Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Forgotten Lands: Kim' chin do

Kim’chin do

Capital: Namju
Population: 161,000 (2001 estimate)
Area: 8,990 km2
Independence: 1993

Economy: Fishing, forestry, zinc, electronic goods.
Per Capita Income: US$14,800
Languages: Kim’chin Korean, Japanese, Russian, Dutch
Literacy Rate: 92%

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'chin do came to be forgotten by the world's cartographers. As the site of major Soviet naval and air bases, to be sure, 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'chin do told tales about their distant ancestors who traveled over the ocean from the south on a city of rafts. Modern archeologists have established only that a large migration arrived from the Korean peninsula, 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 sometime 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.

Scholars once considered Kim’sol a mythical creation of 17th and 18th Century storytellers, but archeological excavations in the 1970s uncovered foundation stones for a city of the same size and form suggested by old woodcuts. The Kim’sol ruins, on the island’s southern peninsula, are now a World Heritage Site.

The modern era was not kind to Kim’chin do, as 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 ethnically diverse 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 2007 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 of the universe. 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.

National Anthem: “A Wind Blows From the Sea.”

1 comment:

UnwiseOwl said...

This one was always my favourite.
I love the poem.