[KS] Is the word "외국인" an instance of "和製漢語"?

J.Scott Burgeson jsburgeson at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 2 04:39:16 EST 2014

Dear Bob --
   thanks for the interesting comments and article. I will say that while I often heard the word "미국 사람" applied indiscriminately to Westerners here in public back in the 1990s, these days I almost always hear "외국인" or "외국 사람" instead (and the occasional "양키놈" at large demonstrations, natch). Perhaps the influx of Western English teachers from countries like Canada or the UK since then has had something to do with this, supplanting the long-dominant GI stereotype or image for many. I also believe that "외국인" can apply to Chinese and Southeast Asians these days, for example in official statistics on foreign crime in Korea, or the number of foreigners resident here. Certainly Korean-Chinese and even Korean-Americans are usually included in such statistics, for example. I also have younger Korean friends who say that they often use the word "외국인" in reference to Chinese or Japanese themselves.
   In your paper, you wrote, "If a non-Japanese were to refer to his Japanese language classes as Kokugo, Japanese listeners would find the usage nonsensical and humorous." This reminded me of my previously mentioned trip to Kyobo in Daegu last Friday. When I first came in, I asked a greeter in Korean where I could find the section with "국어" dictionaries, just to make it clear that I was not looking for 한영 or 영한 dictionaries. She gave me a rather quizzical look for a moment, but clearly understood me and soon replied, "By the escalators on the 2nd Floor." When I got there, however, the section by the escalators was largely devoted to foreign-language study books, and I had to ask another clerk where the "국어" dictionaries were as I could not find them; this time there was no quizzical look, and I was immediately led to another section at the other side of the floor. Had the greeter been amused, or confused, by my "in-group" usage of the
 term "국어사전," or, as you write later in your text, had she understood me to mean dictionaries in a variety of different national languages? I wonder!
   Thanks again,

On Sat, 3/1/14, Samuel Robert Ramsey <ramsey at umd.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KS] Is the word "외국인" an instance of "和製漢語"?
 To: "Frank Hoffmann" <hoffmann at koreanstudies.com>, "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com>
 Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:51 PM
 This is a great thread to start the
 morning (on the US east coast).  I've always found
 these words fascinating because they've comprised so much of
 the vocabulary of modern life in East Asia since the 19th
 But what Scott's asking about in particular is 外國人.
 What a great question.  I had never thought of that
 particular example, so I immediately went to my main
 references, Morohashi's 大漢和辭典 and the
 日本國語大辭典.  These really fall short of
 giving a completely satisfying answer, but they do have some
 small hints. Morohashi gives a citation from the classical
 Han history, the 漢書, so at least in some form the word
 was around, I guess. The Nihon kokugo daijiten gives as its
 first citation 財政経済史料, vol. 3, which, I believe
 (at least the title Google Japan turns up), is a 1925
 collection of Edo materials. Now, of course that Japanese
 dictionary by no means works anything like the OED with its
 citations, but I THINK the editors are trying to suggest
 that that's an early example of the usage as found in Japan.
 Kind of frustrating maybe, but I suspect you all are right
 that the usage itself (if not strictly speaking the word) is
 pretty modern.
 And it's certainly racial. Koreans, e.g., never use the word
 when talking about Japanese or Chinese--nor, at least when I
 was in Korea way back when, did they use it for Africans or
 African-Americans. Unquestionably, 외국인or외국사람
 meant 'a white person'.  Come to think of it, the most
 common word I remember from back then was 미국사람. And
 that word was a blanket term for 'white people' that covered
 you, Werner and Frank, or anyone else from Europe!
 But more seriously, about Scott's very interesting topic: In
 general, I've long assumed that any word associated with a
 new concept (at least new to East Asia in the 19th century)
 was coined by Meiji Japanese.  I say "coined" because,
 as Frank points out, that was true, for example, of the word
 misul 美術in spite of the obvious fact that East Asia
 certainly had art in traditional times.  The thing is,
 as pointed out by Takashina and Rimer back in 1987 (and
 probably many others before that as well), the Meiji term
 only referred to Western art back then.  But for most
 such words it's not always easy to find a definitive
 citation proving when and how it was coined.  The
 problem is that Meiji intellectuals, particularly such
 prolific writers and translators as Fukugawa Yukichi, tried,
 whenever possible, to make up a word that--the form of the
 word at least--could also be found in some classical Chinese
 source.  Of course in that source it had necessarily
 had been used with a different meaning in a completely
 different cultural context.  Why, then, did they work
 so hard to find a literary Chinese allusion? Because these
 highly educated men were so thoroughly versed in the
 Classical Chinese canon, they tended to see all learning and
 intellectual respectability through that lens. 
 Moreover, as it happened, Chinese had had a great resurgence
 in popularity in Japan just around that time or a little
 before, in the early 19th century. 
 Maybe the best-known example of how a term was created this
 way is國語. Now, even today most people who've studies the
 Chinese classics are usually familiar with the 5th century
 B.C. book by that name, which is usually translated into
 English as ‘Discourses of the States’.  That
 ancient classic was a collection of stories passed down
 about various warring states of ancient China and was most
 certainly not about language or languages.  But the
 word was later used in other ways as well.  Certainly
 by the 8th century, the Chinese started using those two
 characters to designate the language spoken by a
 nation—just not their own nation, NOT Han Chinese. 
 Rather, the Tang Chinese used the word when talking about
 local speech in some non-Han state.   Not to
 put too fine a point on it, but the term was somewhat
 dismissive, meaning something like “the local
 vernacular”, the speech used by incompletely civilized
 people some place out there beyond the pale. That's what
 國語 meant in Japan, too. In Japan, at least through the
 Edo period, the standard language (or at least the standard
 written language, which was the only form of language anyone
 recognized then) was Classical Chinese, and within that
 world view Japanese was “a local people’s vernacular”
 even from the point of view of the Japanese.  It was
 only when those state-builders of the Meiji got around to
 creating a national language (really, largely on the basis
 of a Prussian model), they decided that the new word,
 'National Language' should consist of those two
 characters.  And so, the Classical Chinese structure of
 the word was the only thing Chinese about it.  The
 Japanese had deliberately created the word as a calque of
 “national language”, a concept that was then, to all
 East Asians, exotic and completely European.  
 After the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese suddenly began
 paying attention to a heretofore largely ignored
 neighbor.  In 1902 Wu Rulun, one of the most famous
 Chinese scholars of the day, had just been appointed the
 Superintendent of Education and the new head of the
 reorganized Peking Imperial University, and in this capacity
 he went on an inspection tour of Japan.  Deeply
 impressed with the progress of modernization there, he came
 back advocating the development of a unified national
 language along similar lines. Wu is said to have popularized
 the phrase "Unification of the National Language" in China,
 and thus the importation of the new, Japanese-coined word to
 China can be attributed to him. The word Wu was so impressed
 with was of course Kokugo (國語).  Its Classical
 Chinese form felt so familiar and natural to him, he found
 it easy to accept as native Chinese in spite of the new and
 unfamiliar meaning it now carried.  Wu, of course,
 instinctively gave the characters their Mandarin Chinese
 readings (guoyu), and in that simple way the word instantly
 became fully Chinese.  Thus was created a classic
 example of what Victor Mair has aptly called a "round-trip"
 word—a word Japanese first modeled on classical Chinese
 sources, gave a new meaning by tailoring it to fit some
 (usually) Western imported concept, and then sent in its new
 meaning back to China.  In this way, Kokugo and words
 like it transcended national and ethnic boundaries in East
 Asia—wherever the common written medium was Chinese
 characters and Classical Chinese.  
 Most of the Meiji coinages are not so easy to track, of
 course, precisely because they are so interwoven into the
 classical Chinese fabric.  I've put a small sample of
 words whose sources are known into the attached article (the
 discussion of Meiji coinages starts on p. 88).  But
 it's really hard in most cases to find a smoking
 gun!   Still, as I began this posting by
 saying, I assume most of this vocabulary comes from the
 creativity (and intellectual snobbery) of Meiji
 intellectuals. The one example I know of that was supposedly
 really made in China (as least, as I recall, according to
 the great linguist Y.R. Chao) is 幾何學 'geometry'
 (since, after all, 幾何 read in Mandarin is jĭhé, which
 sounds at least a LITTLE like geo-). 
 I've gone on a bit too long maybe, but that's because the
 thread Scott started was so very interesting. Thanks to all
 for the entertaining discussion.
 Bob Ramsey
 -----Original Message-----
 From: Koreanstudies [mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com]
 On Behalf Of Frank Hoffmann
 Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2014 2:31 AM
 To: Korean Studies Discussion List
 Subject: Re: [KS] Is the word "외국인" an instance of
 Adding a note to Adam Bohnet's comments:
 (1) It may not be "easy" to do so, exactly because of the
 lack of extensive etymological dictionaries, but Scott, if I
 read your question for once as an essay draft, then the
 problematic point is the historiographic accuracy. Of
 course, what is first, hen or egg? You will get to different
 and more precise questions then better and more accurate
 etymological information you already have and reverse. As
 example: It seems very essential to draw a distinction
 between (a) the popularity (or lack thereof) of a
 Sino-Korean term and (b) the new introduction of such a
 term, (c) the invention of a new term (this last one not
 being your topic). Several terms in your list of examples
 seem not to have been introduced by the Japanese to Korea,
 e.g. sijang 市場,
 but they were certainly popularized during the colonial
 period. Other terms such as misul 美術, where invented
 during the Meiji period and then introduced to both Korea
 and China in the 1880s. China, in fact, adapted quite a
 number of those late 19th century term inventions from
 Japan, but that seems not exactly a very popular topic in
 China. These are typically the terms that relate to Western
 technology, science, to new political systems and
 ideologies, bureaucracy, Western-style law, but also new
 "concepts" that restructured and reevaluated already
 existing culture, terms hat often provided different new
 contextualizations. As a result, since with the
 modernization and Westernization process Japan was mostly
 ahead, many such newly invented terms traveled from Japan to
 Korea and China. Others did not, were developed in parallel:
 airplane ->
 in Japan/Korea: 飛行機 (ひこうき / 비행기) 
 in China:       飛機 (fēijī)
 It is therefore very important to always clarify which
 "group" a term belongs to ... was it a neologism, was it a
 term that existed already but was popularized by the
 Japanese during the colonial period -- *or* earlier? If it
 was popularized by the Japanese, then why did that happen?
 Was it simply a replacement for a purely Korean term or was
 it offering a NEW concept of something already existing,
 thus shifting the meaning of material or ideal culture? I
 would therefore argue that Scott's question would certainly
 be as much in the territory of the cultural and intellectual
 historian as the linguist's, and that the discussion would
 have to be very "precise" and very "historical," 
 taking into consideration the exact historical circumstances
 (as Adam Bohnet already demonstrated). In other words, the
 "summary" you give there, Scott, listing all these terms and
 *translating" them all as terms meaning "foreigners" is
 probably more in the way of getting to meaningful answers
 (and questions) than being helpful.
 (2) Scott wrote:
 >> According to Japanese linguists, the word
 "外國人" was promoted and 
 >> popularized during the Meiji period in contrast to
 the word "内国人"
 >> (lit., "inside country person" or "내국인" in
 Korean), which was used to 
 >> refer to people of the Japanese Empire, including
 those in Korea and 
 >> Taiwan.
 The Meiji period lasted until 1912. Taiwan became a colony
 in 1995, Korea became one in 1910. I would find it unlikely
 that the "counter mould" of the term 外國人, which is
 内国人, would have included "to refer to people of the
 Japanese Empire" to include Taiwanese and Koreans, as
 外國人 was used in Japan before the territorial expansion
 of Japan. I think you really talk about the post-Meiji
 period here.
 On Sat, 01 Mar 2014 01:00:48 -0500, Adam Bohnet wrote:
 > Hi Scott:
 > That sounds like a very interesting topic.
 > My ignorant thoughts on the subject:
 > I don't know if you have done a Sillok search.
 Obviously, one has to 
 > be careful about drawing too many  conclusions on
 that basis, but it 
 > is really notable that 외국인 appears throughout the
 Sillok, some 60% of 
 > all cases appear during and after the reign of Kojong.

 > A fairly simple 역사정보통합시스템 search
 turned up extensive use of the term 
 > in the Choson Ch'ongdokpu kwanbo even in 1910-1911. If
 nothing else, 
 > this suggests an institutionalization of the term
 during the Japanese 
 > colonial period. It doesn't give you a smoking gun of
 whether it is 
 > from China or from Japan, I suppose, but if you are
 looking for the 
 > evolution of 외국인 as a standard, that might be a
 useful place to look.
 > In a sense, since the word was well used, but not
 universally used, 
 > before,  I wonder a bit whether it will be
 possible to trace its 
 > origins to either China or Japan. But who knows,
 perhaps there will be 
 > an article in an early newspaper discussing the value
 of 외국인 over 번방. 
 > O
 > Finally, if I may engage in a bit of quibbling about
 your list, I 
 > notice that in the terms you provide for "foreigner" in
 various East 
 > Asian languages, a substantial number are actually
 terms generally 
 > used for Westerners in particular and not foreigners in
 general, so:
 > 南蛮人, 코쟁이, 洋人" and "洋鬼子.
 > I encourage you to broaden your list. If 洋人 is an
 equivalent to 외국 인, 
 > then so is 胡人.
 > Alternately, perhaps you are interested in the process
 by which the 
 > typical 외국인 in popular consciousness became a
 Westerner (perhaps 
 > slapping his father's back and saying, "hey man"). That
 is also an 
 > interesting topic, but from your brief e-mail it isn't
 clear if you 
 > are discussing the changes in methods for referring to
 foreigners or 
 > to Westerners. I am sure that according to the Chosen
 > General, a Chinese person would have been a 외국인,
 but probably would 
 > not have been a 코쟁이 to the Koreans who
 encountered him or her (unless 
 > the Chinese person was blessed with an enormous nose).
 >   Finally, I am not a Koryo/Yuan expert,
 but my understanding of 색목 인 
 > 色目人 ("people of the various categories") has a
 very strong legalistic 
 > meaning indeed. Indeed, it is a legal and
 administrative category of 
 > the Yuan empire, and really probably isn't to be
 understood as in 
 > anyway equivalent to 외국인, as 색목인 were not,
 of course, outsiders to the 
 > Yuan empire, but one category of subjects (as were
 Mongols, northern 
 > Chinese and southern Chinese).
 > Those are my brief thoughts on the subject.
 > Yours,
 > Adam
 > On 2014-02-28 11:45 PM, J.Scott Burgeson wrote:
 >> I have a question for the linguists on this List,
 specifically those 
 >> who work not only with the Korean language but also
 Chinese and 
 >> Japanese.
 >> It is well-known that hundreds, perhaps even
 thousands, of 
 >> Chinese-character based words in common use in
 Japan, China and Korea 
 >> were coined by the Japanese during the Meiji
 period, such as "
 >> 百貨店" ("백화점"), "時間" ("시간"),
 "国際" ("국제"), "民族" ("민족 "), "市場"
 >> "社会" or "社會" ("사회"), "出版"
 ("출판") and many, many more.
 >> My question has to do with the route of
 transmission of the word "外
 >> 國人" or "외국인" into Korea, which one would
 assume is not pure or native 
 >> Korean as it is based on Chinese characters.
 >> I have consulted a dozen or more different
 >> dictionaries, both contemporary and of words in use
 during the Choson 
 >> Period, and in general etymologies are not given
 for this word.
 >> According to Japanese linguists, the word
 "外國人" was promoted and 
 >> popularized during the Meiji period in contrast to
 the word "内国人"
 >> (lit., "inside country person" or "내국인" in
 Korean), which was used to 
 >> refer to people of the Japanese Empire, including
 those in Korea and 
 >> Taiwan. Thus, those outside of the Empire were
 referred to as "外國人" 
 >> or "외국인" in Korean. Here, for instance, is a
 1931 article from the 
 >> 동아일보 that uses the word in the title and

 >> However, the studies I have seen do not make it
 clear whether or not 
 >> the word "外國人" was actually created by the
 Japanese during the Meiji 
 >> period, or merely popularized by the Meiji
 authorities. In other 
 >> words, it is not clear whether or not it is
 和製漢語. What is clear, 
 >> though, is that it was at this time that the word
 >> became the standard term for "foreigners" in the
 Japanese language, 
 >> as prior to this there was a variety of different
 terms used to 
 >> describe non-Japanese, such as "南蛮人,"
 "異人," "異国人," and "異邦
 >> 人." What seems to be the case is that the
 difference with "外國人" 
 >> is that it has more of a legalistic meaning or
 connotation, in 
 >> contrast to these other words, indicating a lack of
 local citizenship 
 >> or nationality, and this is certainly how the term
 is used today, at 
 >> least officially, in present-day South Korea.
 >> In China, meanwhile, there was also a great variety
 of different 
 >> terms for non-Han or non-Chinese people in the
 pre-modern period, 
 >> including "洋人" and "洋鬼子," while the
 concept of a "foreign country" 
 >> was sometimes expressed as "异国," and even
 "外國" can be found as early 
 >> as the Han Dynasty in "Records of the Historian":

 >> "外國人" is also the title of a story by the
 Early Qing writer Pu 
 >> Songling that appears in "Strange Stories from a
 Chinese Studio,"
 >> which is about shipwrecked Filipinos who float to
 Macau and are then 
 >> sent back home by the Chinese. However, as in the
 case of Japan, it 
 >> does not seem that the word "外國人" was in
 standard usage in pre-modern 
 >> China, and was just one of many others. This would
 seem to be 
 >> logical, since the modern nation-state system only
 comes to East Asia 
 >> in the latter part of the 19th century, and
 "外國人" as it is used in 
 >> China, Japan and Korea today has a very clear
 legalistic meaning 
 >> referring to citizenship and nationality in the
 full modern sense of 
 >> these terms.
 >> So the question is how to determine if the word
 "외국인" came to
 >> Korea: Via China or via Japan? As I have mentioned,
 in dictionaries I 
 >> have consulted, such as 동광출판사's massive
 "조선말 사전" or the 국립국어연구원's 
 >> "표준국어대사전," no etymology or word
 origin is given, and in 한국정신문화 연구원's 
 >> "17세기 국어사전," only the term
 >> "外國" is listed, not "外國人" or "외국
 사람." As in China and Japan, it seems 
 >> that in pre-modern Korea, there was no standard
 term for "foreigner" 
 >> but rather a variety that did not have an
 legalistic connotations, 
 >> such as "색목인," which dates to at least 1365,
 or "코 쟁이," a common term 
 >> for Westerners.
 >> The reason I am interested in this question is
 because if it can be 
 >> determined that the term "외국인" became the
 standard term for so-called 
 >> "foreigners" in the colonial context of Japan's
 occupation of Korea, 
 >> the word would have a rather problematic history
 attached to it, to 
 >> say the least. And even if "외국인" is not an
 actual instance of "和製漢語," 
 >> it would still be worth knowing how much influence
 Imperial Japan had 
 >> in promoting and standardizing the term within
 >> What is curious is how uninterested Korean-Korean
 dictionaries are in 
 >> listing word etymologies in them, which is standard
 in almost any 
 >> English-English dictionary. At a visit to Kyobo's
 Daegu store last 
 >> night, I could not find one 국어 dictionary that
 gave etymologies, and 
 >> the clerk had to take me to a different section on
 another floor to 
 >> find a few books devoted solely to etymologies of
 Korean words; the 
 >> largest, however, only contained 1,000 words, which
 is certainly a 
 >> rather meager selection. I asked her why most
 국어 or Korean 
 >> dictionaries did not give etymologies and she
 speculated that most 
 >> Koreans simply assume that the vast majority of
 Korean words are 
 >> Chinese-based and leave it at that. My own feeling
 is that there may 
 >> be nationalistic motivations at play here, but of
 course there could 
 >> be many other factors.
 >> In short, my question here is simple: Can anyone
 recommend the best 
 >> Korean-Korean dictionary or book to trace
 etymologies in the Korean 
 >> language? And if anyone has thoughts on the term
 "외국인" itself and its 
 >> history in Korea, those would be much appreciated
 as well!
 >> Cheers,
 >>          Scott Bug
 Frank Hoffmann


More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list