There are various names of Korea in use today, all derived from ancient kingdoms and dynasties. The modern English name "Korea" is an exonym derived from the name Goryeo, also spelled Kory?, and is used by both North Korea and South Korea in international contexts. In the Korean language, the two Koreas use different terms to refer to the nominally unified nation: Chos?n (, ) in North Korea and Hanguk (, ) in South Korea. Ethnic Koreans living in China and Japan also use the term Chos?n to refer to Korea.
The earliest records of Korean history are written in Chinese characters called hanja. Even after the invention of hangul, Koreans generally recorded native Korean names with hanja, by translation of meaning, transliteration of sound, or even combinations of the two. Furthermore, the pronunciations of the same character are somewhat different in Korean and the various Korean dialects, and have changed over time.
For all these reasons, in addition to the sparse and sometimes contradictory written records, it is often difficult to determine the original meanings or pronunciations of ancient names.
Until 108 BC, northern Korea and part of Manchuria were controlled by Gojoseon. In contemporaneous Chinese records, it was written as , which is pronounced in modern Korean as Joseon (). The prefixing of Go- (?), meaning "old" or "ancient," is a historiographical convention that distinguishes it from the later Joseon Dynasty. The name Joseon is also now still used by North Koreans and Koreans living in China to refer to the peninsula, and as the official Korean form of the name of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Joseon). The word is also used in many Asian languages to refer to the Korean Peninsula, such as Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
Possibly the Chinese characters phonetically transcribed a native Korean name, perhaps pronounced something like "Jyusin". Some speculate that it also corresponds to Chinese references to (, Suksin (ethnic group)), (, Kiksin) and (, Siksin), although these latter names probably describe the ancestors of the Jurchen people.
Other scholars believe was a translation of the native Korean Asadal (), the capital of Gojoseon: asa being a hypothetical Altaic root word for "morning", and dal meaning "mountain", a common ending for Goguryeo place names.
An early attempt to translate these characters into English gave rise to the expression "The Land of the Morning Calm" for Korea, which parallels the expression "The Land of the Rising Sun" for Japan. While the wording is fanciful, the essence of the translation is valid.
Around the time of Gojoseon's fall, various chiefdoms in southern Korea grouped into confederacies, collectively called the Samhan (, , "Three Han"). Han is a native Korean root for "leader" or "great", as in maripgan ("king", archaic), hanabi ("grandfather", archaic), and Hanbat ("Great Field", archaic name for Daejeon). It may be related to the Mongol/Turkic title Khan.
Han was transliterated in Chinese records as ? (?, hán), ? (?, gan), ? (?, gan), ? (?, gan), or ? (?, hàn), but is unrelated to the Chinese people and states also called Hàn, which is a different character pronounced with a different tone. (See: Transcription into Chinese characters).
Beginning in the 7th century, the name "Samhan" became synonymous with the Three Kingdoms of Korea. According to the Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa, Silla implemented a national policy, "Samhan Unification" (?; ?), to integrate Baekje and Goguryeo refugees. In 1982, a memorial stone dating back to 686 was discovered in Cheongju with an inscription: "The Three Han were unified and the domain was expanded." During the Later Silla period, the concepts of Samhan as the ancient confederacies and the Three Kingdoms of Korea were merged. In a letter to an imperial tutor of the Tang dynasty, Choe Chiwon equated Byeonhan to Baekje, Jinhan to Silla, and Mahan to Goguryeo. By the Goryeo period, Samhan became a common name to refer to all of Korea. In his Ten Mandates to his descendants, Wang Geon declared that he had unified the Three Han (Samhan), referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Samhan continued to be a common name for Korea during the Joseon period and was widely referenced in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.
In China, the Three Kingdoms of Korea were collectively called Samhan since the beginning of the 7th century. The use of the name Samhan to indicate the Three Kingdoms of Korea was widespread in the Tang dynasty. Goguryeo was alternately called Mahan by the Tang dynasty, as evidenced by a Tang document that called Goguryeo generals "Mahan leaders" (?; ?) in 645. In 651, Emperor Gaozong of Tang sent a message to the king of Baekje referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea as Samhan. Epitaphs of the Tang dynasty, including those belonging to Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla refugees and migrants, called the Three Kingdoms of Korea "Samhan", especially Goguryeo. For example, the epitaph of Go Hyeon (; ), a Tang dynasty general of Goguryeo origin who died in 690, calls him a "Liaodong Samhan man" ( ; ). The History of Liao equates Byeonhan to Silla, Jinhan to Buyeo, and Mahan to Goguryeo.
The "Han" in the names of the Korean Empire, Daehan Jeguk, and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Daehan Minguk or Hanguk, are named in reference to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, not the ancient confederacies in the southern Korean Peninsula.
Around the beginning of the Common Era, remnants of the fallen Gojoseon were re-united and expanded by the kingdom of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. It, too, was a native Korean word, probably pronounced something like "Guri", transcribed with various hanja characters: , , or (, Goguryeo), (, Goryeo), (, Gori), or (, Guryeo). The source native name is thought to be either *Guru ("walled city, castle, fortress"; attested in Chinese historical documents, but not in native Korean sources) or *Gauri ("center, middle"; cf. Middle Korean *gand?y and Standard Modern Korean gaunde ).
The theory that Goguryeo referenced the founder's surname has been largely discredited (the royal surname changed from Hae to Go long after the state's founding).
In the south, the Samhan resolved into the kingdoms of Baekje and Silla, constituting, with Goguryeo, the Three Kingdoms of Korea. In 668, Silla unified the three kingdoms, and reigned as Later Silla until 935. The name Samhan became synonymous with the Three Kingdoms of Korea beginning in the 7th century, and by the Goryeo period it became a common name to refer to all of Korea.
The succeeding dynasty called itself Goryeo (Korean: ; Hanja: ; MR: Kory?), and regarded itself as the successor to Goguryeo (Korean: ; Hanja: ; MR: Kogury?). The name Goryeo was the shortened form of Goguryeo and was first used during the reign of Jangsu in the 5th century. Through the Silk Road trade routes, Muslim merchants brought knowledge about Silla and Goryeo to India and the Middle East. Goryeo was transliterated into Italian as "Cauli", the name Marco Polo used when mentioning the country in his Travels, derived from the Chinese form G?olí.
In 1392, a new dynasty established by a military coup revived the name Joseon (, , Chos?n). The hanja were often translated into English as "morning calm/sun", and Korea's English nickname became "The Land of the Morning Calm"; however, this interpretation is not often used in the Korean language, and is more familiar to Koreans as a back-translation from English. This nickname was coined by Percival Lowell in his book, "Choson, the Land of the Morning Calm," published in 1885.
In 1897, the nation was renamed Daehan Jeguk (?, ?, literally, "Great Han Empire", known in English as Korean Empire). Han had been selected in reference to Samhan, specifically the Three Kingdoms of Korea, not the ancient confederacies in the southern Korean Peninsula. So, Daehan Jeguk (?, ?) means it is an empire that rules the area of Three Kingdoms of Korea. This name was used to emphasize independence of Korea, because an empire can't be a subordinate country.
When the Korean Empire came under Japanese rule in 1910, the name reverted to Joseon (officially, the Japanese pronunciation Ch?sen). During this period, many different groups outside of Korea fought for independence, the most notable being the Daehan Minguk Imsi Jeongbu (? ?, ), literally the "Provisional Government of the Great Han People's Nation", known in English as the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea ( = ? 'people' + ? country/nation' = 'republic' in East Asian capitalist societies).[a]
In 1948, the South adopted the provisional government's name of Daehan Minguk (?, ?; see above), known in English as the Republic of Korea, though commentators have noted that the English name is not a direct translation of the Korean one.
Meanwhile, the North became the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (, , Chos?n Minjuju?i Inmin Konghwaguk). Each component of the name was carefully selected. Chos?n was the natural choice for the short form, "Korea", since it had been used throughout the colonial period to denote the Peninsula. For the long form of the name, Konghwaguk was used for republic because of its leftist connotations over Minguk. North Koreans wanted to adopt something that had already been used in the Eastern Bloc to borrow legitimacy. A choice was presented between a "People's Republic" and a "Democratic Republic", because they had been used in the names of the short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets and the Finnish Democratic Republic, respectively. "People's Republic" was favored by Pak Hon-yong of the Communist Party of Korea and it had already been used by the temporary People's Republic of Korea (PRK) formed in Seoul after liberation. "Democratic Republic", on the other hand, was associated with Mao Zedong's concept of New Democracy, which influenced Kim Tu-bong of the New People's Party of Korea. After his party merged with the Workers' Party of North Korea, the concept found its way to Kim Il-sung's parlance. Kim began to speak of a "Democratic People's Republic". This was echoed by what the true authorities of the country, the Soviet Civil Administration, prescribed, albeit in different order: "People's-Democratic Republic" (Russian: ?- ?). Thus the name of the country became "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" in Korean and "Korean People's-Democratic Republic" in Russian so that both parties could claim that they were behind the coining.
Today, South Koreans use Hanguk (, ) to refer to just South Korea or Korea as a whole, Namhan (, ; "South Han") for South Korea, and Bukhan (, ; "North Han") for North Korea. South Korea less formally refers to North Korea as Ibuk (, ; "The North"). South Koreans often refer to Korea as "uri nara" ( ), meaning "our nation" or "our country". In addition, the official name for the Republic of Korea in the Korean language is "Daehan Minguk" (?, ?; which is usually translated as "The Republic of Korea").
North Koreans use Chos?n,Namjos?n (, ; "South Chos?n"), and Pukchos?n (, ; "North Chos?n") when referring to Korea, South Korea, and North Korea, respectively. The term Pukchos?n, however, is rarely used in the north, although it may be found in pre-war sources, such as the Song of General Kim Il-sung. In the 1970s, Kim Il-sung suggested that in the event of a North Korean takeover of South Korea, "Koryo" (Korean: ) could become the Korean name of the country.
In the tourist regions in North Korea and the official meetings between South Korea and North Korea, Namcheuk (, ) and Bukcheuk (, ), or "southern side" and "northern side", are used instead of Namhan and Bukhan.
The Korean language is called Hangugeo (, , referring to the Korean language) or Hangungmal (, , referring to spoken Korean only) in the South and Chos?nmal (, ) or Chos?n? (, ) in the North. The Korean script is called hangeul () in South Korea and Chos?n'g?l () in North Korea. The Korean Peninsula is called Hanbando (, ) in the South and Chos?n Pando (?, ?) in the North.
In Chinese-speaking areas such as China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, different naming conventions on several terms have been practiced according to their political proximity to whichever Korean government although there is a growing trend for convergence.
In the Chinese language, the Korean Peninsula is usually called Cháoxi?n Bànd?o (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?) and in rare cases called Hán Bànd?o (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ). Ethnic Koreans are also called Cháoxi?nzú (), instead of Dàhán mínzú (?). However, the term Hánguó ren () may be used to specifically refer to South Koreans.
Before establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea, the People's Republic of China tended to use the historic Korean name Cháoxi?n ( "Joseon" or "Chos?n"), by referring to South Korea as Nán Cháoxi?n ( "South Joseon"). Since diplomatic ties were restored, China has used the names that each of the two sides prefer, by referring to North Korea as Cháoxi?n and to South Korea as Hánguó ( "Hanguk"). The Korean language can be referred to as either Cháoxi?ny? () or Hánguóy? (). The Korean War is officially called the Kàngm?i Yuáncháo Zhànzh?ng ( "War to Resist America and Aid Korea") although the term Cháoxi?n Zhànzh?ng (?) is also used in unofficial contexts.
Taiwan, on the other hand, uses the South Korean names, referring to North Korean as B?ihán ( "North Han") and South Korean as Nánhán ( "South Han"). The Republic of China previously maintained diplomatic relations with South Korea, but has never had relations with North Korea. As a result, in the past, Hánguó () had been used to refer to the whole Korea, and Taiwanese textbooks treated Korea as a unified nation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China under the Democratic Progressive Party Government considered North and South Koreas two separate countries. However, general usage in Taiwan is still to refer to North Korea as B?ihán ( "North Han[guk]") and South Korea as Nánhán ( "South Han[guk]") while use of - which in Taiwan is not pronounced Cháoxi?n but Cháoxi?n - is generally limited to ancient Korea. The Korean language is usually referred to as Hány? ().
Similarly, general usage in Hong Kong and Macau has traditionally referred to North Korea as Bak Hon ( "North Han") and South Korea as Nam Hon ( "South Han"). Under the influence of official usage, which is itself influenced by the official usage of the People's Republic of China government, the mainland practice of naming the two Koreas differently has become more common.
In the Chinese language used in Singapore and Malaysia, North Korea is usually called Cháoxi?n ( "Chos?n") with B?i Cháoxi?n ( "North Chos?n") and B?ihán ( "North Han") less often used, while South Korea is usually called Hánguó ( "Hanguk") with Nánhán ( "South Han[guk]") and Nán Cháoxi?n ( "South Chos?n") less often used.
In Hokkien speaking areas of chinese communities in countries like Taiwan and around Southeast Asia, Korea is called Hân-kok ( "Hanguk") where North Korea is referred to as Pak-hân ( "North Han") and South Korea as Lâm-hân ( "South Han").
The above usage pattern does not apply for Korea-derived words. For example, Korean ginseng is commonly called G?olì sh?n ().
In Japan, North Korea is called Kita-Ch?sen (; "North Chos?n") and South Korea Kankoku ( "Hanguk").
However, Japan-based North Koreans claim the name Kita-Ch?sen is derogatory, as it only refers to the northern part of Korean Peninsula, whereas the government claims sovereignty over its whole territory. Pro-North people such as Chongryon use the name Ky?wakoku (; "the Republic") instead, but the ambiguous name is not popular among others. In 1972, Chongryon campaigned to get the Japanese media to stop referring to North Korea as Kita-Ch?sen. This effort was not successful, but as a compromise most media companies agreed to refer to the nation with its full official title at least once in every article, thus they used the lengthy Kita-Ch?sen (Ch?sen Minshu-shugi Jinmin Ky?wakoku) (() "North Chos?n (The People's Democratic Republic of Chos?n)"). By January 2003, this policy started to be abandoned by most newspapers, starting with Tokyo Shimbun, which announced that it would no longer write out the full name, followed by Asahi, Mainichi, and Nikkei.
For Korea as a whole, Ch?sen (; "Joseon") is commonly used. The term Ch?sen, which has a longer usage history, continues to be used to refer to the Korean Peninsula, the Korean ethnic group, and the Korean language, which are use cases that would not cause confusion between Korea and North Korea. When referring to both North Korean and South Koreans, the transcription of phonetic English Korean (?, Korian) may be used because a reference to a Ch?sen national may be interpreted as a North Korean national instead.
The Korean language is most frequently referred to in Japan as Kankokugo () or Ch?sengo (). While academia mostly prefers Ch?sengo, Kankokugo became more and more common in non-academic fields, thanks to the economic and cultural presence of South Korea. The language is also referred to as various combined terms, such as Kankoku-Ch?sen-go (), Ch?sen-Kankoku-go (), "Kankokugo (Ch?sengo)" (()), etc. Some people refer to the language as Koriago (?), using the European name for Korea. This term is not used in ordinary Japanese, but was selected as a compromise to placate both nations in a euphemistic process called kotobagari. Likewise, when NHK broadcasts a language instruction program for Korean, the language is referred to as hangurugo (; "hangul language"); although it's technically incorrect since hangul itself is a writing system, not a language.[b] Some argue that even Hangurugo is not completely neutral, since North Korea calls the letter Chos?n'g?l, not hangul. Urimaru (?), a direct transcription of uri mal ( ?, "our language") is sometimes used by Korean residents in Japan, as well as by KBS World Radio. This term, however, may not be suitable to ethnic Japanese whose "our language" is not necessarily Korean.
Uri ( "we/us/our") is the first-person plural pronoun and it is commonly used as a prefix in Korean terms to describe things that are Korean, such as uri nara ( , "our country") which is yet another name Koreans give their country.
In Japan, those who moved to Japan usually maintain their distinctive cultural heritages (such as the Baekje-towns or Goguryeo-villages). Ethnic Korean residents of Japan have been collectively called Zainichi Ch?senjin ( "Joseon People in Japan"), regardless of nationality. However, for the same reason as above, the euphemism Zainichi Korian (; "Koreans in Japan") is increasingly used today. Zainichi (; "In Japan") itself is also often used colloquially. People with North Korean nationality are called Zainichi Ch?senjin, while those with South Korean nationality, sometimes including recent newcomers, are called Zainichi Kankokujin ( "Hanguk People in Japan").
Mongols have their own word for Korea? (Solongos). In Mongolian, solongo means "rainbow." And another theory is probably means derived from Solon tribe living in Manchuria, a tribe culturally and ethnically related to the Korean people. North and South Korea are, accordingly, ? (Hoid Solongos) and (Ömnöd Solongos).
The name of either Silla or its capital Seora-beol was also widely used throughout Northeast Asia as the ethnonym for the people of Silla, appearing [...] as Solgo or Solho in the language of the medieval Jurchens and their later descendants, the Manchus respectively.
In Vietnam, people call North Korea Tri?u Tiên (; "Chos?n") and South Korea Hàn Qu?c (; "Hanguk"). Prior to unification, North Vietnam used B?c Tri?u Tiên (; Bukchos?n) and Nam Tri?u Tiên (; Namjoseon) while South Vietnam used B?c Hàn (; Bukhan) and Nam Hàn (; Namhan) for North and South Korea, respectively. After unification, the northern Vietnamese terminology persisted until the 1990s. When South Korea reestablished diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1993, it requested that Vietnam use the name that it uses for itself, and Hàn Qu?c gradually replaced Nam Tri?u Tiên in usage.
In the Vietnamese language used in the United States, B?c Hàn and Nam Hàn are most common used.
Both South and North Korea use the name "Korea" when referring to their countries in English. North Korea is sometimes referred to as "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (DPRK) and South Korea is sometimes referred to as the "Republic Of Korea" (ROK). The official names of both entities are also used by organizations such as United Nations, International Olympic Committee and media such as the Associated Press, China Global Television Network, and several others.
As with other European languages, English historically had a variety of names for Korea. These included "Cauli" (Marco Polo's rendering of Goryeo), Caule, Core, Cory, Caoli, and Corai as well as two spellings that survived into the 19th century, Corea and Korea. The modern spelling, "Korea", first appeared in the late 17th century in the travel writings of the Dutch East India Company's Hendrick Hamel. The terms "Chosunese" or "Chosonese" were first used to refer to the people of Joseon in the late 19th century but were eventually phased out.
Despite the coexistence of the spellings "Corea" and "Korea" in 19th-century English publications, there is a conspiracy theory among some Koreans that Japan, around the time of the Japanese occupation, intentionally standardised the spelling on "Korea", so that "Japan" would appear first alphabetically. Both major English-speaking governments of the time (i.e. the United States and the United Kingdom [and its empire]) used both "Korea" and "Corea" until the early part of the colonial period. English-language publications in the 19th century generally used the spelling Corea, which was also used at the founding of the UK's embassy in Seoul in 1890. However, the U.S. minister and consul general to Korea, Horace Newton Allen, used "Korea" in his works published on the country. At the official Korean exhibit at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 a sign was posted by the Korean Commissioner saying of his country's name that "'Korea' and 'Corea' are both correct, but the former is preferred." This may have had something to do with Allen's influence, as he was heavily involved in the planning and participation of the Korean exhibit at Chicago.
A shift can also be seen in Korea itself, where postage stamps issued in 1884 used the name "Corean Post" in English, but those from 1885 and thereafter used "Korea" or "Korean Post".
By the first two decades of the 20th century, "Korea" began to be seen more frequently than "Corea" - a change that coincided with Japan's consolidation of its grip over the peninsula. Most evidence of a deliberate name change orchestrated by Japanese authorities is circumstantial, including a 1912 memoir by a Japanese colonial official[who?] that complained of the Koreans' tendency "to maintain they are an independent country by insisting on using a C to write their country's name." However, the spelling "Corea" was occasionally used even under full colonial rule and both it and "Korea" were largely eschewed in favor of the Japanese-derived "Chosen", which itself was derived from "Joseon".
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European languages use variations of the name "Korea" for both North and South Korea. In general, Celtic and Romance languages spell it "Corea" (or variations) since "c" represents the /k/ sound in most Romance and Celtic orthographies. However, Germanic and Slavic languages largely use variants of "Korea" since, in many of these languages, "c" represents other sounds such as /ts/. In languages using other alphabets such as Russian (Cyrillic), variations phonetically similar to "Korea" are also used for example the Russian name for Korea is , romanization Koreya. Outside of Europe, most languages also use variants of "Korea", often adopted to local orthographies. "Korea" in the Jurchen Jin's national language (Jurchen) is "Sogo". "Korea" in the conlang Esperanto is "Koreio". "Korea" in Hmong is "Kauslim" ("s" and "m" represent tones, not consonants). Within Spain, the Basque Country and Navarre regions use the spelling "Korea" in their Basque language, while the rest of the country uses "Corea", but this usage is related to national language politics rather than international usage.
Emigrants who moved to Russia and Central Asia call themselves Goryeoin or Koryo-saram (; ; literally "person or people of Goryeo"), or Koreytsi (?) in Russian. Many Goryeoin are living in the CIS, including an estimated 106,852 in Russia, 22,000 in Uzbekistan, 20,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 17,460 in Kazakhstan, 8,669 in Ukraine, 2,000 in Belarus, 350 in Moldova, 250 in Georgia, 100 in Azerbaijan, and 30 in Armenia. As of 2005, there are also 1.9 million ethnic Koreans living in China who hold Chinese citizenship and a further 560,000 Korean expatriates from both North and South living in China.
South Korean expatriates living in the U.S. may refer to themselves as Jaemi(-)gyopo (?; ?, lit. "temporary residents in America"), or "gyopo" for short.
In traditional Korean culture, as well as in the cultural tradition of East Asia, the land of Korea has assumed a number of sobriquets over the centuries, including:
Taehan minguk. In English it is translated as Republic of Korea or South Korea, names which to us foreigners denote the state as a political entity distinct from its northern neighbor. To most people here, however, Taehan minguk conveys that sense only when used in contrastive proximity with the word Pukhan (North Korea)." "Ask South Koreans when the Taehan minguk was established; more will answer '5000 years ago' than 'in 1948,' because to them it is simply the full name for Hanguk, Korea, the homeland. That's all it meant to most people who shouted those four syllables so proudly during the World Cup in 2002.