The Confucian Transformation of Toponyms and the Coexistence of Contested Toponyms in Korea

(Vol.52. No.1 Spring, 2012 pp.105~139)
KIM Sun-Bae
Toponyms are social constructs, subject to constant change in the social context.
As such, toponyms in Korea reveal many variant forms, given the geopolitical
location of the peninsula, a crossroad for various cultures. In particular,
when Korea adopted Confucianism as the state orthodoxy during the Joseon
dynasty, a host of native toponyms were renamed into Confucian ones in order
to reflect the dominant Confucian ideology. This phenomenon produced politically
and culturally contested toponyms for the same locations, making native
toponyms coexist or contend with Chinese-derived or Confucian toponyms.
Confucian toponyms represented the Confucian identity and ideology held by
Confucian scholars, and signified specific toponymic meanings and territoriality.
Even to this day, Confucian toponyms either coexist or conflict with other
types of toponyms. This paper examines the transformation of native toponyms
to Confucian ones and analyzes the concrete naming process by presenting particular
examples. It also reviews various forms of contested toponyms and the
mode of Confucian toponyms in contestation or parallel existence with others.
Keywords: native toponym, Confucian toponym, ideological signification, contested toponym
Types: Special Topic
Subject: Languages and linguistics
About the author(s) KIM Sun-Bae is Lecturer at Korea National University of Education, where he obtained
his Ph.D. in Education in 2009. His publications include Jimyeong-ui jirihak (The
Geography of Toponyms) (co-authored, 2008) and “The Cultural Politics of Place
Names in Korea: Contestation of Place Names’ Territories and Construction of Territorial
Identity” (2010). E-mail: gogeo@hanmail.net.