Monnara Iunnara Volume 10: The Americans

Chapter 1: Humanity's Greatest Experiment

What Kind of people are the Americans? 


Introduction: Two Americans with Differing Points of View 

10) A cowboy is being chased across a rocky desert by five Indians with rifles. All are on horseback. The cavalry spots the situation from a nearby ridge and sound the alarm. they then barrel down a hill and obliterate the Indians in a hail of gunfire. 

11)The Indians hit the ground, and the cowboy and cavalry dismount their horses and pose bravely in front of a billowing American flag. The scene is revealed to be taking place on a screen in a movie theater. the audience is clapping and cheering. One man is weeping with joy. His friend gawks at him in shock. Walking out of the theater the gawker presses his friend. "What was so great that you were applauding and everything?" The weeper explains that he always loved westerns.

It's fantastic to see the American cavalry sweep up a band of Indians while the Stars and Stripes waves in the background!
멋진 미국 기병대들이 인디언 무리들을 소탕하고 성조기 휘날리는 모습은 너무 근사 해
The friend points indignantly.

You've been brainwashed by Hollywood!
너도 할리우드 영화에 세뇌되었구나!

He goes on to point out that the whites chased the Indians off of the land that their ancestors had occupied since time and memorial. How should we react to these movies made by the whites? Should we like them and clap or shed tears for the Indians? Storming off, he says

It's huge differences in point of view that make America such an interesting nation to me.
미국은 바라보는 각도에 따라 너무 큰 차이가 나는 아주 흥미로운 나라라는 게 이런 데에서 나타나지!

12)  It's at this point that we're introduced to the author, wearing what appears to be an artist's beret and glasses. We're going to start our look at America from the name and build up from there (이름부터 짚고 너머가자고). America is also known as The United States of America. There are plenty of countries on the American continent, but only the U.S.A. is called America. But why, asks the author after explaining nothing about what U.S.A. means, do Koreans call the U.S.A. Miguk? This is the thing that surprises me (but probably shouldn't) about this book. We don't even start off the book in America.
So why do we call Miguk Miguk? "Because Miguk is named Miguk, that's why we call it Miguk." a helpful cartoon American tells a confused cartoon Korean.
In reality, if you say Miguk to an American, he won't understand you. Japanese people call America 'Beikoku', which American's also can't understand. The Chinese say Meiguo, and again the cartoon American lets out an exasperated puff.

A Rather Out-of-Place Seeming Digression into the Origins of Various Countries' Names 

13)  Do you know why China is called 'China' in English?  The first time China became known to the West was during the Qin Dynasty, represented by a picture of Shi Huang Di. The name Qin was transmitted to Europe, changing along the way from Qin to Cina, Cina, Shin, Hina, etc. Each country in Europe pronounces China's name in a different but related way.
So now the English name for China is the most widely known name for the country.
Japan, says the cartoon author, is the same. Rhie Won-bok certainly likes to stick with what he knows. Having made it very clear that he doesn't know all that much about America, he has spent a full half of the book thus far discussing countries other than the U.S. So the English name for Japan comes from Riben (or 지펀, according to Rhie), the Chinese pronunciation of the Chinese characters 日本 . Now we see a huffy samurai, and learn that Japanese people, especially those with great pride in Japan (일본에 대해 높은 긍지를 지닌 일본사람들) can not help but consider the word 'Japan' insulting, because it comes from China. It strikes me that I haven't seen Rhie use this expression "have great pride" for any other nation. I wonder if it has some sort of negative connotation. Anyway, this, we learn,

is the reason that Japanese stubbornly persist in referring to their country as "Nihon" or "Nippon" on the international stage.

국제적으로 굳이 '닛폰'이나 '니혼'이란는 이름을 고집하는 이유가 여기에 있어.

The Story of Korea's First Contact with Americans, and Why the Koreans call America Miguk 

14) Our quiet hermit kingdom, tucked away to the eastern end of the Chinese continent (중국대륙) and on the inside of Japan(일본의 안쪽) learned about the West relatively later than Japan and China. In the Goryeo period, we first became known to Arab traders who came by way of China. Our word Goryeo gradually changed from its original pronunciation to Korea. Shilla, Joseon, Tang, and Song, there are various names for each nation, but the nation's name at the time of first contact is the one that sticks.
Author: So, if that's the case, why do we call America Miguk? First of all, do you know when Americans first came to Korea? That's might be a toughie. We can find the answer in the annals of the Joseon dynasty. It was in 1855 (The sixth year of Cheoljong/ 철종 6년). Thiswas in the period after gold was discovered in the American West (1849). Gold seekers swarmed to the coast in a massive effort (대거). It wasn't just people after gold. There were also a lot of whalers.
15) Whaling ships worked the North Pacific. Occasionally they were swept to the Russian and Japanese coasts. One extremely unlucky American whaling ship was pushed and pushed all the way to the Sea of Japan (동해). Four whalers narrowly escaped death, landing at Tongcheon in Gangwon Province, present-day North Korea. The royal court of the Joseon dynasty was chocked to see such strange people for the first time.
At this point the narration ends and the action jumps t o a conversation between two court officials.
Green Coat: Where in the world did these monsters come from?
Blue Coat: What country are they from?
GC: We can't understand a word they say, how are we supposed to -
[enter Guard]
Guard: There is one way. Let's send to (Qing dynasty) China for their expert opinion about this strange retinue.
GC: Send to China?
Guard: China is a vast country that trades with all sorts of countries. It stands to reason that they would be able to tell where these people come from. They'll be able to weigh in on this strange group.
They received the following response:

GC: Mirigyeon? What is that?
BC:  You're pathetic.  You have to read the characters with Chinese pronunciation.  They're Meilijian people.
GC: Meilijian?
16) America was already known to the Chinese and they called it Meilijian.  This is how the Chinese pronounced "American" when they first heard the word.  The closest Chinese characters they could find were 米利堅人.  Our first contact with Americans was in 1855 but in the end it wasn't formal contact.  We sent them to China without ever finding out who they were.  China and Japan had earlier contact than us (접촉이 우리보다 빨랐어).  After the Opium War (1840-1842) the West began to invade China.  China and America opened up diplomatic relations.  In 1844 they signed the Treaty of Wangxia (망하조약) to protect trade.  In 1853 Commodore Perry demanded that Japan open up the country.  In 1853 America and Japan signed a trade agreement and opened diplomatic relations.  In Japan they pronounced 'America' with Japanese pronunciation (Amirika or 亞米利加) and shortened the Chinese characters to 米國, pronounced 'Beikoku'.  In China they shortened their name Meilijian to Meiguo (美國), and we wound up using the same characters with our own pronunciation, Miguk.