Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Land of the Morning Calm: The origins of Korea's title

This is my first blog and I created it to share my experience while studying abroad in South Korea at SungKyunKwan University for a semester; but also towards a grade for my independent study in Sociology which I hope turns out to be an A.  ^_^  As my very first post, I thought I would share the origins of Korea's title: Land of the Morning Calm. I know many of you will wonder why I titled my blog this and what does it mean? But first, I should introduce myself and tell you a little about my background.

I'm half Korean-American descent and was brought up in both worlds of Asian and Western. My first language was Korean as English being my second language. But as a child, people and some family members were not very open with the idea of me speaking a different language and I was traumatized for doing it, which made me refuse to speak it when I was younger because I wanted to fit in and people to like me. Now I am re-learning the language and most of all, learning more about my heritage and part of where I come from. I still have the Asian ways in me and the language is still in my psyche but I have a lot to learn about myself and where my ancestors come from. To be honest, I didn't even know why Korea is known as "Land of the Morning Calm" so I asked a close Korean friend, Jin Hak Seo; and did some research about it and this is what I have found based on some well known theories among Koreans today.

Nobody exactly knows why Korea is known as “The Land of the Morning Calm” but there are opinions and theories about the origin of the title that is a common idea in Korea.

One theory is the famous Indian poet named Tagore Rabindranath. 

In 1929 on his third visit to Japan, he was asked to visit Korea by one of the Korean patriotic youths in Tokyo at that time, though he did not have the time to do so and instead, wrote a poem for the Korean people because he could deeply sympathize with them of their foreign rule and oppression.

In the golden age of Asia
Korea was one of its lamb-bearess
and that lamp is waiting to be lighted once again
For the illumination of the East.

Korea at the time was colonized by Japan and India was colonized by England. He strongly criticized Japanese nationalism and their colonial policies. Tagore’s love and support for Korean independence was never in doubt and to some Koreans, Korea is known as the “Land of the Morning Calm” based on Tagore’s ideology/expression of Korea in his poem.

The second theory is before the colonial age of Japan, Korea’s former name is Chosun, translated to mean: “Morning Bright” - Cho (Morning) Sun (Bright) in Chinese.


The last theory about the name is from the expression by the westerner’s exploration in the mid 19th century. A lot of westerners explored eastern Asia towards open market trade. In those days, a lot of westerner’s missionaries (British, German, and American) came to Korea and in their view, thought Korea is the land of the morning calm; viewing the country to be primitive. However, for Koreans, the title of the “Land of the Morning” has a positive meaning. In a Westerners view at that time, Korea may not be well developed yet, but that it will become that way in the future according to Jin Hak Seo; a close friend I met in my college town through a Korean friend who was my conversational partner at my university. Mr. Seo and his family lives there temporarily but with the time I have with them, I am very blessed and humbled to have met him and his family which I help him and his daughter with their English.

As to the title of Korea for which it’s known today, no one really knows the true origin of this, however, the Koreans personal opinions and theories are present on the notion of the title on Korea today. Furthermore, today (in Korean time, August 15th), Korea is celebrating their Liberation Day (Gwangbokjeol) from Japanese occupation in 1945. Though there are those who believe that the true liberation of Korea would happen when the two sides of Korea reunite. Moreover, let us hope for a brighter future for Korea and may it always stand strong and bright in the morning calm. FIGHTING!!! (Korean slang expressions to give one hope and support)

Korea's Liberation Day August 15th, 1945 (uncertain of the location)

Land of the Morning Calm in the countries capitol where "primitive" meets westernization developed (I hope to visit this temple's sacred place)

Bongeunsa Temple (Seoul, South Korea)


  1. An amazing and well written post! I can't wait to hear about all your adventures out there!

    I know it'll be a lot of work, and it won't always be fun, but I hope you have a blast anyway!

    I can't wait to read more!

  2. Nice. I will follow you, fellow SKKU student. ;)

  3. Wow, you are so beautiful, and so is your post, I have fallen in love with korea, since i watched the first korean movie, though I watch it with english subtitles, i would love to learn korean and their ways, and if my luck favours me, one day i will be able to visit korea.

  4. em in love wid korea , since i watched DH2 wid eng. subtitles , and den many more drama's and movies....
    i wish one day i will be able to visit korea.