Conspiracy or Incompetence?
From 1910 to 1945, the Greater Japanese Empire occupied the Korean Peninsula. Various bespoke-tailored theories were constructed by tame anthropological historians to claim that the Korean and Japanese races were two closely-related branches of the same tree (Oh, what irony! How different from the modern treatment of ethnic Koreans in Japan!) whilst political means were extended to attempt to graft Japanese culture onto Korea—teaching the Japanese language instead of Korean in schools being a good example.
As you might have realised, the attempted cultural transplant didn’t really take—in fact, after liberation in 1945, things swung completely the other way, and Japanese pop culture was banned in South Korea until 1998 (in North Korea, on the other hand, almost anything foreign was and still is banned, but they’re North Korea; they have always done things a bit differently up there).
For myself, I don’t take any side in the propaganda war—I just stand on the sidelines and point out the absurdities.
But back to the subject in hand... as part of the “Japanisation” of the peninsula, Japanese place names were substituted for Korean ones, and the capital city of Hanseong (한성/漢城) was renamed to Keijō (京城). We know it today as Seoul (서울), a name which, unusually, has no alternative Chinese characters at all.
The other day, I watched a Korean/Japanese (mostly Korean) film, 2009 Lost Memories, a set in Japanese Chōsen as it would have been if history had turned out very differently, Japan had won the war, and... well, you’d probably better watch it, or at least read the IMDb review. Although the plot is weak and rather too heavy-handed on the Korean patriotism, the concept is well realised—there are lots of small touches to appeal to a Japan/Korea/languages obsessive like me—and my interest was piqued.
I started looking for information on the Japanese colonial
period in Korea, and typed
k e i j o u into the
Japanese input method editor. For the uninitiated, that’s how you
get Japanese into a computer: first you type it phonetically, then
convert it to the appropriate Japanese orthography. I tried it on
the Windows 2000 machine on my desk, which, although it could
provide other interpretations for keijō (形状, 計上, 経常, 桂城,
...) didn’t give me the one I wanted; nor did a computer running
Windows XP. My Apple laptop running OS X 10.3, on the other hand,
was able to furnish me with the desired characters, “京城”.
I know that it’s a touchy subject, like almost anything relating to Japan’s early 20th century history, but I’m not sure whether it’s censorship or simply a feebler vocabulary on Windows. Given that it’s Microsoft, I know which way I’m tempted to lean.