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Korea or Corea?

Korea or Corea?

Today, the most recognizable spelling of Korea begins with a “K”, but what many may not know is that the most popular spelling for the country’s English name was Corea! Though the “K” spelling is now the official spelling for both North and South Korea, there has been a recent resurgence of Koreans wishing to refer to their home country “Corea” again. But where did this spelling originate from?

Want to learn about more about Korean and Korean-American history? Check out our blog:
Happy Korean-American Day!

The earliest records of the English spelling of Corea was prevalent before being replaced by Korea. 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 Korea in 1910. Some people believe that around a century ago, Japan changed the English spelling of Korea from Corea to Korea so that it would not precede Japan in the alphabetical order. To this day, countries France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, among many others, use the "C" instead of “K” when referring to Korea in their respective languages. So when did “Corea” become “Korea”?

As with other European languages, English historically had a variety of names for Korea, the majority of which began with “C.” The modern spelling, "Korea", first appeared in the late 17th century in the travel writings of the Dutch East India Company's Hendrick Hamel.

Both major English-speaking governments in the 19th and 20th centuries (the United States and the United Kingdom and its empire) used both "Korea" and "Corea" until the early part of the period of Japanese occupation. Though English-language publications in the 19th century generally used the spelling Corea, the then U.S. minister and consul general to Korea, Horace Newton Allen, used "Korea" in his works published on the country.

Over time, the general rule is that Germanic languages (such as English) will favor the K spelling, and Latin languages favor the C spelling. Now, as English has become the most widely-spoken Germanic language, it’s easy to see how the “K” spelling became the standardized way to romanize the name “Korea.”

With that in mind, however, we decided to create designs featuring the “C” spelling in order to honor Korea’s past and how the country originally presented itself to the world as it connected with other nations.

What do you think of the “K” and the “C” spellings of Korea? Let us know in the comments down below!

For more on Korean history and clothing, read our blog:

Evolution of the Korean Hanbok

1 comment

Lydia Yi

I learned about this last year!! I told my mom about it too and she didn’t know either so it was cool to talk about. I think it’d be awesome to go back to the spelling of Korea with a C because it was how it was spelt before Japan changed it. I personally don’t mind much but learning about the history of the name, I think some of the older generation would think it’d be cool for Koreans to take that original spelling back to how it first was.

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