[KS] Re: Spelling of the name Korea

Kirsten Bell Kirsten.Bell at jcu.edu.au
Tue Sep 14 23:29:00 EDT 1999

As Henny Savenije has noted, many Korean people "seriously" attribute the
K in Korea to a Japanese desire for "alphabetical primacy".  This
should not be dismissed as "silly-ness" simply because it does not 
gell with Western notions of what is "truth", what is "fact",
and what is "objective" -- all constructs in their own right.  Rather,
these views should be seriously considered and celebrated for what they  
Indeed, Ledyard seems to miss this point in his rather high-handed
dismissal of the complex ways in which Korean people understand their
culture and history in relation to Japan (as revealed in the discourses
that have been established regarding the origins of the K in Korea).
Rather than placing primacy on one view and arguing that it is somehow
more "objective" (is this even possible?) than another, shouldn't both
views be considered equally valid and important for what they reveal about
present and past constructions of Korean history and identity? 

Kirsty Bell
School of Anthropology & Archaeology
James Cook University
Douglas, Qld 4811

On Tue, 14 Sep 1999, Gari Keith Ledyard wrote:

>  	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.-
> > 


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