[KS] Choson, The land of the morning calm... really?

Dr. Edward D. Rockstein ed4linda at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 18 10:59:00 EDT 2007

Back in 1961 when I first studied Korean, and in the several years immediately after that, I noticed that Koreans were often referred to, variously, as the "Irish of the Far East," "Welsh of the Far East," "Italians of the Far East," etc., invidious comparisons at best and not awfully insightful either.
  "Japan, Land of the Rising Sun," strikes me as somewhat parallel to "Korea, Land of the Morning Calm" in that it appears to be derived from an attempt to capture some of the "meaning" of the Chinese characters that make up one of its appellations in somewhat the same way we see "China, the Middle Kingdom" and "China, the Flowery Kingdom" similarly employed. Perhaps this is an inevitable result of adults learning Chinese characters; however, when I was at the Army Language School in 1961 one of the more "bumbly" of the Korean instructors there was K.C. Chung who wrote a a book titled "Korea, Land of the Morning Calm."  Moreover, even Chong-Sik Lee used that sobriquet, "Korea, Land of the Morning Calm" as a title for a book so maybe it goes deeper, somehow, too.
  As for "sobriquetting," we might consider the parallels of Land of: "the Enlightenment" (France), "the Tiger" (India), "the Pure" (Pakistan), "the Free" (the US), "Midnight Sun" (Alaska), "Lincoln" (Illinois), "Enchantment" (New Mexico), USW.  So maybe we just have to recognize the allusive power of the travel industry and Chambers of Commerce, worldwide, and suffer the fools even if not entirely gladly.
  As to the question of other sobriquets raised by Ruediger Frank, I'd offer up the culinary names of Land of: "Sushi" (Japan), "Chopsticks" (China), and, of course "Kimchi" / "Kimchee" (Korea).
  Ed Rockstein

Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at> wrote: 
Indeed. My guess is that relatively many visitors deemed it appropriate to describe Korea with one sentence or less, while fewer have dared so in the case of China or Japan, countries they probably regarded as more complex. If correct, this would be a truly disturbing observation. In other words: Land of The Morning Calm and especially the prominence this phrase has reached might not primarily be an expression of insufficient linguistic knowledge, but more a sad proof of ignorance towards Korea.

What would be comparably established stereotypical descriptions of China and Japan? Middle Kingdom? Land of the Rising Sun? Any other?

                          Dr. Edward D. Rockstein 
Korean Language Instructor 
Language Learning Center (LLC) 
891 Elkridge Landing Road, Rm 301 
Linthicum Heights, MD 21090 
Office 410-859-5672
  Fax 410-859-5737 
ed4linda at yahoo.com 

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