Archive for the 'Korea' Category

Translations lost at sea

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

The Tokdo (Dokdo) / Takeshima dispute between Japan and Korea is heating up again, and could lead to a particularly stupid war.

On a blog, an angry poster listing Japan’s historical offenses against Korea leveled this curious accusation: “The Japs has made the land to be officially named ‘Half Island’ instead of ‘Peninsula’. Kingdom of Forgery!”

“Hanto” is Japanese for “peninsula,” and means “half-island” in English. That is of course the same meaning as “peninsula,” which is Latin for “almost island.”

The oddest part of this complaint is that in Korean the Koreas occupy a “bando.” What does this mean? An American university notes that “the Korean term for peninsula (bando) means literally ‘half-island.'”

(“Half-” or “semi-island” is the term for peninsula in many languages. Perceiving a protuberance of land this way does not seem self-evident, and I wonder what peninsulas are called by peoples for whom islands were the center of things, not isolated fragments, for instance in the Pacific?)

Dok-to / Takeshima

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Two Korean senior citizens will resume their existence as the sole civilians on the disputed group of islets in the Sea of Japan after a 10 year absence. A poet is supposed to join them in the spring.

The practice of sending someone to live on disputed small islands is partially an assertion of their island status: an attempt to prove that they are places rather than things, islands not rocks.