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    In the present Chinese-character cultural sphere, the term konghwa has been used as the standard translation of republic. This semantic equation raises a question, how konghwa, which originally refers to the konghwa regency in ancient China and literally means “cooperation and harmony,” came to be associated with this Western concept, which etymologically means “public thing” or “public good.” The answer to this question will also have a profound influence on our understanding of Article 1 of the constitution of South Korea, which stipulates “Taehan min’guk shall be a minju konghwaje,” a seemingly pleonastic expression, as shown in the English translation: “The ‘Republic’ of Korea shall be a democratic ‘republic.’” To address these interrelated questions, this work explores the linguistic and historical contexts of early modern Japan, China, and Korea, where the initial association was made between the words konghwa and republic, and also the period when the official name of South Korea and its constitution were initially created. In conclusion, this article provides answers to these questions by showing the close association between konghwa and the political system of the United States, particularly, the indirect voting system for its presidential election.1


    konghwa , republic , Article 1 of the Constitution of South Korea , the United States , indirect presidential election


    In the present Chinese-character cultural sphere, no words can more comprehensively encapsulate the shared political identity than the term republic. Excluding Japan, which has retained a constitutional monarchy since the Meiji Restoration, this term has been incorporated into the official English names of all other nations in the sphere (China, Taiwan, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore), spanning not only the political borders between the nations but also the ideological boundaries between socialism and capitalism. Additionally, most of these nations also incorporate konghwa (共和: C. gonghe, J. kyōwa, and V. cộng hòa), into their official names. In contrast, Taiwan and South Korea use min’guk (民國: C. minguo), instead of konghwa.

    South Korea adopted its official name, Taehan min’guk 大韓民國, from its former provisional government of the colonial period, together with Article 1 of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea, promulgated on April 11, 1919. It reads “Taehan min’guk shall be a minju konghwaje 民主共和制.” The present constitution of South Korea uses this line of Article 1 almost verbatim. Its official English translation by the Constitutional Court of Korea reads, “The Republic of Korea shall be a democratic republic.”2

    The significance of Article 1 has recently attracted the attention of scholars, but an inherent critical problem has yet to be properly illustrated and addressed.3 In this simple sentence, the word republic appears twice, and therefore, the second republic looks redundant. The Korean version of Article 1, however, uses two different terms, min’guk and konghwa, but to avoid a pleonasm, it requires a clear semantic distinction between these two words, which are both translated in English as republic. As Yi Yŏng-nok (Lee Young Lok) has convincingly demonstrated, however, this article has been continuously reinterpreted along with the changes in the political contexts of modern Korea.4 Therefore, a historical contextualization is necessary to properly deal with this semantic problem in Article 1. Moreover, the scope of investigation needs to extend to early modern East Asia, where the initial association between republic and konghwa was created, circulated, and practiced.

    Linguistically, the equating of republic with konghwa is genuinely distinct among numerous cases of “translingual practice” occurring in early modern East Asia. As Lydia Liu demonstrates, translation is not simply pairing semantically equivalent words and phrases between different languages. Rather, this practice necessarily involves “the invention of equivalent meanings” through “hypothesizing an exchange of equivalent meanings” out of nonequivalent meanings.5 Therefore, translingual practice cannot avert “the possibility that a non-European host language may violate, displace, and usurp the authority of the guest language in the process of translation as well as [be] transformed by it or be in complicity with it.”6 Nevertheless, as is demonstrated by the cases of minjujuŭi 民主主義, chach’i 自治, and sinmun 新聞, it is also empirically true to say that the ideographic compound of a Chinese translated word generally bears a certain degree of semantic resemblance to the targeted European word. By contrast, no semantic resemblance (Liu’s “hypothetical equivalence”) exists between republic and konghwa. Etymologically, republic is a compound of two Latin words, “res,” meaning “thing,” and “publica,” denoting “people” or “public,” signifying “public thing” or “public good,” whereas konghwa literally means “cooperation and harmony.” This lack of semantic resemblance leads to another question, why such a ‘misleading’ translation occurred in the first place.

    2This translation is available at (last visited Jan. 25, 2013).  3For the historical process of the formation of Article 1, see Han In Sup (Han In-sŏp), “Taehan min’guk ŭn minju konghwaje ro ham,” Sŏul Taehakkyo pŏphak 50.3 (Sep. 2009), 167–201. For the significance of its continuity and its modern implications, see Sŏ Hŭi-gyŏng (Suh Hee-kyung) and Pak Myŏng-nim (Park Myung-lim), “Minju konghwa chuŭi wa Taehan min’guk Hŏnpŏp inyŏm ŭi hyŏngsŏng,” Chŏngsin munhwa yŏn’gu 30.1 (2007), 77–111. For its practical implications in present day Korean politics, see Han Sang-hŭi (Han Sang-hie), “’Minju konghwaguk ŭi Hŏnpŏp chŏk hamŭi,” Illam pŏphak 3 (1998), 115–141. For the role of Rhee Syngman, see Yu Yŏng-ik (Lew Young-Ick), “Yi Sŭngman kukhoe ŭijang kwa Taehan min’guk Hŏnpŏp chejung,” Yŏksa hakpo 189 (2006), 101–137.  4Yi Yŏng-nok, “Han’guk esŏ ŭi ‘Minju konghwaguk ŭi kaenyŏmsa,” Pŏpsahak yŏn’gu 42 (2010), 49– 83.  5Lydia He Liu, Tokens of Exchange : The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations (Durham, NC:Duke University Press, 1999), 1–29.  6Lydia He Liu, “Introduction: The Problem of Language in Cross-Cultural Studies,” in Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity—China, 1900–1937 (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1995), 27.


    Historically, konghwa refers to the regency period in the Western Zhou from 841 B.C. to 828 B.C. In this fourteen-year period, the tyrannical monarch King Li 厲王 fled from the capital to escape an uprising, and the minister(s) assumed temporary governance. This period was concluded by the enthronement of the legitimate heir apparent Jing 靖 after the death of King Li and the subsequent restoration of the monarchical order. As for how the word konghwa came to refer to this period, there are two different extant accounts. The Bamboo Annals (Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年), which was allegedly excavated from the tomb of King Xiang of Wei 魏襄王 around A.D. 281, suggests that this term is short for Gongbo He 共伯和, a count of the Gong, whose first name is He. It is proposed that because Gongbo He ruled the Zhou court in place of the absent Zhou King, this period became called gonghe (=konghwa) as an abbreviation of his name. The second, more orthodox, explanation comes from the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史記). Here, Sima Qian stated that during this period two grand ministers of Zhou, Shaogong 召公 and Zhougong 周公, managed the court in “gonghe” (K. konghwa: cooperation harmony); therefore, this period was known as “konghwa.”7 The konghwa period has long been regarded, particularly in the Records of the Grand Historian, as a critical turning-point in Chinese history, marking the turn from a period of political order under the ancient Chinese feudal system to a period of long-lasting political chaos, idiomatically called the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods.8

    The story of the konghwa regency implicitly held within it a potential threat to the conventional hierarchical relationship between the ruler and ministers and ultimately to monarchy. Regency by ministers was not unprecedented. Yi Yin 伊尹 of the Shang and Zhougong 周公 of the early Zhou were both commemorated as sage ministers. The konghwa administration, however, fundamentally differed from the cases of Yi Yin and Zhougong. Normally, regency in Chinese history meant that ministers or members of imperial lineage led the court while the ruler was on the throne but was not able to rule by himself. In this context, the authority of regents was firmly placed within the conventional framework of ruler-minister relations. In contrast, the minister(s) who led the konghwa administration managed the court during an absence of monarchical authority— the ruler had fled and the heir apparent was not immediately enthroned. In dealing with this unprecedented case, both the Bamboo Annals and the Records of the Grand Historian focused on depicting the minister(s) of the konghwa administration as virtuous and loyal figures who, most importantly, had no intentions of usurpation. To put it differently, the critical role that the minister(s) of the konghwa administration played was not merely to administer the court in the place of the absent Son of Heaven but also to uphold the traditional political order by protecting the heir apparent and, ultimately, the Zhou dynasty in the face of a moral collapse and subsequent public uprising.

    The provocative nature of this konghwa regency, by comparison, invited reinterpretations of the story throughout the later premodern periods of China, Japan, and Korea. The main focus of these reinterpretations, however, was consistently and uniformly placed on the issue of how to reconcile the konghwa regency with the principles of monarchism and legitimism. Both fundamental principles were key to sustaining the political reality of premodern East Asia, and both were diametrically opposite the modern idea of republic.9

    Moving to the early modern period, there is great historical significance to be found in exploring the process by which the konghwa of ancient China became widely associated with the Western concept of republic, which has substantially different semantic and cultural meanings. Curiously, the European word with which the term konghwa was first associated was not republic. This association took place in mid-nineteenth century Japan, a political context in which the tension between traditionalist and modernist viewpoints was rapidly escalating.

    The first case in which the word konghwa was used in a modern context appears in Mitsukuri Shōgo’s (箕作省吾: 1821–1847) Kon’yo zushiki 坤輿図識. In this first world atlas produced in Japan, Mitsukuri identified the United States as “Kyōwa seiji shū” (共和政治州) meaning “the states with a republican government.”10 Subsequently, in the entry for “Kyōwa seiji” (共和政治) in his Daigenkai 大言海, which was an extensive modern-style Japanese dictionary, Ōtsuki Fumihiko (大槻文彦: 1847–1928) reported that in 1845 when Mitsukuri was compiling the Kon’yo zushiki, Ōtsuki Bankei (大槻磐渓: 1801–1878), the father of Ōtsuki Fumihiko, had informed Mitsukuri of Sima Qian’s version of the konghwa story in person, which led Mitsukuri to adopting the term to refer to the United States.11 No further explanation is offered there, but it is highly plausible that the nonmonarchical government of the United States reminded Ōtsuki Bankei, a Confucian scholar, of the konghwa regency, which was the sole example of legitimate non-monarchical administration in East Asian history.

    Linguistically, as detailed in Section 3 below, the term konghwa was soon dissociated from the United States and was replaced by a neologism, “gasshūkoku 合衆國” (K. hapchungguk) to translate its official name verbatim, signifying a confederate union of multiple states. This replacement, however, did not take place immediately. Nor does it signify a complete dissociation, as is demonstrated by an ukiyo-e print of Utagawa Yoshikazu (歌川芳員 active c. 1850–70), dated 1862, which is titled “Kita Amerika shū no uchi Gasshūkoku mata Kyōwa seiji shū 北亜墨利加洲之内 合衆國 又共和政治州,” (“On the North American Continent, the United States, also called the Republic”). (See Pic. 1)

    This ukiyo-e print also contains a short account of this mysterious country. It reads, in part, “There is no monarch. Each state (J. maikoku 每國) selects a number of wise men (J. kenja 賢者) and lets them govern it. In addition, [this country] does not make the distinction between the noble and the base.”12 This description attests that the non-monarchical political system of the United States as well as its egalitarian social structure received his special attention as well as that of his contemporaries living in the last stage of the Edo period.

    In late nineteenth-century Japan, the political system of the United States strongly appealed to Japanese intellectuals who were seeking an alternative to the imperial system restored by the Meiji Restoration. In 1873, Nakamura Masanao (中村正直: 1832–1891) translated Ransom H. Hooker’s (1800–1876) Federal Government: Officers and Their Duties under a rather odd title, that is, Kyōwa seiji 共和政治. Hooker had been a member of the United States Congress and was a counselor-at-law and a solicitor in the United States Treasury at the time. He published this work in 1871 on the grounds of wanting to offer “general knowledge of the affairs of the government” of the United States.13 This voluminous book covers all main components of the federal government, including the Constitution, its bicameral system, and the presidential system. It took less than two years for Nakamura to introduce this book to his contemporaries in a Japanese translation. Intriguingly, however, Hooker used the term “republic” to refer to a state in the Union, but not to the political system of the United States. In fact, the sentence that “the United States [shall] guarantee to every State in the (or this) union a republican form of government” quoted in Federal Government: Officers and Their Duties is a direct quotation from Section 4 of Article 4 in the Constitution of the United States. Together with the Kon’yo zushiki and Utagawa’s print, the title of Nakamura’s translation suggests that in early modern Japan, konghwa (J. kyōwa seiji) specifically, albeit not exclusively, referred to the non-monarchical political system of the United States rather than to republic as a political concept.14

    The spread of republican ideas provoked strong antagonism in Japan. Yasui Sokken (安井息軒: 1799–1876), who was a leading Confucian scholar during the Edo and Meiji periods, witnessed that a large number of Japanese intellectuals, including some of his own students saw republicanism as the only means to “enrich the country and strengthen the military” (J. fukoku kyōhei 富國强兵).15 In response, he excoriated this idea in his letter, “Yo bōsei ron kyōwa seiji sho 與某生論共和政事書.” Although this letter does not specify a recipient, it was most likely addressed to Nakamura Masanao, who was one of his former students. In this letter, Yasui repeatedly underscored his belief that the promotion of republicanism was “a crime [that deserves] the extermination of the perpetrator’s whole family,” thus expressing the strongest possible antagonism to the idea.16

    Yasui argued that Western republicanism was firmly based on Christianity (J. yasokyō 耶蘇敎) and was reflective of the general immoral features of Western civilization.

    For Yasui, just as East Asian politics was inseparable from Confucianism, republicanism was firmly grounded in Christianity. He asserted that Westerners, who were deluded by Christianity, did not have the capacity to understand the genuine truths of Confucian virtues like loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, and righteousness.18

    It is not the case, however, that Yasui was completely ignorant of the reality of Western republicanism. Regarding the electoral system for presidential election, he argued that no matter how sincere and unbiased the public tried to be, due to the necessarily limited nature of their understanding and insight, the election was liable to fail in its ambition to elect a truly competent man. He continued his criticism by saying that because of the absence of a hierarchical order between the ruler and ministers, the authority of a president tended to be undermined by other authorities and figures, which would result in weak leadership of the government.19 One example he gave was the political turmoil that resulted in France after its revolution.20 He saw the presidential system of the United States as a paradigmatic case of republicanism, but he concluded the letter with the prediction that because of the competition that would exist among the contenders for the presidential position, “[its political system] would crumble before long.”21

    Yasui could not stop the flow of history. Morita Shiken (森田思軒: 1861–1897) derided Yasui, remarking that “citing the konghwa administration of the Zhou dynasty in a discussion about republicanism is more ridiculous than whipping the calves of a neighbor’s wife in reproaching one’s own wife.”22 What is of particular interest is that Japanese intellectuals in the mid-nineteenth century, both traditionalists and modernists, widely equated republicanism or konghwa with the contemporary political system of the United States, rather than understanding it as an independent political idea.

    7In his 1895 French translation of the Records of the Grand Historian, É douard Chavannes translated konghwa as “commune harmonie” (E. common harmony) and defined the characteristic of the konghwa administration as “régence” (E. regency) by the two “conseillers” (E. councilors). Sima Qian, Les Mémoires Historiques de Se-ma Ts’ien, Translated and Annotated by É douard Chavannes (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1895), Vol. 1. 294.  8Sima Qian, “Shi’er zhuhou nianbiao” 十二諸侯年表, Shiji (Taibei: Dingwen shuju, 1981), 14. 509– 510.  9For an integrated analysis of the two original accounts and the subsequent reinterpretations through the premodern periods of China, Japan, and Korea, see Yi Chŏng-hwan (Lee Junghwan ), “Wangkwŏn ch’ant’al kwa chŏngt’ongchuŭi kunjuch’e: Chŏn kŭndae Chungguk, Han’guk, Ilbon esŏ ŭi konghwa e taehan chaehaesŏk ŭi yŏksa,” Taedong munhwa yŏng’u 82 (June, 2013), forthcoming.  10Mitsukuri Shōgo, Kon’yo zushiki, (Mimasaka: Mukarō, 1845), 4B.3a.  11Ōtsuki Fumihiko, Daigenkai (Tokyo: Fuzanbō, 1932–1937), vol. 2, 832. Also see, Kōzen Hiroshi, “Katō Shūichi shi no hōkoku ni yosete ,” Kotengaku no Saikōchiku: Dai 1-kai Kōkai Shinpojiumu, 1997, 42.  12This image is available at (last visited Feb. 23, 2013).  13Ransom H. Hooker, Federal Government: Officers and Their Duties (New York and Chicago:Woolworth, Ainsworth & Company, 1871), x. A digitized version of this book is available at (last visited Sept. 28, 2012).  14Koga Katsujirō 古賀勝次郎, “Yasui Sokken to Nakamura Keiu: Yasui Sokken kenkyū josetsu” (安井息軒と中村敬字: 安井息軒研究序説),Waseda shakai kagaku sōgō kenkyū 早稲田社会科学総 合研究 8/1, 2007, 3.  15Yasui Sokken, Sokken ikō 息軒遺稿 ([Japan]: Yasui Sengiku, 1878), 2.11b.  16Yasui, ibid., 2.12a, 2.12b, and 2.14a.  17Yasui, ibid., 2.11a–12b.  18Yasui, ibid., 2.12b.  19Yasui, ibid., 2.12b–13b.  20Yasui, ibid., 2.13b.  21Yasui, ibid., 2.13b.  22Kōzen Hiroshi, “Katō Shūichi shi no hōkoku ni yosete,” 42.


    The association between the words, konghwa and republic, was not a linguistic accident. Rather, this process was substantially facilitated by the creation of a new political and historical perspective, which bridged the enormous temporal and spatial gap between the traditional political ideal of Confucianism and newly emerging republicanism. The core idea that enabled this ideological association was “rule by virtue” (C. dezhi 德治), which was deeply ingrained in the minds of East Asian intellectuals and which was largely independent of hereditary monarchism. Early modern intellectuals in China, Japan, and Korea discovered that this oldest, but most fundamental, political ideal of Confucianism might have been embodied by this republican form of government, particularly the presidential system of the United States.

    A Brief Description of the Ocean Circuit (Yinghuan zhilüe 瀛環志略), which was published in 1849 by a Chinese geographer, Xu Jiyu (徐繼畬: 1795–1873), introduced the United States (“Bei yamolijia milijian hezhongguo” 北亞墨利加米 利堅合衆國) as follows:

    Xu’s description cited above demonstrates his considerable knowledge, relative to the context of his time, about the political system of the United States. What deserves special attention is that the feudalism of the Zhou influenced Xu’s account of the United States’ political system. The word huimeng indicates alliances between feudal states in the Zhou dynasty; Xu used this term to indicate the federal government constituted of the union of multiple states, which the official name the United States or hapchungguk literally means. Moreover, the point that despite the independence of each state, the president still took supreme power over the union and military affairs bears some resemblance to the role and authority that the Son of Heaven had over the feudal states in the Zhou dynasty.

    Indeed, Xu more overtly revealed that the feudal system of the Zhou underpinned his understanding of the political system of the United States in the following comment:

    This creative misunderstanding of the American presidential system is also found in the works of early modern Japanese intellectuals. In his “Three [Underpinnings] of the State” (Gokuji san ron 國事三論), Yokoi Shōnan (橫井小楠: 1809–1869), a Japanese Confucian in the late Edo period, stated that “to abdicate (J. zenjō 禪讓) the authority of the president to a wise man, instead of one of his own descendants, and abolish the relations between a ruler and ministers; this is equal to the fulfillment of the duties of public-spiritedness and peace.” 25 In his Outline of Civilization (Bunmeiron no gairyaku 文明論之概略), Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤諭吉: 1835–1901) classified the types of government into monarchism and republicanism. He argued that the republicanism of France represented the value of equality (J. kōhei 公平). He also remarked that the political civilization of the United States was superior to that of China in many respects, but that this superiority was, nevertheless, not absolute.26

    Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the first republican government in East Asia, went further in claiming that republicanism was highly compatible with the Chinese political tradition. In 1885, in response to the uprising that occurred in Guangzhou Province, he planned to make the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi into an independent republican state. In 1897, he expressed his revolutionary sentiments openly saying, “I believe the autonomy of the people is the acme of a political state. Therefore, my political vision is republicanism.”27 Nevertheless, he clearly expressed that the republicanism he envisioned did not conflict with the traditional Chinese political ideal:

    In this statement, Sun did not merely assert a potential compatibility between republicanism and the Chinese political tradition but proposed the feasibility of constructing a republican government in China by thoroughly eliminating the discrepancy between them.

    The kind of Chinese republican government envisaged by Sun seems to have been modeled after the federalism of the United States to a large extent. He stated that if the Guangzhou revolution turned out to be successful, it would be “the pivotal point to firstly, under the name of a federal republic (C. lianbang gonghe 聯邦共和), appoint a person of high reputation as the head of each region and then to construct a central government to direct [regions and heads].”29 In other words, the republican government that Sun designed in the end of the nineteenth century was comprised of “autonomous people” and a federal government structure, a concept which bore a striking resemblance to the political structure of the United States. Not merely just a conceptual idea of republicanism, the views of Zou Rong (鄒容: 1885–1905) in his Revolutionary Army (Gemingjun 革命軍) also demonstrate that the type of republicanism envisioned by these leaders was essentially an adaptation of the political system of the United States, which was then the only country in the world that had maintained a stable republican system for more than a century.30

    The Xin erya 新爾雅, compiled by Wang Rongbao (汪榮寶: 1878–1933) and Ye Run 葉潤 and published in 1903, also verifies that during the periods of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the idea of republicanism was largely understood as being exemplified by the United States. The Xin erya, which is the first Western-style encyclopedia in Chinese history, classified forms of government as follows:

    In providing examples of constitutional government, the authors of the Xin erya used the United States as “the most perfect model of democracy,” specifically comparing it to France, saying: “France used to be a monarchy in the early eighteenth century but established a republic government through a revolution. Afterwards it experienced a series of drastic changes in its political system.”33

    Turning to Korea, a strong resistance to Western colonialism is a characteristic of that country’s early modern history. However, the bicameral system in England and the presidential system of the United States were introduced to Chosŏn intellectuals as early as 1857 by Ch’oe Han-gi (崔漢綺: 1803–1877) in his work, the Essence [of Natural and Geographical Phenomena] on Earth (Chigu chŏnyo 地球典要). In 1884, the Hansŏng Sunbo 漢城旬報, which was the first modern-style newspaper in Korean history, published the article, “Ku-Mi iphŏn chŏngch’e” 歐美立憲政體 and introduced republicanism and constitutional monarchism as the two major political systems active in Western countries.34 It is probable that these works contributed significantly to the spread of Western republican ideas among Koreans in the late nineteenth century.

    Yi Ki (李沂: 1848–1909), an advocate of land reform at the end of the Chosŏn period and an anti-Japanese colonialism activist in the early twentieth century, presented a novel conception of “governmental systems” (K. kukche 國制). He divided the types of government into the three categories of konghwa (republicanism), constitutionalism, and despotism. In this work, he equated Chinese politics up until Yao and Shun with “governance by konghwa,” the Three Dynasties with “governance by constitutionalism,” and finally the political systems since Qin and Han with “governance by despotism.” He then presented his opinion that “the konghwa system is the best among the three [types of governance], and despotism is the worst.” He asserted that up to the time of Yao and Shun, rulers had followed the practice of “sŏndae” (禪代, a variant of “sŏnyang 禪讓”), an idea grounded in the principle that “the world belongs to the world, not to one man (i.e. to a ruler).” The “Eastern” practice of sŏndae, Yi argued, had little difference from the presidential systems of Europe and America. He further argued that even after this practice had been abandoned in the Three Dynasties, the political rules and laws had still arisen out of a desire for “universal righteousness” and a valuing of “public opinion,” rather than from the personal decisions of a ruler. On these grounds, he argued that the Three Dynasties had resembled current Western constitutionalism. He concluded by lamenting that from the Qin dynasty onwards, the excellent East Asian systems of konghwa and constitutionalism had been replaced by despotism, and consequently “kunkwŏn (君權: the right and power of the ruler) gradually increased, whereas inkwŏn (人權: the rights of the people) gradually decreased.”35

    Yi Ki’s argument is reminiscent of the views proposed by Sun Yat-sen and Yokoi Shōnan in that he drew parallels between the principles underlying Western republicanism and the Confucian political ideal of high antiquity, particularly in relation to the transmission of sovereign authority. Along this line of reasoning, they commonly reflected on the possibility of reviving an ideal Confucian government through implementing the presidential system of Western republicanism. In reaction to this apparently far-fetched idea, some Korean modernists identified the Confucian way of governance instead with despotism, thus asserting an incompatibility between the East Asian political tradition and the genuine ideals of republicanism.36

    Nevertheless, the historical significance of the association between Confucianism and republicanism in early modern East Asia cannot be underestimated. This association greatly influenced Rhee Syngman in the early stage of his political career. He reiterated Yi Ki’s argument almost verbatim in his Tongnip chŏngsin (Spirit of national independence), which was written in 1904 when Rhee was in prison for his involvement in the republican movement of the Tongnip Hyŏphoe (Independence Club). He acclaimed therein the modern presidential system as “the most excellent [political] system,” which revived “the world of Yao and Shun in ancient [Confucian] classics.”37 The following period of his studies in the United States led to a divergence in his images of Confucianism and the presidential systems, but his statement clearly illustrates the politico-intellectual contexts in which Western republicanism was initially understood, adopted, and practiced in early modern East Asia.

    23Xu Jiyu, Yinghuan zhilüe (Shanghai: Shanghai shuju, 2001), 276.  24Xu Jiyu, Ibid, 277.  25See Xiajian Zhishu (Hazama Naoki), “Dui Zhongguo jindai minzhu yu gonghe guannian de kaocha,” Xinhai geming yu ershi shiji de Zhongguo (Beijing: Zhongynag wenxian chubanshe, 2002), 1585–1586.  26Fukuzawa Yukichi, Bunmeiron no gairyaku (Tokyo: Fukuzawa Yukichi Publication,1875), 137.  27Xiajian Zhishu (Hazama Naoki), “Dui Zhongguo jindai minzhu yu gonghe guannian de kaocha”, 1589.  28Sun Yat-sen, “Yu Miyazaki Toraz Hirayama Shu de tanhua,” Sun Zhonghsan quanji, Vol. 1: 172– 173.  29Sun Yat-sen, ibid., 173.  30For this, see Zou Rong, Gemingjun (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe, 2002), 57.  31Here, instead of konghwa, the characters “gonghe 公和” are used. But this is merely a misprint. In introducing the republicanism of France, the authors identified it as “gonghe zhengti 共和政體.” Wang Rongbao, Xin erya (Tokyo: Shanghai wenming shuju, 1906 [the third print]), 11.  32Wang, ibid., 9.  33Wang, ibid., 11.  34Hansŏng Sunbo (Jan. 30, 1884), available (last visited May 15, 2013).  35Yi Ki, Yi Haehak yusŏ 李海鶴遺書 (Hanʼguk munjip ch’onggan ed.), 2.1a–2b.  36For this, see Kim Taek-yŏng (金澤榮: 1850–1927), Sohodang munjip chŏngbon 韶濩堂文集定本 (Hanʼguk munjip ch’onggan ed.), 7.24a–25a.  37Rhee Syngman, Tongnip Chŏngsin (Losaenjŭllissŭ : Taedong Sinsŏgwan, 1910), 65–70.


    The linguistic association between konghwa and the United States’ political system did not last long. Soon after, the United States was consistently “translated” into “hapchungguk,” while it was also informally, but more often, called Miguk (either 美國 or 米國) as an abbreviation of America.38 Nevertheless, this dissociation was not immediately followed by an association between konghwa and republic as a self-contained concept, as it is in the present Chinese-character cultural sphere.

    Thus far, I have translated konghwa into republic or republicanism, as if a oneto-one linguistic equivalence existed between these two words. On the contrary, a comprehensive examination of bilingual dictionaries published in early modern China, Japan, and Korea reveals that there was no firmly established one-to-one equivalence in the translation of key Western political terms into Chinese characters. The term kyōwa seiji was initially linked to “republic” no later than in 1867, as seen in Hori Tatsnoskay’s (堀達之助: Hori Tatsunosuke) Ei-Wa Taiyaku Shūchin Jisho 英和對譯袖珍辭書, which is one of the earliest English-Japanese dictionaries.39 Since then, republic was largely associated with the term konghwa with a few exceptions. However, this union did not proceed in an exclusive and specific manner. (See Table 1)

    In early modern Japanese, the term kyōwa (K. konghwa) was an umbrella concept to cover the multiple features of a non-monarchical political system. As can be seen at Table 1 in Appendices, kyōwa-seiji was comprehensively associated with three political terms: commonwealth, democracy, and republic. These three English words were quickly accepted as basic English vocabulary items in Japan. Democracy and republic were both included in Ejima Kihee’s English dictionary for elementary school students published in 1873, and all three words appeared in Oyama Tokujo’s (小山篤叙: Koyama Tokujo) An English and Japanese Dictionary for School Use (Gakkō you Ei-Wa jiten 學校用英和字典) published in 1885, Tanahashi Ichirō’s 棚橋一郞 An English-Japanese Pronouncing Dictionary for Beginners (Ei-Wa jikai 英和字海) published in 1886, and Sekey Shimpachiy’s (尺振八: Seki Shinbachi) An English and Japanese Dictionary for the Use of Junior Students (Meiji Ei-Wa jiten 明治英和字典) , published gradually from 1884 to 1889. Nevertheless, there were no standard translations for these key political terms at the time. In particular, Oyama’s dictionary shows striking differences from the contemporary EnglishJapanese translations; it matched kyōwa-seiji with commonwealth, minsei 民政 with democracy, and minshu 民主 with republic. (See Table 1) It is also noteworthy that overall, kyōwa-seiji was more often and more consistently used to refer to democracy than republic in the nineteenth century English-Japanese dictionaries.

    This inclusive, inconsistent translation did not stem directly from a misunderstanding of the English words. Shimada Yutaka 島田豊 published two versions of English-Japanese dictionaries, one in 1888 and the other in 1892, primarily by translating an unabridged version of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language. In the 1892 version, he included English definitions as well. He tried to distinguish the meanings of these three words by adding alternative translations and additional detail, rather than by matching each specific translation with a different English word. In the 1888 version, he included the term kyōwa seiji in all three entries for commonwealth, democracy, and republic. Next, he added minsei both for commonwealth and democracy, and minshu and daigi seiji 代議政治 for republic. Finally, he altered it to minsei for commonwealth, minji 民治 for democracy, and minshu for republic, in the 1892 version. (See Table 1)

    In short, these findings lead to a tentative conclusion that through the end of the nineteenth century, linguistic equivalence was hardly “invented,” per Lydia Liu’s terminology, between these Western political terms and the Japanese language. Rather, many mutually distinctive Japanese words were adopted from classical literature or were newly coined so as to broadly encapsulate the meaning of the targeted English words. These quasi-neologisms, however, remained mutually interchangeable to a large degree in nineteenth century Japan without forming a one-to-one equivalence.

    A greater degree of divergence is detected in early modern Chinese bilingual dictionaries. The most striking example of differences from the Japanese translations concerns the word democracy. The first English-Chinese dictionary was likely the appendix produced by Robert Morrison (1782–1834) in his Dictionary of the Chinese Language. This three-volume dictionary published between 1820 and 1822 does not include entries for commonwealth and republic, only for democracy. However, for this entry, instead of inserting a definition or equivalent Chinese words, he simply wrote, “DEMOCRACY is improper; since it is improper to be without a leader, 旣不可無人統率,亦不可多人亂管 (ji buke wuren tongshuai, yi buke duoren luanguan).” Afterward, the term democracy was constantly translated into Chinese with strongly pejorative connotations, specifically “the public (or, inferior people) abuse authority” (C. baixing nongquan 百姓弄權 in Lobscheid, 1866–9 and 1883 and C. xiaomin nongquan 小民弄權 in Medhurst, 1847–48).

    It is unknown why these European missionaries (Morrison and Medhurst from the United Kingdom and Lobscheid from Germany) deliberately attributed such pejorative meanings to democracy, but it is highly probable that this attitude had something to do with the political backgrounds of their home countries, which were in tension with the republican governments of France and the United States. Justus Doolittle and Ira M. Condit, both of whom were American Board missionaries, reflected on the word’s etymological sense—demos (common people) and kratia (power or ownership)—, and they rendered this word into a more neutral Chinese with nuances such as “zhongren de guotong” (衆人的國統: government by the public, in Doolittle, 1872) and “tuimin zizhu zhe” (推民自主者: selecting people to rule themselves, in Condit, 1882). (See Table 2)

    The Chinese compound word most commonly used by these missionaries to translate republic was gongong (公共: K. Konggong), instead of gonghe (K. konghwa), rendering it into “gongong zhi zheng[zhi]” (公共之政[治] : government of the public) (Medhurst, 1847–8, Lobscheid, 1866–9, Doolittle, 1872, and Lobscheid, 1883). Among modern English-Chinese dictionaries, the first case in which republic was associated with gonghe appears in Commercial Press English and Chinese Pronouncing Condensed Dictionary. This dictionary was published in 1913, approximately two years after the 1911 republican revolution had broke out. This suggests a strong correlation between the 1911 revolution and this lexicographical change. It is also noteworthy that the pejorative translation of democracy completely disappeared in this dictionary.

    Even in this post-revolution dictionary, however, a linguistic equivalence had yet to be established between the targeted English words and the translated Chinese words. The term konghwa had been used commonly for commonwealth, democracy, and republic. The compound word minzhu (民主: K. minju) was applied both to commonwealth and republic, but not to democracy. (See Table 2) For democracy, this dictionary includes “minzheng” (民政: K. minjŏng) as an alternative translation, which was frequently used to translate commonwealth by the abovementioned missionary-lexicographers. The English and Chinese Standard Dictionary, which was published in 1920 by the Commercial Press, was compiled on the basis of Nuttall’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language (London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1914) and put English definitions and multiple Chinese translations together. In this dictionary, republic was associated with minzhu, gonghe, and gongong. Neither a one-to-one correspondence nor a clear distinction can be found even in this early twentieth-century dictionary. (See Table 2)

    In comparison to Japan and China, far fewer bilingual dictionaries were produced in early modern Korea. One can clearly detect, however, that a similar linguistic phenomenon took place in translating Western languages into Korean. As seen in Table 3, no clear distinction between konghwa and minju (민쥬 minjyu) existed before Kim Tong-sŏng’s 金東成 The New Korean-English Dictionary (Ch’oesin Sŏn-Yŏng Sajŏn 最新鮮英辭典), published in 1928, and this one-to-one correspondence was soon reflected in the revised version of James Gale’s The Unabridged Korean-English Dictionary of 1931. It is noteworthy that this translingual equivalence had not been achieved by 1919, when the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea promulgated its provisional constitution. Both in the 1911 version of Gale’s Korean-English Dictionary and George Jones’ An English-Korean Dictionary published in 1914, while konghwa was exclusively used for republic, minju was associated both with democracy and republic. Put another way, in the pre-1919 bilingual dictionaries, the word minju covered key Western political ideas comprehensively, including konghwa, and this significant fact is relevant to the Korean constitution, discussed in detail in the next section.

    It is necessary to point out that this universal linguistic confusion in early modern East Asia originally arose from one found in English dictionaries. The 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language includes “a republic” as a synonym of commonwealth, and likewise it inserts “a commonwealth” as the first word in the entry for republic, although it attaches different descriptive definitions to these political terms.40 Furthermore, for the entry for “Democracy,” this dictionary presents a definition which is largely identical with its definition in the present-day edition of Webster’s dictionary. However, it adds the sentence, “Such was the government of Athens,” as if this term might be no longer relevant in contemporary politics.41 In the entry for “Republic,” this dictionary adds the note: “In modern usage, it differs from a democracy or democratic state…. Yet the democracies of Greece are often called republics.”42 Webster’s dictionary was frequently revised, but this condition continued with little changes until the end of the nineteenth century. In the 1892 edition of Webster’s High School Dictionary, for example, the phrase “a republic” was included in the entry for “Democracy,” and “a commonwealth” in the entry for “Republic.”43 Such semantic under-differentiation is observable at the Oxford English Dictionary as well. For example, its second volume published in 1893 inserted the descriptive definition that “a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state” in the entry for commonwealth.44

    In short, even though an extensive and in-depth research is required to reach a more reliable conclusion, this preliminary examination brings to light an important fact about the “translingual practice” in early modern Each Asia, a fact that makes a striking contrast with Lydia Liu’s approach. As is discussed in the introductory part of the present article, Liu applied a Marxist view of the exchange of unequal values in a capitalist economy to her study of translinguistic phenomena in modern China. Her approach was predicated on an assumption of one-to-one correspondence between targeted European words and translated Chinese words.45 On the contrary, no such equivalence is found in the process of translating the key Western political terms such as republic, democracy, and commonwealth into East Asian languages, not to mention the discrepancies between these East Asian languages, which were commonly based on Chinese characters.

    38Chiba Kengo 千葉謙悟, “Yakugo no imi hendō: Nit-Chū-Kan no okeru gasshū” (paper presented at the 4th Kanji bunkaken kindaigo kenkyūkai, Kansai University, March 13–14, 2004), 201–216.  39Hori Tatsnoskay (Hori Tatsunosuke), A Pocket Dictionary of the English and Japanese Language (EiWa taiyaku shūchin jisho), Second and Revised Edition (Tokyo: Kurataya Seiemon, 1867), 342.  40Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), Vol. 1. “Commonwealth” and Vol. 2. “Republic.” No page numbers are printed.  41Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), Vol. 1. “Democracy.”  42Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), Vol. 2. “Republic.”  43Webster, Webster’s High School Dictionary: a Dictionary of the English Language (New York: American Book Company, 1892), 109 and 358.  44James A. H. Murray, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893), Vol. 2. 696.  45Liu, Tokens of Exchange, 13–37.


    Moving to early twentieth century Korea, when Chosŏn was annexed by Japan in 1910 and once the 1911 republican revolution broke out in China, some Korean intellectuals sought a way to reverse this tide. Yu In-sŏk, (柳麟錫: 1842–1915), for example, was one of the active Korean traditionalists who advocated “revering Chinese civilization and expelling barbarians” (K. chonhwa yangi 尊華攘夷). Realizing that the republican revolution had successfully overturned the monarchy of the Qing dynasty in China, he expressed his anxiety in saying that the revolution was “modeled on the republican system of the United States. … [and China is now about to] become a Western country.” He continued by arguing that “‘konghwa’ [means] no-ruler. It is the law of [Western] barbarians, but it has no legitimacy at all, let alone in China!”46 In the second lunar month of 1912, he wrote a series of letters addressed to Yuan Shikai (袁世凱: 1859–1916), the government of the Republic of China, and the “literati and gentlemen of all Chinese provinces.” In these letters, he sought to persuade would-be republicans into renouncing what he saw as their Western “barbarian” ideas and instead focusing on restoring Chinese civilization. It is highly unlikely that these letters were delivered to their targeted recipients,47 but this clearly suggests that some Korean intellectuals perceived the founding of the non-monarchical government in China, Zhonghua minguo 中華民國, as the birth of a konghwa or republican government in East Asia with the unquestionable influence of the presidential system of the United States behind it.

    The first collective action to establish a republican government in Korea was organized by Taehan Sinminhoe (大韓新民會: New People’s Association). Some scholars have emphasised the gradual domestic process from the late nineteenth century in establishing republicanism on Korean soil.48 It is noteworthy, however, that this secret society was initially established in 1906 by Koreans residing in Riverside, California, in the United States, under the leadership of An Ch’ang-ho 安昌浩. According to a confidential investigative report written by Wakabayashi Raizō 若林賚藏, Commissioner of the Police Bureau of the Japanese ResidencyGeneral, the primary goal of this society was “to make Korea an independent state with a republican government (K. konghwaguk) under the protection of the world powers.”49 Sinminhoe retained this goal until it was dissolved as the consequence of the so-called 105-Man Incident in 1911. More than twenty members of the Sinminhoe involved in this incident reported under interrogation that this society was organized to restore the national sovereignty of Korea and establish a Korean republic government.50

    With the establishment of a provisional government in 1919, Korea embarked on a full-scale movement toward republicanism. On April 11, 1919, the provisional government promulgated a provisional constitution and formally declared the establishment of a republican government. Article 1 of this provisional constitution stipulates that “Taehan min’guk shall be a minju konghwaje.” Since it had been initially adopted as Article 1 in the first constitution of Republic of Korea, this article has not been amended through the following nine amendments of the constitution. The official English translation by the Constitutional Court of Korea reads, “The Republic of Korea shall be a democratic republic.”51 In this article, the word republic appears twice, and therefore, the second republic seems redundant, whereas the Korean version of Article 1 uses two different terms, min’guk and konghwa. A fundamental question arises from the fact that, as seen above, no linguistic equivalence between minju and democracy or between min’guk/konghwa and republic existed in early modern East Asia. There is no doubt that the word konghwa had the connotation of nonmonarchical government. Provided konghwa in Article I was used as a mere translation of republic in this sense, however, the Korean constitution may then seem tautological because min’guk also signified the same meaning in the linguistic context of the time.

    The official name of South Korea, Taehan min’guk, was also first established with the promulgation of this provisional constitution. This name was created mainly by replacing the “cheguk” (帝國: empire) of Taehan cheguk (the Great Korean Empire) with min’guk. Why, then, did the provisional government, which named itself “Republic of Korea,” choose min’guk instead of konghwaguk 共和國?52 Just one day after the Korean provisional government promulgated its provisional constitution in Shanghai, Ariyoshi Akira 有吉明, the Japanese Consul General in Shanghai, reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and in this report, Ariyoshi called the Korean provisional government Chōsen kyōwakoku 朝鮮共和國,53 while the Taiwan Government-General used both Chōsen kyōwakoku and Daikan kyōwakoku 大韓共和國 in its report.54

    As seen in the tables in the Appendices, min’guk was not a common translation for republic in early modern East Asia. Nevertheless, the Chinese-character name of Korea bore an undeniable resemblance to the official Chinese name of the Republic of China, which is a compound of “Zhonghua,” indicating nationality, and “minguo,” signifying its republican polity. (The fact that Taehan cheguk was founded in 1897, fourteen years earlier than the 1911 revolution, explains that the former was not completely named after the latter.) It is also plausible that the Korean provisional government, which was established in China, strategically displayed its political alliance with the Republic of China by this means.

    For the sake of comparison, the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China (Zhonghua minguo linshi yuefa 中華民國臨時约法), promulgated on March 10, 1912, begins with the article that “The Republic of China is composed of the Chinese people,” and it does not contain the repetition found in Article 1 of the Korean constitution. The Chinese provisional constitution was enacted basically in accordance with democratic and republican principles, but not in a linguistic sense. This constitution stipulates that “the Provisional President and Vice President shall be elected by the Advisory Council” (Article 19), which “shall be composed of members elected by” the Provinces, Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Qinghai (Articles 17 and 18).55 In its official English translation, verified by the Chinese Secretary of the American Legation, this constitution refers to the Republic of China and the Chinese Republic. Linguistically speaking, however, the term republic here was a translation of minguo from Zhonghua minguo, not konghwa. The Chinese version of this provisional constitution includes neither konghwa nor minju. It uses the term republic or minguo only for self-reference.

    One focal point that makes further clarification possible, concerning the semantic distinction between min’guk and konghwa in Article 1, can be found in the presidential system, particularly in its electoral system. On April 11, 1919, as is mentioned above, Ariyoshi Akira transmitted the English document, “Announcement of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea,” from Shanghai to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan. This document, dated “April 10 th , the 1 st Year of the Republic of Korea,” contains an English version of “the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea” under the names of “Premier Rhee Syngman” and others. The first article of this English-version provisional constitution differs dramatically from the translation by the presentday Constitutional Court of Korea, which reads, “The Republic of Korea adopts a democratic government after that of the United States of America.”56 The expression “democratic republic” does not appear there. What then did Rhee mean by the clause “after that of the United States of America”?

    As Article 19 cited above indicates, the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China stipulates an indirect voting system for the election of president and vice-president, which shall be exercised by the members of the Advisory Council that represents the people of the respective districts. This indirect electoral system resembles the Electoral College system of the United States to a large extent.

    The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea of April 11, 1919, does not include articles about the presidential system and its electoral process at all. In contrast, a presidential system analogous to those of the Republic of China and the United States took shape in the mind of Rhee Syngman. On June 10, 1919, he sent a letter to Robert Lancing, then the United States Secretary of State. It reads:

    In this letter, Rhee used the two terms republic and democratic separately in different contexts. Specifically, he associated the term “republic” with an indirect voting system. The statement about “the representative system” and its electoral system exercised by the representatives of every province of Korea is indisputably reminiscent of the indirect electoral system both of the United States and the Republic of China. In the letter cited above, Rhee did not allude to a presidential system, but only four days later, Rhee declared internationally that he had been elected president through a due electoral process. In a June 14th letter addressed to Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, Rhee informed Wilson, “on April 23rd, 1919, Korea took her place, with other republics of the world, and become a completely organized, self-governed, democratic state,” and that he had been elected “President of the Republic of Korea” by the delegates of the Korean National Council, who in turn were “duly elected from each of the thirteen provinces.”58 On the same day, he sent nearly identical letters to the president of the French Republic, the King of England, and the King of Italy. Rhee’s claim to being president provoked strong criticisms and resistance within the provisional government.59 Nevertheless, the letters cited above show first that, at least in Rhee’s mind, a republic was distinct from a democracy, and second, that the provisional government had adopted an indirect voting system.

    Rhee was directly involved in the enactment of the provisional constitution promulgated on April 11, 1919. Recently, it has become widely accepted among scholars that this first Korean constitution was written by Cho So-ang 趙素昻, reflecting his “Principle of Three Equalities” (equalities in politics, economy, and education).60 Nevertheless, his principle of three equalities does not explain the repetition of Article 1, let alone the distinctive meaning between min’guk and konghwa. Lacking direct sources that more fully explain the political motivations behind this article, our understanding is inevitably dependent on the available circumstantial evidence. Perhaps Cho did not notice the seeming pleonasm of Article 1, and Rhee was himself in the United States when this provisional constitution was promulgated. Nevertheless, the fact that Ariyoshi acquired Rhee’s English translation of the provisional constitution in Shanghai only one day after the promulgation confirms Rhee’s strong influence on the construction of the provisional constitution. Three days after the promulgation, he convened the First Korean Congress in Philadelphia and also promulgated “Aims and Aspiration of the Koreans,” which also includes the article that “We propose to have a government modeled after that of America.”61

    The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea, on September 11, 1919, amended Article 1 to state, “Taehan min’guk is composed of the Great Han people” and stipulated that the provisional president shall be elected by the provisional National Council (Article 12).62 While the provisional constitution underwent five amendments altogether, the first article, “Taehan min’guk shall be a minju konghwaje” went through repeated inclusion and exclusion, thus showing its controversial characteristics.63 After independence, the first constitution of the Republic of Korea was promulgated on July 17, 1948. In the process of drafting it, however, Yu Chin-O 兪鎭午, the so-called “father of the Korean constitution,” proposed a cabinet-system-based government, instead of the president-centered system. Nevertheless, owing to Rhee’s persistent demands and political pressure, Yu’s draft was revised. A week after the promulgation, Rhee was elected the first president. This first constitution not only adopted Article 1 from the first provisional constitution but also legislated an indirect voting system for the election of president in line with the republicanism envisaged by Rhee.64

    46Yu In-sŏk, Ŭiam Sŏnsaeng munjip 毅菴先生文集 (Hanʼguk munjip ch’onggan ed.), 33.12b–14b.  47Yu In-sŏk, ibid.,12.24b–27b, 25.44b–48a, and 25.48b–51a.  48For this approach, see Sŏ Hŭi-gyŏng, Taehan Min’guk Hŏnpŏp ŭi t’ansaeng: Han’guk hŏnjŏngsa Manmin Kongdonghoe esŏ chehŏn kkaji (Kyŏnggi-do P’aju-si: Ch’angjak kwa pip’yŏngsa, 2012.), 39–119.  49“Chaemi Taehan Sinminhoe chi kōn (March 12, 1909),” T’onggambu munsō, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  50For the interrogation reports of the 105-Man Incidents, See “105-in Sakŏn sinmun chosŏ,” Hanminjok tongnip undongsa charyojip, Vols. I and II, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  51This translation is available at (last visited Jan. 25, 2013).  52For the controversies surrounding the official name, see Han In-sŏp (Han In Sup), “Taehan min’guk ŭn minju konghwaje ro ham,” 174–7.  53“Imsi Chŏngbu ŭi Hŏnpŏp choan e kwanhan kŏn (April 12, 1919),” Kungnaeoe hangil undong munsŏ, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  54“Chosŏn Konghwaguk Hŏnpŏp (May 18, 1919),” Kungnaeoe hangil undong munsŏ, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  55“The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China,” in the American Journal of International Law, 6.3 (July, 1912), 149–154.  56“Chosŏn konghwaguk ŭi Kahŏnpŏp ŭro chinghanŭn choan songpu ŭi kŏn,” Kungnaeoe hangil undong munsŏ, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  57“Yi Sŭngman yi Miguk Lancing kungmu changkwan ege ponaen sŏhan,” Taehan min’guk imsi chŏngbu charyojip, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2013).  58“Yi Sŭngman yi Miguk taet’ongnyŏng ege Taehan konghwaguk ŭi sŏngnip ŭl sogaehanŭn munkŏn,” Taehan min’guk imsi chŏngbu charyojip, available at (last visited Feb. 1, 2013).  59For this, see “Sŏ Chae-p’il yi Imsi chŏngbu kangnyo ege pŏnaen sŏhan,” Taehan min’guk imsi chŏngbu charyojip, available at (last visited Feb. 25, 2013).  60For example, Han In-sŏp, “Taehan min’guk ŭn minju konghwaje ro ham,” 185–7; Sŏ Hŭi-gyŏng and Pak Myŏng-nim, “Minju konghwa chuŭi wa Taehan min’guk Hŏnpŏp inyŏm ŭi hyŏngsŏng,” 77–111.  61First Korean Congress (Philadelphia: Unknown Publisher, 1919), 33, available at (last visited Feb. 28, 2013).  62“1 Taehan min’guk Imsi Hŏnpŏp (Sep. 11, 1919),” Taehan min’guk imsi chŏngbu charyojip, available at (last visited Feb. 23, 2013).  63The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea amended by Sep. 11, 1919, shows a great resemblance to the provisional constitution of the Republic of China, especially the first three articles in the General Provisions in terms of contents, vocabulary, and order. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China enacted in March 19, 1912 is available at (last visited Jan. 10, 2013). The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China amended by May 1, 1914, is available at 中華民國約法 (last visited Jan. 11, 2013).  64For the decisive role played by Rhee Syngman in the process of the enactment and amendments of the provisional and the first constitutions, see Yu Yŏng-ik, “Yi Sŭngman kukhoe ŭijang kwa Taehan min’guk Hŏnpŏp chejung,” 101–137. The first Constitution of the Republic of Korea (July 17, 1948) is available at (last visited Feb. 20, 2013).


    At present, the term konghwa is used universally as the standard translation of republic in the Chinese-character cultural sphere. One may say that the association of these two mutually exclusive concepts was wholly accidental, stemming from a creative misunderstanding. From this perspective, the fact that konghwa was adopted as the catchword of the 1911 revolution looks like something of a historical irony. In the same vein, the pleonasm inherent in Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea may also seem to be an ignorable case of historical contingency. It is undeniable, however, that this line of reasoning also carries the risk of plunging the Constitution of the Republic of Korea back into a conceptual confusion. The gravity of this issue is difficult to exaggerate.

    My investigation has cast a critical light on the semantic problem inherent in the [Provisional] Constitution of the Republic of Korea through a historical and linguistic investigation. Because both min’guk and konghwa in Article 1 of the 1919 Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea broadly connote a nonmonarchical form of government, it requires further semantic clarification. As seen in the dictionaries of Gale and Jones, the word minju also embraced the meaning of konghwa in the pre-1919 linguistic context of Korea, suggesting that the predicate of Article 1, “minju konghwaje,” could also contain a pleonasm.65

    This article suggests a possible answer to this problem by illuminating the association between the word konghwa and the United States’ election system in early modern East Asia. Rather than understanding republicanism as a pure political concept, the early modern intellectuals of China, Japan, and Korea understood this abstract political idea through the political system of the United States. Initially, this association stemmed from the analogy between the konghwa regency of ancient China and the presidential system of the United States in terms of non-monarchical governance. The fact that the United States had achieved independence from British colonialism and then emerged as a new member of the world powers also stimulated Korean intellectuals under Japanese rule to learn about this political system.66 Soon after, this rather accidental association developed into a more consistent form of political association, until it was completely attenuated by an increasing understanding of republicanism as an independent idea. It was not a mere coincidence, however, that the full-scale political movement toward republicanism was led by Sun Yat-sen, Rhee Syngman, and others who had directly experienced the political reality of the United States in person.

    Specifically, the analogy between the electoral system of the United States and that prescribed by Rhee Syngman sheds fresh light on the linguistic problem involved in Article 1. It is likely that whereas min’guk broadly referred to a nonmonarchical form of government, konghwa more specifically indicated a presidential system as well as—at least for Rhee—an American style indirect voting system for the election of president. Nevertheless, this proposed answer will remain tentative until more comprehensive and in-depth studies from diverse approaches fully address these critical issues. It seems, however, that because the present constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates a “universal, equal, direct and secret ballot by the people” for the presidential election (Article 67), a new semantic distinction between min’guk and konghwa is necessary to avoid the potential pleonasm.

    65For the conceptual history of this predicate, see Yi Yŏng-nok, “Han’guk esŏ ŭi ‘Minju konghwaguk ŭi kaenyŏmsa,” 49–83.  66For example, see An Myŏng-sŏn’s article in Tae Chosŏn Tongnip Hyŏphoe hoebo (Jan. 15, 1897), available at (last visited, Feb. 25, 2013).

  • [Pic. 1.] Utagawa Yoshikazu, On the North American Continent, the United States, also called the Republic, Ukiyo-e print, ink and color on paper, 1862. 38.1x25.4cm.Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Utagawa Yoshikazu, On the North American Continent, the United States, also called the Republic, Ukiyo-e print, ink and color on paper, 1862. 38.1x25.4cm.Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.