[KS] FWD: Question about Japanese characters in Korean lang.

eall eall at gwu.edu
Mon Mar 3 00:42:25 EST 2003

Dear Corey,

Here are my quick responses to your queries:

>>>1. Should "Chinese character compounds coined in Japan" (kanji) and
      used in Korea be considered to be hanja-based Japanese loanwords,
      or Japanese characters?

They are loanwords.  There are quite a few Japanese loanwords in Korean, which 
Koreans have not eliminated from their lexicon, in spite of the "purification 
movement" in both parts of the Korean peninsula.  It is perhaps because they 
are not aware that these words have come from Japanese.  More important, they 
are kept because they sound more natural to the Korean ear than some words 
that are not based on the Sino-Japanese morphemes. These "loanwords" are also 
PRONOUNCED like any other Sino-Korean words, and therefore something Koreans 
"could have coined" themselves, as neologisms based on Sino-Korean roots are 
rather prevalent and accepted quite open-mindedly. Note that many of these 
Japanese neologisms were re-imported by the Chinese.

Usually one speaks of "Chinese characters" but "Japanese syllabary" and 
"Han'gul alphabet/letters."  All three are referred to as "scripts."

>>>2. Are there any kana used in Korea? If so, what are examples?

Not consciously.  At least, I am not aware of any kana used in usual contexts.
 A Korean text may, however, include some Japanese writing when quoting or 
discussing some specific examples in Japanese for comparative purposes, etc.

>>>3. Please include anything else that might be helpful on this subject.

For more discussion on this, please read

_The Korean Language_ by Iksop Lee and S. Robert Ramsey ( Albany, NY: SUNY 
Press, 2000: x, 131-135): in English;

For extensive studies on linguistic influences of Japanese on Korean, please 

_SaegugO saenghwal_ (New Korean-Language Life, the official journal of the 
Academy of the Korean Language) 5.2 (1995): in Korean.

I share your general opinion completely, but I am forwarding your message to 
three different discussion groups I belong to, as various scholars might have 
something to say about your questions (and my answers):

Good Luck!

Best wishes,


>===== Original Message From Corey Richardson <corey at wotje.org>, Sunday, March 
02, 2003 11:20 PM  =====
Hello Dr. Kim-Renaud,

I have a question concerning the use of Japanese characters in Korean
language that has started something of a debate.

Recently I came across a paper that stated:

"The Korean language uses approximately 1,800 Chinese characters and
1,000 Japanese characters."

Having never heard this of Japanese characters before, and believing
this to be untrue as I am a student of Korean, it seemed to be an
obvious error, perhaps based on a misunderstanding of the difference
between a character and a loanword.

I contacted this person and informed them that while Korean does use
Chinese characters, Japanese characters were used only during the
colonial period, and were methodically eradicated after 1945. I also
asked for any sources to the contrary.

I added that hanja (in Korea) and kanji (in Japan) are both Chinese
characters in origin, not truly Korean or Japanese, and that one might
say that Korea uses some hanja (Chinese) borrowed from the Japanese
(especially for some modern terminology in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries), but not that Koreans use Japanese characters, which would be
kana (katakana and hiragana).

This is besides the point that there are (I think) only 100 some odd
kana; nothing approaching "1,000 Japanese characters," which must then
be kanji, or Chinese characters, further meaning that the figure of
"1,000" is more likely to be loanwords. And then there is my personal
experience of never having seen any kana being represented as used in
Korea, outside of tourist locations, or course. .

The reply I received from the author:

    "I have also asked several Koreans about this, most recently Lee
    xxx-xxx, a masters student at Yonsei University and Shin xxx-xxx, an
    undergraduate at Ehwa and both have confirmed to me that Japanese
    characters (read: not just loanwords) are indeed used in the Korean
    language...  It might serve to point out that Mr. Lee is a Korean
    linguist... If I decide to pursue this topic further, I will surely
    make note of the almost absent nature of Japanese characters in the
    Korean language, although to me the foreign influence in SK language..."

The author also gave me a few sources, none of which stated anything
about Japanese characters being used in Korean.  The closest I found,
and which may be confusing the author, is this:

    "During the colonial period, large numbers of Chinese character
    compounds coined in Japan to translate modern Western scientific,
    technical, social science, and philosophical concepts came into use
    in Korea. The North Korean regime has attempted to eliminate as many
    of these loanwords as possible..." (89-90) [emphasis added]

Source: United States Department of the Army.  (1994).  North Korea: A
Country Study. Washington: Government Printing Office.

I posted the above questions on several Korea-related Internet forums,
and received several responses that said that Korean has some Japanese
loanwords, but does not use Japanese characters. Only one person thought
that they saw some katakana on pre-paid envelopes in Korea (specifically
the /te/ character of /te-ga-mi/, referring to the post-code). However,
it turned out to be hanja / kanji for "hand," or ? (as in payment).

Since I am only a student, I am seeking expert advice on this subject.
Please advise;

   1. Should "Chinese character compounds coined in Japan" (kanji) and
      used in Korea be considered to be hanja-based Japanese loanwords,
      or Japanese characters?
   2. Are there any kana used in Korea? If so, what are examples?
   3. Please include anything else that might be helpful on this subject.

Thank you very much.

Corey Richardson

Young-Key Kim-Renaud
Professor of Korean Language and Culture and International Affairs
Chair, Dept. of East Asian Languages and Literatures
The George Washington University
801 22nd St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20052, U.S.A.
Tel: 202-994-7107/7106, Fax: 202-994-1512
E-mail: eall at gwu.edu, kimrenau at gwu.edu
http://home.gwu.edu/~kimrenau, http://myprofile.cos.com/kimreny76

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