[KS] By train from Seoul to Incheon--what's in a name?
sa_ewing at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 24 19:46:56 EST 2006
Dear KS list members:
All right, it's my turn to ask a vexing question. The question and its
motivation are arcane and necessarily long, so my apologies in advance, and
please feel free to skip this posting entirely.
(For consistency's sake, I'm using McCune-Reischauer for almost all place
names in this article, both historical and modern. Some names go by
different renditions today.)
Korea's first railway line was built during the era of foreign concessions,
at the close of the 19th century. In 1899, a line was opened connecting
Noryangjin (across the river from the city gates of Hanso^ng--modern-day
Seoul) with Chemulp'o in Inch'o^n, the forerunner of today's Kyo^ngin Line.
(The Noryangjin-Kuro stretch is now part of the Kyo^ngbu Line to Pusan, a
6-track artery served by everything from the high-speed KTX to lowly,
packed-to-the-handrails local Line 1 subway trains.)
Historical articles on the early development of Korean railways invariably
refer to the original 1896 line as the Kyo^nginso^n (so^n = Line;
http://www.korail.go.kr/2003/100th/year/index1.html) or Kyo^ngin Ch'o^lto
(Railway; http://webzine.korail.go.kr/20050402/00250.html). If the line was
in fact so named in 1896--which is not at all clear--this would indicate
that the characters in the line's name were chosen because the line connects
the capital (so^ul kyo^ng) with Inch'o^n (o^jil in). The Kyo^ngbu (to
Pusan, opened 1905) and Kyo^ngu^i Lines (to Sinu^iju, 1906) appear to have
been named on a similar pattern.
The sticking point is that, up until 1910, Seoul's name was Hanso^ng, and
thereafter changed by or under the Japanese authorities to Kyo^ngso^ng.
Long-time Korean practice before and since has been to name many provinces,
transportation routes, or events by joining together one character from each
of the two place names involved: thus, Ch'ungch'o^ng-do
(Ch'ungju-Ch'o^ngju); the Kyo^ngjo^n (Kyo^ngsang-Cho^lla) railway line; the
Kuma (Taegu-Masan) Expressway; and relevant to the recent discussion, the
Puma (Pusan-Masan) Uprising(s) (?--cannot find their mention now). Why,
then, was the original railway called not, say, the Hanin
(Hanso^ng-Inch'o^n) Ch'o^lto, but the somewhat contrived Kyo^ngin Ch'o^lto?
That Seoul was not officially named as such until one year after liberation
in 1946 does not preclude the possibility that the word "so^ul" ("capital")
was used colloquially to refer to the city prior to that time. When
streetcars first came to the capital in 1898, the operating
company--Hanso^ng Cho^ngi Hoesa--was referred to in English as the "Seoul
, 7th photo from top; note Han'gu^l rendition of company's name as
"Hansyo^ng Tyo^ngu^i Hoesa"). Could the character "kyo^ng" have had some
currency as a written noun, equivalent to the colloquial name "Seoul"?
It is also possible that the original railway had a different name and that
the modern name--Kyo^ngin--has only been applied to the line retrospectively
by later writers. Under this scenario, the Kyo^ngin Line and its pre-1910
younger sisters--the Kyo^ngbu and Kyo^ngu^i Lines to Pusan and Sinu^iju
respectively--would have been so renamed some time after the Japanese
annexation. In that case, the first character in each line's new name would
presumably have come from the "kyo^ng" in "Kyo^ngso^ng" (the Japanese
"Keijo"), Seoul's new name--the same character, but with a different story
To summarize, my question, then, is this: Was the name "Kyo^ngin" chosen
(over, say, "Hanin"), because the character kyo^ng denotes "capital," the
Korean equivalent--Seoul/So^ul--being the colloquial name for Hanso^ng? Are
there attestations in other (non-rail-related) sources to the use of
"kyo^ng" (or "Seoul") to refer to the capital during the Choso^n Dynasty?
Or is this a commentary on non-scholarly historiography, with modern writers
retrospectively applying an anachronistic name to the railway, the original
name lost in the mists of time? Or between the railway's concession
holder--James R. Morse--and the Koreans with whom he worked, was this highly
idiosyncractic name the simple result?
I hope someone, somewhere on this list can provide some sort of satisfactory
answer. It would appear that whatever the answer, there's an interesting
story waiting to emerge!
Thanks in advance,
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