Daily Archives: 5 February 2022

Rectification of Korean Titles, 1910

From Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912, by Donald Keene (Columbia U. Press, 2005), Kindle pp. 673-677:

The memorandum that [Resident-General of Korea] Terauchi showed to Yi Wan-yong contained a somewhat earlier version of the treaty articles. It proposed, for example, that the Korean emperor be known henceforth as taikō denka [太公殿下] (His Highness, the archduke) and the crown prince as kōdenka [公殿下] (His Highness, the prince). These titles would be hereditary. The memorandum recognized that some people might object that this represented a demotion from their present status, but these titles would be Japanese, not merely Korean.

Cho (who spoke fluent Japanese) called that night on Terauchi and told him that he and Yi agreed that unless the name Han-guk [韓国] and the title of king were retained, no compromise could be reached. They were apparently under the impression that annexation would be a union of two countries, each retaining sovereign status, rather in the manner of Austria-Hungary or Sweden-Norway. Terauchi was surprised by this lack of understanding of Japanese aims, but he finally agreed to allow the country to be known by the old name of Chōsen [朝鮮]. In response to the request that the title of king be retained, Terauchi compromised to the extent of allowing the emperor to be known as riō denka [李王殿下] (His Highness the Yi king). The title ō was not the same as kokuō [国王] (king); in Japan, ō meant no more than a prince, but this concession seemed to satisfy the Koreans’ wounded pride. Retired Emperor Kojong would be known as taiō denka [太王殿下] (His Highness, the great king), and Crown Prince Yi Eun, as ōseishi denka [王世子殿下] (His Highness, the heir to the king). Cho agreed to these changes and informed Yi, who told Terauchi that he was confident he would be able to persuade the cabinet at the meeting on the next day to accept Terauchi’s compromise.

On the same day, August 29, a series of imperial ordinances were issued, proclaiming that Han-guk was henceforth to be called Chōsen, that the government general of Chōsen had been established, that an amnesty was to be put into effect in Chōsen, and that there would be an extraordinary imperial bounty in Chōsen. Other ordinances dealt with duties on Korean merchandise imported into Japan, patents, designs, copyrights, and similar commercial matters. After long years of laxness under their own rulers, the Koreans were getting an early taste of Japanese efficiency.

Korean news media got some small revenge when they reported the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. They demoted him to 日王 (ilwang), King of Japan.

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