[KS] Spelling of the name Korea

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Tue Sep 14 11:31:47 EDT 1999

 	I should have said there is no SERIOUS rationale for the argument
that it was Japan that was responsible for first spelling "Corea" with a
"K".  Yes, there is a story that it coveted alphabetical primacy, but it
is a silly story.  The Japanese were not the first to use this spelling.  
We've all heard Korean jokes about the Japanese, and there's nothing wrong
with playful fun; I've enjoyed many such sessions in my time in Korea.  
And if someone wants to repeat the alphabetic-order story just to have a
little fun, as Bryan Ross did yesterday, that's OK too.  But seriously
offering this explanation for a phenomenon that occurred in the 1880s, if
not earlier, is ridiculous.  Even if one insists that the Japanese
manipulated the media at that time to get the K into dominance, please,
let us have some attempt at evidence.  It might be worthwhile to note
that in their official English-language name for Korea, the Japanese
squelched "Korea" in ANY spelling and insisted on the Japanese form
Cho^sen, as thousands of publications and maps in western languages from
the first half of this century attest. Not only did it use this name, but
whenever possible used its influence around the world do make Western
publications use this form.  Check out many American maps and mags like
the National Geographic if you doubt it.  The frivolous theorists might
note that "Cho^sen" also begins with a C, but the real thing that was
going on was that the Korean forms "Han," "Han'guk," and "Taehan," which
had been proclaimed when the Korean kingdom proclaimed itself an empire in
1896, were being suppressed.  Please don't tell me they did this because H
came before J.

	Henny Savenije gave a very useful list of early map citations
yesterday.  The very first spelling to occur on a map, as Henny says, was
"Conray," in 1568.  I believe the full form was "Costa de Conray."  But
this must still be based on the same Japanese form Ko^rai.  It frequently
happens that it is hard to distinguish cursive written forms for u and n.
Usually this causes no problem, but if it is a matter of an unfamiliar
language or word, it can become a source for error.  The Portuguese who
heard the Japanese form might even have had it written out for him in
kana, Ko-u-ra-i, which would easily have been iberianized as "Couray."  
But the printer in Lisbon would have had no way to decide, and so set the
type for "Conray."

	It was good of Daniel Bouchez to remind us of Charles Haguenauer's
early discussions of the old names in his articles on the "Gores."
Daniel did NOT propose a new form, "Gorea," probably because it would have
been listed alphabetically ahead of France.  May the gods subject me to a
thousand torments if anyone ever offers the preceding sentence in a
serious historical discussion. 

Gari Ledyard  

On Tue, 14 Sep 1999, McKey wrote:

> > At 05:29 PM 09/13/1999 , Gari Keith Ledyard wrote:
> . . .
> > > . .  I have heard it said that the Japanese were responsible
> > >for the change to "K," but I know of no evidence or rationale in favor of
> > >this assertion. ...
> hi,
> there is a story, that Japanese changed C to K in order to have Japan prior in
> the western aplphabet.
> greetings -m.g.-


More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list