Should this be “Greetings Gyeongseong, we are Gyeongseongers”?
Even Old New York, was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can’t say. People just liked it better that way! -They Might Be Giants
So go the lyrics in the chorus of a popular song about the name change of the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). The quote can easily be remedied with minimal research. Wikipedia says that in 1664, New Amsterdam was surrendered to the British and renamed “New York”. So we have the reason and the date.
What does this have to do with Korea at all?
Plenty, actually. You see, I live in a city called Seoul. It is unique in that it is a major place name in Korea that cannot be written in Chinese characters. Busan is 釜山 (“Cauldron Mountain”), Gwangju is 光州 (“Light State”), and Pyongyang is 平壌 (“Peace Land”). Seoul, on the other hand can only be written in Hangeul, or phonetically. In Korea, Seoul is written as 서울. Outside of Korea it’s usually written as Seoul. Japanese cities all have Chinese characters, so the Japanese get around the problem by writing the name of Seoul in katakana (ソウル) , as they write the names of other cities that don’t have official Chinese characters.
What about the Chinese? Don’t they HAVE to use Chinese characters to write the name of the city?
In 2005, Korea wanted to make a Chinese-specific name for Seoul, and came up with 首尔 (uh… “you first”? That might be a strange name for a city, but the characters weren’t chosen for meaning, but for sound in Mandarin Chinese.) Shǒu’ěr is how it would be pronounced in Chinese. Before 2005, they simply called it by an old name, 漢城 (er… “Chinese City”).
(Edit: Dear commenters. I KNOW that 漢城 was never intended to mean Chinese City. I’m just saying that this is what it translates as in current meanings of the characters. Stop arguing with me about what it might have meant in the past.)
So wait, Seoul wasn’t always the name of the city?
No, not at all.