Monday, April 14, 2008

Forgotten Lands: Kim'chin do & Coregos

(What are these "Forgotten Lands" you speak of?)

A little bit of the fun I've had in making up these mildly surreal little countries evaporated last week when the Channel Island of Sark abolished the last vestige of feudalism in Europe. Yes. Sark. Feudalism. Demonstrating yet again that you can't out-weird reality.

Kim’chin do
Population: 161,000 (2001 estimate)

Economy: Fishing, forestry, zinc, electronic goods.

If you look at the area northeast of Hokkaido on any world map, chances are you will see only open ocean. It is not entirely clear how an island as large as Kim'chindo came to be forgotten by the world's cartographers. As the site of major Soviet naval and air bases, it was regularly omitted from that country's maps for security purposes. While it is difficult to imagine the Western publishing companies taking their cue from the USSR, no other explanation has ever been put forward for the island nation's widespread omission from our maps and atlases.

The natives of Kim'chindo had tales of their ancestors arriving from the south on a city of rafts. Modern archaeologists have established only that a large migration arrived from the Korean penninsula, in the 12th Century A.D. A great capital of wood buildings was built on the southern tip of the island on a sophisticated plan of broad boulevards and great open plazas. This city, Kim'sol, was destroyed by a tidal wave in around 1620:

My city
floats out to sea
in jumbled sticks.

-- Ko Tae-Li, 17th Century
As much as half the island's population perished in the disaster.

In the modern era, the island was handed from empire to empire: the British (1710) were followed by the Dutch (1770), the Japanese (1906), and the Soviets (1945). Kim'chindo stumbled into independence after the breakup of the USSR with a small but polyglot population (34% Japanese, 32% Kim'chin Korean, 12% Russian, 12% Chinese, 10% European) and no tradition of self-government. A parliamentary system has been established and elections held, but the real power in Kim'chindo is held by the large corporations (mostly Japanese and Dutch) that have acquired its mills, mines, and factories. Nearly 40% of working citizens, a 2002 study found, are in the employ of a foreign corporation. Wages and investment in national infrastructure remain well below world averages.

Flag: The Kim'chin, like many Asian cultures, associated colors with direction. The modern flag, designed in 1993, is thus a sort of traditional map. Red, in the center, represents the people. Black is to the north, white to the south, yellow is to the west, and green to the east. Blue and purple were considered the colors of danger in classical Kim'chin symbology, and are rarely seen in traditional decoration.

Republic of Coregos
Capital: San Esteban
Population: 591,862 (1996)

Economy: Export sector is dominated by bananas, cattle, and some coffee. Corn and other foods are no longer imported since a government self-sufficiency program was launched in the early 1990s; however, most durable and electronic goods must still be imported.

Coregos is best known to most Americans as being the country that, according to a high-profile 1984 study by the National Geographic Society, less than five percent of high school students are able to locate on a world map. This notoriety is a strange fate for a country that, less than a century before, President William McKinley proclaimed “absolutely fundamental, absolutely crucial, to the future of the United States in this hemisphere.”

McKinley spoke with an eye toward the broad Torrenos Depression, a wide valley amid Coregos’ mostly mountainous terrain, as a likely route across the Central American isthmus. When a populist government headed by a former peasant, León Garcia, offered the contract to construct an ocean-to-ocean canal to a German engineering firm, the U.S. responded by sending two divisions of Marines to occupy San Esteban. This military presence continued until well after the construction of the Panama Canal, which follows a route most modern observers feel is much inferior to that of the Coregos passage.

Flag: A golden pendant interrupts horizontal fields of red and blue. The symbolism of this design, if any, is unclear.

An unofficial flag of Coregos, featuring a stylized coral snake on a field of deep blue, is seen at least as often as the official flag once outside of San Esteban’s government district. Coregaños often refer to themselves as serpientes – “snakes” – for reasons that remain unclear.


Anonymous said...

Abolish feudalism on Sark? "Haro, Haro, Haro! À mon aide mon Prince, on me fait tort!"

fingerstothebone said...

Hey, now I know 'bailiwick' is a real word!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

They either call themselves snakes because they have big, long schlongs, OR because they're cold hearted snakes and they don't play by rules, much like the ones Paula Abdul used to sing about, before she got old and addicted to elephant tranquilizers.