[Hyungwon Kang‘s focus on Korean culture column] Gangwon State upgraded Korea to “Federal Republic of Korea”

Jul 05, 2023, 09:20 am

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Korean American Columnist and Photojournalist Hyungwon Kang

Gangwon-do, one of the original eight provinces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), has been divided into two parts, one in the North and a larger province in the South since the Korean War Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953.

There is no "Goseong-eup" in Goseong-gun, the county in Gangwon Province, Korea. The Goseong-eup, a subordinate unit of Goseong County, is located on the north side of the 38th parallel.

Gangwon Province in the south was elevated to "Gangwon Special Self-Governing Province" on June 11, 2023, and its English name of Gangwon-do was announced by the provincial government as "Gangwon State" like a state in the United States.

States in the U.S. are really a country by themselves, each with their own distinctive laws, Driver's Licenses, State IDs and taxation. For example, the Texas State Constitution forbids collecting personal income taxes. That's why the United States is the "United 50 States of America."

USA's southern neighbor, Mexico's official country name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, the United States of Mexicans. Mexico has 31 states plus Mexico City, the capital city as a separate federal entity.

Texas State which is between the US and Mexico time to time rattle the cage by threatening to secede from the US, to become an even more independent state between the U.S. and Mexico. There is a Texas State bill that has been introduced to place a referendum for Texas' secession from the U.S. on the 2024 ballot.

In Korea, Jeju Province, which became a Special Self-Governing Province in 2006, uses Province as its official English name "Jeju Special Self-governing Province."

The official English name of Korea is the "Republic of Korea." On the Internet, when selecting a country name from the drop-down menu, there are several English proper nouns for Korea: Korea Republic, South Korea, or Republic of Korea.

Now that the Republic of Korea includes a state, it would be most accurate to update the country name to "Federal Republic of Korea, the future name of unified Koreas.

North Jeolla Province is scheduled to become the third Special Self-Governing Province in January 2024 with 10 cities and counties in northern Gyeonggi Province also planning to launch its own Special Self-Governing Province soon. 

Koreans will have to institutionalize some consistency whether to call its "Special Self-Governing Province" as State or Province in English.

For now, as a consequence of Gangwon State choosing the State in its name in the absence of clear naming traditions, the Republic of Korea will have to become the "Federal Republic of Korea," overseeing the State of Gangwon.

Barbed wires and tall fences prevent people from accessing the beaches along Goseong County in Gangwon State, just south of the DMZ splitting the Goseong county into north and south Koreas./ Photo © Hyungwon Kang

※ Korean American Columnist and Photojournalist Hyungwon Kang, the author of "Visual History of Korea" by RHK Publishers, is currently documenting Korean history and culture in images and words for future generations.
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