Monday, January 31, 2005


HatTip from Mingi. Don't have the original link, so I'll just post the significant parts:

In Asia, quite a lot actually, which is why the city of Seoul is planning to change its name. The alteration won't affect the name of the city in English, French or any other European language. Seoul is changing its name in Chinese only, and therein lies the answer to the question.

In Chinese, Seoul is "Hancheng," but the city government now is asking China to use the term "Shou-er." The change would make it a closer transliteration of the internationally recognized "Seoul," and would avoid confusion with Hanguo, the Chinese name for South Korea, the metropolitan government says.

Except that, no such confusion would ever arise in Chinese, the language in question. In written Chinese, entirely different characters are used for the two Hans, and in spoken Mandarin or Cantonese, the tones are also different. Could the answer lie elsewhere?

The Han in Hancheng is the same Han used for "Chinese people" and the "Han Dynasty." In Chinese, therefore, Hancheng would also loosely mean "Chinese city."

But, this has been the case for hundreds of years. Why do anything about it now?

Well, China recently has made the case that the medieval kingdom of Koguryo belonged to China. Some may think it is silly to worry about a state that existed between 37 BC and 668 A.D., but the statement has put Koreans on notice that Beijing may be readying to lay a claim to a chunk of North Korea when the Pyongyang regime collapses. You see, Koguryo straddled the present-day border between North Korea and Manchuria.

Suddenly, there is now the beginning of an intellectual debate in South Korea about whether China's rise represents a threat.

No comments: