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(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 05:07:00 PM.)

e at GoldSea choose to honor the more natural rendering commonly used in the English-speaking world prior to the Japanese annexation and colonialization of Corea beginning in 1905.
     American and English books published during the latter half of the 19th century generally referred to the nation as "Corea" as recently as the years immediately preceding Japan's formal annexation of Corea in 1910. An 1851 map of East Asia by Englishman John Tallis labels the nation Corea. The same spelling is used in The Mongols, a 1908 history of the Mongol race by Jeremiah Curtin, the world's foremost Asia scholar of the day, as well as in several books by American missionaries published between 1887 and 1905.
     Japan's annexation of Corea didn't become formal until 1910, but for all practical purposes Japan had become the power that regulated Corea's relations with the outside world in 1897 when it defeated China in a war over Japan's ambition to exercise control over Corea. The only other power willing to contest Japan's supremacy in the Corean peninsula was Russia. When it was easily defeated by Japan at Port Arthur in 1905, the annexation of Corea became a fait accompli. Anxious to avoid a costly Pacific conflict, President Wilson ignored the pleas of a delegation of Corean patriots and their American missionary supporters and turned a blind eye to Japan's acts of formal annexation and colonization of Corea. During that period Japan mounted a campaign to push for the "Korea" useage by the American press. Why? For one of Japan's prospective colonies to precede its master in the alphabetical lineup of nations would be unseemly, Japanese imperialists decided.
     Japan's colonial rule over Corea ended on August 15, 1945 when it lost World War II. Now that Corea is eagerly shedding the last vestiges of the colonial period, even demolishing public buildings erected by the Japanese (for example, the monstrously immense colonial governor's mansion), forward-thinking Corean and Corean American journalists, intellectuals and scholars are urging the American media to revert to the original, more natural rendering of Corea.
    The changeover will pose a problem only in English-speaking nations as other western nations never accepted the "K" spelling. For example, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, among many others, use the "C" rendering.
     English convention, too, is on the side of the Corea rendering. Non-European names are romanized with a "C" (Cambodia, Canada, cocoa, Comanche, Congo, and even old Canton, for example) except where the first letter is followed by an "e" or an "i", (as in Kenya). Other than that, the "K" spelling is used only in connoting childlike ignorance of spelling conventions ("Kitty Kat" and "Skool", for examples).
     Therefore, the American "K" spelling is

  1. offensive from a historical standpoint (remember "Peking" and "Canton"?);
  2. violates western rendering conventions;
  3. suggests a lack of sophistication toward Corea; and
  4. by connoting naiveté, imputes a lack of sophistication to Corea and its people.

     The Corea rendering will ultimately become universal when more Americans are educated as to the offensive and relatively recent origin of the "Korea" rendering. The English-speaking world was responsible for agreeing to Japanese efforts to change the spelling of Corea's name in English useage. Who better than concerned Asian Americans to help change it back?

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Korea or Corea

During the World Cup soccer championship held last month I noticed quite a few Korean supporters waving what appeared to be red towels with the word, gCoreah printed on them in big black letters. I thought that this was interesting as I have never seen the word, gKoreah rendered with a gC.h I thought this was only a cleaver design inspiration by some advertising company, but a Korean acquaintance of mine born in Japan told me the following story and the meaning behind the usage of gCh in Corea:

It seems that old traditional rivalry if not blatant animosity towards its co-host and former colonizer was the impetus behind the spelling of Corea. It all has to do with the order of the alphabet. And in alphabetical order, as we all know, first comes gJh (read Japan) followed directly by gKh (read Korea), where in which lays the problem. gKh comes after gJh and some enterprising fellow or fellows were not about to have Japan seated ahead of Korea, not even in the alphabet. And as the accepted order of the alphabet cannot be changed, they changed the spelling of their country as it is usually rendered in the Roman alphabet. By spelling Corea with a gCh, phonetically it sounds the same as Korea and most importantly it solves that annoying problem of having Korea placed after Japan and puts Corea will ahead of Japan, in fact, within the top three of the entire alphabet! (Corea, incidentally, played for third place in the World Cup, but lost).

When I first heard this story I was surprised and amazed as to what lengths people will go to scrutinize and agonize over such trivialities, like alphabetical order, and to come up with such a clever solution to being placed behind Japan in the Roman alphabet. But then given the rocky historical relations between these two neighbors, and especially Coreafs lingering mistrust of all things Japanese, this measure should not be all that surprising.
But as is the case with so many burning controversies in life, this K-C account may not be the whole story and, as it turns out, may not be entirely true. The only concrete evidence that we do have are the two renderings – Korea and Corea. It seems that the reasons behind these two spellings are not just based on a show of force favoring the gCh over gKh in the World Cup, but rather are more deeply rooted in history.

The English rendering is, of course, gKoreah, which is derived from the Korean word, gKoryo.h Koryo refers to the Koryo Period (918-1392), one of the longest dynasties in history, and also the name of the country at that time. Some of the first European explorers to visit the Chosen Peninsula were the Portuguese, so naturally they would latinize the reading and render it as, gCoreah in the Roman alphabet. So it could be argued that gKoreah was originally gCoreah which presents another theory concerning the spelling:

The theory goes like this: Korea was originally Corea as that was the way it was rendered by the first European explorers. Supposedly it remained Corea for a long time until the Japanese Annexation (1910-1945). At this time Japan was most greatly influenced by the nations of Germany and Great Britain and was the most westernized of the East Asian nations. Along with their influence these two nations brought their Germanic languages with them and the Japanese forced the Corean people to change the spelling of their country to gKorea.h This theory has some plausibility as the Korean people suffered attempted acculturation at the hands of the Japanese and this spelling change would be in line with such measures. So again the Japanese are made out to be the villain; however, the Japanese re-named Corea or Korea, gChosenh when their occupation began, and this would have been a more likely choice for a name to be imposed on the Korean people.

But the question still remains: why was gCoreah brought out so prominently for the World Cup? Why was gCh used when gKh is internationally recognized as the correct spelling in the Roman alphabet?

There is the widely held belief set forth at the top of this story, the alphabetical order thing. Lending credence to this belief is the fact that the Korean delegation had insisted that all English material referring to the host nations should be printed Korea-Japan, in that order (and with a gKh). Also, the historical record speaks for itself, with many Japanese cultural items (movies, comics, music, video games) banned, until recently, from Korea because of Japanfs imperial past. And Koreans do not easily forget when they think they have been wronged. Evidence the speed skating celebration by the Korean players after their goal against America. This in reference to the speed skating event where a Korean skater was disqualified and an American won the gold medal in last Februaryfs Salt Lake Olympics. Talk about holding a grudge. So breaking out Corea for the World Cup could very well be in response to past wrongs and for not wanting to play second fiddle to Japan in alphabetical order.

But the most plausible reason for Corea could be a combination of all of the above with the historical Corea playing a prominent role. The Koryo Period represented a time of well-being, an era when the arts and sciences flourished and the country was unified. It was these aspects of Korean society that the people wanted to display to the world. Oh, and there are apparently a lot of Italian league fans among the Korean supporters, so they had all those towels printed up in Italian in a show of support toward their Italian guests.

Whatever the reasons behind the choice of Corea over Korea by some of the World Cup fans in this complex country, whether these reasons be historical, cultural or just because they like Italians, this World Cup was a rousing success and both the Corean and Japanese people should be commended for a job well done. (gBe the Redsh forever).

Tom    Sunday, July 21, 2002 at 23:00:38 (PDT)
First of all, I want to say that there's no practical evidence that Japan forced to use Korea instead of Corea. Which C or K is depends on Germanic(K) or Latin(C).
If someone wants to more linguistical explanations, I will.
Well...Hey Chinese, do you know that China was spelled Sina once in old days?

If Koreans want to change (correct?) the initial letter with the reason that they don't like Japan comes former than Korea, they can do.

Most of all Japanese don't care which is former in alphabet. We never complain to such a nonsense conversion. "Which country is higher-ranked?" Japanese are free from such ridiculous, outdated Sinocentrism.

By the way, domestically, we seldom use Japan. And we call our nation as "Nippon". Could you please call our nation as "Nippon" from now on?
NIPPON :-)    Friday, July 19, 2002 at 10:57:45 (PDT)
Dynamic Korea,

oh please. I honestly doubt that most Chinese would even care about how you feel about japan.

that's right. korea should start cooperating with japan.

but too bad, it seems like the japanese think otherwise. that's why they changed corea to Korea.
Khinese    Wednesday, July 17, 2002 at 14:18:08 (PDT)
I never knew the meaning behind Corea vs. Korea and actually used to be annoyed at the "Corean" spelling of it, but now that I understand the history behind it, it makes sense! I agree with Dynamic Korea in that we shouldn't live in the past. We should be proud of Corea and Japan for co-hosting the World Cup 2002, try to respect other nations, and stop the instigations.
Corean-American    Wednesday, July 17, 2002 at 08:11:16 (PDT)