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Wednesday,August 21,2019
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Is Beautiful Country Another Name for America?

Koreans have called the United States of America Mi-guk (美國), which means "beautiful country," for a long time. However, there are few people who know exactly when Koreans started calling the USA Mi-guk.
Recently, a movement to change the Chinese spelling of Mi-guk is spreading among netizens in Korea. It originated from a proposal that the Chinese spelling of Mi-guk be changed from "beautiful Mi (美)" into "rice Mi (米)" by the Association of Small Stockholders of HAITAI Confectionery & Foods (ASSHCF). They made a survey of 3,598 peoples on and off line and found that  3,217 people approved of the ASSHCF spelling change.
This movement has progressed in earnest as the Headquarters of Movement for Correcting the Name of America (HMCNA) was established on April 30. They are conducting a campaign to collect signatures and a survey of netizens on line. 1,699 netizens signed the on-line document and 2,505 out of 2,445 netizens cast favorable votes for changing the Chinese spelling of Mi-guk.
"Oh No Festival" was held by the ASSHCF, the HMCNA, other social groups and netizens in Kyunghee Univeristy on May 3. Anti-Americanism was at a high pitch in Korea after ome questionable officiating at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In this atmosphere, the HMCNA conducted a public survey in the form of stickers. Of the 4,237 people who cast votes, 4,194 were favorable. Also, the Pan-Nation Walking Assembly for correcting the name of America was held by the HMCNA and other social groups on May 26. About 200 people including elementary schoolchildren and those in their seventies took part in this event. It's purpose was to inform people about the campaign to correct the name of the USA.
Why does the name of America have to be corrected? If you surf the web-site of the HMCNA, you can see the following sentence at the top of the main page. "It is deplorable that we naturally call and spell America, which caused us pain during the Winter Olympics, FX project and Nogeun-ri massacre, etc., as "beautiful country." Does the HMCNA pursue anti-Americanism?
Yoo Jin-young, a director of the HMCNA, says, "We don't pursue anti-Americanism impulsively. The Chinese spelling of USA had been "米 (it means rice)" in the Choson Period. Though we don't know for certain, it seems that "美 (it means beautiful)" has been used by Koreans after Korea was under the military administration of the USA. Although many people think that this issue is of no importance, the Chinese spelling of America must be changed to recover the self-respect of our nation. I don't mean that the best alternative Chinese spelling of America is "米." We are collecting netizens' opinion about this through free board."
Korea has had diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with the USA for a long time. We can feel American culture everywhere. Will American culture disappear from Korean society if we only boycott American goods? American culture is pervasive in Korea. An important thing is "consciousness." The ultimate purpose of the HMCNA is to change the Chinese spelling of America. However, this campaign gives Korean people an opportunity to think about the relations between Korea and America again.

Kim Hye-jeong  bbejeoi@dongguk.edu

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