Thursday, January 22, 2004

Thinking of East Asia ...

The Washington Post has an interesting look at a growing conflict between North and South Korea and the People's Republic of China, "Kicking Up the Dust of History." Basically, the Goguryeo/Koguryo (고구려) kingdom (Wikipedia article) spanned the area that now makes up the Chinese-Korean border and China is now asserting that Goguryeo was a Han kingdom. The speculation is that this could be a ploy to advance Chinese claims to parts of North Korea should P'yŏngyang ever collapse. Similar articles appeared in the World Press Review, Asia Times, and The Korea Times.

[ASIDE: Linguist List has a description of Koguryo/Goguryeo language, which may or may not be related to Korean.]

The Washington Post also looks at other regional conflicts the Koreas face, such as the dispute and how they're solving them. Most visible is the long-running push to have the Sea of Japan officially recognized as the East Sea.

Less visible is a move to have the English version of 한국 Hankuk be recognized as Corea, instead of Korea.
Scholars from North and South Korea also held a rare joint meeting in Pyongyang last year to launch a project to change the English-language spelling of Korea to Corea, arguing that the Japanese forced the demeaning "K" on the peninsula when it was occupied by the Imperial Army in the early 20th century. Both Koreas insist Japan wanted to come first in English alphabetical order.
I guess that would make the English version of the name more like the French (Corée), Spanish (Corea) and Italian (Corea) forms, but less like the German (Korea). This was the first I'd heard of such a push, but Brewmokey blogged it back in February of last year, and he found an article about the push in The Korea Times.
"From 1250s to late 1800s, the international community used Corea, regardless of language differences," the report [on 조선중앙방송, the state-run North Korean radio service] said. The Choson Dynasty (1392-1910), the last Korean kingdom, also used the spelling, it pointed out.

The change came with the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule, it pointed out, accusing Tokyo of enforcing the change on grounds that Japan should come before its colony in alphabetical order.

"Correcting the nation’s standard romanized spelling is about restoring our nation’s history and doing away with the remnants of the Japanese colonial past," it said, quoting North Korean scholars at the debate.
Brewmonkey also notes that the etymology of Korea probably is tied to Koryŏ, the second modern Korean dynasty (918-1392), which might argue against a C spelling, but who knows ... Actually, I wonder if a similar push is being made to change the German Korea to Corea.

ADDENDUM: Well, it gets even stickier. The 국립국어연구원 (National Academy of the Korean Language) has been pushing a new (at least newer than McCune-Reischauer) romanization scheme for South Korea since 2000, which means the spelling of some placenames changes: Koryŏ (고려) becomes Goryeo, Chosŏn (조선) becomes Joseon, and so forth.

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