantile that I couldn't resist responding.
The K-initial spelling of "Korea" is NOT a relic of Japanese colonialism! Please do not be idiotic. The name "Korea" is a CORRUPTION (made by European adventurers or Central Asian intermediaries) of the native Korean name for the earlier of their medieval dynasties, the 高麗 고려 Dynasty, whose name is normally romanized as "Koryeo" or "Koryo" (with a shallow u-shaped diacritic over the second "o"). The name of the Koryeo Dynasty itself is a corruption or later development of 高句麗 고구려 "Kokuryeo," a country which was called Koma or Koukuri by the ancient Japanese, who appear to have had a close relationship to it. Kokuryeo was an ancient country that occupied the territory which is now North Korea and parts of northeastern China. The name "Kokuryeo" was probably reanalyzed by later generations as "Kuryeo" prefixed with the Chinese word for "tall, high," owing to Chinese historians' writing that the Chinese emperor, who detested the nation of Kokuryeo, nicknamed them 下句麗 or "Low Kuryeo." Of course, this was probably nothing more than a Chinese pun, and the full name of the Korean nation was probably Kokuryeo (not Kuryeo), so maybe "Coreans" should change their name to "Cocureans" instead?
Of course, the romanization "Koryeo" or "Koryo" is a modern, academic creation, made using systematic rules of transcription designed to faithfully (i.e., one "symbol unit"/written representation for each sound, and only one sound for each "symbol unit"/written representation) represent the Korean language in Roman letters. Such intelligent precision in the written representation of language is a recent invention. The Korean alphabet, or Hangul, allowed the Korean people to develop an impressively accurate written representation of their language in the 15th century, but Europeans, who are the ones who developed such spellings as "Korea" and "Corea," generally did not have such a penchant for logical orthography.
In fact, Europeans changed the name of Korea in a way similar to how they changed the names of most other East Asian countries, e.g., "China" and "Japan." Basically, they made the names look more European than they actually were. The name "China" comes from a word that should really be written "Shin" in standard Modern English orthography. This European name has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Chinese people's name for their own country, which literally means "Middle Country," (in Mandarin) sounds and would be spelled something like "Zhong Guo," which is totally dissimilar to "China." "Japan" comes from an old pronunciation of the Chinese characters for "sun" and "root/source," which together are pronounced as "nihon" or "nippon" in Japanese, but the European names for the country certainly deviate far from the native (i.e., Japanese) form of the name. You Koreans actually got a good deal - at least we call you by a name that SORT OF resembles a name that you historically applied to yourselves! So just stop complaining, OK? We'll write the name of your country however we want to write it.
Friday, December 27, 2002 at 06:59:34 (PST)
[There has never been a dispute about the source of the western name for Corea (as you would see if you read back a bit), only the genesis of the "Korea" rendering. --Ed]
it's a good thing the spanish got it right...they still spell Korea with a "C" i hear the japanese replaced the C with a K because K comes after J. How lame is that??
Thursday, December 26, 2002 at 14:44:10 (PST)
Hey man, NYcimchiBoy.....if you think this issue is "petty, irrelevant, and divisive"....then why did you spell "gimchi" with a C instead of the americanized K?
and no, it's not irrelevant. if you are a fellow Corean, then you must have watched a few world cup games. If it is such a pointless issue, then I am wondering why so many of us were waving "Corea" banners.
The K is a terrible reminder of what the Japanese did to our ancestors and it's time that we rid of the ignorance and change it to C, once and for all.
A Proud Corean
Wednesday, December 11, 2002 at 21:00:19 (PST)
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