To put this debate about the English spelling of the word Korea into a proper context, let us take a look at how Korea should be spelled according to an English dictionary.








In the Korean language, South Korea is called Daehan Minguk (????/a>, 鸚㏝?麗묈쐦, literally "Great Han People's Nation"). Its short name is Hanguk (?쒓뎅, "Han Nation," usually referring to Korea) or Namhan (?, "South Han,” referring to South Korea). Han refers to the ancient Samhan confederacies of southern Korean peninsula. Hanguk is the most commonly used term by Koreans.

In English, the nation is often referred to simply as "Korea" deriving from the
Goryeo dynasty, which in turn referred to the Goguryeo kingdom. Arabic traders' rendering of Goryeo, "Cu'ree,” may have made its way to Italy during the Middle Ages, and "Corea" became a common European rendering. In the late 19th century, "Korea" became more widely used.



The etymology shows that Korea should be spelt with a K in English. Thus the Korean Government is fully justified in using K in the word Korea. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries there were a number of publications that used C in the word Korea. Some of them even include the official British and American documents.

However, all the English language magazines and periodicals published in Korea at that time used K:

-         Korean Repository 1892-1898

-         Korea Review 1901-1906

-         Korea Field 1901-1904

-         The Korea Daily News 1904


Many English books published in the English world around the same time also used K.

-         Korean Tales by Horace Allen, 1889

-         Korea and her neighbours by Isabella Bishop, London 1897

-         Korea and the Sacred White Mountain by AEJ Cavendish, London 1894

-         A pictorial example of one of the books that used K both in the title and in labeling of one of its photographs.

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Digital ID: 827407

Three Korean dignitaries.  Published Date: 1894 Library Division: Mid-Manhattan Library / Picture Collection  Source Note: From Problems of the Far East : Japan-Korea-China. (London: Longmans)




- Another example of a book using K for Korea.

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Choson, the Land of the Morning Calm: a Sketch of Korea, by Percival Lowell.  Boston: Tickner & Co., 1885. Leather-bound and illustrated in gold.

***Korean Choson should not be confused with Chosen, the Japanese version of Choson.





However, there are many other old documents like this map below that show that the word Korea was widely used in the English speaking world over the centuries. Though one thing I noticed when looking at old maps is that many of them are in Latin, French, Portuguese or Italian. All these languages use C in their spellings of Korea. Some people who are not well acquainted with many European languages might get confused and consider the non English spelling as the basis for the correct English spelling.



- 1747 British map of Korea. Printed in London. Shows the words Korea and the Sea of Korea.

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The extensive use of the the word "Korea" throughout the centuries in the Englsih speaking world according to many old documents and publications makes it very clear when combined with the etymology of the word "Korea" that the word "Korea" should be spelled as it is now. "Corea" spelling should be considered a mistake even though a number of various documents show that some people have made that mistake over a long period of time in the past.


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