Corea: Toe may toe Toe mah toe

From an article by Barbara Demick at The Los Angeles Times on Sep 15, 2003
(reprinted here at The Boston Globe):

… Korean scholars and politicians … have begun a drive to change
the official English-language name of their country to Corea.

The seemingly arcane campaign is based on an increasingly prevalent belief
that the original spelling with the letter C was switched to Korea by the
Japanese at the start of their 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula, so that
their colonial subjects would not precede them in the English alphabetical

“Has it ever occurred to Koreans that they’ve been duped by an urban
legend?” wrote one critic on an English-language site. “That Japan would
change the spelling so that it comes after in English is laughable. This
seems like an invented story by some who have too much time on their

The debate is moot in the Korean language, which has an entirely different alphabet.

Notice they mention it’s moot in the Korean language, but never mention it is also moot in the Japanese language… maybe not as moot since almost everyone in Japan at least knows the Latin alphabet, even if they can’t read English.

Maybe it’s because pointing that out suggests there is some merit to this goofy conspiracy theory. Or maybe it’s because any deeper analysis leads to much much uglier conclusions.

Think about it: if renaming Corea to Korea was really to make the country come after Japan in the English alphabet, why stop there? Japanese Imperialism is not the anemic garbage we are used to from America and the British Empire. When the Japanese army occupied China, they blew up railways and blamed it on bandits. They enslaved Korean women into brothels.

And it’s not just Japan. China under Mao invaded Tibet and killed everyone in the Buddhist-run pacifist government, then they burned everything with Tibetan language on it, and then they forcibly resettled ethnic Chinese families to breed out the Tibetan culture. If you want the express summary in under 2 hours, go rent Scorsese’s
Kundun. Intra-Asian racial politics make the Balkans look like a kindergarten. They play for keeps over there!

So- do you really think the Imperial Japanese in the early 20th century are going to change just the spelling of Korea if it was that big a deal to them? They probably would have just renamed the entire country to something like “Western Colony”. Of course, if there still was a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the grateful citizens of that utopia would probably all be speaking Japanese anyway.