If I remember correctly, North Korea is called "北朝鮮{きたちょうせん}" in Japan? But, I think "朝鮮" might actually be written in Katakana?

Anyway, given that "朝鮮" was Japan's colonial name for (all of) Korea, shouldn't it be named something other than "北朝鮮"? (Personally, I have no opinion about this). Surely, that is why South Korea is now 韓国{かんこく} and not "南朝鮮{みなみちょうせん}? I mean, no matter how strained (or non-existent) Japan's diplomatic relationship with North Korea might be, don't the South Koreans object to the name "北朝鮮" (because it conjures the history of colonial Japan)??

primary reason I asked the question:
I've always thought that "朝鮮" has a negative connotation in Japanese daily conversation, yet South Koreans (as far as I know) don't object to North Korea being called "北朝鮮" even in NHK broadcasts. That is the only reason I asked the question.

The answers I got are great. I understand now.

  • 6
    It's 北朝鮮, not 北挑戦 :)
    – dinogeist
    Jun 29, 2015 at 2:22
  • @dinogeist guilty as charged! I just made the corrections. thanks.
    – Wrythe
    Jun 29, 2015 at 2:27
  • 5
    The source of the lame pun 「北朝鮮から来た挑戦」. Jun 29, 2015 at 2:59
  • 3
    North Korea itself uses "Chosŏn", whereas South Korea uses "Hanguk". The Japanese terminology reflects this.
    – Zhen Lin
    Jun 29, 2015 at 7:48

3 Answers 3


朝鮮 comes from the Joseon dynasty, which is the longest-lasting Korean dynasty, whose rule lasted from the late 14th century all the way to the late 19th century. The use of this name can be chronicled in Chinese records from as early as 100 BC.

After the fall of the Joseon dynasty, the Koreans changed their country name to 大韓帝国 "Daehan Jeguk," or the "Great Han Empire." The 韓 in this name is the same as the 韓 in 韓国 and stems from the three ancient kingdoms of Korea, Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje, circa around 0 AD. This 韓 is likely a native Korean word, whose pronunciation was just reflected in Chinese writings of the time with the character 韓, and should not be confused with the character 漢, both of which are pronounced as カン in Japanese and "han" in Chinese (although with differing tones).

After the Korean Empire came under Japanese rule in the early 20th century, the name was reverted to 朝鮮. After World War II and the Korean war ended, South Korea adopted the name 大韓民国, "Daehan Minguk," partially to distance themselves from the Japanese imperial name of 朝鮮. For whatever reason, North Korea decided to keep the name 朝鮮 in their official name: 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国.

Japan continues to use whichever name the individual sides prefer, thus leaving North Korea as 朝鮮 and South Korea as 韓国, although North Korea raises a stink about being called 北朝鮮 as it implies that their rule over the entire peninsula isn't legitimate. Incidentally, the name for the landmass both countries reside on is still called 朝鮮半島.

For what it's worth, the name "Korea" in English also comes from a Korean dynasty, the Goryeo 高麗 dynasty which was the dynasty immediately preceding the Joseon dynasty.

Source: Mainly taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_Korea


Well, I don't feel like talking about international relationships, but...

given that "朝鮮" was Japan's colonial name for (all of) Korea

It is the assertion by South Korea, but it is groundless. It is true that the word "朝鮮" was (or still is, I dunno) sometimes used in a derogatory way, but the word itself originates back in the early days of the first millennium.

You can find the usage in Chinese documents of that era. For the record, the Chinese called the region 朝鮮 because the people there brought few tribute. That is, "朝" in this case stands for "朝貢" (= tribute) and "鮮" stands for "few".

And you should be reminded that North Korea call themselves "朝鮮民主主義人民共和国". If they regard "朝鮮" was Japan's colonial name, how can this happen?

  • 1
    “朝鮮 because the people there brought few tribute” LOL. But that's not true.
    – Yang Muye
    Jun 29, 2015 at 3:10
  • The last paragraph might misunderstand something. The NKs view their government as a semi-continuation of the Japanese empire (see here nknews.org/2015/02/…)
    – virmaior
    Jun 29, 2015 at 3:18
  • @Yang Muye: I heard this etymology from a Chinese who was living in Japan. Do you think he was in error?
    – eltonjohn
    Jun 29, 2015 at 7:01
  • @virmaior: I browsed the article. I have the impression that the article says NK copycatted the Japanese empire rather than saying that they view them as a semi-continuation. Or am I overlooking something?
    – eltonjohn
    Jun 29, 2015 at 11:37

Jo-Seon, or "Cho-Sun" means the "land of morning (jo') calm"(seon') for Korea. Nippon or "Nihon" the "land of rising sun" for Japan. Joong-Guo, the "middle kingdom" for China.

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