Korean Names in the Society for Creative Anachronism

By Ásfríðr Ulfvíðardóttir/ Rebecca Lucas.

Updated 23 June 2020.

Things have changed in the Society for Creative Anachronism since 2008! While the SCA's College of Heralds only pertain to the registration of names and heraldry in the society, there have been some precedents set.

On the February 2015 Letter of Acceptances and Returns, the name Jeong Cheongju Han was registered with the following comment:
Precedent states that there is not enough contact between Korea and Europe during our period to allow the registration of Korean names. Since that precedent was first set in 2002, our evidence for contact between Europeans and Koreans has increased and our standards have changed. SENA GP3B says, "We allow elements and patterns for personal names from beyond Europe, but we require them to be from cultures that were known to medieval and Renaissance Europeans or whose members might reasonably have traveled to Europe."

At least one European travelled to Korea before 1600. The Jesuit Gregorio de Céspedes (1550-1611) was in Korea with the Japanese invasion army from December 1593 until April 1594 as the guest of one of the leading generals. Additionally, at least one Korean seems to have come to Europe around 1600. Francesco Carletti, a 16th century Florentine merchant visiting Asia, bought five Korean slaves in 1597. They seem to have been part of a group of 300,000 prisoners of war brought back from the wars with Japan. Many of them appear to have converted to Christianity (perhaps in Japan). One of these slaves, known in Europe as Antonio Corea, returned with Carletti to Italy in the first few years after 1600. This level of contact—a Korean in Europe around 1600—is sufficient to allow us to give the submitter the benefit of the doubt that a Korean could reasonably have travelled to Europe in the last few years of period. Thus, late period Korean names are registerable under the standards of SENA.


More recently, on the February 2019 Letter of Acceptances and Returns cover letter says:
New research was provided showing contact between Korea and Western Europe prior to the 16th century. The thirteenth-century European writer William of Rubruck encountered Koreans during his travels in the East and describes their distinctive dress and head-dresses. His writings refer to them as Caule, which appears to be a phonetic rendering of the Chinese term for Korea. At the end of the 13th century, Marco Polo writes of encountering Koreans in the Mongol Court, including military units from "Cauli" who pledged loyalty to Kubilai Khan. During the 13th and 14th centuries, while Korea was a vassal state of the Mongol Empire, there was extensive interaction between the Mongol Court and Korea, with personnel from both courts traveling between the two fairly regularly. Europeans living in the Mongol Court described interactions with Koreans to both William of Rubrick and Marco Polo. Economically, medieval Korea was considered part of the Silk Road and archeologists are uncovering more and more evidence of Mediterranean goods having been in medieval Korea (including a recent find of Mediterranean glass goods in a 5th century Korean tomb).

In short, rather than being isolated or unknown, medieval Korea was part of the lively culture and commerce of Asia. As part of that larger culture, and particularly through its integration into the Mongol Empire, Koreans and Korea were known to Western Europe from at least the 13th century onwards. Accordingly, based on this new evidence, Korean names attested from the 13th century and later are registerable.