There's a seemingly strange movement afloat among a subset of Korean nationalist to change Korea's name to Corea. That is to say, to change it back to Corea. Prior to the 20th century, Americans and Brits used to write Korea as "Corea". Sometime in the early 20th century, English speaking nations began to adopt "Korea" as the official spelling. Other nations, France for example, still spell Korea with a C. The French word for Korea is Coree.

Why the change? Well, many posit a conspiracy theory hatched by Japan soon after it began to occupy Korea in 1905. Alphabetically, C nations come before J nations. The Japanese, apparently, took their first great offense in the 19th century when a group of Asian nations were received at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. The Corean representative was received before the Japanese representative. The Japanese attitude towards Koreans back then is that they seemed a faintly backward, hairy assed, uncouth cousin. That your backward, hairy assed, uncouth cousin would get to see the Russian King before you, why, the insult!

So, the conspiracy theory goes, after the occupation, Japan convinced Western powers that Corea was really spelt Korea and Oceania had never been at war with Eurasia. Etc. Etc. This way when Japan marched in the Olympics, it would march before Korea and all.

The conspiracy theory is appealing if only because it seems so marvelously petty. Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows there are always about three or four aunts/cousins that engage in this kind of minor social one-up-manship. It's kind of nice to think nations engage in it too.

Alas there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of actual proof. Why was the change made in only English? Up until World War II, the language of International diplomacy was French. You'd think any conspiracy theory would have concentrated on that. It's possible the name got changed by virtue of Japan's somewhat brain-dead Romanization system.

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