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The Korea Historic collections:”The Goryeo Dynasty”918-1392

The Goryeo Dynasty  Historic Collections 918-1392


Taejo of Goryeo Background. Taejo Wang Geon


Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM




The Goryeo Dynasty 918-1392

the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918

Wang Geon (877-943), the founder of Goryeo dynasty


which had accomplished an incomplete unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in 668, weakened and lost control over local lords during the end of the 9th century. The country entered a period of civil war and rebellion, led by Gung Ye, Gi Hwon, Yang Gil, and Gyeon Hwon.

Gung Ye established Hugoguryeo (meaning “Later Goguryeo“, renamed Taebong and Majin). Gyeon Hwon established Hubaekje (meaning “Later Baekje“). Together with the declining Silla, they are known as the Later Three Kingdoms.


Wang Geon, a descendant of a merchant family of Songdo (present-day Kaesŏng), joined Taebong but overthrew Gung Ye and established the Goryeo Kingdom and Dynasty in 918. [2]


Goryeo cannon

  A literal hand-cannon (Goryeo)



Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas, Goryeo scroll from the 1300s

Buddhism in medieval Korea evolved in ways which rallied support for the state.[13]

Initially, the new Seon schools were regarded by the established doctrinal schools as radical and dangerous upstarts. Thus, the early founders of the various “nine mountain” monasteries met with considerable resistance, repressed by the long influence in court of the Gyo schools. The struggles which ensued continued for most of the Goryeo period, but gradually the Seon argument for the possession of the true transmission of enlightenment would gain the upper hand. The position that was generally adopted in the later Seon schools, due in large part to the efforts of Jinul, did not claim clear superiority of Seon meditational methods, but rather declared the intrinsic unity and similarities of the Seon and Gyo viewpoints. Although all these schools are mentioned in historical records, toward the end of the dynasty, Seon became dominant in its effect on the government and society, and the production of noteworthy scholars and adepts. During the Goryeo period, Seon thoroughly became a “religion of the state,” receiving extensive support and privileges through connections with the ruling family and powerful members of the court.

Although most of the scholastic schools waned in activity and influence during this period of the growth of Seon, the Hwaeom school continued to be a lively source of scholarship well into the Goryeo, much of it continuing the legacy of Uisang and Wonhyo. In particular the work of Gyunyeo (均如; 923-973) prepared for the reconciliation of Hwaeom and Seon, with Hwaeom’s accommodating attitude toward the latter. Gyunyeo’s works are an important source for modern scholarship in identifying the distinctive nature of Korean Hwaeom.

Another important advocate of Seon/Gyo unity was Uicheon. Like most other early Goryeo monks, he began his studies in Buddhism with the Hwaeom school. He later traveled to China, and upon his return, actively promulgated the Cheontae (天台宗, or Tiantai in Chinese) teachings, which became recognized as another Seon school. This period thus came to be described as “five doctrinal and two meditational schools” (ogyo yangjong). Uicheon himself, however, alienated too many Seon adherents, and he died at a relatively young age without seeing a Seon-Gyo unity accomplished.


Hwaeomgyeong Byeonsangdo, Goryeo painting.

Jinul sought to establish a new movement within Korean Seon, which he called the samādhi and prajñā society”, whose goal was to establish a new community of disciplined, pure-minded practitioners deep in the mountains. He eventually accomplished this mission with the founding of the Seonggwangsa monastery at Mt. Jogye (曹溪山). Jinul’s works are characterized by a thorough analysis and reformulation of the methodologies of Seon study and practice. One major issue that had long fermented in Chinese Seon, and which received special focus from Jinul, was the relationship between “gradual” and “sudden” methods in practice and enlightenment. Drawing upon various Chinese treatments of this topic, most importantly those by Zongmi (780-841) and Dahui (大慧; 1089–1163), Jinul created a “sudden enlightenment followed by gradual practice” dictum, which he outlined in a few relatively concise and accessible texts. From Dahui, Jinul also incorporated the gwanhwa (觀話) method into his practice. This form of meditation is the main method taught in Korean Seon today. Jinul’s philosophical resolution of the Seon-Gyo conflict brought a deep and lasting effect on Korean Buddhism.

The general trend of Buddhism in the latter half of the Goryeo was a decline due to corruption, and the rise of strong anti-Buddhist political and philosophical sentiment. However, this period of relative decadence would nevertheless produce some of Korea’s most renowned Seon masters. Three important monks of this period who figured prominently in charting the future course of Korean Seon were contemporaries and friends: Gyeonghan Baeg’un (景閑白雲; 1298–1374), Taego Bou (太古普愚; 1301–1382) and Naong Hyegeun (懶翁慧勤; 1320–1376). All three went to Yuan China to learn the Linji (臨濟 or Imje in Korean) gwanhwa teaching that had been popularized by Jinul. All three returned, and established the sharp, confrontational methods of the Imje school in their own teaching. Each of the three was also said to have had hundreds of disciples, such that this new infusion into Korean Seon brought about considerable effect. Despite the Imje influence, which was generally considered to be anti-scholarly in nature, Gyeonghan and Naong, under the influence of Jinul and the traditional tong bulgyo tendency, showed an unusual interest in scriptural study, as well as a strong understanding of Confucianism and Taoism, due to the increasing influence of Chinese philosophy as the foundation of official education. From this time, a marked tendency for Korean Buddhist monks to be “three teachings” exponents appeared.


Goryeo adopted a Silla-friendly Hubaekje-hostile stage in the later Three Kingdoms, but in 927, Goryeo was defeated by Hubaekje in present-day Daegu. Wang Geon lost his best supporters in the battle.


For 3 years after the battle, Hubaekje dominated the Later Three Kingdoms but after a defeat at the Andong in 930, Hubaekje lost power.


The Later Three Kingdoms era ended as Goryeo annexed Silla in 935 and defeated Hubaekje in 936. Wang Geon moved the capital to his hometown Kaesǒng, and ruled the Korean peninsula as the first Emperor of Goryeo. Wang Geon married a daughter of the Silla royal family and let most nobles keep their lands. Even though Wang Geon ruled the united nation for only 7 years before his son took the reign after his death, the succession was not challenged.[2]


Foreign relations

During the 10th century, the Khitans tried to establish relations with Goryeo at least on two occasions.

In 942,

 the Khitan ruler Taizu sent an embassy with a gift of 50 camels to Goryeo, but Taejo refused them, banishing the envoys and starving the camels to death.

Goryeo had maintained relations with most of the Five Dynasties and southern kingdoms in China.


 - Choi Chul Ho as Gyeong Jong / Wang Yu (The 5th King)

The fifth emperor, Gyeongjong, launched land-ownership reformation called Jeonsigwa (hangul: 전시과, hanja: 田柴科) and the 6th emperor, Seongjong of Goryeo appointed officials to local areas, which were previously succeeded by the lords.

drama of the 5th king Gyeongjong

Chae Si Ra as Empress Chun Chu

o Kim So Eun as young Hwang Bo Soo / Chun Chu

* Kim Suk Hoon as Kim Chi Yang

* Choi Jae Sung as Kang Jo

* Lee Duk Hwa as General Kang Kam Chan

Extended Cast

* Kim Ho Jin as Wang Wook / Prince Gyeong Joo

* Shin Ae as Hwang Bo Seol / Princess Hun Jung (the empress’s younger sister)

* Park Eun Bin as young Hwang Bo Seol

* Ban Hyo Jung as Queen mother, Shin Jung Hwang (Taejo Wang Geon’s 4th wife)

* Kim Myung Soo as Seong Jong / Wang Chi (The 6th King and the empress’s older brother)

* Choi Woo Hyuk as Wang Chi / young Seong Jong

* Choi Chul Ho as Gyeong Jong / Wang Yu (The 5th King)

* Moon Jung Hee as Empress Moon Hwa / Lady Kim (Seong Jong’s 2nd wife) 
* Oh Wook Chul (오욱철) as Jo Haeng Soo 

Gallery Picture Number 3706



In order to strengthen the power of the central government, Gwangjong, the fourth emperor, made a series of laws including that of freeing slaves in 958, and one creating the exam for hiring civil officials. To assert power internationally, Gwangjong also proclaimed Goryeo an empire, independent from any other country of its day

 By 962,

formal relations were established with the Song dynasty. Relations with Song were close, with many embassies being exchanged between Goryeo and Song, but relations would be interrupted by the rise of the Liao and Jin dynasties.

After about 30 years of peace, the Khitans invaded Goryeo. It failed and after two other failed attempts, a state of peace was established in the Far East. For around 100 years, the Far East was relatively peaceful and Munjong strengthened the Liao-Song-Goryeo line.

 Political structure

The terminology used in the court of Goryeo was that of an empire, not of a kingdom. The capital, Gaegyeong (hangul: 개경,hanja: 開京,) was called “Imperial Capital” (hangul: 황도, hanja: 皇都) and the palace was referred to as “Imperial Palace” (hangul: 황성, hanja: 皇城). The nation also utilized a system of multiple capitals: Gaegyeong (modern-day Gaeseong), being the main capital, and Seogyeong (hangul: 서경, hanja: 西京) (modern-day Pyongyang), Namgyeong (hangul: 남경, hanja: 南京) (modern-day Seoul), and Donggyeong (hangul: 동경, hanja: 東京) (modern-day Gyeongju) as secondary capitals. The mere use of this system and the nomenclature or use of the character “京“ implied that Goryeo functioned internally as an empire.

Other terms, such as “Your Imperial Majesty” (hangul: 성상, hanja: 聖上), “Empress” (hangul: 황후, hanja: 皇后) “Imperial Crown Prince” (hangul: 태자, hanja: 太子), “Empress Dowager” (hangul: 태후, hanja: 太后), and “Imperial Ordinance” (詔 or 勅) also suggest that Goryeo adopted the title system of an empire. However, Goryeo, when enshrining its rulers, did not use the title of “Emperor” (hangul: 황제, hanja: 皇帝). Instead, the title of “Great King” (hangul: 대왕, hanja: 大王) was used to posthumously enshrine Goryeo monarchs. When enshrining its rulers, however, it did use “temple names” such as Taejo (hangul: 태조, hanja: 太祖); this is a practice mere kingdoms did not take part in. Imperial titles, like Emperor or “Haedong Emperor” (hangul: 해동천자, hanja: 海東天子, lit. the Son of Heaven Ruling the Land East of the Sea)” were also used.

After the Mongol invasions, all of these terms were prohibited by Mongol rulers, and Goryeo monarchs were forced to insert the character “忠” (hangul: 충, romanization: “chung”), meaning loyal, into their posthumous enshrinement names. This is why the monarchs after Wonjong had this character “忠” in their posthumous names, up until Gongmin. As Mongol power diminished, rulers no longer used “忠,” but still were unable to restore the use of the temple name.


Between 993 and 1019, the Goryeo-Khitan Wars ravaged the northern border.

By the time of eleventh emperor, Munjong of Goryeo, the central government of Goryeo gained complete authority and power over local lords. Munjong and later emperors emphasized the importance of civilian leadership over the military.


Khitan invasions and Jurchen expedition

In 993, the Khitan invaded Goryeo’s northwest border with an estimated 60,000 troops. However, after Seo Hui‘s negotiation with Khitan, they withdrew and ceded territory to the east of the Amnok River when Goryeo agreed to end its alliance with Song Dynasty China. However, Goryeo continued to communicate with the Song, having strengthened its position by building a fortress in the newly gained northern territories.


  Korean Koryo Kahl Geom Sword ca 1000 – 1200

Meanwhile, In 1009,

 General Gang Jo of Goryeo led a coup against Emperor Mokjong, killing the monarch and establishing military rule.

In 1010,

 - Goryeo – Khitan War

The Khitan attacked again with 400,000 troops during an internal Goryeo power struggle. Gang Jo blocked the Liao invasions until his own death. The Goryeo Emperor Hyeonjong was forced to flee the capital to Naju temporarily. Unable to establish a foothold and fearing a counterattack, the Khitan forces withdrew.

In 1018,

 the Khitan army invaded for the third time with 100,000 troops. In Heunghaejin stream, General Gang Gam-chan ordered the stream to be blocked until the Khitans began to cross it, and when the Khitans were mid-way across, he ordered that the dam be destroyed so that the water would drown much of the Khitan army. The damage was great, and General Gang led a massive attack that annihilated many of the Khitan army. Barely a few thousand of the Liao troops survived after the bitter defeat at Kwiju one year later.

Meanwhile, the Jurchen tribes lived to the north of Goryeo. The Jurchens always rendered tribute to the Goryeo monarchs, but the Jurchen tribes grew strong, and were soon united under Wanyan. They began to violate the Goryeo-Jurchen borders, and eventually invaded Goryeo. In 1087, the first version of the Tripitaka Koreana was completed, after many years of labor.


 Doğum Tarihi: 1079-1122


 Water dropper in the shape of a turtle 1100-1200 CE Korea Goryeo


 Ewer 1100-1200 CE Korea Goryeo dynasty Stoneware with celadon

In 1102,

 the Jurchen threatened and another crisis emerged. But after Jin agreed to a tributary relationship with Goryeo, peace was maintained and Jin never actually did invade Goryeo.

Tension continued through the 12th century and into the 13th century, when the Mongol invasions started. After a series of battles, Goryeo capitulated to the Mongols, with the direct dynastic rule of Goryeo monarchy

In 1107,

General Yun Gwan led the newly formed Goryeo army, a force of approximately 17,000 men called Byeolmuban, and attacked the Jurchens. Though the war lasted for several years, the Jurchen were ultimately defeated, and surrendered to Yun Gwan. To mark the victory, General Yun built nine fortresses to the northeast of the Goryeo-Jurchen borders (Hangul:동북 9성, Hanja:東北九城). In 1108, however, General Yun was given orders to withdraw his troops by Goryeo’s new ruler, Emperor Yejong. Due to manipulation and court-intrigue from opposing factions, he was discharged from his post. Along with this, the opposing factions fought to make sure that the new nine fortresses were returned to the Jurchens.

Power struggles

Monarchs of Korea
  1. Taejo 918–943
  2. Hyejong 943–945
  3. Jeongjong 945–949
  4. Gwangjong 949–975
  5. Gyeongjong 975–981
  6. Seongjong 981–997
  7. Mokjong 997–1009
  8. Hyeonjong 1009–1031
  9. Deokjong 1031–1034
  10. Jeongjong 1034–1046
  11. Munjong 1046–1083
  12. Sunjong 1083
  13. Seonjong 1083–1094
  14. Heonjong 1094–1095
  15. Sukjong 1095–1105
  16. Yejong 1105–1122
  17. Injong 1122–1146
  18. Uijong 1146–1170
  19. Myeongjong 1170–1197
  20. Sinjong 1197–1204
  21. Huijong 1204–1211
  22. Gangjong 1211–1213
  23. Gojong 1213–1259
  24. Wonjong 1259–1274
  25. Chungnyeol 1274–1308
  26. Chungseon 1308–1313
  27. Chungsuk 1313–1330
  28. Chunghye 1330–1332
  29. Chungmok 1344–1348
  30. Chungjeong 1348–1351
  31. Gongmin 1351–1374
  32. U 1374–1388
  33. Chang 1388–1389
  34. Gongyang 1389–1392

The House Yi of Inju (인주 이씨, 仁州李氏) married the emperors from Munjong to the 17th emperor, Injong. Eventually the Yis gained more power than the monarch himself. This led to the coup of Yi Ja-gyeom in 1126. The coup failed but the power of the monarch was weakened; Goryeo underwent a civil war among the nobility.

In 1135,

Myo Cheong argued in favor of moving the capital to Seogyeong (present day P’yŏngyang). This proposal divided the nobles of Goryeo in half. One faction, led by Myo Cheong, believed in moving the capital to Pyongyang and expanding into Manchuria. The other one, led by Kim Bu-sik (author of the Samguk Sagi), wanted to keep the status quo. Myo Cheong failed to persuade the emperor and rebelled against the central government and made a country named Daebang, but failed and was killed.


  Korea – wine ewer – 1150-1200 AD


The most important figure of Seon in the Goryeo was Jinul (知訥; 1158–1210). In his time, the sangha was in a crisis of external appearance and internal issues of doctrine. Buddhism had gradually become infected by secular tendencies and involvements, such as fortune-telling and the offering of prayers and rituals for success in secular endeavors. This kind of corruption resulted in the profusion of increasingly larger numbers of monks and nuns with questionable motivations. Therefore, the correction, revival, and improvement of the quality of Buddhism were prominent issues for Buddhist leaders of the period

In 1170,

 a group of army officers led by Jeong Jung-bu, Yi Ui-bang and Yi Go launched a coup d’état and succeeded. Emperor Uijong went into exile and Emperor Myeongjong was placed on the throne. Effective power, however, lay with a succession of generals who used an elite guard unit known as the Tobang to control the throne: military rule of Goryeo had begun.

 In 1179,

the young general Gyeong Dae-seung rose to power and began an attempt to restore the full power of the monarch and purge the corruption of the state.


However, he died in 1183 and was succeeded by Yi Ui-min, who came from a nobi (slave) background.[3] His unrestrained corruption and cruelty[3] led to a coup by general Choe Chungheon, who assassinated Yi Ui-min and took supreme power in 1197. For the next 61 years, the Choe house ruled as military dictators, maintaining the emperors as puppet monarchs; Choe Chungheon was succeeded in turn by his son Choe U, his grandson Choe Hang and his great-grandson Choe Ui. On taking power, Choe Chungheon forced Myeongjong off the throne and replaced him with Emperor Sinjong, but after Sinjong died he forced two further monarchs off the throne until he found the pliable Emperor Gojong.


A significant historical event of the Goryeo period is the production of the first woodblock edition of the Tripitaka, called the Tripitaka Koreana.


Two editions were made, the first one completed from 1210 to 1231, and the second one from 1214 to 1259.


 The Tripataka  first edition was destroyed in a fire, during an attack by Mongol invaders in 1232, but the second edition is still in existence at Haeinsa in Gyeongsang province. This edition of the Tripitaka was of high quality, and served as the standard version of the Tripitaka in East Asia for almost 700 years.


 Mongol invasion

A. Korea from the Mongols to the Yi, 1231-1500

 Mongol conquest–Korea was the answer to the Mongol search for coastal areas from which to launch naval expeditions and choke off the sea trade of their adversaries. After twenty years of defensive war, Korea was left with a ravaged countryside and a depleted treasury, as well as other losses. The Korean military commander (analagous to the Japanese shogun) was killed by his underlings in 1258, and soon afterward the Koryo king surrendered to the Mongols.

2. Breakdown of Isolation–Mongol control broke down centuries of comparative isolation. Cotton was introduced in southern Korea, gunpowder came into use, and the art of calendar-making stimulated astronomical obersvation and mathematics. Avenuues of advancement opened for Korean scholars willing to learn Mongolian, landowners willing to open their lands to falconry and grazing, and merchants servicing the new royal exchanges with Beijing.


Relocated Goryeo pagoda

In 1231, Mongols under Ögedei Khan invaded Goryeo, following the aftermath of joint Goryeo-Mongol forces against the Khitans in 1219.[4] The royal court moved to Ganghwa Island in the Bay of Gyeonggi, in 1232. The military ruler of the time, Choe U (최우), insisted on fighting back.


 The Tripataka  first edition was destroyed in a fire, during an attack by Mongol invaders in 1232


Tripitaka Koreana

Tripitaka Koreana (팔만대장경) is a Tripitaka with approximately 80,000 Buddhist scripts. The scripts are stored in Haeinsa, South Gyeongsang province. Made in 1251 by Gojong in an attempt to fight away the Mongol invasions by Buddhism. The scripts are kept clean by leaving them to dry outside every year


Goryeo resisted for about 30 years but finally sued for peace in 1259.

Meanwhile, the Mongols began a campaign from 1231 to 1259 that ravaged parts of Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces. There were six major campaigns: 1231, 1232, 1235, 1238, 1247, 1253; between 1253 and 1258, the Mongols under Möngke Khan‘s general Jalairtai Qorchi launched four devastating invasions in the final successful campaign against Korea, at tremendous cost to civilian lives throughout the Korean peninsula.

Civilian resistance was strong, and the Imperial Court at Ganghwa attempted to strengthen its fortress. Korea won several victories but the Korean military could not withstand the waves of invasions. The repeated Mongol invasions caused havoc, loss of human lives and famine in Korea. In 1236, Gojong ordered the re-creation of the Tripitaka Koreana, destroyed during the 1232 invasion. This collection of Buddhist scriptures took 15 years to carve on some 81,000 wooden blocks, and is preserved to this day. In March 1258, the dictator Choe Ui was assassinated by Kim Jun. Thus, dictatorship by his military group was ended, and the scholars who had insisted on peace with Mongolia gained power. Eventually, the scholars sent an envoy to the Mongols, and a peace treaty was contracted between the Mongol Empire and Goryeo. Some military officials who refused to surrender formed the Sambyeolcho Rebellion and resisted in the islands off the southern shore of the Korean peninsula.[5]

The treaty permitted the sovereign power and traditional cultures of Goryeo, and implied that the Mongols had no plans of controlling Goryeo.[6] The Mongols annexed the northern areas of Korean peninsula after the invasions and incorporated them into their empire. After the peace treaty with Goryeo, the Mongols planned to conquer Japan by allying with Goryeo troops again;

in 1274 and 1281

 the Japan Campaign took place; however, it failed due to a heavy storm (called the Kamikaze) and strong military resistance.

The Goryeo became quda (marriage alliance) subordinate state of the Mongol imperial family and monarchs of Goryeo were mainly imperial sons in-law (khuregen). The Kings of Goryeo held an important status like other important families of Mardin, Uighurs and Mongols (Oirat, Hongirat, and Ikeres).[7] It is claimed that one of Goryeo monarchs was the most beloved grandson of Kublai Khan.[8] On the other hand, the Mongols were actively involved in the Goryeon court. They were able to exile Korean emperor and Mongol troops stationed in the capital following the Mongolian queens of Goryeo. Many of Goryeo monarchs had Mongolian mother during this period.


The Goryeo Dynasty survived under Mongol influences until King Gongmin began to push Mongol garrisons back around 1350. By the 1350s Goryeo regained its lost northern territories.

Most beneficial aspects of the Mongol domination of Eurasia was cultural exchange and flourishing international trade between east and west.[9] The Mongols certainly learned Korean ideas and technology and those benefits of the growing world empire also influenced the knowledge of cartogrpahy and production of pottery in Goryeo.[9][10] Due to high military preparedness of the Goryeo and Mongol allies in Korea, particularly during the Sambyolch’o rebellion in Cheju and southernmost Korea and Mongol invasions of Japan, and the awareness of Kamakura in Japan led to the decline in Wako (Japanese pirates) raids into Korean peninsula.[11] No more raids of Japanese again heard until 1350 when the Mongols were suffering from massive rebellions in China.[12]




 Yi Dynasty–when the Yuan Dynasty in China fell in 1368, the Koryo ruling family remained loyal to the Mongols, and had to be forced to recognize the new Ming Empire. In 1392 the Yi established a new kingdom in Seoul and sought to re-establish a distinctive Korean identity. Like Russia and Ming China, the Yi regime publicly rejected the period of Mongol domination, yet still employed Mongol-style land surveys, taxation in kind, and military garrison techniques.

 Korean Printing–Like the Ming emperors, the Yi kings revived the study of the Confucian classics, and this may have spurred a technological breakthrough in printing. Working directly with the king, Yi printers developed a reliable device to anchor the pieces of type securely to the printing plate. This enhanced the legibililty and accuracy of the printing, and made the production of a high volume of printed material possible. This allowed Korean printers to not only produce Confucian texts, but also manuals for producing and using fertilizer, transplanting rice seedlings, and engineering resevoirs.


  in 1376 by a Buddhist teacher known as Naong during the Goryeo


 Last reform

Yeom Jesin (1304–1382) was the main political opponent of the monk, Shin Don, who was in power.

When King Gongmin ascended to the throne Goryeo was under the influence of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. He was forced to spend many years in the Yuan court, being sent there in 1341 as a virtual prisoner before becoming king. He married the Mongol princess Queen Noguk. But in the mid-14th century Yuan was beginning to crumble, soon to be replaced by the Ming dynasty in 1368. King Gongmin began efforts to reform the Goryeo government and remove Mongolian influences.

His first act was to remove all pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officers from their positions. Mongols had annexed the northern provinces of Goryeo after the invasions and incorporated them into their empire as the Ssangseong (쌍성총관부, 雙城摠管府) and Dongnyeong Prefectures (동녕부, 東寧府). The Goryeo army retook these provinces partly thanks to defection from Yi Ja-chun, a minor Korean official in service of Mongols in Ssangseong, and his son Yi Seonggye. In addition, Generals Yi Seonggye and Ji Yongsu led a campaign into Liaoyang.

But after the death of Gongmin’s wife Queen Noguk in 1365, he fell into depression. In the end, he became indifferent to politics and entrusted that great task to the buddhist monk Shin Don (신돈, 辛旽). But after six years, Shin Don lost his position. In the end, Gongmin was killed by his favorite young men, shattering his dream and putting Goryeo on the road to collapse.



Goryeo in 1374

In 1388, King U (son of King Gongmin and a concubine) and general Choe Yeong planned a campaign to invade present-day Liaoning of China. King U put the general Yi Seong-gye (later Taejo) in charge, but he stopped at the border and rebelled.


Goryeo fell to General Yi Seong-gye, a son of a Yi Ja-chun, who put to death the last three Goryeo Kings, usurped the throne and established in 1392 the Joseon Dynasty.




In the Goryeo dynasty, trade was frequent. In the start of the dynasty, Byeokrando was the main port. Byeokrando was a port close to the Goryeo capital. Trade included:

# Trading country Import Export  
1 Song dynasty Silk, pearls, tea, spices, medicine, books, instruments Gold and silver, ginseng, marble, paper, ink
2 Liao dynasty Horses, sheep, low-quality silk Minerals, cotton, marble, ink and paper, ginseng
3 Jurchen Gold, horse, weapons Silver, cotton, silk
4 Japan Mercury, minerals Ginseng, books
5 Abbasid dynasty Mercury, spices, tusk Gold, silver


A Goryeo painting which depicts the Goryeo nobility.


Main article: Korean nobility

At the time of Goryeo, Korean nobility was divided into 6 classes.

  • Gukgong (국공, 國公), Duke of a nation
  • Gungong (군공, 郡公), Duke of a county
  • Hyeonhu (현후, 縣侯), Marquis of a town
  • Hyeonbaek (현백, 縣伯), Count of a town
  • Gaegukja (개국자, 開國子), Viscount of a town
  • Hyeonnam (현남, 縣男), Baron of a town

Also the title Taeja (hangul: 태자, hanja: 太子) was given to sons of emperor. In most other east Asian countries this title meant crown prince. It was similar to Chinwang (hangul: 친왕, hanja: 親王) of the Korean Empire.



Main article: Korean Confucianism

Emperor Gwangjong creating the national civil service examinations. and Emperor Seongjong was a key figure in establishing Confucianism. King Seongjong established Gukjagam. Gukjagam was the highest educational institution of the Goryeo dynasty. This was facilitated by the establishment in 1398 of the Seonggyungwan – an academy with a Confucian curriculum – and the building of an altar at the palace, where the king would worship his ancestors.





 Goryeo celadon

Celadon incense burner. National Treasures of South Korea.

The ceramics of Goryeo are considered by some to be the finest small-scale works of ceramics in Korean history. Key-fret, foliate designs, geometric or scrolling flowerhead bands, elliptical panels, stylized fish and insects, and the use of incised designs began at this time. Glazes were usually various shades of celadon, with browned glazes to almost black glazes being used for stoneware and storage. Celadon glazes could be rendered almost transparent to show black and white inlays.

While the forms generally seen are broad-shouldered bottles, larger low bowls or shallow smaller bowls, highly decorated celadon cosmetic boxes, and small slip-inlaid cups, the Buddhist potteries also produced melon-shaped vases, chrysanthemum cups often of spectacularly architectural design on stands with lotus motifs and lotus flower heads. In-curving rimmed alms bowls have also been discovered similar to Korean metalware. Wine cups often had a tall foot which rested on dish-shaped stands.

 Construction techniques

These ceramics are of a hard porcellaneous body with porcelain stone as one of the key ingredients; however, it is not to be confused with porcelain. The body is low clay, quartz rich, high potassia and virtually identical in composition to the Chinese Yueh ceramics which scholars hypothesize occasioned the first production of celadon in Korea. The glaze is an ash glaze with iron colourant, fired in a reduction atmosphere in a modified Chinese-style ‘dragon’ kiln. The distinctive blue-grey-green of Korean celadon is caused by the iron content of the glaze with a minimum of titanium contaminant, which modifies the color to a greener cast, as can be seen in Chinese Yueh wares. However, the Goryeo potters took the glaze in a different direction than their Chinese forebears; instead of relying solely on underglaze incised designs, they eventually developed the sanggam technique of inlaying black (magnetite) and white (quartz) which created bold contrast with the glaze. Scholars also theorize that this developed in part to an inlay tradition in Korean metalworks and lacquer, and also to the dissatisfaction with the nearly invisible effect of incising when done under a thick celadon glaze.[14]



Jikji, Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters, the earliest known book printed with movable metal type, 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

In 1234,

 the world’s first metal movable type printing was invented by Choe Yun-ui in Goryeo. Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun were printed with the movable metal type in 1234. Technology in Korea took a big step in Goryeo and strong relation with the Song dynasty contributed to this. In the dynasty, Korean ceramics and paper, which come down to now, started to be manufactured.

During the late Goryeo Dynasty, Goryeo was at the cutting edge of shipboard artillery.

In 1356 early

experiments were carried out with gunpowder weapons that shot wood or metal projectiles. In 1373 experiments with incendiary arrows and “fire tubes” possibly an early form of the Hwacha were developed and placed on Korean warships. The policy of placing cannons and other gunpowder weapons continued well into the Joseon Dynasty and by 1410, over 160 Joseon warships had cannons onboard. Choe Mu-seon, a medieval Korean inventor, military commander and scientist who introduced widespread use of gunpowder to Korea for the first time and creating various gunpowder based weapons.


King Gochang

A beautiful temple of Goryeo dynasty, Seonun Temple and Dosolam

(Source : Korea Tourism Organization)




Joseon dynasty

a poetry ‘Seonun-sa(temple) East’ written by Seo Jeong-ju born in Gochang. Here is his poetry.

“I went to see camellia of Seonun-sa but it was too early to see. I just saw camellia of last year that remained in the song by the bar hostess in her Yukjabaegi rhythm” He wrote it with sorrow for unseen camellia. There is a song ‘Seonun-sa’ sung by Song Chang-sik. He praised the beauty of camellia. Like this, Seonun-sa is a beautiful but hidden attraction of Gochang.
As it appeared in literature and songs, Seonun temple has a unique beauty with beautiful nature. In particular, Seonun temple is famous for the beauty of camellias. Camellia wasn’t planted for beauty, but for preventing the temple from fire. But they soon reached up to 2000 and have changed the forest into a beautiful hills. The Camellia forest represents the beauty of Seonun temple which is filled with red flowers in spring.

In addition, the scenery of the temple including the main building and Sumakjae will make you feel good, even carrying the scent of the temple. Also temple bell is enlisted as tangible cultural heritage of Chungcheonbuk-do. When you go up for half an hour after looking around Seonun temple, you will meet the magnificent beaut, Dosol-am. There you will understand why ancestors considered Mt. Seonun as another Mt. Geumgang, which is the most beautiful mountains in Korea. You will be fascinated at its rocks and trees. Do not miss the landscape in summe as well!

(Source: Yonhap News)

Maaebul, a carved buddha in mountain rocks, is the finest in Dosol-am enlisted as a national treasure No. 1200. It is overwhelming to see it which is embossed and engraved in harmony. 15.6 meters high and 8.48 meters wide of massive Maaebul is one of three carved buddha in size in Korea. There is a shrine in the pit of its stomach. In general, a shrine is used to store buddha statue or holy things. However, people believed that there was a secret book telling the kingdom’s destiny in shrine.

One day, an officer of Dong-hak, Son Wha-jung took it out. We still don’t know whereabouts. It would be quite interesting to see Maaebul, imagining the event. After looking around Dosol-am, you will see a 600 year old pine tree which is a natural heritage No. 354. This is the end of journey to Seonun temple. There is a saying that there could be someone who has never been to Seonun temple, but no one visits only once, which means you would come again anyway.

Living together with past and present. Gochang’s fortress and festival

(Source:: Korea Tourism Organization)

Did you know three old fortresses in Korea? Haemi- fortress, Nakan- fortress, Gochang- fortress. Haemi- fortess is well-known for history that many christians sacrificed their life. Nakan- fortress is well known for cool staying over place. However Gochang gives you a different image from the history. Actually, Gochang fortress was built by commoners to defend Korea from Japan. After the era, Gochang fortress was abandoned so many years but fortunately restored in 1976.

When it was repaired, the stone from nature was used in order to bring in the nature itself. It’s not completely restored but a guest house, jail and several buildings were built, which is quite breezing to travellers’ mind.

When you walk along fortress of the Mt. Seonun, you will feel the fragrance of mountains and the magnificent huge landscape of mountains.

There are some nice roads. We can enjoy flowers and trees such as pine trees and bamboo trees. Gochang has a festival every year. Gochang has a big festival of Bokbunja in June. It also has a big festival of Watermelon in July. There is a saying that if you have Gochang- watermelon, you can’t try any watermelon. Gochang watermelon is better than any others. Why don’t you come over to the festival?

Gochang the ‘hometown of nature, culture and happiness’ where history stays alive
‘Home town of nature, culture and happiness’ is the slogan of Gochang. You will finally understand why the Michelin Guide included the dolmens of the Bronze Age, and the Seonun temple and Dosolam of Buddhism culture in the Goryeo dynasty.

Indulging in a variety of attractions of the Joseon Dynasty of Gochang


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of World History, Vol II, P238 Koryo Dynasty
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of World History, Vol II, P238 Koryo Dynasty, Edited by Marsha E. Ackermann, Michael J. Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, Mark F. Whitters, ISBN 978-0-8160-6386-4
  3. ^ a b |Daum Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ 국방부 군사편찬연구소, 고려시대 군사 전략 (2006) (The Ministry of National Defense, Military Strategies in Goryeo)
  6. ^ 국사편찬위원회, 고등학교국사교과서 p63(National Institute of Korean History, History for High School Students, p64)[1]
  7. ^ Ed. Morris Rossabi – China among equals: the Middle Kingdom and its neighbors, 10th-14th centuries, p.244
  8. ^ Baasanjavyin Lkhagvaa-Solongos, Mongol-Solongosyin harilstaanii ulamjlalaas, p.172
  9. ^ a b Thomas T. Allsen – Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p.53
  10. ^ Namjil- Solongos-Mongolyin haritsaa: Ert, edugee, p.64
  11. ^ Henthorn, Korea, the Mongol Invasions, pp. 226- 234.
  12. ^ Benjamin H. Hazard-The Formative Years of The Wakō, 1223-63, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 22, No. 3/4 (1967), pp. 260-277
  13. ^ Vermeersch, Sem. (2008). The Power of the Buddhas: the Politics of Buddhism during the Koryŏ Dynasty (918-1392), p. 3.
  14. ^ Wood, Nigel. “Technological Parallels between Chinese Yue wares and Korean celadons.” in Papers of the British Association for Korean Studies (BAKS Papers), vol 5. Gina Barnes and Beth McKillop, eds. London: British Association for Korean Studies, 1994; pp. 39-64.
  15. ^ The official history of Koryo, is printed by woodblock 1580. 


The Korea Historic Collections Part One:Choson Dynasty 1392-1700

The Choson Historic Coillections 1392-1700

Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM


Pre Choson Dynasty


Goryeo Dynasty

the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918


Taejo Dynasti Before Choson


The Choson Dynasty(1392-1910) is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”),

Early Joseon Dynasty


King Taejo‘s portrait

Early Joseon monarchs: Taejo to Seongjong

A military leader in the waning days of the Goryeo period, King Taejo of Joseon was no longer a young man when he established the Dynasty, taking over the throne from the last Goryeo monarch, Gongyang, in 1392. In 1398, after just six years of rule, Taejo, disheartened by the fighting between his eight sons, turned the throne over to his second son, King Jeongjong (the eldest had already died). Taejo was posthumeously given the title Emperor by Emperor Gojong in recognition of his contribution as founder of the Dynasty. Many of the other early monarchs of Joseon had relatively short reigns, ascending the throne when they were already rather advanced in age. The first nine monarchs of Joseon collectively ruled for about 100 years, with King Sejong the Great ruling for the longest time, 32 years.

Statue of King Sejong the Great

King Jeongjong’s reign was even shorter than his father’s, lasting only two years before he resigned in fear of retaliation from his younger brother, who already killed several nobles and his younger half brothers, whom he perceived as obstacles to his taking the throne. In spite of his ruthless actions in attaining the throne, the younger brother, King Taejong, who ruled much longer than his father or brother, holding the throne for 18 years, accomplished a great deal toward establishing a strong foundation for the Joseon kingdom.

Taejong passed the kingdom in good condition to his most able son, King Sejong, who went on to be Joseon’s most successful monarch, ruling for 32 years, and further strengthening the young dynasty. A lot of the momentum he built up was lost in the series of short, less successful reigns followed Sejong: his 1st son, King Munjong was Joseon’s 5th king, but died after only two years, and was followed by his son, King Danjong, who took the throne at age 12, with a council of Ministers to help him reign. After only three years, the ministers were assassinated and Danjung was forced from the throne by Sejong’s 2nd son, King Sejo.

After his bloody ascent to the throne, Sejo ruled successfully for 13 years, leaving behind a legacy of improvements. His eldest son died before him, so at his death, the throne passed to his 2nd son, King Yejong, who was not yet 20, and his mother Queen Jeonghee, become Joseon’s first female regent. When Yejong died less than two years later, his oldest son was only three years-old, so the throne passed to his nephew, King Seongjong, the son of King Sejo’s first son Deokjong, who had died before he had a chance to take the throne himself. Queen Jeonghee continued as regent for Seongjong, along with his mother Queen Insu. After seven years of regency, Seongjong ruled almost two more decades in his own right, a reign marked by progress and prosperity. His father was given the posthumous title King Deokjong in recognition of role as the father of Seongjong in light of his son’s accomplishments.

Emperor Taejo
    Grand Prince

      Grand Prince
King Munjong
King Danjong
      Grand Prince
Prince Weolsan
King Sejo
    King Deokjong
(posthumous title)

    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
King Yejong
    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
            Bulno     Prince
            Jiun     Prince
King Taejong
    Grand Prince
      Grand Prince
    Grand Prince
      Grand Prince
King Sejong
      Grand Prince
    Grand Prince

Monarchs of Korea
Joseon (Choson) Dynasty
  1. Taejo 1392–1398
  2. Jeongjong 1398–1400
  3. Taejong 1400–1418
  4. Sejong the Great 1418–1450
  5. Munjong 1450–1452
  6. Danjong 1452–1455
  7. Sejo 1455–1468
  8. Yejong 1468–1469
  9. Seongjong 1469–1494
  10. Yeonsangun 1494–1506
  11. Jungjong 1506–1544
  12. Injong 1544–1545
  13. Myeongjong 1545–1567
  14. Seonjo 1567–1608
  15. Gwanghaegun 1608–1623
  16. Injo 1623–1649
  17. Hyojong 1649–1659
  18. Hyeonjong 1659–1674
  19. Sukjong 1674–1720
  20. Gyeongjong 1720–1724
  21. Yeongjo 1724–1776
  22. Jeongjo 1776–1800
  23. Sunjo 1800–1834
  24. Heonjong 1834–1849
  25. Cheoljong 1849–1863
  26. Gojong 1863–1907
  27. Sunjong 1907–1910

By the late 14th century, the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918 was tottering, its foundations collapsing from years of war and de facto occupation from the disintegrating Mongol Empire. Following the wake of the Ming Dynasty , the royal court in Goryeo split into two conflicting factions: the group led by General Yi (supporting the Ming Dynasty) and the camp led by General Choe (standing by the Yuan Dynasty). When a Ming messenger came to Goryeo in 1388 (the 14th year of King U) to demand the return of a significant portion of Goryeo’s northern territory, General Choe seized the chance to argue for the attack of the Liaodong Peninsula (Goryeo claimed to be the successor of the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo; as such, restoring Manchuria as part of Korean territory was part of its foreign policy throughout its history).

Yi was chosen to lead the attack; however, he revolted and swept back to Gaegyeong and initiated a coup d’état, overthrowing King U in favor of his son, King Chang (1388). He later killed King U and his son after a failed restoration and forcibly placed a royal named Yi on the throne (he became King Gongyang). In 1392, Yi eliminated Jeong Mong-ju, highly respected leader of a group loyal to Goryeo dynasty, and dethroned King Gongyang, exiling him to Wonju, and before he ascended the throne. The Goryeo Dynasty had come to an end after almost 500 years of rule.

In the beginning of his reign, Yi Seonggye, now King Taejo, intended to continue use of the name Goryeo for the country he ruled and simply change the royal line of descent to his own, thus maintaining the façade of continuing the 500 year-old Goryeo tradition. However, after numerous threats of mutiny from the drastically weakened but still influential Gwonmun nobles, who continued to swear allegiance to the remnants of the Goryeo Dynasty and now the demoted Wang clan, and the consensus in the reformed court that a new dynastic title was needed to signify the change, he declared a new dynasty in 1393 under the name of Joseon (meaning to revive an older dynasty also known as Joseon, founded nearly four thousand years previously) and renamed the country the “Kingdom of Great Joseon”. He also moved the capital to Hanyang.

 Strife of Princes

When the new dynasty was promulgated and officially brought into existence, Taejo brought up the issue of which son would be his successor. Although Yi Bang-won, Taejo’s fifth son by Queen Sineui, had contributed most to assisting his father’s rise to power, the prime minister Jeong Do-jeon and Nam Eun used their influence on King Taejo to name his eighth son (second son of Queen Sindeok) Grand Prince Uian (Yi Bang-seok) as the crown prince in 1392. This conflict arose largely because Jeong Do-jeon, who shaped and laid down ideological, institutional, and legal foundations of the new dynasty more than anyone else, saw Joseon as a kingdom led by ministers appointed by the king while Yi Bang-won wanted to establish the absolute monarchy ruled directly by the king. With Taejo’s support, Jeong Do-jeon kept limiting the royal family’s power by prohibiting political involvement of princes and attempting to abolish their private armies. Both sides were well aware of each other’s great animosity and were getting ready to strike first. After the sudden death of Queen Sindeok, and while King Taejo was still in mourning for his second wife, Yi Bang-won struck first by raiding the palace and killed Jeong Do-jeon and his supporters as well as Queen Sindeok’s two sons (his half-brothers) including the crown prince in 1398. This incident became known as the First Strife of Princes.

Aghast at the fact that his sons were willing to kill each other for the crown, and psychologically exhausted from the death of his second wife, King Taejo abdicated and immediately crowned his second son Yi Bang-gwa, or King Jeongjong, as the new ruler. One of King Jeongjong’s first acts as monarch was to revert the capital to Gaeseong, where he is believed to have been considerably more comfortable. Yet Yi Bang-won retained real power and was soon in conflict with his disgruntled older brother Yi Bang-gan, who also yearned for power. In 1400, the tensions between Yi Bang-won’s faction and Yi Bang-gan’s camp escalated into an all-out conflict that came to be known as the Second Strife of Princes. In the aftermath of the struggle, the defeated Yi Bang-gan was exiled to Tosan while his supporters were executed. Thoroughly intimidated, King Jeongjong immediately invested Yi Bang-won as heir presumptive and voluntarily abdicated. That same year, Yi Bang-won assumed the throne of Joseon at long last as King Taejong, the third king of Joseon.

Consolidation of royal power

In the beginning of Taejong’s reign, the Grand King Former, Taejo, refused to relinquish the royal seal that signified the legitimacy of any king’s rule. Taejong began to initiate policies he believed would prove his qualification to rule. One of his first acts as king was to abolish the privilege enjoyed by the upper echelons of government and the aristocracy to maintain private armies. His revoking of such rights to field independent forces effectively severed their ability to muster large-scale revolts, and drastically increased the number of men employed in the national military. Taejong’s next act as king was to revise the existing legislation concerning the taxation of land ownership and the recording of state of subjects. With the discovery of previously hidden land, national income increased twofold.


Choson tomb with murals



This is picture of one very primitive-looking white tiger, the protective animal of the west. According to the caption however (see here), it was found on the northern wall of the southern chamber, which does not make sense. For an article on this find, see here. It notes that the other Choson tomb was found in 2000 in Kobop-ri near Miryang; it also notes the similarity with a Koryo tomb from 1352 found in Sogok-ri near P’aju. And for the specialists: this is apparently a 橫口式石室 – or a stone chamber tomb with vertical opening (i.e. no entranceway)




This is presumably the first “Choson” tomb mural, from 고법리, 청도면, 밀양. However, it belonged to one Pak Ik (1332-1398), so presumably dates to around 1398 – which means it is really a Koryo tomb. (found here). The next photo is the 1352 mural from P’aju, which looks much more primitive than the Miryang one (from here):



In 1399,

 Taejong had played an influential role in scrapping the Dopyeong Assembly, a council of the old government administration that held a monopoly in court power during the waning years of the Goryeo Dynasty, in favor of the State Council of Joseon (의정부), a new branch of central administration that revolved around the king and his edicts. After passing the subject documentation and taxation legislation, King Taejong issued a new decree in which all decisions passed by the State Council could only come into effect with the approval of the king. This ended the custom of court ministers and advisors making decisions through debate and negotiations amongst themselves, and thus brought the royal power to new heights. Shortly thereafter, Taejong installed an office, known as the Sinmun Office, to hear cases in which aggrieved subjects felt that they had been exploited or treated unjustly by government officials or aristocrats. However, Taejong kept Jeong Do-jeon’s reforms intact for most part. In addition, Taejong executed or exiled many of his supporters who helped him ascend on the throne in order to strengthen the royal authority. To limit influence of in-laws, he also killed all four of his Queen’s brothers and his son Sejong‘s father-in-law. Taejong remains a controversial figure who killed many of his rivals and relatives to gain power and yet ruled effectively to improve the populace’s lives, strengthen national defense, and lay down a solid foundations for his successor Sejong’s rule.


 King Sejong the Great

King Sejong‘s portrait

In August of 1418, following Taejong’s abdication two months earlier, Sejong ascended the throne. In May of 1419, King Sejong, under the advice and guidance of his father Taejong, embarked upon the Gihae Eastern Expedition to remove the nuisance of Japanese pirates who had been operating out of Tsushima. In September of 1419 the Daimyo of Tsushima, Sadamori, capitulated to the Joseon court.

 In 1443,

The Treaty of Gyehae was signed, in which the Daimyo of Tsushima was granted rights to conduct trade with Korea in fifty ships per year, in exchange for sending tribute to Korea and aiding to stop any Japanese coastal pirate raid on Korean ports.[3][4][5][6]

On the northern border, Sejong established four forts and six posts (hangul: 사군육진 hanja: 四郡六鎭) to safeguard his people from the hostile Chinese and Manchurian nomads living in Manchuria. In 1433, Sejong sent Kim Jong-seo (hangul: 김종서, hanja: 金宗瑞), a prominent general, north to destroy the Manchu. Kim’s military campaign captured several castles, pushed north, and restored Korean territory, roughly the present-day border between North Korea and China.[7]

During the rule of Sejong, Korea saw advances in natural science, agriculture, literature, traditional medicine, and engineering. Because of such success, Sejong was given the title “King Sejong the Great of Joseon”.[8] The most remembered contribution of King Sejong is the creation of hangeul, the Korean alphabet, in 1443. Everyday use of hanja and hanmun in writing eventually came to an end in the latter half of the 20th century.

Power plays, intrigue, conspiracies, mysteries, mass murders, storytelling assassins, awkward tea parties, and drug-induced confessions are just some of the delicacies we’re being offered as we head toward that final and much-dreaded stretch. Who will remain rooted, and who will inevitably be rooted out by King Sejong’s ultimatum? And, more importantly, will our hero save the girl from an enemy he can’t even find?

We’ll have to tune in next week for all of our answers… But is it so bad that I want to tune in next week for the next one hundred weeks?


Kim Bum-soo – “말하지 않아도” (Even Without Speaking) from the Tree With Deep Roots soundtrack. [ Download ]




Shim Jong-soo, Jeok-hee, and Pyung are all headed straight for So-yi. But where the other pursuers pass up the roving band of singing beggars, Pyung stops them in order to ask about the location of the missing court maidens. The song they’re singing is the one So-yi taught to them in order to circulate Hangul, and Pyung has a brief flashback to the moment when he received the order that anyone and everyone who knows the alphabet must be killed.

With that in mind, he waits until So-yi’s location is divulged before he sets to slaughtering the whole band. He’s merciless, and doesn’t even spare the woman in the group. Fortunately the leader of the roving band is saved from a horrible death due to being away at just the right time, but that also means that he’s left to witness the murder of all his friends and comrades.

Court maiden Geun-ji, who was previously drugged into revealing So-yi’s whereabouts to Jeok-hee, has made it back to the palace. She’s an emotional wreck, hardly able to even begin to tell her story – and the moment Sejong walks into the Hangul Room, it’s over. She breaks down into pitiful sobs, blaming herself for the fact that So-yi and Deok-geum might now be in danger.

Sejong wants to know how much she told them, and in a shaking voice, she says she told everything. They were looking for the Haerye, and she told them where So-yi was. No one doubts her story, and Sejong looks deeply affected as he considers all the implications this might have. Namely, So-yi. Ahh!

So-yi and Deok-geum have been preparing taffy as incentive to get children to sing the Hangul Song, both of them completely unaware that any danger is headed their way. And though it seemed like Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee had a head start over Pyung, he’s the one who makes it to So-yi’s house first. When she goes outside expecting to see her orabeoni, it’s Pyung that’s waiting there instead. Uh oh. Oh no.

Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee arrive at So-yi’s house after having found their own ways separately. There’s signs of a scuffle, but no court maidens. A woman passing by is swiftly interrogated by both of them for anything she knows, and the unlikely duo comes to the conclusion that Pyung is the one who spirited away So-yi and Deok-geum before they arrived. Both Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee decide that, for the moment at least, they might as well work together since they’re after the same thing (the Haerye).

We find Pyung back in the town, alone. He comes across the group of children commissioned by So-yi to sing the Hangul Song and… oh no. They cut away from this scene, but does that mean Pyung is so ruthless that he’d kill all those kids?!

Both Sejong and Jung Ki-joon are trying to figure out exactly what has gone on in their respective camps. Jung Ki-joon is having to deal with betrayal, as news comes from Pyung that Shim Jong-soo has turned on them and that he even attempted to steal their court ladies (hey, they captured them first).

I kind of love that Sejong has made the Joseon approximation of a graph in order to make sense of the story Geun-ji told him. What Team Sejong has come away with is that Pyung showed up, then Shim Jong-soo showed up and fought with Pyung, and in the middle of all of that, a woman from Ming came and captured Geun-ji, acting under orders from Lee Shin-juk. At least Sejong is able to tell that all three of those parties must be working separately from each other, but even he’s wondering why everything is getting so tangled.

Chae-yoon has come too late to rescue So-yi, and sees the bloodied bodies of the singing band strewn in the street. This propels him straight to So-yi’s house, but there’s no sign of the one he loves. We can see this weighing on him as he yells in anguish, knowing that for the moment, at least, he can’t do anything.

In the street he runs into some of the singing children (looking very much like they haven’t been murdered – phew!) to ask them about So-yi. They say that they were supposed to meet her to receive taffy, but she never came. Instead, a tall man with a ghostly voice showed up.

I don’t know why this flashback is funny, but it is. It’s Story Time With Pyung, as he gathers all the children around and asks them to read Hangul to him. If anyone can, he has a biiiig prize to give them (I assume this big prize is certain death). Fortunately for all of those children, none of them can read the letters – they’d just been taught the song. This spares them from being murdered, and the nice assassin ajusshi tells them that they must never sing that Hangul Song again, because it only calls for death.

Knowing that Pyung has captured So-yi but not knowing where he might be, Chae-yoon goes to Sejong. He blames himself for leaving So-yi and Deok-geum for even a moment, and Sejong is brought up to speed on the status of his court maidens. This doesn’t stop us from launching into a blame-a-thon, though, as the King then takes blame onto himself for not anticipating Jung Ki-joon’s moves sooner. But now, along with their missing court ladies, they’re also hit with the fact that their circulation plan has failed.

So-yi finds herself bound in a room with the two other captured court ladies, Mok-yi and Deok-geum. They’re soon faced with a triumphant Jung Ki-joon, who’s positively reveling in the belief that he’s won over their silly little Hangul circulation plan. I love that So-yi’s got spirit, and she shoots him the most defiant look she can muster. What becomes of this conversation is a mystery to us, as we cut to the outside of the shed where Pyung is grimly standing guard. If Jung Ki-joon has any plans against So-yi, I hope Pyung steps up his game so his crush isn’t all for naught.

Clearly Jung Ki-joon’s single-mindedness and obsession with blocking the letters is taking a toll on even the most loyal members of Hidden Root, as the Leader wonders aloud to Pyung as to what is to become of them. Something must have happened in the palace to cause all of this ruckus, but what could it have been? Hmm, seems like no one’s told them about Sejong’s proposition yet.

It’s time for some cute, as little Yeon-doo has gone alone into the forest to cry over her missing ajusshi friend, Gae Pa-yi. It’s a nice little moment when she writes his name in Hangul on a stone (Jung Ki-joon has seen her use the new alphabet before, but I wonder if he hasn’t had her killed because of her relationship with Gae Pa-yi), and suddenly he appears. She immediately hugs him, which is adorable, and despite all the bad things Gae Pa-yi has done it’s so hard to not like him when he’s just so sweet with her.

She doesn’t know if he’s eaten or not since Ban Chon has been in chaos due to the whole Hidden Root With Hunt, and offers to go and bring him some food. Double aww.

Promulgation Day is approaching, and you can all but feel it in the air. Team Sejong is working hard to sway their dissenters – first by Park Paeng-nyeon and Sung Sam-moon persuading other Jiphyunjeon scholars, and then by Jung In-ji trying to persuade his old friend and schoolmate, Choi Man-ri.

Our two young scholars seem to have more luck, as they’re able to win the debate on whether or not Hangul will be a detriment to learning Chinese characters. Their answer is simple but brilliant (in a way that I’m upset I didn’t think of before), in that Chinese characters can’t be currently learned just by self-study alone. But with an alphabet like Hangul that can be mastered in ten days, manuals and other helpful material can be made in Hangul in order to teach traditional Chinese characters to those who wish to self-study. Therefore, how can the scholars say that Hangul is working against Chinese characters when more people could learn them?

As far as Choi Man-ri is concerned, it’s nice to see that he is rational and logical (as he should be, with his position), but that he’s also human. His rational side acknowledges that Sejong only has good intentions, but it’s his human side that simply won’t allow him to consent to these letters. The Jiphyunjeon scholars may be able to be persuaded, but Choi Man-ri is already too set in his ways. It’s a lost cause, but at least there aren’t any bitter feelings.

Like Sejong, Jung Ki-joon is having his time of wavering and indecision. But unlike Sejong, Jung Ki-joon doesn’t have a Chae-yoon to bring him back from the brink, and so he just seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into himself and his obsession with the alphabet. In many ways he’s become the polar opposite of Sejong – they’re both obsessed with the same thing, but in two completely different ways.

The other Hidden Root members have become aware of this, and it’s Han Ga who specifically pleads for Jung Ki-joon to come to his senses and make some decisions. The offer Sejong made for all Hidden Root members to safely out themselves can effectively make their Hidden Root Scroll (and thus their allegiance roster) moot, thus ending the blackmail-like hold they have over their veterans. At this rate, Hidden Root will collapse. Even the Leader interrupts, knowing that Jung Ki-joon has changed upon seeing the letters. But he can’t forget the mandate fated onto him. He can’t forget how Jung Do-jun died so terribly, and how his father, Jung Do-gwang, also died.

Through all this, Jung Ki-joon remains eerily silent.

Sejong and Chae-yoon are both lost souls, since both of them are helpless to save the woman they cherish. After uselessly obsessing over a map (he doesn’t even know where to start, so it can’t do him any good), Chae-yoon goes straight to Sejong, who doesn’t seem all that happy to see him. Maybe he reminds him of So-yi.

Chae-yoon: “Were you wavering again? Don’t. Due to my error, Dam has fallen into great danger. So I will find her no matter what. As of now, I don’t know how or where to find her. However, remaining like this inside the palace, I cannot forgive myself, Your Majesty. Hence, your humble subject, at this moment, will be leaving to find Dam. Hence, Your Majesty should also go on Your Majesty’s path. May you press forward without faltering, Your Majesty. If Dam were here now, she would have said that to you.”

He fights tears as he says this, and it’s clear that leaving the King, and thus breaking his promise to follow wherever Sejong would lead, is a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision for him to make. He doesn’t ask for permission to leave, nor does Sejong stop him. They just have a tacit understanding of each other.

Chae-yoon is left to wander Ban Chon in misery until he sees a ray of hope… the little girl, Yeon-doo. You can just see the thought processses in Chae-yoon’s mind and how he immediately latches onto her because she’s the only tie he has to Hidden Root now, and the only tie he has to finding So-yi. He treads so carefully that it feels like even his words are treading on eggshells as he asks her if she’s going to her friend, Gae Pa-yi.

He appeals to her both as a child and as an adult, using a soft voice and words she can understand. His eyes glassy, he all but pleads with her to tell him where Gae Pa-yi is, because the court lady he loves is at the place where Gae Pa-yi is at, and So-yi is all Chae-yoon has left. Just when it seems that Yeon-doo is going to acquiesce, her mother interrupts for her to hurry up and tell the kind palace guard so he can catch that horrible Gae Pa-yi. With Yeon-doo’s trust in Chae-yoon effectively broken, she chooses to side with her ajusshi friend and heartbreakingly lies to Chae-yoon that she hasn’t heard from Gae Pa-yi. Aww.

Fortunately Chae-yoon gets the bright idea to follow Yeon-doo anyway to see if she leads him to Gae Pa-yi. He’s saved from a killing blow by her inhumanly strong just in the nick of time, but he’s thrown a good ways away just by blocking the blow. By the time he gets up, which is mere seconds later, all traces of Gae Pa-yi and Yeon-doo have disappeared. Believing Yeon-doo is the one in danger, Gae Pa-yi has set to running away with her on his back.

With his only lead gone, our hero is left alone to wander the forest, crying Dam’s name in the saddest, loneliest voice ever. My heart is breaking for him.

We’re soon back to Lee Shin-juk, whose house of cards is falling down all around him since Shim Jong-soo’s betrayal and Sejong’s proposition. The ticking clock of Promulgation Day can be felt by everyone, and thus the span of time in which Lee Shin-juk can choose to reveal himself or not is slowly disappearing. Through a message from the Ming woman, Jeok-hee, he’s made aware that Sejong most likely knows about his movements. So now, he must debate on whether or not to trust Sejong and reveal himself as a member of Hidden Root – or forever stay silent and suffer the inevitable consequences.

Jung Ki-joon finally breaks his long silence as he tells Han Ga that every grievance that’s been brought against him from the rest of Hidden Root is true. A genuine parliament system would make for a better Joseon, and it would be in keeping with Jung Do-jun’s ideals. Instead of trusting one man (the King) with a nation, it’s better to trust many. However…

Jung Ki-joon: “These letters, you see. Lee Do and myself… It’s a fight between us, with us laying down our thoughts. As for me, this extremely dangerous mischief of Lee Do’s – casting aside history – I cannot just wait and watch. One who understands politics… casting the citizenry aside, without even knowing the end result for which he himself can’t even be responsible… he tries to experiment? This from the likes of a mere King who, at best, can govern for just fifty years?!”

Whichever way anyone puts it, Jung Ki-joon simply can’t accept these letters, and can’t accept King Sejong. At least he recognizes that he’s being single-minded, and says he’s come up with a plan. What is it? Of course we don’t hear it, because that would ruin the surprise.

As Chae-yoon is on his way out of the city to do anything he can to find So-yi, he passes by the only man that survived Pyung’s massacre. He’s trying to get justice for all his people that have been killed, and just when it seems like Chae-yoon is about to pass him up, he hears the man sing the Hangul Song. This instantly warrants our hero’s attention as Chae-yoon instantly takes the singing man aside, desperate to be told every single thing that he saw. He has to find So-yi, and is clinging to what might now be his last remaining lead.

Sejong’s done a little maneuvering himself, and through the use of Sung Sam-moon and his father’s palanquin, he’s able to arrange a secret and sudden meeting with Lee Shin-juk. It’s The Most Awkward Tea Party Ever, as Sejong switches between being jokey and serious as he prods the minister about his involvement with Hidden Root. Lee Shin-juk couldn’t be less obvious, and we know that the King knows about his involvement in Hidden Root… but for the course of most of their conversation, they speak as if they’re roleplaying, with Lee Shin-juk answering questions as if he were a member of Hidden Root. Which of course he’s not. Right? Right. Cue strained laughter all around.

The question of the night is why Hidden Root would have denied themselves that deal to realize a genuine parliament, when that seems to be their highest goal. Through Lee Shin-juk, Sejong is able to discern that there has been a fissure within Hidden Root over Jung Ki-joon choosing to block the promulgation over making the deal for a parliament. Sejong is a master at this psychological warfare stuff, because he keeps laughing to calm Lee Shin-juk down when the minister seems to get worried, in a tone that’s like: Oh, we’re still joking, right? This is so fun, isn’t it? Look at us, just a couple of good buddies having a good time. I love this scene.

While they’re roleplaying, Sejong goes ahead and asks why Lee Shin-juk hasn’t stepped forward as a pretend-member of Hidden Root. The minister boils it down to trust (mainly, that he doesn’t trust in Sejong), even though the King already said that he would acknowledge Hidden Root as a separate political faction, and one that could be debated with, at that. So how much more trust can Sejong offer?

Shim Jong-soo knows that if the court lady Geun-ji made it back to the palace, then she’s surely told everyone that he’s a member of Hidden Root. What he’s also deduced on his own? That So-yi is the Haerye. That’s yet another strike against our favorite girl, and one that Shim Jong-soo seems to be holding up his sleeve when he goes to meet with Jung Ki-joon in Hidden Root’s secret camp.

When Jung Ki-joon accuses him of betrayal, Shim Jong-soo throws it right back at him. It wasn’t he who betrayed Hidden Root, it was Jung Ki-joon, when he chose the letters over a genuine parliament. He claims that Jung Ki-joon was everything to him, but he’s changed too much. Regardless of how frightening the letters can be, he accuses Jung Ki-joon of not looking to the future (which is interesting, since this is exactly what Jung Ki-joon is accusing the King of) since he’s wagered his life on blocking these letters. What’s to become of Hidden Root once he’s dead?

Jung Ki-joon finally asks what Shim Jong-soo wants, and the formerly loyal member responds that he knows where the Haerye is. Well, this can’t be good.

Sejong and Lee Shin-juk carry out their pretend party all the way till the end, neither of them saying what they actually mean yet somehow managing to convey exactly what they mean at the same time. It’s only when Lee Shin-juk is leaving that Sejong drops all pretenses and lays it out straight. Lee Shin-juk is to hand Jung Ki-joon over in exchange for becoming the head of the political faction called Hidden Root, and he can use that power in the court to insist on a parliament system. Win-win, right?

Shim Jong-soo, in the same breath, offers a deal of his own to Jung Ki-joon. In exchange for the Haerye he wants so dearly, he’s to step down from his position as First Root and give it over to Shim Jong-soo. As the new leader of Hidden Root, he’ll be the one to realize Jung Do-jun’s will.


While this wasn’t my favorite episode ending, I understood its necessity. We’ve been flirting with the power play within Hidden Root for a while, so we needed to see payoff in some form. Still, I’m getting the sinking feeling that Jung Ki-joon is becoming more and more impotent – and I don’t think a change in leadership is necessarily going to make Hidden Root menacing again. Especially with Shim Jong-soo, who I’ve honestly never taken very seriously. His scenes aren’t anything to throw away, but I admit that my attention tends to waver when he’s usually on as so far he hasn’t carried all that much weight. Now that it seems like he might be carrying a great deal of weight, I’m not sure if my perception of him can really change this late in the game. But who knows, this show has surprised me many times before.

I’m beginning to question Jung Ki-joon more and more, and not in the way I used to. One wonders if he ever received Sejong’s message throwing his youthful words back at him: “Only violence?” Of course, it’s dramatically fun for him to be at one end of the extreme (in that he feels charged by heaven to block those letters), but goodness, sometimes I wish he’d just move a little more. It does baffle me a little as to how he can get so angry – like when Shim Jong-soo walked in – and still have no desire to even stand. It’s as if he’s been told that he can only act with his face and that he’s not allowed to move his body. This might just be a result of ‘what happens when you’re evil’, though, since he’s pretty limited in the places he can go and the things he can do while occupying the top spot on Joseon’s Most Wanted list.

Of course I still loved the episode as I’ve loved every episode, and perhaps Jung Ki-joon is bearing the brunt of my impatience to see what becomes of Chae-yoon and So-yi. Honestly, whatever happens within Hidden Root is fine – I just want to have a good showdown as we head into the last two episodes. Tree has been so good to us thus far, I’m hoping the final week will really cement this as, you know, the best drama ever.



 Six martyred ministers

After King Sejong’s death, his son Munjong continued his father’s legacy but soon died of illness in 1452, two years after becoming the king. After his son Danjong became the king at the age of twelve, his uncle Sejo gained control of the government and eventually deposed his nephew to become the seventh king of Joseon himself in 1455.


Choson tomb with murals


Apparently only the second Choson dynasty tomb with murals was recently uncovered. It belonged to one No Hoe-sin 盧懷愼 (1415-1456), probably a high official. No details yet about whether anything else was found; the tomb is located in Tonghwa-ri near Wonju.


The figures in the murals – here on the western mall of the northern chamber – remind somewhat of those found in the tomb of King Kongmin, less than a century before these ones.

After six ministers loyal to Danjong attempted to assassinate Sejo to return Danjong to the throne, Sejo executed the six ministers and also killed Danjong in his place of exile. Despite having snatched the throne from his young nephew, Sejo proved himself one of the most able rulers like Taejong. He strengthened the administrative system, enabling the government to determine exact population numbers and to mobilize troops effectively. He also revised the land ordinance to improve the national economy and encouraged publication of books. Most importantly, he compiled the Grand Code for State Administration, which became the cornerstone of dynastic administration and provided the first form of constitutional law in a written form in Korea.

After Sejo, his weak son Yejong became the eighth king, but died two years later in 1469, when Yejong’s nephew Seongjong ascended the throne. His reign was marked by the prosperity and growth of the national economy and the rise of neo-Confucian scholars called Sarim, who were encouraged by Seongjong to enter the court politics. He established Hongmungwan (홍문관, 弘文館), the royal library and advisory council composed of Confucian scholars, with whom he discussed philosophy and government policies. He ushered in a cultural golden age that rivaled King Sejong’s reign by publishing numerous books on geography, ethics, and other various fields. He also sent several military campaigns against the Jurchens to stabilize the northern border.


 Literati purges

Seongjong’s son Yeonsangun is often considered the worst tyrant in Joseon dynasty, whose reign was marked by a series of bloody purges of neo-Confucian scholars between 1498 and 1506. His behavior became erratic after he learned that his biological mother was not Queen Jung-hyeon but deposed Consort Yoon, who was forced to drink poison after poisoning one of Seongjong’s concubines out of jealousy and leaving a scratch mark on Seongjong’s face. When he was shown a piece of clothing that was allegedly stained with his mother’s blood vomited after drinking poison, he beat to death two of Seongjong’s concubines who accused Consort Yoon and pushed Grand Queen Insu, who died afterward. He executed government officials who supported Consort Yoon’s death along with their families. He also executed Sarim scholars for writing phrases critical of Sejo’s usurpation of throne. He also seized a thousand women from the provinces to serve as palace entertainers and appropriated the Seonggyungwan, Royal University, as a personal pleasure ground. He abolished the Office of Censors, whose function was to criticize inappropriate actions and policies of the king, and Hongmungwan. He banned the use of hangul when the common people criticized the king with posters written in hangul.


 After twelve years of misrule, he was finally deposed in a coup that placed his half-brother Jungjong on the throne in 1506.

Jungjong was a fundamentally weak king because of the circumstances that placed him on the throne, but his reign also saw a period of significant reforms led by his minister Jo Gwang-jo, the charismatic leader of Sarim scholars. He established the local self-government system called Hyang’yak to strengthen local autonomy and communal spirit among the people, sought to reduce the gap between the rich and poor with a land reform that would distribute land to farmers more equally and limit the amount of land and number of slaves that one could own, promulgated widely among the populace Confucian writings with vernacular translations, and sought to trim the size of government by reducing the number of bureaucrats. According to Annals of Joseon Dynasty, it was said that no official dared to receive a bribe or exploit the populace during this time because he applied law strictly as Inspector General. These radical reforms were very popular with the populace but were fiercely opposed by the conservative officials who helped to put Junngjong on the throne. They plotted to cause Jungjong to doubt Jo’s loyalty by writing “Jo will become the king” (주초위왕, 走肖爲王) with honey on leaves so that caterpillars left behind the same phrase as if in supernatural manifestation.


Jo Gwang-jo was executed, and most of his reform measures died with him in the resulting Third Literati Purge of 1519.


For nearly fifty years afterward, the court politics was marred by bloody and chaotic struggles between factions backing rival consorts and princes. In-laws of the royal family wielded great power and contributed to much corruption of the era

Korea, 1600–1700 a.d. 

  • Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), 16th–17th century
    Lacquer with mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell inlayH. 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm), W. 18 1/8 in. (46 cm), L. 31 1/8 in. (79.1 cm)
    Promised Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving (L.1996.47.131)
  • 1604


Emperor Injo 1623–1649



The historical relationship between Korea and the Netherlands
In 1627 a handful of Dutch reached for the first time in Korea. Parties in Taiwan to Japan, they had experienced a storm that had baffled and had sent a boat to the water on the Korean coast. Three of them, Dirk Gijsbertsz. and Jan Janse Weltevree, both from De Rijp (North Holland) and Jan Pieterse Verbaest Amsterdam were captured, others managed to escape on board the boat. The trio was sent to the capital where Jan Janse Weltevree even managed to become the bodyguard of the king.


It Whimsical representation of Hendrik Hamel and his family in their exile in the province of Cholla-do. The house is not much about Korea!

was given a Korean name Pak Yon, and married a Korean woman who bore him a son and a daughter. His two fellow prisoners died in 1637 during fighting against the Manchus, who, seven years later, supplant, China, the Ming Dynasty. After 1656, we hear no more of Weltevree, so he lived at least 39 years in Korea.

Also scathing of Taiwan to Japan, the Dutch ship De Sperwer was also baffled by a storm and sank August 15, 1653 on the coast of Cheju-do (Quelpart), a large island south of southwestern Korea. Of the 64 crewmen, 36 managed to reach shore. Most of the survivors died in the ensuing years, fifteen eventually return to their homeland.

[P. 30]
The adventures of the castaways were recorded by the accounting board, Hendrik van Hamel Gorkum in his Journal which appeared in 1668 in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and enjoyed for many translations into French, German and English. We can not provide here briefly the experiences that knew the shipwrecked. The population of the island provides them with food and treats them well in general. A week after their arrival, a four-man delegation was received by the prefect of Cheju-do. They make it clear that they want to win Japan where the Dutch had a factory while on the island of Dejima, located in the Bay of Nagasaki. This may not allow them, the laws of Korea to the contrary. It sends to the Court a report on the arrival of foreigners and ask for instructions.

Meanwhile, the prefect and often invites the castaways will sometimes hold parties up to console their misfortune. ‘It was so great care of our patients, we can

Arrival of Hamel and fugitives Dutch in Nagasaki.

that we were better received this idolatry that we had not been Christians. ‘

On October 29, the prefect demand Hamel, the master pilot and the second surgeon: they meet a man with a long beard who turns out to be Jan Janse Weltevree already mentioned. ‘So was there about being surprised, and even surprising to see a man of fifty-eight years, as it was, had so far forgotten his mother tongue in the beginning we had many of the just to hear it and it is true that it took him a month to do it again. ‘

In late May 1654, we summoned the Dutch in Seoul, where the King receives in audience and where they are sad to learn that they can indeed leave the country. The king, however, marks his good name and bodyguards. Just two years later, they fall into disgrace and into exile in the province of Cholla-do (south-west of Korea). They need this reversal of fortune for some of their attempts to contact an embassy from China and Manchuria to the jealousy of certain senior officials.

[P. 31]
In the summer of 1666, after ten years of misery, Hamel and seven other successful, against a pretty penny to buy a boat that they sailed to Dejima. In October the following year, the Japanese authorities allow them to earn Batavia. Intervention of the Japanese, the eight remaining castaways receive permission to leave Korea. Seven of them arrived in Nagasaki in September 1668, the eighth, Jan Claesz. van Dort, preferred to remain in Korea. ‘He had married and claimed to have more hair on the body resembling a Christian or a Dutchman.’

The monument erected in 1980 on the south coast of Chejudo in memory of shipwrecked Dutch seventeenth century.

About one third of the Journal of Hamel is devoted to the description of Korea, its people and its culture and is the first European book on this country before the West knew little more than existence. The high accuracy attained by some observations Hamel, appears in the remarks he dedicated to language and writing:

‘As for their language, their writing and arithmetic, language differs from all others. It is very difficult to learn, because they give different names to one and the same thing. They speak very clearly, especially the notables and the learned. They use three types of writing. The first type, which is also the most important, like

[P. 32]
the writing of Chinese and Japanese and is used to print all their books and writings that relate to the state and government. The second is very fast as our cursive, the notables and governors use it routinely to write sentences or to annotate queries and for their private correspondence, as the common man does not know to read it. The third writing, the simplest, is used by women or jointly. It is very easy for an acquisition, but it allows them to write everything and even unfamiliar words easily and better than the other two.


 In all Von Siebold met by Korea (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden).

cases we write with a brush – with great skill and speed. They have a lot of handwritten or printed works from ancient times and assign such a value that is the brother of the king or crown prince who has custody forever. Copies and printing plates are held in many cities and fortresses, which they can not find it private in case of fire or other catastrophe. ‘

The three graphs are traditional Chinese writing, the cursive and abbreviated Chinese invented the Korean alphabet in the middle of the fifteenth century. The Veritable Records (Chronicles authentic) concerning the events in the reign of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910) have in fact been kept in different places for the reasons mentioned by Hamel. We find an example of conservation of engravings at the monastery of his Haein-west of Taegu, where stores 81,258 wooden planks that were used for printing, between 1237 and 1251, the Buddhist canon ( Tripitaka).

We find also a very interesting information on Korea in the seventeenth century in Noord-en Oost-Tartaryen (Tartars North and East), a work in two volumes from the hand of Nicolas Witsen, who between 1682 and 1705, was thirteen times mayor of Amsterdam, and in 1697-1698, master of ship-building of Tsar Peter the Great.

For his description of Korea, Witsen made use, among other sources of oral information provided by Matthew Eibokken, a fellow sufferers of Hamel. Eibokken was the second surgeon already mentioned, a rather considerable, judging from the minutes of Hamel. The relationship Eibokken brings a host of valuable supplements

[P. 33]


The original text of the poem by Ko Ungyang (Library of the University of Leiden).

to the work of Hamel, which is particularly interesting is its glossary of 143 Korean words. Their spelling, we can affirm qu’Eibokken was able to read and write the Korean alphabet.

This article has already mentioned the Dutch factory located in the artificial island of Dejima where Dutch in 1641 to 1854 were the only Europeans allowed to trade with Japan.

Between 1823 and 1829, Dr. Philipp Franz von Siebold, a native of Würzburg, including filling the position of physician in the service of the Dutch. It was a great scholar who taught Western medicine to many Japanese, who, after his return to the Netherlands, has contributed significantly through its publications to make known in Europe Japan and its neighbors. During his stay in Dejima, new contacts took place between Dutch and Koreans; their meeting on March 17, 1828 deserves special mention.

Three boats manned by Korean trentesix men from the province of Cholla-do, had been wrecked near Goto Islands and the western coast of Kyushu. They were brought to the trading post of the feudal prince of Tsushima in Nagasaki, as this gentleman was in charge of relations between Korea and Japan.

On the said date, Von Siebold and his friend Hubert Carel de Villeneuve received permission to meet six of the castaways. On this occasion, we held a banquet where they exchanged gifts.

Here is the translation of a poem by a Chinese merchant Korean and Von Siebold given to:

On borders and capitals of the world
I have learned nothing since my birth and my adolescence.
The winds have thrown off the coast of Japan.
The prohibitions are lifted and here we are in this nice house.
People from three countries met
and play together now …
It has become an enchanting encounter
and giving the tone here?
We chaired a talented Dutch!
I had never heard of Holland …
We Koreans, we express our respect
and are establishing friendship with you.
Written by KB Ungyang, Korean.
Subsequently Von Siebold and Villeneuve went a few visits to their Korean friends, the first named deepened his knowledge of the Korean script, on which he had in 1824 sent a communication to the Government of the Netherlands Indies, while De Villeneuve and Japanese painter Kawahara Keig realized portraits and other artwork. In the interest of Von Siebold in Korea we are not only the first scientific paper on the language and script of this country but also an overview of Korean history.

[P. 34]


Korean children’s song recorded by a Korean friend of Von Siebold (Library of the University of Leiden). The Korean text (third and fifth columns from the right) is written in Korean alphabet (‘han’gul’) and with the right, by a phonetic Japanese. Then comes a Japanese translation (sixth and seventh columns from the right). Here’s what the song says:
‘In this world there is nothing worse than a spider!
Reeling off his son from behind
she makes a great canvas to entangle the butterfly,
so happily visiting the flowers. ‘
Chinese characters (quite close to the right and drawings) mean: Korean song, Korean girl, woman and boy Korean Korean.

[P. 35]
After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Korea became a Japanese protectorate which Ito Hirobumi was the first resident-general.

The opening at The Hague in June 1907 of the second Peace Conference appeared to the Emperor Korean Kojong a golden opportunity to plead before a Korean global forum. On April 20, without any filtration – which was a feat, given the pervasiveness of Japanese agents and their creatures – he named three ambassadors to Koreans


Korean shipwrecked in Nagasaki near the scene ‘paduk’.

the Conference. This was the former Minister vicepremier Sangsol Yi, former Judge of the High Court of Justice Chun Yi and former secretary of the Korean Embassy in St. Petersburg, Yi Wijong. Flanked by the American academic Homer B. Hulbert who served as their advisor, they came to 24 June in The Hague.

Such as Russia and Japan were preparing for the month following the conclusion of an agreement to partition Manchuria into two zones of influence, the president of the conference, the Russian Nelidov, refused admission to the Korean delegation unless invitation by the Dutch government. But neither the Minister

[P. 36]
Dutch Foreign Affairs nor the heads of other delegations were willing to lend their support to the Koreans. Their argument was that under the protectorate treaty of November 1905, it was Japan who was in charge of External Relations of Korea. So the mission was completed she a fiasco.

On July 19, the Japanese forced the emperor to abdicate in favor of his son, Crown Prince, who was incompetent. Five days later it ratified a new agreement also confided to the resident-general control of the internal administration of Korea. This measure is transformed into the final annexation of Korea by Japan in August 1910 as a mere formality.

Yi Chun died July 15 in The Hague: the failure of his mission had prompted him to completely ignore an already dilapidated health. He was buried in the cemetery of Nieuw Eykenduynen


Korean painting on a roll, given as a gift to Von Siebold (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden).

where his tomb became a place of pilgrimage for all Koreans who visit the Netherlands – although his ashes were transferred to Suyu-ri (Seoul) in 1963.

This article can not ignore the involvement of Dutch land and naval forces in the Korean War (1951-1953). Nearly 4000 Dutch fought on the Korean front: 123 died in battle, 645 were wounded. On September 29, 1975 saw the inauguration Hoengsong near a beautiful monument in honor of the Dutch United Nations Detachment.


The monument to the Dutch Detachment United Nations.



(info from my  korean friend)

 *Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin      11—49 years old.

*Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin

Born on 1670 (11 th year of King Hyunjong) Later, Mother of King Yeongjo.

King  Jeong Jo

She was honored as Sukbin which is located third level in Chosun lady’s hierarchy system. She is very bright, smart and witty. Not only smart but also warm heart, she cannot pass poor person freely. After her father and brother was executed bitterly, she became a orphan. As police officer Mr. Seo Yongki chase her continuously, she hide herself in Jangakwon, which is music academy, with the help of Suli. With her born familiarity and wit, she is chosen as a helper in palace from the slave position. Behind her, there is Cha Chunsoo, who gave her a love in spite of all kind of sacrifice. He is best friend of her brother, Dongju.

Later, surprisingly, she was picked up by Sukjong to sleep with. Then, discord against queen Chang Heebin, then, return of queen Inhyun, giving birth to a prince, Yeonanggun. Love from Sukjong, trouble with queen Inhyun. Education of prince Yeonanggun, whose position was always in danger. Within the difficulty which concubine would face and her son’s royalty to her, her life faced incredible turning point.   

 *Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong      24-60 years old.

Ji Jin-hee as King Sukjong (1661-1720)

The 19th king of Chosun dynasty (1661—1720) His- childhood- time name was Soon. He was absolute monarch of Chosun. He recovered the authority of king which had dropped before. Though he became a king when just 14 years old, with the powerful leadership and wide knowledge, he succeeded and ruled experienced old his subjects. To recover royalty of king which had dropped through 2 times war, he eliminated Song Siyul who was the biggest scholar in Chosun. With the powerful leadership and gut, he controlled his subjects and used the power game among his subjects. Though he was scareful king to his subjects, he is delicate and smart. That means, he was smart and fantastic king to the numerous concubine. He met Dongyi first time during palace festival, then, he was impressed by her warmth and smartness.

Description of the Kingdom Korea

Geographical situations.

The country, which is called Korea by us and Chosŏn Kuk by the inhabitants themselves, is situated between 33 and 44 degrees latitude and is from north to south around 150 miles long and from east to west around 75 miles wide. Korean cartographers depict the country like an oblong, like a playing card, though it has several extensions which point deep into the sea. 

The country is divided into eight provinces, in which you will find 360 cities and furthermore a big number of fortresses and castles, which are located partly in the mountains and partly alongside the coast. For whom is not known locally, it is very dangerous to approach the country by ship, because everywhere alongside the coast cliffs and shallow places will hinder a safe passing by ship. 

The country is densely populated and can maintain in its own needs in favorable years, because of the surplus of rice, grain and cotton, which is provided by the south of the country. To the southeast the country is closely situated near Japan. The distance between the Korean city Pusan and the Japanese city East Shimonoseki amounts to 25 to 26 miles (Hamel wrote Hacca, “Ha-kwan” is the Korean pronunciation for Shimonoseki in Japan and 25-26 miles with 1 mile being 7.5 = 195-210 the real distance is 205 km!).

In the strait between Korea and Japan lies the island of Tsushima, which the Koreans call Tymatte (The Japanese called it in effect Tsushima and the Koreans Taimato). According to the Koreans this was originally part of their country, but was taken by the Japanese, in exchange for the island of Quelpaert (This is historically not true, look here). To the west side, the kingdom is being separated from China by rough mountains, so it’s almost an island. 


To the southeast is a vast sea. Not seldom, one finds whales with Dutch harpoons in their body. In the months of January to April a lot of herring is being caught. In the first two months the herring is the same as the one that is caught in the North Sea; after that they catch a smaller species. Presumably there is a passage from Waaigat.

( The cabin boy Benedictus Clerq saw how the Koreans took harpoons out of the carcasses of the whales which were captured by them, which he recognized with big certainty as being Dutch harpoons. As a boy of twelve years old he had made a trip on a whaling vessel to Greenland. So he knew exactly how these harpoons looked like. From this he drew the conclusion, that there was a passage – at least for fish – between Nova Zembla and Korea and Japan.) 
Waaigat (=Dutch for storm gate; the Russians call that Vaygach, it is close to Novaya Zemlya (Nova Zembla. If you want to see the map of Nova Zembla better, just click on it).


He who wants to travel from Korea to China, almost always goes by ship, because the voyage by land in summertime is dangerous because of the game, which are roaming around in the mountain range in big numbers, and in wintertime impossible due to the severe cold. 
In wintertime the northern part of the bay is frozen, so it is easy to travel on horseback to China. In wintertime an enormous amount of snow often falls in the north. In the year 1662, we were in a monastery in the mountains, where the snow was that high, that one had dug tunnels under the snow to go from one house to the other. In order to be able to walk over it, the Koreans tied small planks around their feet, so they didn’t sink into the snow. 

Agricultural products

In those areas the people live from barley and millet, because rice can’t grow there. Cotton grows there neither, so it had to be supplied from the south. The ordinary man in these areas is most of the time shabbily dressed in hemp, linen or hides. But in these areas one can also find the ginseng plant. The root of this plant is being used to pay the tribute to the Tartarians. This stuff is furthermore much exported to China and Japan. 

Form of constitution

Though Korea can be considered as a vassal state of the Tartarians, the latter respected the sovereignty of the king so far as it concerned local government. He practices his power unlimitedly. The crown council is just an advisory college. There are no feudal lords in the country, who own cities, villages or islands. The well-to-do take their income from farmlands and slaves. Some of them own not less than 2000 to 3000 slaves. There are some who have islands or domains in loan from the king, but as soon as they die, these fall back to the king.

The word Ginseng comes from the Chinese word Jin Shen, which means “little man”, because the roots of this plant look a little bit like a figurine. The best Ginseng comes from the Manchurian Mountain range. The half-wild Korean ginseng is considered to be of less quality. That’s why it’s strange that the Koreans paid their tribute partly with ginseng. Maybe because the plant grows in Manchuria in inhospitable areas. The root was and is mainly considered as a cure-all; a panacea. In reality it has no medical power, but it can be used as a tonic.

The army

For the defense of the country there are several thousands of soldiers in the capital, both cavalry and infantry. They are maintained by the king. Their duty is to guard the king and protect him if he goes out. Each province is obliged to send all its free men, once every seven years to the capital, to guard the palace of the king during two months; every two months another group and each year another province. Each province has a general who has three to four colonels below him. Below each colonel are a number of captains, who are commanders of a city or a stronghold. Each ward has a sergeant, each village a corporal and at the head of each group of ten men is a soldier first class. All officers and noncommissioned officers have to keep records with the names of all the men who falls under his command. These records have to be handed over to their superiors once a year. In this way, the king always knows how many soldiers he has at his disposal. The horsemen always wear a suit of armor and a helmet. They carry a sword, a bow and arrows and a kind of flail with sharp points. Of the infantry, some wear suits of armor and helmets, made of iron plates, and also from bone. They are armed with muskets, sables and short lances. The officers are armed with bow and arrow. Each soldier has to have gunpowder and bullets for 50 shots at his own expense. When we served in Seoul , we received on a certain day 10 blows on our bare buttocks, because we didn’t have enough gunpowder on us. Each city has to appoint a number of monks from the monasteries in its surroundings who have to maintain the fortresses and strongholds in the mountains. In times of great need these monks are being used as soldiers. They are armed with sword, bow and arrow. 

They are considered to be the best soldiers of the country. They are under the command of a captain they have chosen from their own ranks. Who has reached the age of 60 is dismissed from military service. His place is being taken by his children. The free men who haven’t been in the army, form, together with the slaves, half of the population. If a free man fathers a child from a slave or a slave from a free woman, is the child which is conceived in this way, a slave. If a male slave who begets children by a female slave, those children become the property of the owner of the female slave. Each city has to maintain a war junk, with the crew, the armament and further accessories. These junks have two decks and 20 to 24 oars. On each oar there are six rowers. The total crew consists of about 300 heads, soldiers and rowers. The junks have some pieces of artillery and provisions for shooting Byzantine fire. 

Byzantine fire is a flammable mixture that catches fire when it is exposed to water or oxygen. It was already used by the Byzantines to put the ships of the enemy on fire.

The war fleet 

Each province has an admiral, who drills the crew of the junks and inspects them yearly. He reports his findings to the admiral general, who sometimes takes a naval review. When one establishes only the smallest failing in the fulfilling of the duty of the admirals or the generals, the culprit is exiled or condemned to death. Such happened in 1666 with our governor. 

Political Organs.

The Crown Council forms the advisory council for the king. It gathers daily at the palace. Its advises are not binding for the king. Members of the Crown Council are the most important people of the country. As long as they don’t misbehave, they remain members of the Crown Council until they are 80 years old. This counts for all high functionaries, everybody keeps his function until he is 80 years old, unless he is promoted. 

The term of office of a Stadtholder is three years, of the remaining functionaries one year. A lot of them however are relieved of their function before the term of the office ends because of fraud, corruption or any other offense. Everywhere in the country there are spies of the king, who spot any irregularity immediately. He who has been caught, risks death or lifelong exile. 

Fiscal system

The king derives his income from taxes, which are raised on the profit of agriculture and fisheries. These taxes are often paid in kind, for which the king has warehouses in all cities and villages. What the king receives in silver, he lends to the civilians again at an interest of 10%. Well-to-do live, like previously mentioned, from their own income and as far they’re in service of the king, from the allowance they get from him. The local authorities raise taxes on the properties on which houses are build, both in cities and in villages. The height of the tax is determined by the size of the property. The profit is used for the maintenance of all kind of local provisions. 

Who doesn’t fulfill military service, has to perform replacing activities, and that during three months per year. Cavalry and infantry in cities and villages have to hand over three pieces of linen, or the equivalent in silver on behalf of the cavalry and infantry that services in the capital. Further taxes and excises do not exist in this country.

Administration of justice

High treason or other serious crimes aimed at the king of the state, are punished very severely. The whole lineage of the culprit is wiped out. His house is demolished until the ground, On that place it is not allowed to build another house, ever. All his slaves and goods are confiscated. These are being used for either the good of the country or given away to deserving civilians. 
When someone criticizes the verdict that has been passed by the king, or on his behalf, will be punished severely. The king had a sister-in-law who was very skillful in making clothes. The king requested her to make a dress for him. The fact was that this woman nourished a deep hate against the king. That’s why she sowed some witches herbs in the lining of the dress. As a consequence he felt very uncomfortable, when he wore the dress, and couldn’t find any rest. That’s why he had the dress examined. When they had unpicked the dress, they discovered the malicious herbs hidden in it. The king became outrageous and had the woman locked up in a room of which the floor was made of copper plates. Here under a fire was lit, so that the woman slowly stewed and subsequently died. 
An acquaintance of the woman, a high placed civil servant, who was highly esteemed at the court protested against this. He thought that one should not treat a woman, especially a woman in a prominent position, like that. Here upon the high civil servant was caught. He received 120 beatings on the shins and was then beheaded. His goods and slaves were confiscated. Offenses like that, and also the other ones I will mention further on, are considered to be a personal offense. The family of the culprit is not being punished, like in the case of high treason. 

A woman, who kills her husband, is buried alongside a road on which a lot of people pass, in a way that only her head sticks out of the ground. Next to her they put a wooden saw, with which everybody who passes her, except the nobility, has to saw one time on her head, until she dies. The city or the environment in which the murder has taken place, loses during a number of years the right to have its own governor. During this period the city is administrated by the governor of a neighboring city or by a nobleman, on behalf of the king. A man who kills his wife goes freely if he can proof that he had a good reason for that, for instance adultery or having failed in her marital duties. A man, who kills a female slave, has to pay to the owner of the female slave, three times the value. Slaves, who kill their master, are being tortured during a long time until death follows. A master can kill his slave because of a small offense. Commonly killers are killed in the same way as they killed their victims, but first they receive several beatings on the soles of their feet. 
Who is guilty of manslaughter, is punished as follows: the corps of the body is washed with vinegar and dirty water. This mixture is poured into the mouth of the criminal with a funnel. Then his swollen belly is beaten with sticks until it bursts. 

Though also theft and burglary are severely punished, a lot is being stolen. Thieves are generally beaten on the soles of their feet until they pass out. 

Who commits adultery with a married woman, is lead through the city, together with the woman, naked or just dressed in thin underpants. From both the face is smeared with slake lime, they have an arrow through each ear, and on their back a small drum is tied on their back on which a judicial servant beats while he shouts: “Look people!, this man and this woman committed adultery!”. After being led through the city like this, they conclusively got 50 to 60 beating on their buttocks in the square in front of the city hall. 

Who doesn’t pay his taxes in time, is beaten on the shins twice or three times a month, until he pays his debt. If he dies before this time, his family or friends have to foot the debt. 

The most usual punishment in this country consists of beatings on the calves or buttocks. This is not considered to be disgraceful, because a little offense. can already be a cause. 

The common governors cannot condemn somebody to death without the consent of the Stadtholder. 

The beatings of the shins are done as follows: the condemned is placed on a stool with his legs tied together. On his shins they put two stripes, one a hand width under his knees, and one a hand width above his feet. There ( between the stripes ) he is beaten with sticks of one arm length, round at the top and flat at the bottom, two fingers wide and a two and a half guilder coin thick, made of oak or alder wood. After 30 beatings the condemned gets three to four hours rest. Then the treatment continues, until he had his share. 
The beating of the soles of ones feet, takes place as follows: while the condemned sits on the ground, his feet are tied together with his big toes and placed upon a beam. With round sticks as thick as an arm he is beaten then on the soles of his feet as long as the judge pleases. 
The beating of the buttocks takes place as follows: The condemned has to lower his pants and lie face down. Sometimes he has to lay face down on a bench, at which he is tied. For moral reasons the women can keep up their pants. These are wetted to feel the blows better. For the beating sticks are being used which are five feet long, round at the top and one hand wide at the bottom and of a little finger’s thickness. A hundred beatings mean the death of the condemned. Beatings are also done with rods: bundles of twigs which are one finger thick and three feet long. The punished have to stand on a bench and is beaten with these rods on the calves. For children thinner twigs are used. 
Many punished howl from pain, while other show a pitiful moaning. Therefore, these tortures are a true torture for the bystanders as well. 


Concerning religion, the temples, monks and religious practices, I think I have to draw the conclusion that the common civilian has more respect for the government, then for the many Gods. The well to do even show less religious respect. They seem to esteem themselves and their equals higher than their idols. When a Korean dies, regardless he was high or common, the monks come to say their prayers and bring offerings for the deceased, where family and acquaintances are present. If some highly placed person dies, his next of kin sometimes come from 30 to 40 miles away, to attend these ceremonies.
On official holidays some farmers and civilians come to honor the Gods. They light a fine smelling stick (incense) in a little pot with fire, which burns in front of the Idol’s statue. They mumble there for a moment, make a few bows and leave again. They claim that he who does good, will be rewarded for that later and he who does evil, will be punished later. Preaching or teaching is not one of their religious practices. They also never discuss about religious affairs. They don’t know a diversity of religions like we do. Throughout the whole country one honors the gods in the same way.
The monks pray twice a day in front of the statues, while bringing fragrant offerings. On official holidays a lot of people come to the temples and the monks make a lot of noise by beating on drums and gongs and the monks also make strange music with flutes and primitive string instruments.

There are many monasteries and temples in the country. These are almost all in the mountains, often at beautiful spots. In some of these monasteries there are sometimes 600 monks. But in the cities there are also small monasteries in which 10, 20, at the utmost 30 monks live. In each monastery the oldest monk is in charge. If one of the monks misbehaves, he can administer 20 to 30 blows on the buttocks. But with severe offenses the monk is handed to the governor of the city.
There’s no lack of monks, but their doctrine doesn’t represent much. Everyone who wants, can become a monk in an instance and stop again when he doesn’t like it. Monks therefore are not highly esteemed in this country. 
There are however also very highly placed monks, who supervise a big number of monasteries. These are highly esteemed however. One respects their knowledge. They are considered to belong to the court of the king. They use the national stamp and have jurisdiction when they visit the monasteries. They ride on horseback and where they come they are welcomed with a lot of ceremony. 

Shin Yun Bok: Prominent Koreans in the company of some Kisengs. Hamel calls these ladies unashamed “whores”. Sex however was only a part of their repertoire that included also singing, dance and music. Oil on silk (1758?), Chosôn.

All monks are vegetarians; they neither eat eggs. They shave their heads and chins smoothly. They are not allowed to speak with women. Offenders of these regulations get 80 blows on their buttocks and are expelled from the monastery. At their entrance they receive a brand on their right arm, so one can always see that a Korean has been a monk. Ordinary monks have to make a living with working, trading and begging.In all monasteries there are a number of small boys who receive education in reading and writing and religious affairs. But they are allowed to leave the monastery as well. These boys consider the monks who have raised them as their fathers. They are in mourning if one of them dies. There are in Korea also other monks. These don’t shave their heads and are allowed to marry. 

The monasteries are build with gifts which have been collected by the people. Anybody from highly placed persons to commoners contributes to this. On itself this, however, is not enough to live on. Many monks believe that all people used to speak the same language. But the big amount of languages originates when the people wanted to build a tower to climb to heaven.

The well to do often go to a monastery to spend their leisure time. These are pleasantly situated in the mountains and between the trees. They often take whores with them to amuse themselves, and drink often a lot of strong alcoholic drinks, so that many a monastery looks more like a brothel or a cheap joint then a place where one can repent.
In the capital there were two convents, one for noble women and one for common women. The women have also shaved their heads and perform ceremonies in the same way as the monks. They don’t work nor beg, but live from an allowance from the king. Four or five years ago the present king disbanded these two convents and gave permission to the nuns to marry.

Public housing

Concerning public housing it can be established that the well to do live in very beautiful houses, but that the common man has to be satisfied with a slum. In general it is the Koreans not allowed to alter something to their houses. For a roofing with roof tiles they need permission from the governor. That’s why the most ordinary houses are covered with cork, reed or straw. The properties are separated by each other by a wall or a fence. The houses are built on poles. The lower part of the walls is made of stone. The part above the walls are partly made of timbering with mud smeared in-between. On the inside the walls are covered with white paper.
Under the floors of the rooms they heat continuously, so that they are always warm like a baker’s oven. The floors are covered with oiled paper. The houses only have one floor with on top of that a small loft, where they can store all kind of small things. Noble people have in front of the actual house an accommodation for guests where they can receive friends and acquaintances, who will stay there sometimes. They use this separate living space to relax and rest. This room usually looks out at an inner courtyard with a fountain and a fishpond, and a garden full of plants, rocks and some trees.
The women live in the back part of the house, so they can’t be stared at by passersby. Merchants often have besides their house a warehouse, in which they store goods, have office and receive their relations, whom they treat most of the time with tobacco and arak (arak is actually an Indonesian drink, most likely Hamel means Soju) Their wives often join them too. Sometimes they visit others as well, but they are always close to each other or to their husbands. 
In general their houses are scarcely furnitured; only the most necessary things are there. In all cities there are many joints and brothels where men go to see the whores dancing and where music is made and singing is done. 

In summertime when the weather is beautiful, the Koreans sometimes go to the mountains to relax in the woods. They do not know inns, where travelers can stay. Fatigued travelers sit down in the inner courtyard of a private house, where they get food and something to drink. The guest rooms of the well to do are always open for travelers passing by as well. Alongside the main roads however there are stopping places where the ones who are on an official journey can stay overnight and eat on the expenses of the community.

Marital law

Blood relatives are not allowed to marry until the fourth degree. There is no engagement time, because marriages are arranged by the parents when the children are only 10 to twelve years old. The girl is then going to live in the house of her parents in law, unless her parents don’t have sons. The girl and the young husband stay to live there until she learned to be a good housewife and he how to make a living. Then they move to a house of their own. Some days before the wedding the girl returns to her parental house. In the morning she will be picked up here by her husband, who is in the company of friends and relatives. These are given a warm welcome, after which the whole company goes on horseback in a festive parade to the new house. There the matrimony is celebrated.

A man can repudiate a wife, even if he begets several children by her. He then may marry again. A woman doesn’t have these privileges unless a judge has granted her these.
A man may have as many wives as he can maintain and, if he desires, go to the whores. One woman stays in his house and does the housekeeping. The other women live somewhere else in separate houses. Noblemen usually have two to three women in their house, of which one is in charge of the housekeeping. Each of these women has her own apartment, where the lord of the house can visit them to his liking.
The Koreans treat their women as slaves, whom they can repudiate for a futility. If the man doesn’t want the children, the repudiated woman has to take them with her. No wonder this country is so densely populated.


Noblemen and well to do give their children a good education. They hire teachers to teach them reading and writing. The children do not receive education with strictness but with gentleness. They are told about the many wise men in their history and how they received an honorable position in the country. It is admirable to see how diligently these young children study the scriptures which are given to them to read and which form the main part of their learning program. 

In each city there is a house in which the ones who have given their lives for the country are remembered. In these houses old scriptures are kept. Youngsters study these scriptures. When they have fulfilled their study, the governor is informed who sends examiners to examine them. The names of the ones, who are found to be suitable to hold a administrator function, are passed on to the court of the king. Yearly meetings have been held, during which the candidates for government functions are examined. The successful candidates receive from the king a Letter of Promotion. This is a much wanted document. Many a young nobleman became a senior beggar before he finally succeeded to receive the document in the meantime. They have exhausted their means -which are often very modest – by high costs, donations and meals they had to give to achieve the intended goal. Many parents also have to grab deep into their wallet, to pay for the study of their children. Too many never get the high administrator post for which it all started in the first place. But the bare fact that their children succeeded in passing the exam, give the parents so much satisfaction that the sacrifices they had to do are highly compensated.
The parents love their children very much, as well as the children do their parents. If one of the parents committed a crime and he succeeded in avoiding the punishment which stands for it, then the children will have to take the blame. The reverse is also true.
Between parents and children of slaves is a much looser bond. This is because the owners take the children from their parents as soon as they are able to work.

Delivery of corpses.

For a deceased father the sons observe three, and for a deceased mother two years of mourning. During this time they use the same food as monks and they are not allowed to carry out any public duty. Who carries a public duty, has to resign immediately when his father or mother dies. During the period of mourning they are not allowed to have intercourse with their wife. Children fathered during that period, are considered to be illegitimate children.
During the period of mourning the Koreans are not allowed to argue, fight nor become drunk. They wear long skirts from rough linen, at the bottom no hem, and around it a belt of hemp, as thick as a cable of a ship or the arm of a grown up man. Around their heads they wear a somewhat thinner rope with a bamboo hat. In their hand they carry a thick stick or a thin bamboo stalk. Thus one can see if somebody mourns for his father or mother; the stick indicates that his father, the bamboo stalk that his mother has died. Mourning people wash themselves also little, so that they sometimes look like a scarecrow.
When somebody has died, his friends and relatives behave like madmen; they cry and shriek and pull their hair from their heads. To bury the dead, much care is taken. Fortune tellers determine what the most suitable burial place is. This is most of the time in the mountains, where no water can reach it. The body is placed in a double coffin. Each coffin is 2 or 3 thumbs thick. They fill the coffin with new clothes and other things which the deceased is supposed to need in the next world. The wealthier the relatives, the more they put into the coffin. Burials usually take place in spring and in fall when the harvesting has been done. Who dies in summertime usually is temporarily interned in a small house made of straw and which stands on high poles. The bearers do nothing else then dancing and singing, while the relatives fill the air with their wailing. The third day friends and acquaintances go to the grave to make their offerings. They make it a gay day. On the graves one finds normally a small hill of 3, 4 or 6 feet high, neatly planted with small ornamental bushes. Prominent deceased are interned in graves which are covered with stones on which some statues are put. The name of the deceased and the function he fulfilled is carved in the stones. 
On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, the grass on the graves is mowed and a rice offering is made. This is, except for New Year the most important holiday in the year. Their calendar is based on the cycle of the moon: after three years of each twelve months, follows always a year with thirteen months. There are female fortune tellers in the country, or witches who won’t harm anybody. They examine whether a deceased died peacefully or not. And if he has been buried on the right spot. Is this not the case according to them, then the corps is exhumed and reburied somewhere else. So it happens sometimes that a corps is replaced three times. 
After the death of the parents and after the burial rites have been performed, the eldest son gets the house and the accessories. The remaining properties, lands and goods are being divided amongst the other sons. Daughters never inherit anything, not even if they don’t have brothers. When an old father becomes 80 years old, he is obliged to hand over all his possessions to his sons, because at that age he is not considered to be able to take care of these in a proper way. Such an old man however is highly esteemed by his sons and is well taken care of.

Moral standards

With regard to the moral standards, it has to be said that the Koreans are not very strict when it comes to mine and thine, they lie and cheat and that’s why they can’t be trusted. They are proud if they have cheated somebody and they don’t think that’s a disgrace. That’s why they can undo the buy of a horse or a cow even after four months if it becomes clear that the buyer has been cheated. But the sale of a parcel ground or other immovable goods can only be undone if the conveyance has not taken place yet.

On the other hand the Koreans are very gullible. We could fool them with anything. This was particularly true for the monks, who liked to listen to stories about foreign countries and their people. Furthermore they are very cowardly, as it seemed what we have heard from reliable people concerning their behavior during the Japanese invasion, when their king was killed and a great number of cities and villages were destroyed. From Jan Janse Weltevree we heard that when the Tartarians came over the ice and occupied the country, more soldiers hanged themselves in the wood, than had been killed during the battle against the invaders. The Koreans don’t consider this to be unworthy. They think that these people who commit suicide are pitiful people, who came into an emergency situation, in which they only could escape by committing suicide.
So it happened quite a few times that when Dutch, English or Portuguese ships on their way to Japan came into Korean waters, Korean war junks who wanted to take possession of these ships returned empty-handed to their base, because the persons on board did it in their trousers out of fear.
They can’t see any blood. If a Korean gets wounded during a battle, the others don’t know how quickly to leave the battlefield. They also have fear for diseases, especially contagious ones. As soon as somebody gets seriously ill, they take him out of his house, to put him in a small hut of straw, outside the city or village he lives in. Here nobody else visits him other than his next of kin, who brings him food and something to drink. Who doesn’t have any next of kin, runs the big risk, in the case of a disease, to be left completely unattended in a hut like that. When somewhere an epidemic breaks out, the entrance to the house of the sick persons is blocked with thorn branches. On top of that they put thorn branches on the roof of the houses to mark them as such.


The only people who have a trade post on Korean soil are the Japanese who own a factory on the southeast side of the city of Pusan. The Japanese who stay there come from the island Tsushima. They import pepper, sapwood, alum, buffalo horn, deer skins and more goods which are imported by us and the Chinese into Japan. Furthermore they have some trade with Peking (=Beijing) and the north of China. The trip to and fro takes three months, which is very costly. That’s why only the greatest merchants can undertake these trips. At the foreign trade they usually use linen as a means of trade. The greater merchants use also silver as a means of trade, but the farmers and the common people use rice and grains.
Before the Tartarians took over this country this was a country full of bliss and friskiness. The people did nothing else but eating, drinking and making love. But now they have to pay so much tribute to Tartarians and the Japanese that they have hardly anything to eat in feeble years. It is especially the tribute to the Tartarians who usually personally come to claim it three times a year, which pressures heavily on the economy of the country.

World Orientation

The Koreans believe that there are only twelve countries or kingdoms in the world, which were all once subordinate to the emperor of China and had to pay tribute to him. But that all these countries have liberated themselves in the meantime, because the Tartarians couldn’t conquer them. They call the Tartarians Tieckese (looks like the Chinese: Chong Kwo ) and Orankaij [barbarians], they call our country Nampankuk, [Southern Country] which is the name which the Japanese gave to Portugal. Because we look in their eyes the same as the Portuguese, the Koreans give us the same name. They learned the name from the Japanese already some 50 years ago, when they came to teach them how to grow tobacco. The Japanese claimed that the seed of the tobacco plant came from Nampankuk. That’s why the Koreans usually call tobacco Nampankoy. In this country they smoke a lot, both men and women. And they start early with it. Many a time I saw a four-year-old toddler smoke a pipe.
In their old scriptures it is written that there are in total 84000 countries in the world. The Koreans consider this to be a fable. They say this number has to include all the islands, isles, cliffs and rocks, because it would be impossible for the sun to shine on all these countries in one twenty-four hour period. If we mentioned a number of countries they laughed and said this had to be the names of cities and villages. Because their maps didn’t reach further than Siam (=Thailand)

Vegetable and mineral products

This country can maintain in it’s own needs. It has an abundance of rice and other grain. Furthermore it produces cotton, hemp and flax. There are a lot of silkworms, though the Koreans don’t know the art to spin silk yarns sufficiently to weave cloths of highest quality.
Also silver, iron and lead is taken from the soil. From the wild regions they get various kinds of fur and the ginseng root. There are enough medicinal herbs, though that’s useless for the common man. They can’t afford a doctor and that’s why they go to a fortune teller or clairvoyant if they are sick. These advise normally to ask help from the Gods by bringing offerings on the mountains, alongside the rivers or on the rocks. They also call sometimes for the devil. The latter thing is not done so often lately, because the king has forbidden the devil worshipping in 1662.

Weights and measures

There exists one uniform system of measures and weights that counts for all of the country. But little merchants and hagglers often work with inaccurate weights and measures. It’s true that in each province a strict control is being practiced, but obviously the deceit that is committed with counterfeit weights and measures, is never to be wiped out. They know of no other coined money then the “kassis and this is only accepted as a legal currency in the area close to the Chinese border. In the rest of the country for the wholesale, small blocks of silver are being used as a means of payment. These exist in various weights. Retailers manage with rice and linen as a means of payment.


In Korea there are many horses and cattle. The horses are used for the transportation of persons and goods. They use cattle to pull the plough, the cows as well as the bulls. In the north of the country there are tigers. The fur is exported to China and Japan. Furthermore there are bears, deer, pigs, boars, dogs, cats, all kind of snakes, swans, geese, chickens storks, herons, crane birds, eagles, falcons, magpies, crows, cuckoos, pigeons, snipes, pheasants, larks, finches, thrushes, lapwings, harriers and many other kind of birds.

Language and literature

Korean is very hard to learn. It doesn’t look like any other language. Moreover, this language is pronounced in different ways. The important people and scholars usually speak slowly, little merchants on the contrary very fast. The common man is somewhat in between. The language is written in three different ways: in the first place there is the script, with which the books are being printed. This script looks like that of the Chinese and the Japanese. The second type looks more like our script. This is used by the governors and other high administrators, when they answer petitions or correspond with each other. The common man can’t read this. And finally there is the third type. This is being used by women and simple men. It is very easy to learn and one can write something with it very easily. This is done with a small pencil and they are very handy at it.
The Koreans possess many very old books of which some are printed and some are written by hand. They value this very much, proven by the fact the brother of the king supervises this. In several cities and fortresses, copies and printing plates of these books are being kept, so that in case of fire they won’t be lost completely. Their almanacs are made in the Chinese language, since they don’t know the art to make them by themselves. Printing of a book is done with wooden plates. On both sides of a sheet a plate is placed.


The Koreans count with wooden sticks. They have no knowledge of bookkeeping. If they buy something, they write down how much they paid for it. Underneath they write down the amount for which they sold it. By subtracting these numbers, they see how much profit or loss they have made.

The king takes a ride.

When the king takes a ride, he is surrounded by all his noblemen of the court. These are dressed in black silk garments, on which both on the front or back a coat of arms and emblems have been embroidered and over which they wear a wide sash. In front of the parade are the horsemen and infantry with a lot of flags and music, who receive a ration from the king, dressed in their most beautiful garments. Behind them follows the body guard of the king, selected from the most important civilians of the city. In their midst the king sits in his sedan chair which is beautifully decorated and gilded. If he passes by it becomes so silent that you only hear the stamping of the horses and foot steps of the soldiers.
Right in front of the king rides a secretary of state or an other high official. He carries a little chest in which one places the requests, which are handed over from the public on a long bamboo stem. There are also requests hanging on the walls where the king passes. All these requests the secretary puts in that little chest. These requests concern the injustice the requestant experienced by the government or other civilians, or punishments laid upon innocent friends or relatives and many other cases. When the king is back in his palace, the secretary hands him over the little chest with the requests. The king makes a verdict which is final and irrevocable. This verdict is executed immediately.
The streets, which the king passes, are closed at both ends. Nobody is allowed to open a door or window or look over a wall or fence. Highly placed and the military whom are passed by the king, have to stand with their backs turned to him and are not allowed to look around, or even allowed to cough. That’s why the soldiers usually put a stick in their mouth, like the bit of a horse, to make no sound at all.

Visit of the Tartarian envoy

When the Tartarian envoy visits the country, the king personally has to ride toward him with all his noblemen to pledge the necessary honor. He accompanies him to his accommodation. Music is made during this, while clowns show their tricks. In fact the envoy is shown more respect than the king himself, when he rides out.

In the parade which accompanies the envoy, also old pieces of arts are carried along and during the stay of the envoy, the street from his residency to the court is closed off by soldiers. These are lined up in long rows, two or three fathoms apart from each other. There are also two or three men who do nothing else then bringing notes which come from the residency to their king, so he knows any moment what the envoy is doing. Furthermore they do everything in their power to please the envoy, so he takes favorable messages about them to the emperor in Peking.


The Journal


Hendrick Hamel

This is the journal, which describes the fate of the officers and crew of the VOC-jaght the Sperwer in the period from August 16th, when the jaght shipwrecked off the coast of the island Quelpaert, which is subject to the king of Coree, and lies south of the coast of this country, till September 1666, when eight of the survivors arrived in Nangasackij in Iapan, with also a description of the nation and the country of Coree.

The shipwreck

After we were sent, by order of the Governor-general and the Counsel of the Indies, we went with the jaght the Sperwer and hoisted sail at June 18th, 1653 from Batavia, with destination Taijoan (Tainan). One of the passengers aboard was Mr. Cornelis Caesar who would relieve Mr. Nicolaes Verburgh as governor of Taijoan,. Formosa (Taiwan) .After a prosperous journey the jaght arrived on July 16th in the roadstead of Taiwan, where Mr. Caesar disembarked and the cargo was unloaded. At July 30th, the jaght left by order from the governor and the Council from Taijoan to Iapan, to continue our journey in the name of God. To avoid confusion between the modern word “yacht”, which is derived from the word the “jaght”, we continue to use the word “jaght.”

On the last day of July, the weather was beautiful, but in the evening there was a storm coming up from the coast of Formosa, which increased in the course of the night. On the first of August we were at dawn break in the neighborhood of a small island. We tried our best to drop our anchor behind this island to find a little bit of shelter. Eventually we succeeded with a lot of danger to do so. But we could only pay out the anchor rope a little, because behind us was a big reef, on which the surf ranted and raved heavily. The skipper discovered this island purely by chance. Luckily he was looking out of the window from the back of the ship or we would have stranded on the island and would have lost the ship. Because it was very dark we saw later that we were scarcely musket shot away from it.

When it brightened up, we saw that we were close to the coast of China. We could see troops of fully armed Chinese parade on the beach, they were hoping our ship would strand. With the help of the Almighty this was not to happen. On that day the storm didn’t decrease but increased and we stayed anchored that day as well as the following night. At August 2nd the weather was very calm. The Chinese still showed up in big numbers. It appeared as they were waiting for us like hungry wolves.

We also had quite some problems with our anchor and the ropes, so we decided, in order to prevent more problems to raise the anchor and set sail. In that way we wouldn’t see them anymore and we could get away from the coast. That day and the following one we had very little wind. At the third of August we discovered that the current [of the sea] drifted us back for another 20 miles (the German geographical mile, which is 7420 meter) and we saw the coast of Formosa again. We set course between both [China and Formosa]. From the fourth till the eleventh we had a lot of quiet and calm weather and we drifted between the coast of China and Formosa. At August 11th we were faced again with a fierce wind coming from the southeast, so we set course in the direction east-northeast-east. From the twelfth till the fourteenth the weather became worse and worse with a lot of wind and rain so we could sometimes hoist the sails but also sometimes we couldn’t. The sea became so turbulent and since we couldn’t take our bearings, we were forced to drift around without sail to prevent that we wouldn’t shipwreck on one or the other coast.

On the fifteenth the wind was so fierce that we couldn’t speak with each other above the roaring of the sea. We couldn’t hoist more than a handful of sail and the ship started to leak more and more. We were busy pumping to keep us dry. Because the sea was so turbulent, at times we got high seas rolling over and we though that we would sink.

At dusk a high wave almost swept the galleon and the transom away. This made also the bowsprit loose, so we were in dangerous loosing it from the bow. With all our strength we tried to tighten it a bit, but all our efforts were in vain, because of the heavy swaying of the ship and the high waves rolling over us. We saw no other solution to avoid the high seas and thought it advisable to hoist the jib a little. In this way we thought to save our skin, the ship and the goods of the company as much as possible and also to be saved a bit from the high waves. We thought that this, besides the help of God, would be the best. Suddenly a huge wave came rolling over from the behind, in such a way that the mates who were hoisting the jib, almost washed from the yard and the ship was filled with water.

The galleon was the light, usually decorated extension of the bow, and served as a support of the bowsprit; it ran from both sides of the front-part and stuck out, higher then the sprit with a peak or a figure head. The flat part of the back-end of the ship was often called a Spiegel (mirror) [in English: the transom]. This was often decorated with the heraldic arm of the city to which the ship belonged or an image in relief, which represented the name of the ship

Here upon the skipper shouted: “Men, keep God in mind.” The waves hit us twice in such a way that we thought that we would die for sure. We couldn’t stop it any longer.sperwerInDistress.jpg (21956 bytes)

It had just stricken two glasses of the middle watch, when the lookout shouted: “land ashore”. We were just one musket shot away from it. But because of the darkness and the heavy rain we didn’t notice it earlier. We dropped anchors immediately because the rudder had turned around. But because of the waves, the depth of the sea and the fierce wind, the anchors didn’t catch. In a short while we hit the coast with three jolts so that the ship was completely smashed to smithereens.

Of the ones who were below decks in their bunks, several had no chance to come up to save their skin, the last thing they could do. Some of the ones on deck jumped overboard, others were swept hither and thither by the waves. When we reached the coast we were with fifteen men, most of us naked [could also be translated as: almost naked] and heavily wounded. Initially we though that no more were able to salvage their lives but sitting on the rocks we still heard the moaning of the people still in the wreckage, but we couldn’t find anyone in the dark, nor help them.

Stay on the island of Quelpaert

On the 16th at the crack of dawn, the ones who could still move reasonably, walked along the beach and shouted to see if more had come ashore. Here and there a few of them appeared. It seemed that there were only 36 men left, of which most of them, as said before, were considerably wounded. We looked in the wreck. We found a man there, who was jammed between two big beams. We freed him immediately. After three hours he died since his body was very seriously flattened out.

The manuscript speaks about leggers which also in English, on ships, means: big barrels, in Dutch however also beams. It seems unlikely  that during a shipwreck, someone gets caught between two, round objects, which were in general in the hold, as opposed to leggers, beams which were placed over the keel, hence the translation as beams (Nelson was brought back to England, after he died, in a legger of rum)

We looked at each other sadly. Seeing that in less than 15 minutes a beautiful ship smashed to smithereens and that we were reduced from 64 souls to 36 in less than 15 minutes. We searched immediately to see if any corpses had been washed ashore. We found skipper Reijnier Egberse from Amsterdam at around 10 or 12 fathoms (A fathom is 1,698 meters, so about 18 meters) from the waterline, with his one arm under his head. We buried him immediately, as well as the seven sailors we found dead hither and thither. We also looked for food, which possibly had washed ashore.

Since the last two or three days we had only eaten little, because the cook couldn’t cook, as a result of the bad weather. We only found a bag with flour, a barrel which was filled with meat and also a barrel with some bacon, further a small casket with sweet Spanish wine. The last thing coming in useful for the wounded.

What we needed most, was fire. Because we saw no living soul, we thought we were on a deserted island. At around noon, when the rain and wind calmed down, we brought so many things ashore, that we made a tent from some pieces of sail. At the 17th being together in misery, we looked around us to see if there were no people who could help us, hoping they were Japanders. In this way we could get back in our country, There was no other solution, since the boat was splintered and beyond repair. It was before noon, when we saw in the distance a human being at around a canon shot’s distance away [500 mtr] from our tent. We beckoned him, but as soon as he saw us, he took to his heels.

Shortly after noon another three people came at a musket shot’s distance from our tent, but they didn’t want to understand what we signaled and did. At the end one of us was so brave to walk to them to present him his gun en eventually received fire which we needed so dearly. They were dressed like Chinese, but had hats made of horsehair. We were very afraid about that, because we thought we had ended up in a nest of pirates or amongst banned Chinese.

At dusk about 100 armed people arrived at the tent. They counted us and kept watch during the night around the tent. In the morning of the 18th, they were putting up a big tent, at noon 1000 or 2000 men appeared, partly horsemen, partly foot-soldiers. They made up their camp around our our and once they were lined up they took hold of the bookkeeper, the head coxswain, the petty officer and the cabin boy and they were brought to the chief at a musket shot’s distance. They each got an iron chain around their neck, which had a bell attached to it, like we do in Holland with the sheep. They were forced to crawl on hands and knees onto the commander, where they were pushed with their faces against the ground. With that the warriors shouted so deafening, that the shivers ran us on our body. Our companions, who remained in or near the tent, when they heard and saw this, said to each other: “Our officers will be killed first we will follow suit.”

After a we had lain in this way for a while, they made our mates clear that they were allowed to sit on their knees. The commander asked us some questions, but they couldn’t understand him. Our people pointed and motioned to them that we wanted to go to Nangasakij in Iapan. But it was all in vain, because they didn’t understand each other. They didn’t know the word ‘Iapan‘ since they call the country Ieenare or IiIpon. The lieutenant-colonel had pored them a cup of arrack (probably Hamel means soju, since arrack is an Indonesian drink) and had them send back to the tent. Immediately they came and looked in the tent to see if we had some food and they found nothing more than the two, previously mentioned half full barrels with meat and bacon, which they showed immediately to the lieutenant-colonel.

After about an hour they brought us small portions in water boiled rice. They thought that we were starved, so that bigger portions might do us harm.

After noon a number of men approached us with ropes, which frightened us tremendously, because we thought they would tie is and kill us. But with a lot of noise they went to the wreck to bring the things, which were still alright, on the land. At night they gave us a little bit of rice to eat. At noon our coxswain had taken the latitude and found that we were at Quelpaert’s island, at 33 degrees and 32 minutes latitude.

On the 19th, they were still busy to bring things on the land and dry it. Wood in which there was any iron, was burned. Our officers went to the lieutenant-colonel and an admiral of the island who had come there as well. They offered both a binocular and also brought them also a jar of wine and a silver plate from the Company which we had found between the rocks. It seemed they liked the wine, because they drank that much that they became very cheerful and send our people back to the tent after they had shown and proved all friendship. They also gave the plate back.

On the 20th, they set the ship on fire and the rest of the wood, to get the ironwork out of it. While it burned the two canons, which were loaded with powder, went off. Both the officers and the soldiers fled away, but they came back soon. With gestures they asked us of more would go off but we made them clear that such wouldn’t happen. They continued immediately to work and brought us some food twice a day.

On the 21st, the commander had some of us come and made us clear to bring him the goods we still had in our tent so they could be sealed. When did this and it was sealed in our presence. While our people were still sitting there, some thieves, who had stolen during the salvage of the wreck, some furs, iron and the like, which were tied on their back, were taken before him. They were punished in our presence as indication that they didn’t want to separate from the goods. They hit them under the balls of their feet with sticks of about a fathom’s length and as thick as an average boy’s arm. They did that so hard that with some of them their toes fell off their feet. Each received 30 to 40 blows.

That afternoon they motioned us that we were to leave. Those, who were still able to ride, received a horse and those ,who could not ride because of the injuries, were transported in hammocks. After the noon we left, well guarded by horsemen and foot-soldiers. At night we stayed at a little place called Tadjang (TaejOng). After we had eaten something, they brought us to a house to sleep but it looked more like a stable for horses then like an inn or a place to sleep. We had traveled for around four miles. At the morning of the 22nd time at the break of dawn, we mounted our horses again and we used a meal on our way at a small fortress, near which two junks were moored (at Aewôl, the old harbor is still there). In the afternoon we reached the city Moggan (Cheju city), where the residence of the governor of the island was. They call the governor Mocxo (probably Hamel mixed up the name for the governor and the city name). Having arrived there, we were brought on a field straight in front a city hall or government building and we got to drink a mug of rice water. We thought that this would be our last drink and that we would die a certain death. It was terrible to see, like they stood there with around 3000 armed men with their guns. They were dressed in the way of the Chineesen or Iapanders. We had never seen or heard something like this.

Immediately the bookkeeper and the three previously mentioned persons were taken in the previously mentioned manner in front of the governor and were thrown down. After they had lain there for a while, did he shout and motioned that they had to come on a big platform in the city hall. There he was, like a king, and seated along his side, he motioned and asked where we came from and whereto we wanted to go. We repeated and motioned as well as we could, that we wanted to go to Nangasackij in Iapan. Hereupon he nodded the head and it appeared that he could understand something of it. In the same way the rest of our people were brought to his excellency, in groups of four and questioned in the same way. We did our best to indicate what our answers were. Like before, we couldn’t understand each other.

He had us bring to the house where an uncle of the king had lived his life long as an exile and where he had died as well. The reason why he was banished was that he had tried to dethrone the king and banish him from the country. He made our house strictly guarded with a big force and gave us as provisions 3/4 catty of rice and daily just as much wheat flour. They gave us however few side dishes, and we couldn’t eat those well, so we had to eat our meal with salt and a little bit of water instead of side dishes.

In modern English and Dutch, side dishes means all kinds of extras, Hamel meant meat or fish, so actually the main-dish. A catty is around 625 gram.

As it seemed later, the governor was a good and wise man. He was about 70 years old and came from the kings city and at the court they held him in high esteem. He motioned us that he would write a letter to the king to await orders what he should do with us. Since the answer of the King could not be expected soon, because the letter had to for twelve to thirteen miles by sea and another 70 by land, we asked the governor to give us every now and then some meat or some other side dishes Because from rice with water and salt, we couldn’t stay alive. We also asked permission to stroll around a little bit and to wash our bodies and clothes, which we didn’t have very much anymore and that we were allowed to go out at turns of six men, which was granted immediately.

He had us come often, to ask us, both in their as in our language, questions therefore we could gradually communicate with each other, though in a crooked and broken way. He sometimes had parties or other entertainment organized, so that we wouldn’t be too sad, and tried to encourage us daily by suggesting we could leave for Nangasackij as soon as the answer of the king came in. He also had the wounded cure, so we received a treatment from a heathen which would have ashamed many a Christian.

On October 29th in the afternoon, the bookkeeper, the head coxswain and the petty barber were summoned before the governor. When they came to him they found a man there with a long red beard. The governor asked them what kind of man that was, whereupon they answered: a Hollander like us. Hereupon the the governor started to laugh and motioned or said that this was a Coreese man. After a lot of talking and motioning on both sides, the man, who had been silent thus far, asked, in very crooked Dutch, what kind of people we were and where we came from. We answered him “Hollanders (Dutch, coming from the province of Holland, which is a part of the Seven United Netherlands) from Amsterdam.” Furthermore he asked us where we came from and where we were going to. Our people answered hereupon that they came from Taijoan with the intention to go to Nangasackij. This however, was prevented by the Almighty. Because of a storm which had lasted for five days, we stranded on this island and expected now a lenient solution.

Our people asked him for his name, from what country he came and how he had come there. He answered thus: “My name is Jan Janse Weltevree from De Rijp. I came in 1626 with the ship Hollandia from the fatherland and in 1626, while going to Iapan with the jaght Ouwerkerck, due to the unfavorable wind, we stranded at the coast of Coree. We needed water and we went with the boat ashore, where three of us we captured by the inhabitants. The boat with the remaining companions got away and the ship left immediately.” He said furthermore that his two companions were killed after 17 or 18 year, when the Tartar came into the country, were killed. They were (called) Dirk Gijsbertsz from De Rijp and Jan Pieterse Verbaest from Amsterdam.

They asked him also where he lived, how he made a living and why he came to the island. He said that he stayed in the kings city (Seoul). He received from the king a royal maintenance and that he was sent there to find out what kind of people we were and how we got there. He told us further that he had asked the king and other high administrators to be sent to Iapan. This, however was him forbidden all the time.

He said that if we were birds, we could fly to there. They don’t send foreigners from this country. They will provide you with a living and for clothes and in this way you will have to end your life in this country. He tried to comfort us in this way. Even if we came in front of the king, we couldn’t expect anything else, so that our joy of having found an interpreter, almost changed into sadness. It was remarkable that this man, of 57 or 58 years old, almost had forgotten his mother tongue, so that we hardly could understand him and had learned it again within a month.

All the previously mentioned was pertinently written down by order of the governor, after which it was read aloud and translated by the previously mentioned Jan Janszoon, so that this could be sent to the court with the first favorable wind. The governor gave us daily a fresh heart by saying that he expected an answer with the first boat and that this answer, according to him, would contain the answer that we could leave for Iapan on short notice, we had to resign with our fate. He showed us nothing but friendship, as long as his time lasted. He had us visited daily by the previously mentioned Weltevree and one of his officers or Opper (=head) Benjoesen (pronounced as Benyusen), to let him know what happened.

In the beginning of December the new governor arrived, because the last one’s term of three years had expired. We were extremely sad about this, because we were worried that new lords would mean new laws and so it happened. Since it became cold and we had only a few clothes, the old governor had made us a long lined robe, with a pair of leather socks and a pair of shoes, so we could protect our selves against the cold. He also gave us the salvaged books as well as a big tankard of oil, so we could pass the winter.

On his farewell meal he treated us very well, and had us told through the previously mentioned Weltevree that he regretted it very much that he wasn’t[‘t allowed to sent us go to Iapan or could take us with him to the mainland. We shouldn’t be too sad about his departure, since as soon as he arrived at the court he would do all his efforts to bring us from the island to the court. We thanked the governor very friendly for all the mentioned friendliness.

As soon as the new governor took office, he didn’t receive any additional food, so that most of our meals consisted only of some rice and salt and a sip of water. We complained to the other governor, who was still on the island because of onshore wind, but he replied that his term as governor was finished and he couldn’t do anything. But he would write to the new governor, so that, as long as he was there, we got from the new one, to prevent complaints, some side dishes

1654 In the beginning of January the old governor left and that worsened the situation. Now one gave us wheat, millet and barley flour instead of rice without any side dishes So if we wanted to have some side dishes we sold our millet. Daily we had to be satisfied with portion of 3/4 of barley flour. We could however continue to go out daily with six men at the same time. So very disheartened we sought for all kinds of means (of existence) because the harvest time and the monsoon were also due.

Because it took a long time before the answer of the king arrived, we were afraid to stay forever at the island and to end our lives in prison, so we looked out for possibilities to escape, maybe there was at night a boat which would be on the shore with all the necessary things, so we could take that so we could take to our heels. This happened at the end of April, when a few of our people, among them the chief navigator and three other of the salvaged mates, made their first attempt. As we have understood it, one of our companions would climb over the wall to look the ship and the tide of the water. The guard became aware of this because either a dog started to bark, or in another way. They kept guard very strictly, so that even before our mates could get going, they were pushed back.

In the beginning of the month of May, the coxswain, who was on leave with five other companions (among them three of the previous attempt), saw in a village not far from the city a ship with all the necessities on board. Immediately they sent a man back home to fetch two pieces of bread for each and a plaiting (a piece of rope which is twined in a flat way).When they were together again, each took a sip of water of water and went, without taking anything else in the boat. They pulled this over a sandbank, in the presence of some villagers, who watched very surprised, not knowing what to do. Eventually one of the villagers entered his house and took a musket and followed those in the boat, wading through the water. They came offshore, except the one who couldn’t get into the boat, since he loosened the hawsers and therefore he chose the shore. The ones in the boat hoisted sail, but because they couldn’t handle the rigging very well the the mast with the sail fell overboard. With a lot of effort they managed to erect the mast again. When they had tied the sail with the plaiting to the mast and the thwart (the rowing bench), the pin with which the mast is fixed broke, so the mast with the sail fell again overboard. They couldn’t erect it anymore and drifted therefore back ashore. Some villagers, who saw this, went immediately after them with another boat.

Having arrived there, our mates jumped unexpectedly into the other ship, and even though the villagers were armed, they were of the opinion that they could throw them over board. This ship however was almost full with water and wasn’t seaworthy so they sailed altogether back ashore. They were taken before the governor. He had them tied up really tight with a heavy plank with a chain around their neck, one hand was nailed by means of a clamp against the plank.

They were thrown in front of him. The others were also fetched from the house in which they were imprisoned. They were also tied very well, and were also brought before the governor. There we saw our mates lying in a deplorable situation.

The governor had them questioned whether they did this without the knowledge of the others. They answered that this happened without the knowledge if the others to advance that the others would not be burdened and their mates would not be punished. To that the governor asked what they had planned.They answered that they wanted to go to Iapan whereupon the governor asked if they thought this could be done with such a small boat and without water and so little bread. They answered that they it was better to die fast than to die a lingering dead. He had them untied and had each given 25 blows on the bare buttocks with a stick which is about one fathom long and a finger thick at the bottom and round on the top. As a result they had to stay in bed for about a month, additionally we were not allowed to go out and were strictly guarded day and night. This island which is called Schelue (Cheju ) by them and Quelpaert by us. It lies as previously mentioned on 33 degrees 32 minutes latitude, twelve to thirteen miles south from the south point of the mainland or Coree. It has at the inside or the north side a bay, in which the ships come. From there they sail to the mainland. It is dangerous to come in for those who don’t know it. It can’t be sailed by those who don’t know it, because of the invisible cliffs. Many who sail there and miss the bay, eventually drift to Iapan. There is, besides that bay, no roadstead or port of refuge. The island has a lot of visible and invisible cliffs and reefs on all sides. The country is very populated and is fertile for the life stock: there is an abundance of horses and cattle. Yearly they give a lot of income to the king. The inhabitants are poor people and considered to be simple by those of the mainland, they aren’t esteemed very high. There is a high mountain, full with trees and further there are mainly bare mountains without any trees and many valleys where they cultivate rice.

At the end of May the long expected message from the king arrived. To our sadness we had to come to the court, that changed into joy, because we were to be released from our prison. Six or seven days later we were divided over four junks and with both our legs and a hand locked in a block because they worried that we run off one or the other ship. We would have certainly done this if we would have been unlocked, because the soldiers who had to guard us were seasick during the biggest part of the crossing. After we had sat two days like that, and couldn’t make any progress as a result of the head wind, we were unlocked again and brought back to our house of detention. Four or five days later the wind came from the right angle and we were taken aboard of the junks at daybreak, where we were locked in the same way as before. The anchors were weighed and the sails hoisted. Already at the evening of the same day we found ourselves close to the mainland where we anchored.

The next day we were freed from the junks and brought ashore. There we were strictly guarded by the soldiers. The other day we got horses and rode to a city called Heijnam (Haenam, near Kangjin, an important big city in Cholla-do during the Chosôn period), where we joined at night all 36 together, and to prevent difficulties and punishment from those who were in charge, the junks moored at different places. The next day after we had eaten something, we were on horseback again, and came at night in a city called Ieham (Yôngam). At night gunman Paulus Janse Cool from Purmerent died there. He had never been healthy since the loss of the ship. By order of the city governor he was buried in our presence. From the grave we moved onto a city called Naedjoo (Naju). The next day we moved on again and stayed the night in a city called Sansiangh (Changsông), from where we left in the morning and stayed in the city Tiongop (Chôngûp), passed that day a high fortress, where lay a big reinforcement which was called Iipam sansiang (Ipamsansông). After we had stayed in the city left in the morning and arrived on the same day in the city Teijn (Tae’in).The next day we sat on horseback again and came in the afternoon in a small city called Kumge(Kûmku), after we had taken a lunch we left again and arrived in the evening in a big city called Chentio (Chônju), where the king in ancient times had his court and the stadholder of Thiollado (Chôllado) lives there. [This city] is considered throughout the country as a big commercial center, which couldn’t be reached by water, and therefore a city surrounded by land. The next morning we left again and arrived at night in a city called Iesaen (Yôsan), this was the last city from the province of Thiollado from where we left in the morning on horseback again, and stayed in a small city called Gunjiu (Ûnjin), which laid in the province Tiongsiangdo (Chungchôndo), left the next day to a city called Iensaen (Yonsan): where we stayed the night and were on horseback again the next morning. And arrived at night in a city called Congtio (Kongju), where the Stadholder of the before mentioned province has his court, the next day we passed a big river, and came into the province of Senggado (Kyonggido) where the Kings city lies

the history of Hendrick Hamel. He was the “discoverer” or explorer (the Marco Polo) of Korea.

you will find everything in English about himo .  an introduction about where Van Hove tells a little bit of the preface, the history of Korea before Hamel came, how the Dutch followed the Portuguese, how Korea eventually was “discovered”, the complete Journal of Hamel, how they stayed at Seoul, in the province of Chollado, how they escaped, how they were interrogated by the Japanese, how he describes Korea, The religion, the moral standards and how it continued after he had written the Journal. Read about the person Jan Janse Weltevree, Hendrick Hamel, about the motives of the Dutch, what would have happened if….. Why people worked for the VOC and in the end, the bibliography and the resources. Take (a lot of) your time and enjoy! You may download or print everything, provided you mention my name when you want to use  Just make sure that the margins are very small, otherwise you won’t see everything. you will also see the transcription of the complete manuscript in 17th century Dutch and all the resources of those times


Jan Janse Weltevree

In the introduction Jan Janse Weltevree is called a mysterious person. Comparison of the texts in which he is mentioned gives us some contradictions, which are difficult to explain. For instance Hamel mentions in his Journael that he and his mates saw Weltevree for the last time in 1656 at the ferry over the river Han near Seoul and that they never heard anything of him again.
The same is claimed at the interrogation in Nagasaki. To the question of the Japanese if Weltevree is still alive, the Hollanders reply that they don’t know, because they didn’t see him for ten years. This sounds very implausible. Is it plausible that Weltevree, who seemed to be able to travel freely throughout the country, in all those ten years never traveled to the south, to see how his country men were doing?
On top of that there was according to the Journael a certain kind of mail traffic. It was possible to send messages. After all it was Hamel who mentions that the three mates who were lured from Seoul under the pretense that they had to function as an interpreter, informed them by letter that they were captured in the south.
One and the other raises the suspicion that there have been contacts between Weltevree and the other Hollanders, also in the period after 1656. This suspicion is enforced by the fact that according to the daily records of the chief of the factory in Deshima, Hamel has said on or during the same day that the interrogation took place, to this chief, that Weltevree at their departure was still alive and was about 70 years old. Did Hamel lie to the Japanese or to the chief?

Also regarding the circumstances under which Weltevree was captured in 1627 by the Koreans, the several sources are contradicting themselves. In the Journael is written that Weltevree was on board of the jaght the Ouwerkerck , when it stranded off the coast of Korea. With a number of mates he rowed to the shore to fetch water. While doing this they were surprised by the Koreans who captured Weltevree and two of his mates, while the rest managed to escape. But what do we read in the above-mentioned daily record of the chief in Deshima ? Here is written that Weltevree was not at all on board of the Ouwerkerck. One day the crew of this ship had privatized a Chinese junk. Weltevree was put on this ship together with some other Hollanders to take this ship to Taiwan. Because of a storm, this ship ended up on the coast of a Korean island. Here the three Hollanders were overwhelmed by the Chinese and handed over to the Koreans. This version is confirmed in a letter from the governor of Formosa to the governor-general in Batavia , dated July 22, 1627. In which the governor of Formosa announced that the Ouwerkerck on July 16 had privatized a Chinese junk, which was on his way to Amoy. 70 of the 150 Chinese were brought from the junk to the Ouwerkerck , while 16 men moved over to the junk to bring them with the rest of the Chinese crew to Taiwan. The junk however had drifted away by a storm in northeastern direction and is since then without any trace, so it maybe feared that the ship is perished. The Ouwerkerck itself was privatized some months later by a Portuguese ship and burned in Macao. The jaght has never been in Korean waters. From the above mentioned it is clear that Weltevree belonged to a group of Hollandse privateers, who were captured by their victims and were handed over to the Koreans. And Hamel knew this. It is understandable that he didn’t mention these less honorable events in the Journael. And also that he didn’t speak about it during the interrogation by the Japanese. It is less clear however, why he, both in the Journael and during the interrogation, claims that he hadn’t heard from Weltevree during ten years.

There is more by the way, which Hamel doesn’t mention concerning Weltevree. In a Korean edition of the Journael, the interpreter Yi Pyong Do cites in a supplement a document of about 1700, in which Weltevree is described as follows:

  Yon was tall from stature and rather heavily build. He had blue eyes, a pale face and a blond beard which hangs until his belly. He was married to a Korean woman who gave him two children; a boy and a girl.

The father and the uncle of the writer of the document were both connected as high officials to the court of king of Korea in the time that Weltevree was there too. One may assume that the document is a reliable source. If Weltevree had a wife and children, it was most unlikely that Hamel didn’t know that. It speaks for itself to assume that he and the other Hollanders visited him during their stay in Seoul. In the Journael however Hamel leaves this interesting fact unnoticed. Possibly he considered that mentioning of the marital state of Weltevree would raise some questions by the readers about the marital state of the other Hollanders, questions who might be painful since most of them had a wife and children after all in Holland as well. In another Korean document, also cited by Yi Pyong Do, the following is mentioned about Weltevree:
Yon was working at the staff of general Ku In Hu. His sons are mentioned in the military register of the training office.
What is noticeable in this quotation is the word ‘sons’. Maybe Jan Janse had more than one son. The in this quote mentioned training office was a government institution which was established to the end of the 16th century for the production of firearms and for the practice of the use of them. The military register contained the names of the technicians skillful in professions like the manufacturing of canons. Such professions where hereditary in Korea and from another source we know that Weltevree was in charge of making firearms in Seoul and that he was considered to be an expert in this field. We read this in the Korean document from which the previous quotation is derived. It says the following:

  Yon was an expert in the field of the knowledge of arms. He was very skillful in casting canons of which the finishing touch was very beautiful.

Also the shipwreck of the Sperwer is mentioned in this document.

  In the fourth year of Hyo Jong (1653) a strange ship was wrecked in the coastal waters of the Chindo-district. On board were 36 men. They were remarkably dressed, and also their stature was remarkable. Their noses were high in their face and their eyes sunk deep. They didn’t understand our language, nor orally nor in writing. The court requested Park Yon to figure out what kind of people they are.
When Yon saw these people he was very moved. His beard was wet of tears. He said they were his countrymen and that they spoke his language. That’s why the king decided to use him as an interpreter.
Many years these people lived in our country. They were incorporated in the garrisons which were camped in or around our capital, because they had much knowledge about arms and were also skilled in manufacturing arms.
When they had been with us for fourteen years, eight of them escaped in a fisherman’s boat from a place in the south where they were accommodated. They reached Nagasaki. The governor of that city wrote in a letter to the king that they were people from Haranda (Holland), which is a vassal state of Japan. That’s why he requested the king to send the remaining Haranda’s who still remained in our country, also to Nagasaki. And so it happened.

That Hamel and his mates had much knowledge about arms and had many skills in manufacturing them, doesn’t match with what Hamel tells in his Journael about the way he and his mates had to make a living, begging and all kind of petty jobs.
There was, on board of a VOC-ship usually a man, a blacksmith or an instrument maker, who could do some simple repairs on the arms, like muskets and pistols and 25 to 30 pieces of artillery with which the ships were armed. But in case of dire need, everyone on board had to be able to do anything. Then the blacksmith baked bread. Everybody on board probably knew how to handle arms and knew how they were put together. Maybe Weltevree had more special knowledge in this field. But he might have been the one-eyed man in the country of the blind. Because the Koreans didn’t have a highly-developed arms industry. It seems that they imported canons from China.

Nicolaes Witsen writes in his Noord en Oost Tartarije:

  Snaphaunces are unknown to them; they use rifles with a fuse. Furthermore they use leather pieces of artillery which is fitted on the inside with copper plates, half a finger thick. The leather is 2 till 5 thumbs thick and consists of several layers on top of each other. These pieces of artillery are transported at the back of an army , on horseback, two on one horse. It is possible to fire relative big cannonballs with these canons.

The Korean author Song Haeng, who lived from 1760 till 1839, describes the Hollanders in a historical essay as follows:

  Amongst the survivors of the shipwreck there were some artillery experts. On board their ship there was around 30 canons. These were on wheels, so they were easily maneuverable. When a shot was fired, the canon rolled a distance to the back. Thus the power of the recoiling was taken and prevented the barrel from splitting open. Their muskets also showed an ingenious design. At firing the powder is ignited by a spark, which origins by hitting a piece of flint against an iron point. This takes place by means of a spring mechanism, which can be latched and unlatched.

According to experts this description points out that the Hollanders used muskets of the type which is known as the miquelet lock. In The age of fire arms, a Pictorial Study , written by Robert Held and published in 1957 at Harper, New York, one can read the following about this firearm:

  The miquelet, in simplest terms, was a snapping lock like a snaphaunce, but refined by the revolutionary feature of having the battery combined with the flashpan cover in one L-shaped piece hinged at the toe, the upright section being struck by the flint and the horizontal forming the flashpan cover. To shoot a miquelet lock, the shooter first cocked it in the half-cock position, and no amount of pressure could release the cock to snap. To fire it nothing remained but to cock it in full-cock and pull the trigger. But at times a worn or defective gun-lock did snap out of half-lock while being carried about, an always unexpected as usually disastrous occurrence commemorated in the saying ‘to go half-cocked’.

This type of musket was developed by the Spaniards, at the end of the 16th century, and the Hollanders got to know it when they were shot with it. But in 1600 during the Battle of Nieuwpoort, the soldiers of Prince Maurits already shot back with it.
From the above mentioned it seemed that the Koreans were way behind compared to the Hollanders when it comes to the manufacturing and plying of guns. Gratefully they would have used the knowledge of the Hollanders. It will be for that reason that they were assigned to the bodyguard of the king. Song Haeung writes that all the guns from the wreck of the Sperwer have been taken to Seoul . There they would have been investigated by the people from the ‘training office’. After that the Hollanders transferred their knowledge. When the incident occurred with the Tartarian envoy, several Koreans proposed to kill the Hollanders.
Instead of that they were exiled to a province in the south of the country. And since that time they had to make a living with all kind of futile jobs and even with begging. They were lucky that some of the governors were kindly disposed to them and let them go us much as possible.
Hamel probably didn’t think it wise to mention during the interrogation the fact that they taught the Koreans in Seoul about the use of modern guns. He also tells that only some of the guns were salvaged from the water, and that these were heavily affected by the water.
That is of course strange, because they have been in the water only for a short time. From the Korean sources we know that ‘all weapons from the wreck’ were transported to Seoul.
In the light of what is known now about Weltevree, is the question of the Japanese if the crew of the Sperwer also had the assignment to privatize Chinese junks, intriguing. The answer of Hamel was to be expected: They didn’t get that assignment.
Nevertheless there was an order from the Heeren XII, applicable to all skippers that the trade between the different nations had to be obstructed as much as possible, by privatizing their ships and confiscate their cargo. For each confiscated ship skipper and crew received a reward.

There are some other orders which can’t bear the daylight. There is for instance an order concerning the fetching of water. For this the skippers were to choose preferably an uninhabited island. There were fixed points where regularly water was taken. But by storm and headwind people sailed often in unknown waters. The orders prescribed that the ship had to anchor at a safe distance from the coast and that the crew of the sloop had to be armed sufficiently. Then follows this hair-raising sentence: “When savages show up, they have to be killed immediately”.
The general states of the Seven Provinces had granted the VOC a patent, which gave her the right to declare war and to commit war-actions, like hijacking ships and shooting of savages. They were however only allowed to do so in the area east of Cape of Good Hope.

Because of the thorough work of Wim Hamel who made the following critical remarks we might ask the following questions:

Where was he born was it really in De Rijp?

1. When Hendrick Hamel met Jan Janse Weltevree, Jan had problems speaking Dutch, since he didn’t speak it for more then 26 years. A ship called “De Rijp” was sailing in Asian waters. For instance Nicolaes Coeckebakker was asked to help the shôgun to suppress a revolt on the peninsula Shimibara. He requested for the use of the guns of “De Rijp” to bombard the fort from the shore. The shôgun withdrew at the last minute his request to avoid the loss of face. Maybe Jan Janse meant that he had been on that ship?

2. In those days surnames were pretty exceptional and the custom was to name someone, with his father’s name, the profession he had or the place he came from e.g. Jan Janszoon (Jan son of Jan), Jan de Boer (Jan the farmer), Jan van der Bilt (coming from de Bilt).
Janszoon was very often abbreviated to Jansz or Janse, depending on the region where one lived.

3. In the ship’s rolls of the “Hollandia” there is no mentioning of Weltevree, but on the other hand a Jan Jansz from Vlaardingen is mentioned.

4. In the same year 1626 two ships named “Hollandia” sailed off, on which one was our Jan Janse?

5. Since he had reasons to keep his existence in Korea secret, he might have mentioned the name De Rijp, the village where one of his mates was born, instead of Vlaardingen.

6. Because of the big fire in De Rijp in 1654 all archives are lost. In the baptism books since 1655 the name Weltevree is not mentioned.

7. His wife, with or without his children, was probably according the custom in those days, remarried, when Jan did not return. This however was not confirmed. It would be interesting to find out if there are still any descendants left in Holland.

The answers to some of these questions are recently known. (As of January 6, 2000)

A document showed up that Jan Janse Weltevree was from Vlaardingen.

Another link with the following data:

Married (2) Rijsoord 29-06-1755 (pre-married Rijsoord 13-06-1755) with Lijsbet Janse Weltevreen jd, from Pernis, buried Ridderkerk 02-09-1791, daughter of Jan Janse Weltevreen (?) and Lijdia Cornelisse Block (?). Which is close to Vlaardingen, Lijsbeth’s father might be the great-grandson of Jan Janse Weltevree.

Hendrick Hamel

Hendrick Hamel was born in 1630 in Gorkum. He was baptized on August 22 (*). His parents were mentioned in a genealogical record as Dirck Frericks Hamel and Margaretha Verhaar, dochter van Hendrik Verhaar en Cunera van Wevelinckhoven. In his baptismal record we read that his mother was Margrietgen Heyndricks. His father has been married three times, which was not uncommon in those days. In the 17th century people were not always mentioned in the same way. Sometimes with their surname, sometimes with their patronymic, sometimes even not with a last name at all. Most likely are Margaretha Verhaar and Margrietgen Heyndricks one and the same person

On November 6, 1650 he left on board of the jaght the Vogel Struijs (Ostrich) from the Landdiep at Texel (an Island in the north of Holland) to the Indies. On July 4, 1651 he arrived in the port of Batavia.

On the ship’s rolls of the Vogel Struijs Hamel was enlisted as Bosschieter, which means gunman. Obviously a mentioning like that, didn’t mean much. We read for instance that the later governor-general Wiese on his journey to the Indies was mentioned on the ship’s rolls as hooploper, which means ordinary seaman. If we also know that Wiese had to call Van der Parre at that time governor, granduncle, one has to draw the conclusion that his name was only put on the ships rolls to give him free passage

Maybe Hamel came with good recommendations to the Indies and owes his promotion as “soldier on the pen” to this. First as assistant and later as bookkeeper. Therefore was his starting salary increased to f 30 per month. The salary of his fellow passenger of the “Vogel Struijs”, the bosschieter Jan Pieters van Hoogeveen was in 1653 f 11 per month. In rank this bookkeeper equaled the coxswain.

On June 18, Hamel left Batavia on board of the Sperwer on his way to Taiwan in this function. Without experiencing any bad luck it arrived here on July 16, 1653. The jaght left Batavia somewhat late because initially it waited for a number of militaries who had to come from Holland to be stationed in Taiwan. After waiting in vain for some time for the arrival of the ship from Holland on which the militaries were, it was decided to let the jaght the Sperwer go to Taiwan without the militaries. In the meantime the favorable season for such a journey was almost at its end.

On the route from Batavia to Taiwan, the weather didn’t cause any problems yet. It was fine and the journey prosperous. From the Journael it is known that the second part of the journey, from Taiwan to Nagasaki was less favorable. At hindsight we might conclude that the adventure of Hamel and his mates was a consequence of the late departure from Batavia.

After the Sperwer had been declared lost officially, an order from governor Joan Maetsuyker was issued in which it was explicitly forbidden to send ships to the waters north of Taiwan after July 1, in connection with the hurricanes which use to rage after that date in the seas between China and Japan.

What happened with Hamel and his mates after their departure from Taiwan is extensively described in the Journael. Whether or not Hendrick Hamel is the author of the Journael is not proven without doubt. But it is very likely. The writing of such a report was the task of a bookkeeper.

Hamel speaks about himself in the Journael as the third person. That was not uncommon in those days. Hamel didn’t sign the Journael, which was also common in those days. Reports were rarely signed by their author. All his contemporaries by the way, considered Hamel always as the author. There is also little reason to doubt this.
The question remains however when he wrote it. It lies at hand that it happened during his forced stay at Deshima. After their fortunate escape from Korea, Hamel and his mates hoped already to leave with the flyship [a narrow type of ship also called a flute] Espérance on October 23, 1666 to Batavia. They received no permission to do so however and had to stay another year on Deshima.

Two days later, on October 25, the interrogation took place. This interrogation is dated on September 14, 1666. That was the day on which Hamel and his mates arrived with the little Korean fishermen’s boat at Nagasaki. Obviously then the interrogation already took place. There were two interpreters present: a Hollander and a Japanese, who both spoke Portuguese. That’s why the interrogation took the biggest part of that day and Hamel and his mates only crossed the bridge to Deshima towards the evening, where they were welcomed heartily by the chief and the other employees of the VOC. The notorious ‘precisiteyt‘ (preciseness) of the Japanese required that the questions and answers were copied in Japanese and subsequently read out loud on October 25, to Hamel and his mates, with which again two interpreters had to assist. On one of those occasions, so on September 14, or on October 25, Hamel had probably the opportunity to copy the questions and answers or to make notes. Another, maybe more obvious possibility, was that the interpreter of the VOC made those notes.

Report of the interrogation by the Japanese.

On October 25, we were taken by the interpreter from the island and brought to governor of Nagasaki. Here were a number of questions being asked, which we answered to our best knowledge. Here under follows a truthful report of this interrogation.

Questions Answers
1. What kind of people are you and where do you come from? We are Hollanders and come from Korea.
2. How and when did you come to Korea We ran aground with the jaght the Sperwer on August 16, 1653, as a result of a storm which had lasted five days.
3. Where did you run aground? How many men did you have on board and how many pieces of artillery? On the coast of an island, which we call Quelpaert and the Koreans Cheju We had 64 men on board and 30 pieces of artillery.
4. How big is the island Quelpaert and how far is it from the mainland? The island of Quelpaert takes up about 15 miles in the round. It’s very fertile, densely populated and is about 10 or 12 miles from the south of the mainland.
5. Where were you coming from and which ports did you call at? On June 18, 1653, we left from Batavia with Taiwan as destination. We had Mr. Caesar on board, who was to replace Mr. Verburgh as ruling chief of Taiwan.
6. What kind of cargo did you have on board and what was the purpose of that? We had deerskins, sugar, alum and other goods on board. The destination of these was Japan. Mr. Coijet was ruling chief of Deshima in those days.
7. What has happened with the crew, the artillery and the cargo of the Sperwer ? At the shipwreck, 28 men drowned. From the artillery some pieces were dredged up. They were severely affected by the sea water. From the cargo only a part was salvaged. We don’t know where these goods are now.
8. How have you been treated by the Koreans after the shipwrecking? We were well treated. We were being accommodated, and given food and drinks.
9. Did you have orders from the authorities to privateer the Chinese and other junks, or to undertake raids on the coast of China ? We didn’t receive such kind of order. Our assignment was to sail straight ahead to Japan. But because of the storm we were off course and ended up in Korea.
10. Did you have Christians or people of other nationality on board? The crew consisted only of servants from the Company.
11. How long have you been at that Island of Quelpaert and where have you been brought to after that? We were about ten months on Quelpaert . From there we were brought to the residence of the king. This is located in Seoul .
12. How far is Seoul from Quelpaert and how long did the journey take? Seoul is about 90 miles north of Quelpaert . The strait between the island and the mainland is about 10 to 12 miles wide. From the South point of the mainland we traveled another fourteen days on horseback
13. How long have you been in Seoul, what did you do there, and what did you do for a living? We were appointed as bodyguard of the king and received a ration of 70 ounces rice per month. We have lived in Seoul for three years.
14. How did there come an end to your stay in Seoul and where did the king send you? Our chief coxswain and another mate approached the Tartarian envoy. They wanted to try to come home through China. This failed, and we were exiled to the province of Chollado .
15. What happened to the two mates who approached the Tartarian envoy? They were thrown immediately in prison. Later we heard that they died. But how they met their end, is not known to us.
16. How big is the kingdom of Korea? We estimate the length of the country from the north to the south at about 150 miles and from the east to the west 80 miles. The country is divided in eight provinces and counts 360 cities, and many big and little islands.
17. Are there in Korea also any Christians or people with another nationality? We didn’t meet any Christians. We did meet another Hollander, Jan Janse Weltevree. He was captured in 1627, together with some mates when he ended up in Korea, with a jaght from Taiwan. There were furthermore some Chinese, who fled their country, because of the war.
18. Is this Jan Janse still alive end where did he live? That we do not know. We didn’t see him for ten years and he wasn’t that young anymore. He lived in the court of the king.
19. How is the army of the Koreans armed? With muskets, swords and bow and arrow. They also have some pieces of artillery.
20. Are there any castles and fortresses? Near every city, which itself is indefensible, there is a fortress or a walled enforcement, most of the time on a high mountain. These always have food and ammunition for three years.
21. How many war junks do the Koreans have in navigation? Every city has to maintain a war junk. Every junk has a crew of 200 to 300 men, oarsmen and soldiers, and is equipped with some small pieces of artillery.
22. Are the Koreans at war with any country and do they pay tribute to any country? They are not at war, but pay tribute to the Tartarians, whose envoy comes three times a year to collect the tribute. They pay furthermore a tribute to Japan. How much is not known to us.
23. Which religion do the Koreans profess and do they try to convert you to this religion? They have, we presume, the same religion as the Chinese. They do not try to convert others.
24. Are there many temples and statues and which function do they have in the ceremonies? In the mountains there are many temples and monasteries situated, in which there are many statues. These are, as we presume, worshiped in the same way as in China.
25. Are there many monks and how do they look like? Monks are there in abundance. They make a living with working and begging. Their dressing is the same as the dressing of the Japanese monks.
26. How are the Koreans dressed? In the Chinese way. They wear hats of horsehair, or of cow hair and sometimes of bamboo. They wear shoes and socks.
27. Does there grow a lot of rice and other grain? In the south of the country grows a lot of rice. But in the dry period the crop fails and a famine starts. In the years 1660, 1661 and 1662 many thousands died of hunger. Furthermore there grows cotton. In the north they also grow barley and millet.
28. Are there many horses and cows? There are very little cows, but very many horses. Since about three years the number of cows decreased strongly, as a result of some contagious cattle decease.
29. Are there any foreign nations which are coming to trade with Korea? The only people that trade in Korea is the Japanese. They have an enclave in the country.
30. Have you ever been in the Japanese enclave? We have never been there, because this was strictly forbidden to us. To the Chinese they sell ginseng roots and other goods.
31. What kind of trade do the Koreans have? In the capital the well-to-do trade with silver , the commoner trades, as in other cities with pieces of linen according the value, rice and other grains.
32. What kind of trade do the Koreans have with China? From the Chinese they obtain the same kind of goods that as we Hollanders deliver also to Japan. Furthermore they get silk from China.
33. Are there any silver mines or other mines in Korea? The Koreans exploit already since many years some silver mines. A fourth part from the proceeds, is to the benefit of the king. As far as we know there aren’t any other mines.
34. Where does the ginseng root come from, what’s its purpose, and where is it exported to? The ginseng root comes from a plant which is growing in the north of Korea. They use it as a medicine. A part of the harvest is being given to the Tartarians, as part of the tribute. Furthermore the root is being exported to China and Japan.
35. Is it known to you if Korea and China are connected with each other? We were told that the two countries are connected by means of a mountain range. In wintertime these mountains are impassable, because of the severe cold and in summertime because of the game who lives there. That’s why they use the sea as a link between the two countries, in summertime by boat and in wintertime on horseback on the ice.
36. How does the appointment of the governors take place in Korea? Stadtholders are being appointed for one year, and normal governors for three years.
37. How long have you lived in the province of Chollado, what did you do for a living and how many of you have passed away there? We have lived for about seven years in the city Pyongyong. We received a monthly ration of 50 ounces of rice. In that time eleven mates died.
38. Why have you been relocated to other cities and what were the names of those cities? Due to the extreme drought in the years 1660, 1661 and 1662 there was a lack of food, so that the governor couldn’t give us our monthly ration. That’s why the king divided us over three places: in SaesOng twelve mates, Sunchon five and Namwon also five.
39. How big is the province of Chollado and where is it situated? In the utmost south of the mainland is the province of Chollado. It contains 52 cities, is densely populated and very fertile.
40. Did the king send you out of the country or did you flee? We fled with eight men, because we knew that the king would never let us go. We rather risked death than live for the rest of our lives in that country.
41. With how many were you at that moment and were the ones who stayed behind acquainted with your departure? We were sixteen in number. We left with eight of us, without informing the others.
42. Why didn’t you inform the others? We didn’t inform them, because they couldn’t come with us. By turns only eight of us had permission to go out.
43. How can the ones who stayed behind, still leave the country? If the emperor of Japan makes a written request for their release, he will not refuse it. After all the emperor sends the Korean shipwrecked persons back to their country.
44. Did you ever make another attempt to flee? We have tried it twice. The first attempt failed because we didn’t know the rigging of a Korean fisherman’s boat, that’s how the mast broke two times. The approaching of the Tartarian envoy wasn’t successful because the king bribed the envoy.
45. Did you ever request the king to let you go and, if yes, why did he refuse that? We have requested it repeatedly, to the king as well as to the crown council, to let us go. It was always refused with the argument that Korea never let foreigners leave, because one doesn’t want Korea to be known to foreign countries.
46. How did you get the barge? We have bought it with our own hard-earned money and money we begged together.
47. Was this the first ship that you have bought? No, it was the third one. The two previous ones appeared to be too small for the crossing to Japan.
48. From which place did you flee? From SaesOng, where five of us lived, and from Sunchon, where the other three lived.
49. How big was the distance to Nagasaki and how long did it take you? We estimate the distance between SaesOng and Nagasaki at about 50 miles. From SaesOng to Goto it took us three days. We stayed there four days and went then in two days to Nagasaki. So in total the journey took nine days.
50. Why did you go to Goto, and why did you want to flee when they wanted to stop you? We have been hiding there for the storm, and when it laid down, we decide to continue our journey.
51. How have you been treated in Goto, and furthermore was something charged you there? Two of our mates were taken away for interrogation. For the rest we have been treated well, without that something has been charged for that.
52. Has somebody of you ever been in Japan, and, if no, how come you knew the way? Nobody has ever been in Japan. A few Koreans, who have been in Nagasaki, told us how we had to sail. Furthermore we remembered what the coxswain had told us.
53. What are the names, the functions and the ages of the eight mates who stayed behind in Korea? 1. Johannis Lampen, assistant, 36 years old;
2. Hendrick Cornelisse, sub officer in charge of the rigging; *
3. Jan Claeszen, cook, 49 years old:
living in the city of Namwon;
4. Jacob Janse, quartermaster, 47 years old;
5. Anthonij Ulderic, gunman, 32 years old;
6. Claes Arentszen, cabin boy, 27 years old;
living in SaesOng.
7. Sander Basket , gunman, 41 years old;
8. Jan Janse Pelt, junior boatswain, 35 years old.
54. What are the names, the functions and the ages of the eight mates who made it to Nagasaki? 1. Hendrick Hamel, bookkeeper, 36 years old; *
2. Govert Denijszen, quartermaster, 36 years old;
3. Mattheus Ibocken, petty barber, 32 years old;
4. Jan Pieterszen, gunman, 36 years old;
5. Gerrit Janszen, idem, 32 years old;
6. Cornelis Dirckse, sailor, 31 years old;
7. Benedictus Clercq, cabin boy, 27 years old;
8. Denijs Govertszen, idem 25 years old.
  Thus answered truthfully by us, at September 14, 1666

An official report of the chief, dated October 18, 1666, when Mr. Volger had already embarked and was already on board of the Espérance, he wrote to the governor general that the adventures of the person from the shipwreck of the Sperwer had to be written down. It may be assumed that Hamel had the assignment to write this report before his departure. Whether Hamel, while writing the Journael, had notes at his disposal, is unsure. He mentions so many places and so many dates that one is tempted to assume that he kept a diary in Korea. On the other hand he never mentions exact dates, which he would have done if he would have written the Journael by means of a diary. So if he had notes at his disposal, these must have been very brief.

He must have relied on his memory and that of his mates, while writing the Journael. When on October 22 of the next year finally the permission to leave arrives, Hamel will have finished the Journael for a long time. On the same day Hendrick Hamel and his mates embark on the Spreeuw, which was ready to sail out. The journey back to Batavia didn’t go via Formosa, because this island was lost in 1662. In that year fort Zeelandia was conquered by a descendant of the Ming dynasty. The Spreeuw chooses the deep blue sea on October 23 and arrives on November 28 at Batavia. Here was, according to the daily reports of Joan Maetsuyker, the Journael handed over to the last-mentioned.
The mates of Hendrick Hamel traveled through to their fatherland, with the same ship with which they arrived at Batavia. They arrived there on July 20, 1668. Hamel himself however stayed behind in the Indies.

It was told that he was a bachelor and because of that was less homesick for Holland. The manuscript which is in the archives of the State in the Hague is considered to be an original document as written by Hamel, on the basis of a careful text analysis. It was sent to Holland by the governor general, after a handwritten copy was made for the archives in Batavia. This copy however is lost.

Striking is that Hamel, at the end of the Journael did write down the date on which he and his mates did leave for Batavia, but that the date on which the Spreeuw arrived at Batavia isn’t filled in. It is assumed that Hamel in 1669 returned back to Holland, at the same time with the second group of rescued persons who survived the shipwrecking. When that exactly happened and with which ship is not to be retrieved anymore. In August 1670 he appeared with two members of the second group, in front of the Heeren XVII, to ask for the payment of their wages over the period of their imprisonment in Korea.

The same request was already done by the first group. The Heeren XVII had already turned away this request. And also in 1670 they rejected the request. Servants of the VOC only had the right to wages for the time during which they were on board of one of the ships of the VOC or if they were in one of the factories.

This was a hard and strict rule, from which the Heeren XVII, under no condition, wanted to deviate. Out of humanitarian considerations, they decided however to give to all the surviving members of the Sperwer an amount of money. This amount will be in no proportion to the amount of the total of their wages during their thirteen years long stay in Korea. It was clear that the VOC was a trade company and not a charitable institution.

The escape

We didn’t feel like doing slavery work for the rest of our lives. That’s why we decided to sneak off as soon as possible. We had the money to buy a boat, but nobody was willing to sell us one. Then we persuaded a neighbor of ours, who was a regular visitor at our home, to work as a puppet for us. Suspiciously he asked what we intended to do with that boat.
We told him we wanted to sail to one of the islands to buy wool. After we promised that we would share the profit, which we would make with the sale of the wool, he agreed and bought the next day a boat from a local fisherman. Almost things went wrong, because the next day this fisherman saw that we were rigging the boat. He wanted to cancel the sale, because he understood we wanted to escape with the boat. If the governor would find out that we escaped with his boat, then he would without doubt be killed.
Probably he was right. That’s why we advised him, immediately after we had left, to go to the governor and tell him the Hollanders had stolen his boat. The man started to doubt and when we gave him all the Korean money we had, he yielded. We impressed upon him that he should not go to the governor too fast, because in that case we would possibly be overtaken by the war-junks. If that would happen, we would appoint the fisherman as one of our accessories.

We wanted to leave at the first quarter of the moon, because then, most of the time, the weather is favorable. Since we were in a leap month (February). Coincidence was that two of our mates of the city Sunchon, came to visit us, as we did visit each other more often. We told them about our plan and they decided to join us. They were noncommissioned barber Mattheus Eibocken and Cornelis Dirckse. Apart from those two we also wanted to bring a certain Jan Pieterszen, because he knew about navigating.
One of our mates went hastily to Sunchon to fetch him. Unfortunately it seemed he visited by coincidence the mates in Namwon, which is 15 miles further. This meant an extra stiff walk. After two days both of them returned in SaesOng. The first-mentioned mate had walked in those four days, for about a fifty miles.

We decided to weigh the anchors the following day, September 4, with the moon set, and before the low tide. In the meantime our neighbors became more and more suspicious. We still had to bring all kinds of things aboard and, in order to do so, we had to climb over the city wall all the time. Such a thing naturally couldn’t be done unnoticed. That’s why we told our neighbors that we wanted to make a beach party. We did as if we were very gay and lighted a big fire at the beach.
Naturally a lot of people came to watch, but luckily one after the other left, as it became later and later. These fishermen get up early and that’s why they sleep early. When everybody was gone, we let the fire go out and waited until the moon completely disappeared behind the horizon.

First we sailed to an island right in front of the coast, because we wanted to take in some fresh water. Right alongside the island we sailed to the open sea. Left in front of us, we saw the city shrouded in darkness, with, in front of it, in the roadstead, some war-junks. When we passed the island, we got the full wind in our sails, which we had hoisted in the meantime, and sailed quickly to the open sea.
.By means of the stars we tried to sail a straight course in south-southeastern direction. When it became light, we saw a ship at the right of us. Its crew had noticed us in the meantime as well. They hailed us, but we didn’t react to it and let the ship straight in the wind, to make as much speed as possible. When we were far enough from them, we retook the right course, while we now used the rising sun as a beacon.
So we sailed on all of that day. The weather was good and there was a firm breeze. We had agreed that we would sleep in turns, but that went to no avail: everybody stayed wide awake. So we went into the second night. The sky was practically unclouded, and it was not really difficult to sail by means of the stars a straight course. We had cooking pots, fire wood, rice and salt aboard, so we didn’t have to starve.

The next day on September 5, with sun rise, the wind vanished completely. That’s why we lowered the sail, as not to be visible so easily from a great distance and put ourselves on the oars, to keep the speed from the ship up. Toward the afternoon the wind grew a little from the west. We hoisted sail again and set course, paying attention to the sun, in Southeastern direction. Toward the night the wind increased, from the same direction. We saw the last South point of Korea obliquely behind us. Then we were not afraid anymore to be overtaken and heaved a sigh of relief.
In the morning of September 6, we saw, not far from us, one of the first Japanese islands. That evening we were, as we heard later from the Japanese, off Hirado.
Because none of us had ever been in Japan, we didn’t know the coast. From the Koreans we were told that, in order to get to Nagasaki, we shouldn’t let any islands on starboard That’s why we tried to surround the island, which seemed initially very small, and found ourselves that night west of the country.

On September 7, we sailed with a weak and changing wind, alongside the islands. We discovered that there was a whole row of them, one island after the other. Toward the evening we lowered the sail and rowed to the coast to anchor during the night in a bay. Because there were a lot of turning winds we thought it risky to continue sailing during the night. When we wanted to enter the bay, we saw so many lights of ships, that we thought it wiser to turn around. We hoisted the sail and sailed on all night, with the wind from behind. When it lighted up again, we saw that we were still in the same place as the night before. We suspected we drifted back by the stream. We steered our ship from the shore to get better above the islands.
At about two miles from the coast, we had a strong wind coming from the front. It did cost us a lot of efforts more to guide our brittle little ship into a bay, to seek some shelter there. We lowered the sail, threw out the anchor and started to prepare a meal. We knew at that moment absolutely not where we were. Sometimes a few Japanese fishermen’s boats passed by, without paying attention to us.
By evening time the wind began to drop, and we were just about to continue our journey, when a ship with six men aboard, sailed into the bay. When we saw this, we hastily raised the anchor and hoisted the sail in order to get away fast. We would have been successful if we didn’t have head wind. Besides more ships entered the bay.

That’s why we lowered the sail and hoisted a small flag with the regimental colors of the Prince of Orange (an orange, white blue flag) which we had made especially for that purpose. When the Japanese -because we understood that’s what they were – were within shouting distance, we shouted in unison: “Hollando, Nagasaki.” The ship, which entered as the first into the bay, came toward us. One of the Japanese stepped on our ship and gestured to the one who was at our helm at that moment to join him aboard the Japanese ship. Accordingly they took us in tow and sailed around a small cape.

On the other side was a small fishermen’s village. Here they rigged our ship with a big anchor and a thick rope. Apart from the one who was sitting at the helm, they took some others from our group to the shore. An attempt was being done to interrogate them. But without much result, because both parties didn’t understand each other. Our coxswain continued to shout:”Hollanda, Nagasaki.”
The last word however they seemed to understand, because more and more Japanese pointed in a certain direction and nodded to us. Our coming, by the way, had caused a lot of consternation. Everything was thrown into confusion. The whole village had come out to take a look at us.
Toward the evening a big sailing ship came sculling into the bay, with lowered sails. We were taken aboard, a man was sitting there, who looked rather impressive.
Later when we were in Nagasaki, we were told that he was a high official, the third in rank on the island. He was a friendly man. He smiled at us. He pointed to us and then said that we were Hollanders. We nodded fiercely. Then he told us we would be taken to Nagasaki in four or five days. That five Hollander ships were anchored there.

We in our turn, tried to make him clear that we came from Korea. That we were shipwrecked thirteen years ago and since then stayed in Korea. And that we tried now to go to Nagasaki to join our countrymen.
We were very relieved that the reception was so friendly. The Koreans had fooled us with telling us that every foreigner who sets foot on Japanese soil, immediately was beaten to death. From this one can see how many nonsense several nations told about each other.

September 9, 10 and 11 we remained anchored. Who wanted to stretch his legs, was allowed to go ashore, but was strictly guarded. We received from the Japanese additionals, water, firewood and what we needed more. Because it started to rain, we received straw mats from them, with which we could make a little tent, so we could sit dry.
On September 12, everything was made ready for the trip to Nagasaki. In the afternoon we lifted the anchor and we arrived by evening time on the other side of the island, where we dropped our anchor to spend the night.
On the thirteenth, at sunrise, the earlier mentioned high official boarded the big sailing ship. He had some letters and goods with him, which were meant for the court of the emperor. Then we lifted our anchor. We were accompanied by two big and two small sailing ships. The two mates who were the first to be brought ashore, were on board of one of the bigger ships. We saw them no earlier back then in Nagasaki.

Toward the night we reached the bay of Nagasaki and at midnight we arrived in the roadstead. Because it was a clear night, we saw clearly the five Dutch ships from which they had told us.

This was a touching moment. Most of us had tears in the eyes. We embraced each other and shouted our throats hoarse from joy.In the morning of the fourteenth, we set foot ashore in Nagasaki, where we were welcomed by the interpreter of the VOC, who asked us a hundred and naught questions about our adventures. After we had told him our story, he admired the way, that we escaped in such a small ship and made a dangerous journey over, to us unknown waters, to join us with our countrymen.

These two sentences are not mentioned in the original document. Hamel avoided any form of emotionality. But in this place in the Journael, he does mention a relevant fact. Because in the translation of the Journael of 1954 from Yi Pyong Do, a Japanese contemporary source is cited, from which it appeared that the cheers of joy of Hamel and his mates, on the escorting Japanese boats, were clearly audible (For a map of the route taken during Hamel’s escape, click here)

Then we went over the bridge, to the island of Deshima, Here we were welcomed by the chief, his lordship, Willem Volger, Mr. Nicolaas de Reij, his replacement, and by a number of employees of the Company. We received a warm welcome and were then provided with Dutch clothes.
We hardly could believe that this was the end of a dangerous adventure which lasted exactly thirteen year and 28 days. We were grateful to the great Lord that He had listened to our prayers and rewarded our efforts with such a good ending.
We spoke of our hope that the eight mates who remained in Korea, also would be liberated from their prison, and that they once could return to their country and people as well. That the Almighty Lord may help them with that.

Of the further life of Hamel is as little known as of his life before the Korean adventure. In a handwritten document, which is kept in Gorkum, of around 1734 is written that Hamel settled himself in Gorkum in 1670. Some years later, it is not known when exactly, he left again to the Indies. About his stay there, one can’t find any data. But in 1690, or a little bit earlier, he’s back in Gorkum. Here he dies, “vrijer zijnde” (still being a bachelor), on February 12, 1692. He is then 62 years old.

Additional investigation shows:

In the meantime there are in memory of Hamel the following landmarks found:

Gorkum : Hendrik Hamel straat.
In the Linge district since July 7, 1930.
Gorkum: a statue has been erected as well as in Kangjin (Korea) where Hamel and his mates lived.
As an homage to Hendrick Hamel who was born in the Kortedijk next to the premises of number 65.
Heusden: Hamel Park
In Heusden there have been several mayors who were called Hamel at around 1500; they were the ancestors of Hendrick.
The Hague: Hendrik Hamel straat (=Street)
Hendrik Hamel plantsoen. (=Park)
1st Western expert on Korea 1630-1692.

The name Hendrick and Hendrik are used in the same way, Hendrick being the 17th century spelling, Hendrik the modern one, therefor the original Journael uses Hendrick


The journal of Hendrick Hamel ends as follows. 

On October 23, 1666 Mr. Volger left with seven ships from the bay of Nagasaki. We were very sad when we saw the ships leave. Because we had hoped to leave together with the chief to Batavia. This was us however not granted by the governor of Nagasaki. So we were forced to stay one year longer on Deshima.

On October 25, we were taken by the interpreter from the island and taken to the governor. Here a number of questions were asked which we answered to our best knowledge.
On October 22, 1667, round noon we got permission from the new governor to leave. And so we lifted anchor at the break of dawn and left the bay of Nagasaki.
On… we arrived at the port of Batavia, thanking the good Lord that He released us after these distressful wanderings of more than fourteen years released us from the hands of the heathens.

(Since Hamel wrote his journal on Deshima, he wrote on the last day October 23 as the day of departure. On which day he would arrive, he didn’t know. Why he didn’t fill in this date later is not clear. Anyhow on this place the manuscript shows a gap. The date which was supposed to be written here was 28 November 1667) 

From what is mentioned above, it appears that the “distressful wanderings” of Hendrick Hamel and company did not end in October 1666. They were obliged to stay exactly one more year on Deshima. That can’t be such a pleasant stay. Deshima was a very small artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki. It was connected by a bridge to the mainland. The Hollanders were only allowed to pass this bridge with the permission from the Japanese. And this permission was rarely granted. Only when the Japanese wanted to ask the Hollanders something or wanted to say something, a small delegation was allowed to pass the bridge. Deshima was exactly one hectare big. It was a long, small piece of land, on which there was one street, with houses on both sides. It was constructed by the Japanese in 1635-36, especially with the purpose to accommodate foreigners – barbarians- with whom the Japanese wanted to trade. (Click here for a detailed map of Deshima)

The isle was originally meant for the Portuguese. These however, were driven out in 1638, because they had tried to convert the Japanese to Christianity. Some years later it was assigned to the Hollanders because they declared not to be Christian, or at least not to nourish the intention to undertake any missionary activities.

Till 1641 the Hollanders owned a factory on Hirado. This is a much bigger island which is North of Nagasaki. In the archives of the VOC, this is called a lodge. This term is being used more often and seems to mean something like an enclave. The Hollanders were on this island for 38 years, from 1603 till 1641. They had much more liberty to move over there.

But in 1641 the Hollanders had to move to Deshima. The removal lasted from 12th till 24th of June and on June 25, 1641 the chief Le Maire of Hirado came for once and for all to Nagasaki. The isle was completely packed. There were offices, warehouses and furthermore houses for the handful of servants of the VOC, who stayed for a longer period of time on the isle. The leading person was the chief, who was assisted by a second person and an assistant. The chief lived in a rather spacious accommodation, which was beautifully furnished. The rest of the servants lived in little houses, which were more like barracks.

There were some guest houses as well, destined for the officers of the ships of the Company which were moored in the port. In one of those houses Hamel and his companions were accommodated. Probably they didn’t have much space and little privacy and that it was a boring place to stay appears from the following: “… come previously mentioned ships here for Schisima or the Compagnie’s residence to drop anchor” (Daily Reg. Japan August 14, 1646).

The Hollanders were not allowed to practice the Christian religion on Deshima. Thus there was no church and no minister. They were not even allowed to bury their deceased. There was hardly any space for that as well. Deceased had to be thrown over board, five miles off the coast. From each ship which moored in the roadstead, the sails and the rudder had to be handed over to the Japanese. This to prevent that they would leave without permission. The bibles and guns had to be handed in as well. The pieces of artillery on board were locked.

Provision was partly supplied by the ships of the Company and partly bought from the Japanese, amongst others chickens, fish, fresh vegetables and fruits. On Deshima they were most likely not troubled by scurvy. They were troubled however by venereal diseases. The chief proclaimed in one of his official documents to Batavia, that the servants of the Company got these diseases from the Japanese prostitutes, who crossed the bridge regularly. In a daily report from the chief, dated August 19, 1641, is written: “De Japanders verordonneerden dat geene Hollanders sonder vragen van’t Eiland vermochten te gaan. Dat wel hoeren, maar geene andere vrouwen, Japanse papen noch bedelaers op ‘t Eiland mochten comen” (The Japanese ordered that no Dutchman was allowed to leave the isle without permission. Whores were allowed, but no other women, Japanese clergymen nor beggars).

The stories, which these, as from the air descended fellow countrymen could cough up, were pre-elementally suitable to appeal to one’s imagination and were a joy to hear. They knew after all to tell something about an eastern country where, as far as one knew, no other European has been. The castaways could however tell about their thirteen-year experiences, during which they had almost complete freedom, the story of the lives that they and their companions had lived. Starting with the shipwreck and the life they lead on the island and after that about their lives on the mainland of Korea. These stories will have been followed with suspense. The story of the experiences, their adventurous flight and especially their meeting with a fellow countryman, who stranded a quarter century before them in Korea, will have made a deep impression.

In the official everyday life, the Japanese behaved themselves correctly but with a haughty air. From Japanese sources is known that they considered the Hollanders as unmannered barbarians, who smelled unpleasantly. As seemed from the correspondence, which they had with the Korean administrators, they considered Holland as a vassal state, though they had only a vague idea where the country was located. Civilians from a vassal state ought to behave themselves like that. They had to approach the Japanese humbly and respectfully.

This was already the case when the Hollanders were still on Hirado. In an Instruction from the Heeren XVII of May 31, 1633, to the presiding chief Nicolaes Couckebacker we read:
De Hollanders moeten de Jappanders na de mondt sien en, om den Handel onbecommert te gauderen, alles verdragen. Dat hij sich in alle sijnen handel, wandel ende civilen ommeganck zoo lieftallig, vrundelijck ende nederig tegen allen en een ieder, soowel groot als clijn, sal hebben te comporteren dat hij bij de Japanse natie, die selfs van conditie wonder glorieus is, oock geen grootsheit of hoovaerdij in vreemdelingen can verdragen, bemint ende aengenaem sijn mach. (The Hollanders have to tell the Japanese what they like to hear and, to grant the Trade carefree, bear everything. That he (Couckebacker) behaves himself in all his actions and in civilian contacts, to all and everyone, be it big or small, to compromise himself, that he is beloved and pleased by the Japanese nation, which is of great glorious condition itself and cannot stand grandeur or haughty behavior from foreigners).

Most of the chiefs succeeded in making themselves “beloved and pleased” by buttering up the Japanese. When, from their reports it seemed that there were frictions, then the chief in question was replaced quickly. 

There is a world of difference between the conduct of the Dutch on Deshima and their attitude towards the locals elsewhere in southeast Asia. The contracts which the Company entered the local chiefs into, were mostly only advantageous for the Company and, if they were good contracts, they were dishonestly carried out. Extortion and corruption were common practice and if the ‘savages’ dared to resist violently against the Company, it hit back hard-handedly.

On the island of Formosa, the Chinese had attacked the Dutch settlement ‘Provintien‘ and killed eight servants of the Company. As an action of revenge the military was sent out and in twelve days time a true massacre was performed amongst the Chinese. An official statement of December 24, 1652, says the following; “Soo werden in den tijt van 12 dagen tusschen de 3 a 4 duisendt rebellige Chineesen in wederwraeck van het verghoten Nederlants Christenbloet on ‘t leven gebracht.” (And so in a time of twelve days, between the two and three thousand Chinese were killed as a revenge for the shredding of Dutch Christian blood)

Nevertheless the results from the trade of Deshima were not less advantageous for the Company than the trade of Taiwan. The different approach the Hollanders had towards the Japanese didn’t do any harm to the Company. In several reports one can read that the trade with the Japanese was ‘seer profijtelijck‘ (very profitable). So with buttering up, one could make obviously as much profit as with blood shedding.

One may wonder why the Japanese didn’t allow Hendrick Hamel and his companions to leave as fast as possible. This was in connection with what the chief called “den Japanchen precisiteyt” (the Japanese preciseness). The castaways had hoped they could leave on October 23, 1666 with the Esperance to Batavia. But despite repeated oral and written requests by representatives of the Company, the required permission stayed out.

Only on October 22, of the following year this license was handed out, which made an end to the second imprisonment of Hamel and co. On the same day they boarded on the moored ship the Spreeuw (starling). This fluitschip (= kind of freighter with three masts) arrived on at Batavia November 28, 1667.

Why did the permission for Hamel and co. to leave from Nagasaki stayed out so long? What did the Japanese authorities do in the meantime? The written report of the interrogation which was taken from the Hollanders, was sent by the governor of Nagasaki to Yedo to get the required permission. Only the transportation of this report took some time.

The state government didn’t react immediately. They wanted to verify the answers which the castaways had given. Therefore they started a correspondence with the Korean government. This was a time-consuming procedure. The complicated protocol made it impossible that the Shogunate corresponded directly with the Koreans and as an intermediate the Daimyo of Tsusima was appointed. This was obvious because he already traded for a long period of time with Korea. The Daimyo owned a small enclave in Pusan. There was a small harbor, near Tongnae, where to the Daimyo was allowed to send yearly 21 ships.

What the Japanese would like to know, was if there were any Christians hidden amongst Hamel and co. That’s why the Daimyo sent a letter to the authorities in Pusan.

We have respectfully received a lofty command (from Edo) to dispatch en envoy to ascertain the real circumstances of these people. Considering that they have long dwelled within your honorable boundaries, it must be surely known to you whether they are proper people or heathen……… Other details have been entrusted to our junior messengers Tachibana Narutomo and (Fujiwara?) Naramasa to deliver orally.

This official report had first to be translated into Korean, which took some time. Then the authorities in Pusan had to contact the governor of the province, because they didn’t have the right themselves to have written contact with the Japanese. The governor sent the letter to Seoul , where it caused a lot of concern. It took a lot of thinking how to respond to the letter. At that moment it was not known in Seoul that the Hollanders had escaped. The governor of the southern province had kept the news of the escape behind as a way of precaution. One had assured him that the Hollanders would never succeed in reaching Japan in such a small boat. They would vanish without trace.

The tone in which the oral information was given by the Japanese representative in Tongnae was by far not as courteous as that in the letter. He demanded in an arrogant tone from the mayor of Pusan, that he should take care that the Japanese government should get the answers to the following questions as soon as possible:

Is it true that thirteen years ago a ship from Holland stranded off the coast of Korea and that you stole the cargo? Don’t you know that every foreign ship, that strands off the coast of Korea, immediately has to be reported to the authorities of Japan? You do know that Holland is a vassal state of Japan?

The tough tone from this oral questioning was meant to speed up the Koreans. This was a procedure which was much used by the Japanese. They always sent very courteous and highly formal official reports, and ordered one of their representatives to hit the table in an oral conversation in an intimidating way. The questions were written down by the mayor and handed over to the governor of the province. Frightened, he sent them to Seoul. The Korean government answered by return.

Indeed a ship was stranded thirteen years ago, but we didn’t steal the cargo. It was given back to the shipwrecked persons. In our opinion only the stranding of Chinese ships has to be reported to Japan. How could we know that Holland is a Japanese vassal state. These people were not dressed in a Japanese way. And they spoke nor understood Japanese. They claimed never to have been there.

Shortly there after the Korean authorities formulated an official answer to the letter of the Daimyo of Tsushima. This started with the usual courtesy phrases and continued in the following way.

In the year 1653 a foreign ship stranded in front of the coast of the southern island. Half of the crew drowned. Thirty-six persons survived the shipwrecking. Nobody understood their language nor could read their handwriting. They stayed here for fourteen years. They supported themselves with fishing and chopping wood. They have never been caught trying to preach the doctrine of Jesus or to pollute in any other way the people with pernicious ideas. Would this have been the case, then we would not have hesitated to inform you immediately. If these barbarians were really Christians they wouldn’t have fled to Japan. They were namely told that followers of Jesus were killed instantaneously. There are still eight barbarians in our country. When you appreciate that, you can see these and if necessary, interrogate them.

Then the letter ended with the usual assurance of the highest esteem and the deepest respect which the Koreans nourished for their Japanese brothers. This answer satisfied the Japanese. They were now at ease and doubted no longer that the Hollanders were no Christians. Now they could fulfill the repeated request from the chief of Deshima. Hamel and co. got their permission to leave Deshima and the Daimyo wrote the following to the Koreans:
Recently we asked information about a vessel that stranded thirteen years ago off the coast of Korea. We understood that there are still eight of these people in your country. Since they are subject of a vassal state of our country, we request you to promote that these people are transferred to our island.

This letter was brought to Tongnae by a Japanese messenger, where it is handed over to the Korean commander in April or May 1668. He sent the letter to the court in Seoul. The king and his Crown council were immediately willing to grant the request. They seemed to be happy to be freed from the cursed Hollanders.

Instructions were sent to Cholla, where the Hollander were residing. And a letter was sent to the Japanese. In this the following was written: Of the eight Hollanders, one died last year. Seven are still alive. These will be taken to Tongnae and handed over to your envoy.

In August 1668 the seven arrived at the island of Tsushima. Here the Daimyo took care that they were transported to Nagasaki. After a difficult journey , they arrived there on September 16. In the daily records of Deshima the names of the ones who returned are written down on that day. They are the same names as mentioned by Hamel at the end of the interrogation by the Japanese in 1666. From Jan Claeszen , cook, coming from Dordrecht, is written that he died two years before in Namwon in the south of Korea.

But in the book Noord en Oost Tartarije (North and East Tartary) by Nicolaes Witsen , 2nd print Amsterdam 1705, is written in part I on page 53, that Jan Claeszen was, at that moment, alive and kicking. He however preferred to stay in Korea. “Hij was aldaer getrouwt en gaf geen hair aen zijn lyf meer te hebben dat na een Christen of Nederlander geleek.” (He was married there and declared to have no hair on his body that looked like a Christian or Nederlander [Dutchman]).

Nicolaes Witsen was an old esteemed administrator of the VOC, a scion or a jack of all trades, who occupied several functions for the VOC and was 13 times Mayor of Amsterdam between 1682 and 1705. While writing his book he consulted many written sources, which were not always equally reliable. But he also spoke with people who have been in the service of the VOC, to verify one and the other. For the description of the adventure of Hamel and his mates he used the Journael. This is proven by the fact that he has taken over, unaltered, some of the mistakes which occurred in the edition which he used. Besides that he has had contact with Meester (master) Mattheus Eibocken, who was a sub-barber in that time on board of the Sperwer. One may assume that everything which doesn’t occur in the Journael, is written down by him from the mouth of this sub-barber.

In order not to be troubled by the Japanese the Koreans will have written down in their report that Jan Claeszen had died. For the same reason his seven mates will have confirmed this message. They wanted to avoid the risk that they would not get permission from the Japanese to return homeward. And so this fake message entered the records of the VOC. But according to Witsen, Jan Claeszen was not the only person on the Sperwer who married in that country and had children. Witsen writes: “Kinderen en wijven, die enige daer getrouwt hadden, verlieten ze.” (They left children and wives, whom they have married).

Hoetink writes in the introduction to the scientific text edition of the Journael that here and there in Korea inboorlingen (natives, but in a disdainful way) have been found with blond hair and blue eyes. He considers it however not certain that these blond Koreans are descendants from the crew of the Sperwer. Hoetink keeps it in account that the possibility exists that other white sailors landed in Korea who “eveneens omgang hebben gehad met de vrouwen des lands” (also contacted the women of the country). This however is not likely. Hoetink himself is writing about “de afzondering waarin Korea heeft volhard na ‘t vertrek van de Nederlanders ” (the seclusion in which Korea persisted after the departure of the Dutchmen) and adds that “eerst aan het eind van de vorige eeuw Korea gedwongen werd zijn poorten voor vreemdelingen to ontsluiten” (first at the end of the last century Korea was forced to open its gates for foreigners) (1876). But as mentioned before, we do know some other foreigners DID enter the country.

This opening up was only related to the trade. Puritanism, racist prejudices and hate of foreigners prevented also after this year sexual relations between Koreans and Westerners. Only during and after the Korean war children of mixed blood were born in Korea. (1950-1953) Genetically speaking, only the third generation would have the possibility of having children with the characteristics of the first generation, presuming that dark dominates light.

From this one may conclude that all blue-eyed, blond Koreans of whom the father was demonstrably not a UN-military who was in service during that war, is a descendent of the crew of the Sperwer.

This statement is supported by a research recently done by dr. Tae Jin Kim, (Kim Tae Jin, who I met at the Dutch embassy in Seoul ) head of the library of the Chonnam University at Kwangju, the capital of the province of Cholla (Thiellado according to Hamel) In an article of the NRC Handelsblad of January 4, 1988 is written about this research:

   Al zes jaar lang brengt Tae Jin Kim een groot deel van zijn vrije tijd door met onderzoek naar nazaten van de 17e eeuwse Hollandse schipbreukelingen, die op een eilandje voor de kust aanspoelden. Volgens hem trouwden ze tijdens hun langdurig verblijf in Cholla met Koreaanse vrouwen en zorgden voor een nageslacht met gemengd bloed. “Mensen zijn ontsteld, ja diep geschokt, als ik alleen al suggereer dat ze misschien wel van Hollanders afstammen,” zegt Tae. “Ik heb nog niemand gevonden die het wil toegeven, ook al weet ik van sommige families voor bijna 100% zeker dat ze Hollands bloed in de aderen hebben”
  Already for six years Tae Jin Kim spends a big part of his free time with researching the descendants of the 17-century Dutch crew who shipwrecked and washed ashore at an island off the coast. According to him they married during their long stay in Cholla with Korean women and provided an offspring of mixed blood. “People are dismayed, yes even deeply shocked, when I only suggest that they might have descended from the Hollanders ” says Tae. I’ve yet not found anybody who wants to admit it, though I’m almost certain for 100% that they have Dutch blood in their veins.”

The newspaper article continues with the remark that ‘according to the Journael of Hendrick Hamel only one crewmember stayed behind in Cholla, because he married in the meantime and he had no hair on his body which was still Christian’.

We know that this message is not written in the Journael of Hendrick Hamel but in the book Noord en Oost Tartarije of Nicolaes Witsen. The source however is less important then the contents. It is placed in the newspaper article against the remark of dr. Tae Jin Kim that the greater part of the sixteen Hollanders who lived in the province of Cholla, fathered children in the villages of Pyongyong, Sunchon, Namwon and Shinsong. He bases this theorem not only on the presence in these villages of many blond and blue-eyed Koreans, but also on the fact that most of them bear the surname Nam. Nam means in Korean South. Nam is not an unusual family name in Korea. There are three branches. Two of them already existed before the arrival of Hamel and his companions, but the third finds his roots over here.

Hamel mentions in his Journael that the Hollanders when they were placed into the bodyguard of the king, they received Korean names. From the Korean sources (Ledyard) we know that Nam was a name given at least to a few of them. Tae Jin Kim also visited burial places, where he found at least two Hollander surnames. But also corrupted first names, for instance Yon (the Dutch name Jan, pronounced as Yan, is very common in Holland)

He made pictures of the faces of members of the Nam-families in these villages, and compared the facial features with those of other families. Dr. Tae (most likely dr. Kim) also investigated a social-historical research, from which it appeared that in the Nam-family there are remarkably many lawyers, doctors, professors and high military and civilian administrators. Unfortunately he didn’t write down the results of his research and he died without leaving any documentation behind.


An example is Nam Il, a North Korean general, originating from Pyongyong , it is said that in the Korean war he saved the village of Pyongyong from destruction.

In July 2000, I went to the places and the place names Hamel writes about and they are exactly pronounced in that way in the local dialect. Pyongyong becomes indeed Pyeingyeing and Namwon hears more like Namman, also Sunchon looks more like Suinschien, Shinsong is indeed pronounced as Saijsingh. Personally I saw that in Pyongyong at least most of the older people there have blue eyes, not bright blue, but brownish blue. However no blond hair. In Yosu I found, while I went to the harbor I saw a small boy, the crown of his hair was blond. From a personal correspondence with one of the people from Pyongyong we read the following:

Around sixty or seventy years after Dutchmen departed from Pyôngyông, Sir. Woo Jae published a world map first time as a local scholar. Of course, he comes from Pyôngyông.

He transcribes from a Korean book called T’am Jin mun hwa (no publisher known, obviously a Xeroxed compilation of papers presented at a lecture about Hamel)
Dr.Kim, Tae Jin focused on researching ‘which Korean last name Dutchmen used’, ‘how they made a living in Pyôngyông’, and ‘what their relationships to local people were’. Probable last names they might use are either “Nam” or “Nam-koong” in fact; a written record has it that one of the Nam family’s ancestors made an effort to develop firearms.
According to Late Park, Yong Hoo, several skeletal bones were found at
“Melke” Beach 60 or 70 years ago. These bones must have belonged to the Westerners based on their size.
Mr. Kim, Bong Ok believed that Hamel and his gangs could have lived at Prince Kwanghae’s house in Cheju.
Dr.Choi, Sang Soo suspects that Dutchmen may have lived somewhere near the ‘Su So Moon’ Dong in Seoul because the training school where they were assigned (for a post) is located in ‘Dong Dae Moon’ Stadium.

More information on the subject:

Jan Boonstra’s in search of traces
or (in Korean)
A site about the name Nam in general

Of course there are still more things to investigate. In the course of research I came upon the following things:
1.One day a Korean song was heard with the tune of a traditional Dutch tune. It was said to be a traditional Korean song. 
2.The origin of the word Hollan Hada, which means confused in Korean hollan is a compound of two Chinese characters, their Korean pronunciations being hon and lan, both of which mean confusion or disorder “Doing Hollands” ?
3.Why do Koreans call their mother Omma, (the Dutch word for grandmother is Oma), their elder brother Oppa (the Dutch word for grandfather is Opa), toktok in Korean means smart, didn’t the Dutch fool them when they mentioned that somebody was toctoc, (which means fool) Probably there are more words with a similar background; it would be interesting for a linguistic expert to investigate those things.
4. In Pyongyong, Kangjin in Cholla Province, the people wear wooden shoes, which are made in the same way as the Dutch do, made of one piece of wood, but with high heels


Abundance and discomfort


Riches alone make no man happy

A well-known proverb says that the love of money is the root of all evil. But another one says that Money has no smell. And that should be fine as well. Because otherwise the bricks of the VOC-buildings in Amsterdam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen and elsewhere would smell like the perspiration of the mates in the forecastle and like the blood of the victims of the many punitive expeditions in the East Indian archipelago.

The high profits of the VOC were, which is said here foregoing already, made at the cost of their own employees and the local population. For the administrators the hunt for profit was their most important motivation. Elsewhere one wrote already about the relationship between the so-called trade spirit of the Dutch and their Calvinistic way of living, so that moral considerations are not forthcoming and we can limit ourselves to the facts (van Hove however, makes judgments as well, as we will see further on. Also with citing certain writers one makes judgments).One of those facts is that the second half of the eighty yearlong independence war our independence struggle is financed to a high degree by the VOC, so that it can be said that Holland owes his existence as an independent state to this commercial enterprise. But also its culture. Because if the governor families didn’t earn that much money with the VOC, they couldn’t have given that much assignments to painters and architects. The Palace on the Dam wouldn’t have been built, nor most of the mansions alongside the canals of Amsterdam.

It is described in a satirical way in the Max Havelaar (1860) in a scientific way in amongst others: Wirtschaft und Geselschaft (1922) Max Weber) According to Weber, Calvinism sired virtues like thrift and diligence. Laziness was “the devils cushion of an idle person”, squandering and wastefulness were ‘not done’. This labor ethos was at the cradle of several mighty trade tycoons

The victory on the totalitarian (which is not a fact, but a judgment, the Spanish describe their history different t) Spanish ruler created on top of that space for a liberal climate. All kind of dissidents could publish their books here. The philosophical thinking developed in the spirit of Erasmus and Coornhert.

In sharp contrast with this is the fact that the local population of the East-Indian archipelago, in no way had any benefit of the activities of the VOC. In materialistic sense they were exploited and of the philosophical ideas which were developed in the Republic, they remained ignorant.

Some of the highest functionaries of the VOC knew about these philosophical developments. It’s not unlikely that an erudite man like governor-general Joan Maetsuyker read the in 1662 published work Tractatus de Intellectus Emandatione of Baruch Spinoza. He will have admired the theorem that ” material gain was no gain and that the only thing which has value and gives undisturbed joy, is the love to the divine creature ” which was posed there. But at the same time Maetsuyker will have had the opinion that you can’t do anything in practice with those ideas. He will have had no need to enter these ideas into the Council of the Indies. For the VOC material gain after all was a goal and a reason to exist.

This discord between philosophical theory and commercial practice is typical for the more educated merchants in Holland during the Golden Age. One may read the Embarrassment of Riches of Simon Schama (which is translated and published in Holland as Overvloed en welbehagen in 1988).

To ease their mind some rich Hollanders had a provision in their will, that a part of their fortune had to be destined after their death to the establishment and maintenance for some houses for needy countrymen. That’s how in many Hollandse cities the well-known hofjes (almshouses) originate, where single women were allowed to live for free or for a small amount. But no will ever mentions a legacy for the need of the local population of the East Indies. The locals were in the eyes of the Hollanders savages, who had brought down the revenge of God on their heads, that’s why they couldn’t make claims on Christian charity.

It was not before the 19th century that some of the enlightened spirits in our country started to see the locals as their fellow humans. The result was that the feeling of discomfort, like it is formulated by Schama, henceforth also concerned the population of the East Indian archipelago.

J.P. Heije, the well-known author of patriotic songs, expressed this feeling on a characteristic, but not very poetical way:

Did not your golden beams
Easter light and Easter glow,
Above Spanish recklessness
flaunt Dutch young freedom?
from that eastern balm air
buddeth Dutch youngest prosperity
till Europe’s richest fruit?
Ai, what did thy giveth to Java’s beaches
For the Freedom, for the Power,
for the blessing brought to you,
AI, what hast thou given Netherlands,
when your ships Netherlands,
Returneth with emptied womb,
Sendeth your grace to Java’s beaches,
slavery, dullness poverty, death
Deden niet uw gulden stralen
Oosterlicht en oostergloed,
Boven Spanjes overmoed
Neerlands jonge vrijheid pralen
van die oosterbalsemlucht
Neerlands jonge welvaart knoppen
tot Europa’s rijkste vrucht?
AI, wat gaaft ge aan Java’s stranden
Voor de Vrijheid, voor de Kracht,
Voor de zegen u gebracht?
AI, wat gaaft GE Nederlanden?
Als Uw schepen, Nederlanden
Keerden met geleegde schoot
Zond uw dank aan Java’s stranden
Slaafsheid, stompheid, armoe, dood.

Douwe Dekker formulated it more concise:” Goed, goed, alles goed. Maar…. de Javaan wordt mishandeld.” (Okay, okay, everything’s well. But…. the Javanese is being maltreated). The meeting between East and West, as it had taken place in the 17th century in the East Indian archipelago, had the big disadvantage that it was a meeting between unequal partners. The Hollanders came as oppressors and extortionists and misused the weak military position of the local population. That it could be done differently is shown in the case of Deshima. On that little island the Hollanders stayed for 200 years. If the Japanese had no advantage of their stay, they would have thrown them out, like they did before with the Portuguese. And if the contacts with the Japanese weren’t advantageous for the Hollanders, they wouldn’t have stayed that long. It seems to be worth investigating whether a similar relation wouldn’t have been possible between the Hollanders and the Koreans.

Quelpaert, a missed chance?

The fifteen crew members of the Sperwer, who came in contact with their countrymen, after their long stay in Korea, were of course extensively interrogated about all kind of aspects of their adventure. What interested the administrators in Amsterdam and the High Government in Batavia especially was the question if one could trade with this unknown country in a profitable way. That’s why the description of country and people of Korea as it is written down in the Journael, will have been read with a lot of interest. This description and the oral explanation by Hamel and his mates obviously raised optimistic expectations by the administrators in Amsterdam. Anyhow in 1669 a ship was launched that was baptized Corea.

The High Government in Batavia was less enthusiastic. But also this council concluded that several products which were exported to Korea were brought to Japan by the VOC. Amongst these were products like sandalwood, pepper , hides, etc. They wanted to investigate the possibility to deliver these goods to Korea straight-away in order to make higher profits in this way. That’s why, shortly after the arrival of Hamel in Batavia, an official document was sent, directed to Mr. Daniel Six, chief of Deshima, in which was asked to advice about this.

The answer of Six was not encouraging. He pointed at the monopoly for the trade with Korea, which was in the hands of the Daimyo of Tsushima . The Japanese would never allow that this monopoly was broken, according to the chief. In short, if the VOC valued continuing the commercial relations with the Japanese, they should not throw themselves in a Korean adventure. There was some more correspondence between Batavia and Deshima and between Batavia and Amsterdam, but eventually they took the advise of the chief at heart. As a consequence of the powerful position of Japan in that area, the VOC rejected further exploration of Korea. The good ship Corea, never set course to the country after which is was named.

Without doubt an attempt to harbor a VOC ship at a Korean port shortly after 1670, in an attempt to make commercial relations with Korea, have failed. If it is only that the Koreans were of the opinion that they were bothered enough by the Hollanders. Furthermore they stuck to their decision not to make any contacts besides the contacts with other foreigners with the Tartarians and the Japanese (In the case of the Japanese and the Tartarians they had not much choice!).

This decision was based on the bad experiences which the Koreans had in the past with foreigners. It was only a century ago that the Hideyoshi invasions took place, and the memories of the invasion of the Manchu’s in 1636 was hardly faded. The Korean desire to be left alone had always been very strong, even before the Hideyoshi invasion.

The coast of the country was carefully guarded and the harbors locked. On top of that the appearance was given that the country was poor. To the foreigners they pretended more or less: You have nothing of value here, because there is nothing. This isolating policy was enforced so consequently that when the Korean isolation was broken, it was the last country outside Europe which was disclosed.

The Japanese were also not very keen on foreigners. But while the Koreans kept the door firmly closed, the Japanese put theirs ajar. This was related to the fact that Japan was a powerful country and possessed a strong military and naval force and therefore had more self-confidence.

Already in 1543, the Japanese government granted the Portuguese to establish a factory on the island of Hirado . It was for the Japanese a lucky coincidence that when they changed the Portuguese for the Hollanders as commercial relation one century later. This happened on a moment in history where Portugal lost it’s importance as a world power indefinitely, like the Spanish Empire, of which the decline already started with the sinking of the Armada in 1588. In that year was the young Republic an insignificant dwarf state that in the swampy delta of Schelde, Meuse and Rhine hardly could keep its head above the water. A year before, in 1587, a soldier from Leicester called our territory:

…..the biggest quagmire of Europe. Nowhere in the world you will find so much bogginess. It’s everywhere swamp. Indeed it’s the buttock of the world, full of blood and veins, but with no bones in it.

This was written by Sir Henry Unton, troops captain of the cavalry in the English expedition army, which rushed forward to the help of the moribund Republic in his desperate looking battle against the Spanish oppressor. Obviously the English thought this such a suitable description of Holland that they used this in the course of the 17th and 18th century every time when the political situation gave a reason. They used it in leaflets against the Republic der Zeven Verenigde Provincien (The republic of the seven united provinces).

Sir Henry wrote his letter though from Middelburg, and the Province of Zeeland was in those days more sea then land, and much land was drowned or half drowned. As a consequence of the war circumstances the maintenance of the dikes was neglected, while some of the dikes were perforated sometimes on purpose to hinder the advancement of the Spanish troops. As a consequence Zeeland was nothing more then a collection of silts, from which some cities like Middelburg, Veere and Zierikzee stood up like little islands. It’s no miracle that Sir Henry complained about the bogginess.

That this buttock of the world would develop in two generations to a center of power and civilization, nobody could surmise. Also modern historians are amazed about this development, which, speed-wise, only is equaled by that of Japan at around 1900. In de Nederlandse Geschiedenis als afwijking van het algemeen menselijk patroon (1988) (the Dutch History as a deviation of the common human pattern) the authors are seeking an explanation of this swift development in the physic-geographical circumstances of the young republic. They end their argument with the rhetorical question :”Doesn’t the “Homo Hollandicus” arise in the first instance from the swamp?” For Japan the Hollanders were as trade partners much more acceptable, because obviously they were also hostile against both the Portuguese and the Spaniards, and they were as less charmed by the catholic religion as the Japanese themselves. It was a comforting thought that the Hollanders came purely as merchants and not as preachers of religion to the Japanese waters.

But in fact the choice of the Japanese meant that they chose an ideology which was already losing in Europe, and they came in contact with a liberal-capitalistic system, that eventually would determine the face in both the New as the Old World. Though the Japanese were in no way planning to study the European culture after Hollands design, with the aim to take over this cultural pattern, but the fact that they were capable in the second half of the 19th century of making themselves familiar with the western ideas, was partly due to the fact that they kept their door ajar for centuries. And that crack was Deshima .

When Perry arrived in 1853 in Japan, he encountered Japanese who could read Hollands. Some had made a study of sciences like they had developed in Europe. Others possessed knowledge about the civics and the economic organization of the most important European countries. There were even minor groups who aimed at importing certain scientific methods and political policy making in Japan. However small these groups were, their influence was unproportional big. Thanks to this influence the culture shock for the Japanese was less big, in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the West started to become engaged in the Far East than for most of the other countries in that part of the world, especially Korea. Here in 1870 the first European visitors since Hendrick Hamel and his mates encountered a backward country, with a degenerated dynasty, a corrupt administration and a society which was decomposing.

Matthew Galbraith Perry (1794-1858). American admiral, who forced the Japanese to open their ports for foreign merchant navy and lift the business embargo.

In a South Korean TV-documentary about the jaght the Sperwer and his crew (broadcasted by the TROS on May 31, 1988) some Korean historians regretted the fact that their ancestors, in 1653, didn’t use the opportunity to make cultural and economical relations with the Hollanders through Hamel and co.
According to these historians it would have been much better for the development of their country, if it had given the opportunity to the remaining members of the crew of the Sperwer to return to their countrymen with an invitation to the governor general to send as quick as possible a convoy of VOC ships with trade goods to the Korean waters.
One can only guess how the governor-general and the Japanese would have reacted, or the Tartarians. But according to the Korean historians it wouldn’t have been an impossible alternative, provided it would have been done carefully.
There could have been another script possible as well, according to which the initiative was to the VOC. It is tempting to wonder what would have happened if the Heeren XVII had laid down the advice of the chief of Deshima and accepted the risk of breaking economical ties with Japan, in order to make higher profits in Korea.

In order to save both ‘ de kool en de geit’ (the cabbage and the goat, meaning to be safe at both ends), there would have been a lot of diplomacy involved, beside some roaring of cannons and showing of flags. That wouldn’t have been troublesome since there was a lot of diplomatic talent present in the Republic. The assignment to play Tartary against Japan would have been right up the street of the in 1649 born Hans Willem baron Bentinck. He succeeded in a similar assignment in Europe shortly thereafter.

Baron Bentinck played an important role in the marriage of William III and Mary Stuart, which led to the Glorious Revolution

But, maybe unfortunately for Korea and maybe unfortunately for the Republic, nothing of this all happened. In 1653 the Koreans didn’t send the Hollanders back to Taiwan with an invitation for the governor-general, and in 1670 or hereabout, the governor-general didn’t send a powerful fleet to Quelpaert to occupy this island.

In reality the thirteen-year stay of the Hollanders was just a short incident of the long history of this country. With the departure of the last survivors of the Sperwer in 1668 Korea slept in again, to be wakened two centuries later, much ruder then the Sleeping Beauty







Interesting weekend fare: Cars, cola, Disney, history, and lift troubles

Sunday, November 6th, 2011


Uriminzokkiri posted this short video of rush-hour traffic in Pyongyang (YouTube):

I will leave it up to the reader to determine if the video was staged. What is more interesting to me is to see the variety of vehicles used in the shots.  I saw at least one American Dodge Van in the footage (similar to the one I saw parked next to the Pueblo in 2005).  If you know a lot about cars, feel free to try identifying other vehicles in the footage.

And continuing on the automotive front–a tourist to the DPRK took this picture in September 2010:

The picture above is of an American-made, petrol-guzzling “Hummer H2″ (MSRP in 2008 – USD$53,286; 10 mpg-US; 24 L/100 km; 12 mpg-imp). The license plate on the vehicle is 평양 22-2722.

In September 2011, Eric Lafforgue took the picture below of what appears to be a second Hummer on the streets of the DPRK.

The license plate on this vehicle is “23-199″. I cannot read the city name on the plate.  According to the photographer:

During my stay in North Korea, i [sp] saw 2 Hummer cars. This is the fist time i [sp] hear north korean people making cristisms about something in their country! They all told me it was a shame to see such a car in North Korea, as it needs lot of fuel. Some people told me that the car number tells that it belongs to a local media (press or tv).


Mr. Lafforgue has also brought up another interesting topic through his pictures: North Korea’s cola wars!


On the left is a Picture of Cocoa “crabonated drink” [sp] taken by Eric Lafforgue in 2008.  On the right is a picture of  ”코코아 탄산단물” (Translation: “Cocoa Carbonated Drink”) taken by Eric Lafforgue in September 2011.

I might have been inclined to believe they were the same product with different labels (and maybe they are?), however, they appear to be manufactured by different companies.  The cola on the left is manufactured by a company called “룡진” (Ryongjin), a company about which I cannot find any additional information, and the beverage on the right is manufactured by “모란봉” (Moranbong).  I presume that “Moranbong” is actually the Moranbong Carbonated Fruit Juice J.V. Company. According to Naenara:

Moranbong Carbonated Fruit Juice J.V. Company
Add: Taedonggang District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
Fax: 850-2-381-4410

The company formed in 2004 produces a wide assortment of carbonated fruit juice and health drink.

It has an affiliated factory equipped with hi-tech facilities that conform to hygienic requirements of GMP, ranging from production of bottles and drinks to packing.

Its products include apple, grape, peach, orange, cocoa, lemon and strawberry carbonated juices.

A multifunctional super-antioxidant health drink “Pirobong” is a drawing card in the world market.

The company will steadily increase investment in the development of new brand of drinks and further promote exchange and collaboration with partners across the world.

So why does the DPRK produce competing colas? Wouln’t that be wasteful duplication of processes? No.  Monopolys are generally more wasteful than competitive firms. Though in the past there were few producers of carbonated drinks in the DPRK (Ryongsong Food Factory, Kyongryon Patriotic Soda Factory), the DPRK seems to have moved away from near-monopoly production to a more competitive industrial organization in the production of soda.

Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong-hui (KKH), is director of the Light Industry Department in the Worker’s Party and as a result holds all colas in her job portfolio. Without having any special data on the DPRK’s cola market, I would speculate that KKH promotes competition between the different soda producers to increase efficiency and profits for the ultimate goal of improving the positions of her discretionary official and unofficial budgets.

As an aside, earlier this year Forbes ran a story about meetings held between the DPRK’s Taepung International Investment Group and Coca Cola. Taephing is directed by Jang Song-thaek, Kim Kyong-hui’s husband.


In the past I have pointed out the appearance of Disney characters on North Korean apparel . Now they are showing up on mobile phones:

History 1

Here is a video of Lim Su-kyung in Pyongyang (1989). Here is a story about her in the Daily NK. I think I just found her Facebook profile!


History 2

Here is a map of Pyongyang produced int he 1800s.  Other maps of the region here. Hat tip to Kwang On Yoo.


Lift troubles

Here is a 30+ minute video shot in Pyongyang–nearly entirley in the dark. Hat tip to Leonid Petrov.

The video caption reads: “We were touring the 3 Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang in 2009, when our elevator lost all power and 11 of us were stuck in blackness, hanging by a North Korean thread.”


Friday Grab bag: a little bit of everything

Friday, June 17th, 2011

1. Google has uploaded some beautiful new satellite imagery of Pyongyang. Some parts of it are easier to see than others, and I have not gone through it all, but here are some fun, quick discoveries:

1. There appears to be a new aircraft runway in Ryongsong-guyok (룡성구역, 39.127835°, 125.777533°).  Maybe not, but maybe.

2. The Ryugyong Hotel is looking more and more like a space ship:

3. We can see 2012 building construction all over the place.  Below are the new apartments Kim Jong-il recently visited (L) at the foot of Haebang Hill and (R) behind the Central District Market (for artists).

Here and here are the KCNA stories about Kim’s visits to the sites.

Here is a photo of the artist-housing under construction.

The Haebang Hill apartments are built on the former location of the “Monument to the Fallen Fighters of the Korean People’s Army”.  See a picture of this former monument here.


2. DPRK TKD in USA. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, a North Korean Taekwondo team toured the northeastern US this week.  I wish I could have seen one of the shows…but here are some clips from the New York show on Youtube: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part4.

They did a great job and are tremendous athletes.  I hope they are able to return soon–and make it a little further south.


3. DPRK sand animation. This week KCNA posted some very interesting video of a “sand art” demonstration.  Very skilled performance. A viewer was able to rip the video and post it to YouTube.

Pictured above is the “Ryugyong Hotel fireworks” part of the performance.  Part 1 of the piece is here.  Part 2 of the piece is here.  The whole performance is well worth watching. If I could ever be a tourist to the DPRK again, I would want to see one of these performances.

UPDATE: A special thanks to Prof. Stephan Haggard for offering a helpful explication of the piece.

In a similar vein, this piece remains my favorite of the genre (from Ukraine).


2. Kim’s Train (Retro). Last week I posted recent video footage taken from inside Kim Jong-il’s train.  This week I post some retro footage taken in the 1970s(?):

You can see the video here.  The room set up is essentially the same, though Kim’s tastes have obviously changed!


3. The CNC backpack.

Here is the source.  Learn more about CNC here.


4. A North Korean artist reproduced da Vinci’s Last Supper for an art show in Russia. See the Russian-language version of the BBC here (picture-8 ). (h/t L.P.)



Monday, May 16th, 2011

According to Reuters:

Pororo, who first debuted in 2003, is ubiquitous in South Korea, featured on everything from stick-on bandages to coffee mugs. Stamps with his image have sold more than those bearing the image of Olympic figure-skating champion Kim Yu-na, according to local media.

But few knew that North Korean cartoonists worked with their Southern counterparts to jointly produce part of the first two seasons of the television series that launched the bird to fame.

“This isn’t something that needs to be secret but by accident people found out that Pororo was partly produced in the North,” said Kim Jong-se, a senior official at Iconix Entertainment, the South Korean production company that developed Pororo.

“They gave us many responses, from very negative to very positive — we are a collaborator of the North or, it is great that both Koreas made the show together.”

After the leaders of North and South Korea signed a landmark peace pact in 2000 pledging new cooperative steps, Pororo was one of the inter-Korean businesses that developed, Kim said.

South Korean technicians went to the North to train their colleagues there. Production hit a snag when the North suddenly replaced its staff for the second season, forcing Kim’s company to repeat the teaching process, Kim said.

The North Korean participation took place between 2002 and 2005, ending when ties deteriorated between the two nations and the North could no longer join the project.

Pororo was probably developed at the Scientific and Educational Film Studio (SEK) or its affiliated April 26th Children’s Film Studio in Central District.  Guy Delisle worked there on an animation contract as well.  You can read about his experience here.

Read the full story here:
Iconic South Korean penguin character actually half-North Korean
Ju-min Park

Friday Fun: Fashion, Beer and Coca-Cola

Friday, September 30th, 2011

North Korean Fashion Archives

Choson Exchange posted the following on their web page:

During our last trip, we met with Korea Daesong Bank, which kindly provided a product catalog from the 80s/90s of their parent company – Korea Daesong Economic Group (KDEG). While fashion definitely has moved on in Pyongyang, we thought that it might be good to share some of the products they display in their catalog – for old times sake. In case you decide that the retro look is for you, do note that KDEG is currently under international sanctions.

Choson Exchange posted the pictures to their Facebook Page, but since there are many people who cannot (or do not) access Facebook, I thought I would post the pictures here:

American beer popular in the DPRK?

Pictured above (left) is a bottle of Budweiser served with dry fish aboard the recent Mangyongbong-92 “cruise” from Rason to Kumgangsan.  Learn more here. Pictured above (right) is a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) which has been converted into a candle holder and placed next to a bottle of “domestic” Taedonggang Beer. Click image for source. Maybe the number of hipster visitors to the DPRK has increased?

Coca Cola
Forbes Magazine has a very interesting article on talks between the North Koreans and Coca-Cola! Read the full article here.  I thought this would be a good time to remind readers about the DPRK’s indigenous cola:

Image source here

The soda is “Crabonated” which is a pretty funny typo. Also worth noting are the lengths they have gone through to copy the Coca-Cola brand–as if they are trying to win back market-share from the firm. The colors, red, black, silver and white are the same. The familiar cursive English “C” at the beginning of the word is a close copy. They even tried to replicate the Coke “wave” by adding a literal wave in a similar curve along the bottom of the advert.


Posted in Clothing, Daesong Group, International trade, Light Industry, Manufacturing, USA | 1 Comment

Kangdong market prices

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Kangdong Market (39.134801°, 126.109387°)

According to the Daily NK:

It has been revealed that the cost of living in Pyongyang has more or less held steady over the past month, despite a modest decrease in rice prices.

According to sources in Pyongyang, one kilogram of rice is trading for about 1,900 North Korean won, which represents a fall of about 100 won on June prices. It is thought that a modest easing of the exchange rate of North Korean Won against Chinese Yuan and the importation of a large amount of rice from China are partially responsible for the change.

“Chinese rice is currently selling for roughly 200-300 won less than Chosun (North Korea) rice,” one source said, explaining, “Chinese merchants and the like brought the rice into the country en masse at the start of the year when the price of rice was rising, but now it’s not selling so well. The price of rice has fallen across the broad and is fluctuating at around the 2,000 won mark.”

At the end of January, the price of a kilogram of rice temporarily soared past the 3,000 won mark. There was some speculation at the time that wholesalers were colluding to raise prices. After the price went up, a natural increase in market supply and a drop in purchasing power from currency redenomination kicked in to force prices back down. Since then it has more or less stabilized at around the 2,000 won per kilogram mark again.

The price for corn, which usually trades for about half the price of rice, has also recorded a small fall to 850 won per kilogram, down 130 won on last month’s prices. Pork prices are stable at 5,800 won per kilogram, which is the same price as last month.

Moreover, second-hand clothes are showing brisk trade on the market. One source attributed their popularity to the fact that they sell for less than half the price of new clothes.

Additionally, the source claimed that the warmer weather is encouraging more people to purchase sleeveless and short-sleeve shirts, as well as shorts and skirts. “Sleeveless shirts are prohibited by the authorities, so people only wear them at home. Mostly young people are doing this,” he said.

“Short-sleeve shirts, shorts and skirts are selling like hotcakes as well, but it is required that the latter two items go down past the knees.”

The cost of living in North Korea has more or less returned to the levels they were at before the currency redenomination. It is business as usual at the jangmadang, but with trade volume well down from what it was before. The source explained that, while people are not holding onto cash as a result of the currency revaluation, it is only food items and lifestyle goods that are selling relatively well, while sales of high-ticket electronic goods have actually decreased.

Here is the price data collected from the Kangdong Market on the outskirts of Pyongyang (JPG):

Left: June 2011, Right: July 2011

Links to the discussion of North Korea’s food crisis can be found here.

Read the full story here:
Market Prices Stable, Sleeveless Shirts Popular
Daily NK
Choi Cheong Ho and Park Sung Kook


Posted in Clothing, Economic reform, Farmers markets, Food, Price liberalization | Comments Off

Foreign clothing gaining popularity in DPRK

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

Young people in North Korea are emerging as proponents of Hallyu (the South Korean cultural wave) and as fashion leaders, showing themselves to be particularly keen on the South Korean music, movies, and fashion that are being smuggled into the country and traded.

On Wednesday, The Daily NK met with a Chinese merchant who conducts business in Pyongyang to find out about trends amongst young people in North Korea. He told us that, “Hooded sweatshirts are enjoying immense popularity with young people at the moment.” The reason, he explained, is that, “They want to emulate the fashion they see in South Korean dramas.”

He added, “At the jangmadang, hooded sweatshirts sell for about 200 Yuan (around US$31), so they’re not cheap, but so many people come looking for them that we almost run out of hooded sweatshirts to sell.”

The source explained that, in spite of this, South Korean brands and products with English lettering are prohibited from being sold.

“As the days get hotter, people are looking to get their hands on short-sleeve clothing. Light-colored clothing is most popular,” he noted, also mentioning that, “In general, new clothes sell for about 15,000 won and second-hand clothes for about 3,000 won.

One-piece dresses are in vogue with females as summer takes hold. These dresses tend to sell at the jangmadang for around 70,000 won. Additionally, the source said, “There are lots of young ladies looking for high-heel shoes, which go for about 25,000-30,000 won. Skinny jeans are as popular as ever, and you see lots of people walking around in three-quarter pants.”

He also mentioned that many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts to beat the humidity.

However, authorities have already cracked down on “inappropriate attire” for women, for example by banning skirts that do not go down past the knee. The sleeveless shirts, short skirts and pants that have become fashionable in recent times are difficult to wear out of the house because a person wearing them would become a target of the Union of Democratic Women’s community watch guards.

Regarding this, the source said, “People get punished for wearing shorts or skirts that don’t come down past the knee. The UDW’s community watch guards are in every lane and alleyway inspecting women (who break the law). Sleeveless clothes do sell, but nobody can wear them. So they just wear such items at home.”

Furthermore, he mentioned that, “Young ladies walk around wearing earrings and bracelets,” explaining that, “Bracelets, watches, rings and hairpins all tend to be popular itemsbecause people think they’re pretty.” North Korean authorities restricted the wearing of accessories in the past, but appear to have eased off on this policy in recent times.

He relayed that crackdowns on South Korean-made goods are as common as ever. According to him, those who get caught in the crackdowns have their goods confiscated on the spot. “The crackdowns on South Korean goods are still going strong,” he said. “At the outdoor market, the patrolling officers are checking practically every item tag now. That’s how serious it has got.”

“The intensity of crackdowns on South Korean movies and dramas on DVD that are coming into the country is always increasing,” he said, “but university students and young people in general are getting hold of South Korean and other foreign movies and selling them in secret.”

South Korean dramas and movies usually sell for 5,000 won (a normal DVD sells for 1,300 won), and at the moment IRIS, Assorted Gems, Slave Hunter, Queen of the Game and Smile, Mom are said to be the most popular.

Read the full story here:
Fashion Also Influenced by South Korean Culture
Daily NK
Choi Cheong Ho


Posted in Black markets, Civil society, Clothing, Economic reform, Farmers markets, South Korea | Comments Off

Foreign used clothing popular in DPRK

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities are reportedly reacting more strictly than normal to overt sales of products from South Korea in the country’s domestic markets.

One Korean-Chinese man engaged in business in Pyongan and Hwanghae Provinces told The Daily NK on June 11th, “They’re cracking down hard on products from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the jangmadang, and are reacting more strongly than before to South Korean products, too. There are no South Korean goods on sale openly.”

Sources say that in many cases this means that traders are being told to remove tags indicating South Korean origin.

The same trader explained, “Community watch guards come to the jangmadang and tell us to remove tags written in Chosun then sell them. They are thoroughly cracking down on things saying ‘Made in Korea’. Even though the clothes are of good quality, and therefore clearly South Korean, if there is no tag, then they are not prohibited.”

Currently, used clothes are said to be selling better than new ones, however. This is partly because people have little cash and are gravitating towards the cheaper prices, and partly because they don’t trust new products.

The trader explained, “The image of South Korean clothes is good as far as used clothes selling better than new ones goes. People think that new clothes are of poor quality and really expensive.”

He explained the reason for the low quality, saying, “Currently, producers are buying fabric in China to bring back and manufacture clothes in Chosun, and then they put ‘Made in China’ tags on them.”

A woman’s short-sleeve t-shirt is now worth 5,000 won for a new one but just 1,500 won for a used one. Since the price difference is huge and new ones are of questionable quality, decent used ones sell better.

Another source from Changbai in China corroborated the story, explaining, “Everybody from North Korea asks us to send them used stuff to sell. We go to Guangzhou to buy used clothes smuggled in from South Korea, and send them to North Korea. The demand from North Korea for South Korean used clothes is pretty high.”

Meanwhile, due to mobilization for seasonal agricultural work, the North Korean markets are currently operating from 5 PM to 7PM. They normally open at 2 PM.

However, the Korean-Chinese trader explained that despite the afternoon market closures, farms are facing an uphill battle, saying, “Since anyone who wants to survive has to trade, the number of traders has doubled. And since almost everyone is trading and their focus is on that, there is no way the farming work can go well.”

Read the full story here:
“Remove Tags, then Sell Them”
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong


Posted in Black markets, Clothing, Economic reform, Farmers markets, South Korea | Comments Off

DPRK fashion update

Friday, March 25th, 2011

The Daily NK on earrings and cosmetic surgery:

Earrings, once seen as a capitalist symbol and a target for crackdowns, are becoming more and more popular with North Korean women of all social levels in urban areas, while the growth of cheap, unregulated surgical procedures is apparently attracting attention in the capital.

This desire for beauty has even forced the authorities onto the back foot; they have reportedly stopped attempting to control some of the social changes.

A source from the West Sea port city of Nampo explained the situation there on the 13th, saying, “In the past, long earrings were a crackdown target, but now they stop it so people are wearing them a lot.”

Of course, in past years young women in major cities and around the border region also wore earrings, but did so more furtively. If and when caught, they were criticized as examples of an anti-socialist trend at a time when the standard ‘Chosun woman’ was advertized as one who had short bobbed hair, wore no make-up and was to be seen in a dress that came to between knee and ankle.

However, starting with the more affluent families of government officials and now found throughout society, this officially decreed standard of dress is no longer accepted. Indeed, even Kim Jong Cheol was seen with an earring at a recent Eric Clapton concert in Singapore, and, according to North Korean Intellectuals Solidarity, “A decree from Kim Jong Eun was handed down this past January stating that earrings are to be accepted.”

Indeed, while official controls on issues of beauty and accessories have been melting away, clothing including skinny jeans, which reveal the figure very closely, have grown in popularity for affluent Pyongyang women.

Even cosmetic surgery is said to be gaining in popularity. Although still illegal, some doctors will apparently perform certain procedures on the side for extra money, while there are also unqualified surgeons offering their services.

One Pyongyang source explained, “Double eyelids, eyebrows, lips and tattooing around the eyes are popular,” adding, “Seven out of ten women between 20 and 40 have had one or other of these procedures done. Mostly it is women who do it; there are many who feel they must do it even if they are short of food.”

According to the same source, part of this popularity stems from the surprising cheapness of the processes concerned. The tattooing of fake eyebrows costs in the region of 1,000-2,000 won, while double eyelids cost just 2,000-3,000 won. This at a time when a kilo of rice in the market costs only slightly less than 2,000 won.

However, the Nampo source explained that there are still some limits in that city at least, where “university students are not permitted to wear striking earrings inside their schools.”

And more on the DPRK people seeking to emulate the clothing of characters in ROK dramas:

The so-called ‘Korean Wave’ is strong with today’s young North Korean adults. As copies of illegally-recorded South Korean dramas flow into the country in greater numbers, some affluent young adults are keen to imitate the main characters in the dramas they are watching.

Of late, some children of rich parents are said to have tried to obtain the kind of tracksuit worn by Hyun Bin, who recently personified the life of a ‘self-centered and arrogant urban male’ in the popular SBS drama ‘Secret Garden’. For women, the trend is to follow the fashion of Kim Nam Joo, who played the main character in another drama, MBC’s ‘Queen of the Turn Around’.

Kim, a Korean-Chinese who trades between Dandong and Sinuiju, recently gave an interview to The Daily NK about the trend towards South Korean fashion in contemporary North Korea.

- Recently, what South Korean products have been the most popular with North Koreans?

All South Korean products are popular. There are many customers who want to buy South Korean products, so there are many sellers. Products with South Korean letters on can be sold for two or three times the price of other products.

- But what about the security services?

Agents who perform the inspections say, ‘we’ll let you sell them as long as the Korean letters are erased’. However, the trend is that more and more customers are looking for South Korean stuff, and since there is no way to prove whether the product is from South Korea if there is no Korean lettering, increasing numbers of merchants, who don’t want to miss a sale, think ‘I’ll just sell it as it is’ despite the crackdowns.

- What clothing is the trendiest these days?

The recently-aired South Korean drama ‘Queen of the Turn Around’ has been the most popular. Clothing worn by the main characters is popular. Except those things which reveal too much chest and the skirts, it’s all very similar to China. Now, skinny jeans are being worn by a surprising number of women.

- This is true even though South Korean products are more expensive?

It is such a big trend that even young adults who are having trouble making ends meet feel that they have to buy these things; fights with parents over it are on the increase, too. The price of boots and such like is $20~30, but they sell a lot to young females. Clothing sells for between $15~100.

- Do the wealthy classes or children of cadres also by many South Korean products?

They buy the most. Children from the houses of cadres or the wealthy seek the exact clothing which appears in South Korean dramas. Recently, fake mink has been popular. Especially, middle aged people in their 40s and 50s are wearing clothing made of fake mink a lot.

- What about when the product is different from that which the consumers are looking for?

There is a separate person who amends clothing. The cost of getting something changed is about 10,000 won, so they also make a lot of money. As a result, security agents try to get close to them. They visit them sometimes to get bribes; the agents don’t bother them.

- Why are South Korean products so popular?

It is because people are watching CDs of South Korean dramas secretively and imitating them.

- What if the same product people see on film is not on sale?

The person makes a drawing of the nice clothes which appeared in the drama or brings a picture. Clothing manufacturers have a hard time when young females bring an image and beg them to make the clothing no matter what.

- Especially is that the case with the children of cadres?

Once I met a child who brought the image of an item which would have been impossible to obtain, and then asked whether I could even get it by going to South Korea; that was a difficult situation. Not long ago, there was also one person who asked me to obtain the tracksuit worn by the main character in a recent South Korean drama.

Previous posts on DPRK fashion here.

Read the full stories here:
Push for Beauty Altering Official Curbs
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong and Jeong Jae Sung

Looking Like Hyun Bin or Kim Nam Joo
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 11-02-08

In last month’s New Year’s Joint Editorial, North Korean authorities reaffirmed the national drive to strongly develop the country’s light industrial sector by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. On February 2, the Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of the pro-North Korean residents’ league in Japan, proclaimed that all efforts were being focused on delivering high-quality light industrial goods by April of next year.

North Korea’s minister of light industry, forty-seven year old Hu Chul San, was interviewed by the paper’s Kook Jang Eun. Hu stated that light industrial zones already in operation would be further bolstered and the provision of raw materials would be prioritized for celebrations surrounding the 100-year birthday of the country’s founder.

The North Korean regime has set 2012 as the year in which it will “open the doors to a great and prosperous nation,” and Kim Il Sung’s April 15 birthdate has been set as the first target for economic revival. Just as in 2010, this year’s Joint Editorial called for light industrial growth and improvements in the lives of the North Korean people as the ‘strong and prosperous nation’ goal is pursued.

Minister Hu gave one example of the expected boost in production, stating that all students, from elementary school to university, would receive new school uniforms by next April. “Originally, school uniforms were issued to all students once every three years, but as the nation’s economic situation grew more difficult, [the regime] was unable to meet the demand.” He promised that for the 100-year anniversary, “Rationing would take place as it did when the Great Leader was here.”

The minister also explained that all preparations for distributing light industrial goods to the people next April needed to be completed by the end of this year, since Kim Il Sung’s birthday fell so early in the spring. He stated that a strong base had already been established for the production of high-quality goods, and that many organizations had already mass-produced high-quality goods for the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party founding last year, offering the Pyongyang Sock Factory, the Sinuiju Textile Mill, the Botong River Shoe Factory, and the Pyongyang Textile Mill as examples.

When asked how North Korea would resolve raw material shortages, the minister explained that since the February 8 Vinalon Complex began operations last year, Vinalon and several other types of synthetic materials were available. The Sunchon Chemical Complex and other industries were also providing synthetic materials to light industrial factories throughout the country, strongly supporting indigenous efforts to increase production. He added, “Raw rubber, fuel and other materials absent from our country must be imported,” but that “national policies were being implemented” to ensure steady supply.

Minister Hu admitted that there was no shortage of difficulties, but that every worker was aware of the importance of meeting the April deadline, and that because raw material shortages were being resolved, light industries were now able to press ahead with full-speed production.


Hot 2010 DPRK consumer goods

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

Skinny jeans, blue crabs, pig-intestine rolls and even human manure were some of the hottest items among North Korean consumers this year, according to a South Korean professor who has interviewed recent defectors from the communist country.

Kim Young-soo, a political science professor at Seoul’s Sogang University, said in a conference on Tuesday that adult movies, television dramas and instant noodle “ramen” made in South Korea are also selling “like hot cakes” in North Korea.

Skinny jeans refer to slim-fit pants that have gained popularity around the world, said Kim who interviewed about 2,000 defectors this year as part of a research project for the government.

He said that skinny jeans are so popular in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, that people there sometimes mistakenly believe Chinese wearing the stylish clothes are roaming their capital.

“These are signs that North Korea is easing its isolation,” Kim said in a telephone interview, noting that such lifestyle changes are conspicuous in Pyongyang and areas near the border with China.

The professor said many of the defectors he has interviewed had stayed in China no longer than a month before they came to South Korea, allowing him to have a relatively up-to-date glimpse of the latest culture in the communist country.

Kim said defectors told him pine mushrooms were also a “hit” among North Koreans this year because exports to South Korea had been diverted into the domestic market since cross-border tensions soared over the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship.

After a multinational investigation in May found North Korea responsible for the sinking that killed 46 sailors, Seoul banned cross-border trade as part of its punitive measures.

Kim said blue crabs have met the same fate as pine mushrooms, allowing North Koreans to enjoy what was once a rarity for them. The professor even told of a shop in which human manure could be traded to be used as an alternative to chemical fertilizer, an item on which the North had heavily depended from the South for years.

“Soondae,” or sausage rolls stuffed with ingredients such as noodles and vegetables and wrapped in pig intestine films, has also made inroads into the market as a staple after the military stopped collecting pork and other food items from civilians, Kim said.

“These changes may not necessarily lead to greater ones in society, but they do bear a meaning,” he said.

Read the full sotry here:
Skinny jeans, pig-intestine rolls among “hit items” in North Korea this year: survey
Sam Kim


Friday Fun: South Park in Pyongyang, mass games tours, and missing traffic girls

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

FIRST: A visitor to Pyongyang sent me these photos of a North Korean boy wearing a South Park shirt on Mansu Hill:

I trust that I do not need to explain why this is interesting.

SECOND: From Koryo Tours: The latest news from Pyongyang is that Arirang, the spectacular 100,000-strong mass gymnastic event has been extended until October 25th, marking the final performance of the 2010 season. If you haven’t yet seen tens of thousands of people moving in unison, 20,000 students forming a giant mosaic or the dancing eggs that makes Arirang unique, don’t miss our Last Chance Tour. Visitors can also see the massive monuments of Pyongyang, eat food “fit for royalty” in the ancient city of Kaesong and watch the North and South stare each other down at the DMZ. There’s no word yet on whether 2011 will have mass games at all – this just might be Arirang’s last dance. Don’t miss it!

If you are not able to see the Mass Games this year you should still see Centre Forward!

THIRD: has a couple of interesting recent updates from the DPRK.  The first claims that all of Pyongyang’s traffic ladies have been replaced by traffic lights.  Read the report here.  The second report covers a whole list of interesting observations.  Check out the report here.


North Korean fashion:Jeans, Jesus, and Mickey Mouse

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Beow I have posted some pictures of interesting North Korean clothing:

The family photo below features a little girl wearing blue jeans in public (via Free North Korea Radio):

Blue jeans are frowned upon in public in the DPRK (though privately popular).  Some Swedes are manufacturing jeans in North Korea–though not blue ones.  Learn more here.

The below photo features a shirt which states in English, “Jesus is my Lord” (via Free North Korea Radio):

Jesus made a cameo on another North Kroean girl’s shirt last year.  It is highly likely that the wearers have no idea what the shirts actually say–and neither does anyone around them.

The below photo features a girl with  a Mickey Mouse backpack (via this Russian web page):

Mickey Mouse was also seen on a girl’s backpack in the North Korean film A School Girls’ Diary

Monday, November 1st, 2010

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea’s information technology (IT) industry, especially in the field of computer-based animation production, is well on its way to achieve success, according to a Dutch outsourcing specialist currently conducting IT business with North Korean companies.

Speaking to an audience in Seoul for the launch of a book, “Europe-North Korea, Between Humanitarianism and Business,” Paul Tjia said France and Italy are two big users of North Korean animators.

He said that his Dutch clients also outsource animation to North Korea. European cartoon versions of classic literature such as “Arabian Nights” and “Les Miserables,” which aired on European television, were animated partly in North Korea.

The ceremony was organized by the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a German organization.

Clients of animation produced in the isolated communist regime aren’t just Europeans.

In early 2000 when the inter-Korean relations were at a peak, even a few South Korean animations were made in North Korea.

“Pororo the Little Penguin,” an animated cartoon series, was an inter-Korean project completed in 2002. Also the same year, Akom, a South Korean company, also outsourced the production of “Empress Chung” to North Korea. The animation was released in 2005.

Tjia mentioned that some of the American Walt Disney animations were created by North Koreans, purely by accident. Politically North Korea and America have a thorny relationship and the American government prohibits the private sector from doing business with North Korean companies.

“There was a time when Walt Disney outsourced their animation production to countries in Asia like Vietnam or the Philippines. But the company didn’t have complete control over exactly which country the work was created, and found out later that some was produced in North Korea,” he said, adding that this was discovered after the animations had aired on TV.

An official at the Seoul Animation Center verified some of what the Dutchman said, confirming that Walt Disney’s outsourcing to Asia was true, and that’s precisely how South Korea’s animation industry took off.

The news of a burgeoning animation industry in North Korea comes as a surprise to many who are used to hearing mainly about food scarcity, human rights violations and the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

People in the North Korean IT industry are given far more freedom than regular people in traveling abroad. They freely travel to “learn new skills,” Tjia said, showing a group photo with North Korean IT engineers in Europe.

Apart from animations, he added, North Korea is also keen on developing computer games, cell phone applications and banking systems for clients from the Middle East.

Cell phone applications, in particular, were devised even though not a single cell phone was available in Pyongyang.

“They made them to target European clients,” he said.

Yet for some the emergence of North Korea as an animation producer isn’t without alarm.

One European diplomat at the venue expressed concern over security, raising the possibility that the IT business with Europe could empower North Korea to become a cyber attacker.

North Korea already has a record of carrying out cyber attacks against South Korean websites, the most recent of which took place last July.

“They (North Koreans) say they are capable of producing computer viruses,” Tjia said, and he has seen anti-virus programs made by the North. The chief of the South’s National Intelligence Service was quoted last year as saying that North Korea had a force of 1,000 hackers who could engage in cyber warfare. He also said the North had “remarkable” cyber skills to carry out a massive attack on the South.

Read the full story here:
North Korea emerges as animation producer
Korea Times
Kim Se-jeong

North Korean market footage
Kim Song Min  (김성민), founder of Free North Korea Radio, has posted some video footage of a North Korean market.

You might be able to see it here, but I make no promises. It definitely won’t work from China.

Nothing remarkable, but interesting.  Of course the market is dominated by female vendors.  Bread and dried squid were for sale.  Also, shoe shines seemed to be popular.

I wish I knew what people were saying in the background.

North Korean Legos
The Russian  blogger that brought us the DPRK’s Linux OS, the DPRK’s PDA device, and the DPRK’s film camera, now brings us the DPRK version of Legos:

Interestingly, the toys come with instructions in both English and Korean.  Maybe the producers are hoping for an opportunity to export in the future?  Finally some actual socialist building blocks behind which the children of the world can unite!  You can read more in Russian here.  You can read more in English here (via Google Translate)

Pyongyang Metro Photos
Most visitors to the DPRK visit the Puhung and Yongwang Metro Stations.  Satellite images here and here. Google has also cataloged lots of pictures pictures of these stations: Puhung, Yongwang.

The Ponghwa Metro Station is located at  39.012100°, 125.744452°–next to the Party Founding Museum.  This station is not visited by foreigners as often, but here are some photos: One, two, three, four.

The Kaeson Metro Station is next door to the Arch of Triumh (39.043059°, 125.754027°).  A friend sent some North Korean postcards that seem to come from this station, though the pictures look like they were taken in the 1970s: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

Pyongyang goes pop: sex scandal on the socialist music scene
According to a story in The Guardian:

There was mild controversy last year when a secret video featuring Wangjaesan’s female dance troupe entered the public domain. The video was being privately circulated among the elite, but reached the North Korean public before making it over the border to China – and therefore the world. Normally seen in traditional, body-cloaking hangbok dresses as they perform polite folk numbers, this little clip revealed unprecedented levels of sexiness in Pyongyang, as the girls popped up in sparkly hot pants and did the splits. Western displays of decadence like this are illegal but, given Kim Jong-il’s alleged love of pornography, perhaps he turned a blind eye to this one.

UPDATED: This video is allegedly of the same group.

The 4 of 31 fishermen
I have not spent much time blogging about the 4 of 31 North Korean fishermen who drifted to the South and do not wish to return to the DPRK.  I did track down the six videos the North Koreans filmed with the family members.  They were posted to YouTube by Uriminzokkiri.  See them here: One, two, three, four, five, six. If anyone can translate these, or give us a rough idea, I would apprecaite it.

KFA sets up branch in Israel!
Alejandro Cao de Benos seeks to build sympathy for the DPRK among the Israelis.

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Back in 2006, Kim Jong-il’s second known son, Kim Jong-chol (김정철), was photographed at an Eric Clapton concert in Germany.  Well, according to Yonhap, he is still a fan today:

Kim Jong-chol, the second son of Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-il, was seen at a concert by world-renowned guitarist Eric Clapton in Singapore, a South Korean broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

Kim, dressed in black pants and a T-shirt, was accompanied by some 20 men and women at a concert hall in Singapore on Feb. 14, two days ahead of his father’s birthday, according to Korea Broadcasting System (KBS).

UPDATE: some pictures and apparently Kim Jong Chol’s sister: Choson IlboDaily NK

Read the full story here:
N. Korean leader’s 2nd son seen in Singapore: KBS

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

According to the AFP:

One of the world’s most tightly-controlled societies got a rare glimpse of the outside world at the Pyongyang International Film Festival last week, where even Western films were screened.

Communist North Korea strictly controls access to information, including via mobile phones and the Internet, leaving most North Koreans in ignorance of the wider world. A tour guide had never heard of the late pop star Michael Jackson.

Yet participants in the 12th Pyongyang International Film Festival, which ended on September 24, say it helped open a window for the impoverished country.

Only a minority of the population was able to attend the event, but it gave them access to documentaries, feature films and shorts from several European countries and Canada.

Productions from Asia, Russia, the Middle East and elsewhere were also on the programme.

Henrik Nydqvist, a freelance film producer who was Sweden’s official delegate to the eight-day event, said anything which breaks North Korea’s isolation is positive.

“We think we’re doing something good here,” he said. “We feel we can make some positive impact… and that outweighs the other things.”

The festival has its own venue, the Pyongyang International Cinema House, which includes a 2,000-seat theatre as well as other smaller halls.

Red, blue and green neon signs hanging in the atrium beam the country’s foreign policy slogan: “Peace, independence, friendship”.

A 300-seat hall was almost completely filled with Koreans for an afternoon screening of the comedy “Pieces d’Identites” from Congo.

They sat quietly behind padlocked doors in a hot, airless room for the story of an African king who travels to Belgium in search of his daughter, who has been forced to work as a nude dancer.

The film’s images include bordellos and a heaving African nightclub, depicting a world alien to North Koreans who are bombarded with propaganda from childhood and whose showpiece capital Pyongyang appears to be stuck in a time decades past.

Such images can only help to bring about change, said a source connected with the film festival.

“They have in mind: Why is North Korea, my country, different?”

Connections are required to gain admission and authorities do not want the rural masses outside of the capital to see foreign movies, he said.

“I watched some poor people who wanted to see the movie, and the guard stopped them.”

At the event’s closing ceremony attended by more than 1,500 people, including foreign diplomats, Nydqvist read a letter of thanks to Kim Jong-Il, ruler of the country which has twice tested nuclear weapons and is under various United States and United Nations sanctions.

“The Pyongyang International Film Festival is unique,” the letter said, thanking Kim for his “care and interest.”

Such messages are common practice in the country, Nydqvist said.

Read the full story here:
Foreign films give isolated N.Korea rare window on world


German entrepreneurs in DPRK

Friday, September 17th, 2010

The German version of the Financial Times has published an interview (of sorts) with Volker Eloesser and his DPRK JV technology firm, Nosotek. Below I have posted an English translation of the article.

FT: You think the economy in North Korea is starving. That is right! Nevertheless, it attracts entrepreneurs there like Eloesser Volker from Germany. He tells Anna Lu the story of his life in the land of Kim Jong-il.

North Korea is one of the most isolated and inaccessible countries in the world. Nevertheless, there are millions of university trained Koreans and entrepreneurs living in the country. Volker Eloesser is one of the entrepreneurs. Eloesser runs a company in Pyongyang. The IT company is known as Nosotek and is a joint venture with the North Korean state. It is not very simple to talk to Eloesser about his life and work in North Korea. The lines are too unstable to North Korea, with numerous eavesdroppers. Not everything can be talked about openly. The following article is the outcome of countless emails between Pyongyang and Hamburg.

VE: “Why do we work in North Korea? There are signs that the country can develop into a booming region. Recently, a short report about the iPad was broadcast. Videos from South Korea are widely circulated amongst students. The policy change may not be imminent, but it is unstoppable. Once that happens, property prices will increase.

This is the strategy of most foreign companies here: Real estate speculation, even if the permits for foreigners are only granted in a joint venture status. Many of the companies produce products as a matter of form and do not make any significant profits. Other opportunities include buying up restaurants, shop buildings and swimming pools. Just imagine if someone would have built a restaurant in China in 1985 in Tiananmen Square. Or at Alexander Platz in East Berlin. Opportunities like these do not happen often in the world.

FT: Volker Eloesser operates an IT company in Pyongyang, North Korea and hopes the country develops into a booming region.

VE: Naturally, we only invest very little into production. Nosotek develops software and apps for the iPhone. We are quite successful. One time, we were even in the top ten in the App Store. Our customers do not want us to mention the name of our company or our employees’ names on the product. Although it is going well, we do not generate profits yet. Our headquarters is located in one of the most sought after residential areas in Pyongyang, not far from the center. The area boasts multi-story, stucco houses and easy metro access. These are some of the best conditions possible, so we are optimistic.

Unfortunately, many things are expensive here. The bulk of the goods are imported and therefore, cost twice as much as they would in China. Power, logistics and communications are almost prohibitive. However, wages are way below Chinese standards, which is a key benefit if you get good people. There are plenty here, all with a university degree in computer science or mathematics, some have doctorates. They seem to wait for an announcement of a job opening. I only have to ask my Korean partner and 14 days later new people are coming in for a trial. I can say nothing about the wages.

FT: In fact, the average salary in Pyongyang is around 3,000 Won a month. After a devastating currency reform and crop failures in recent years, this affords an employee about three kilos of rice. Eloesser does not say it, but we hear such things from aid workers in the region. The aid workers do not wish to be identified. Eloesser further:

Eating together in the common area.

VE: “In total we have 45 Korean employees, including five women. I, am the only European. We all eat in the company common area every single day. I particularly like the octopus salad and will miss it if I relocate. After work, colleagues remain a little longer and often sing songs to the guitar. The atmosphere is friendly. Nevertheless, it is not always easy. Koreans are very proud people who love their country and their culture and know nothing else.

It is not easy to convince them to do something differently. For many it is difficult to recognize a foreigner as an authority, and if they do not understand the meaning of a statement it is often not performed. However, the biggest difficulty is much different: We have an IT company without access to the internet. We solve this problem by delegating the development of online components to partner companies in China. Here in North Korea you can only do things offline. At home I have true internet access, but it is very slow and rather expensive.”

FT: In fact, one can only get on the internet via a satellite dish in North Korea. The acquisition cost to use the internet according to a local charity is the equivalent of 11,000 euros. The monthly expense may be up to 700 euros, depending on how many users share the connection.

VE: “Pyongyang itself has changed in the last few years. Since 2005, the first time I was here, the traffic has doubled. The days of empty roads are long gone, such images only haunt the internet. Instead of old taxis or Ladas, North Korean Pyonghwas and Malaysian Proton sedans are on the road now. Bicycles are hardly center. They may only drive on the sidewalks. There are lots of military jeeps or SUVs from Russian, Chinese and local manufacturers.

You meet uniformed people everywhere in North Korea, but not all are military. Civilians bear just as many olive green suits with no weapons or rank insignias. The rest are soldiers. Soldiers are often used to harvest and help with road and house construction. I never feel threatened by the military presence as a foreigner. I feel I am treated with respect. People think; if he was not important for our country, he would not be here. Nevertheless, I am of course aware that somebody writes reports about me. Wherever I go, if I am at a restaurant or at work, somebody knows me. He notes when and where I parked my car and statements like this interview will be read by the authorities. At first I thought they listened to me at my apartment. However, even if they have actually done this, I think it has become boring for them.

Sometimes I can understand their suspicions; the reports by many Western media outlets are biased. Recently, the North Korean government printed a picture of children splashing around in Wonsan. People abroad believed the picture was staged, but this type of activity is common in the summertime heat.

FT: Sense of unwritten prohibitions

VE: The authorities are particularly suspicious of journalists and tourists because they do not know their true intentions. We are entrepreneurs and largely left alone. We are not required to go to political events or memorials. As a business man you have one clear goal, business. It is understood and supported. Life would be easier if we knew what we can and cannot do. Unfortunately, this is not written anywhere. It is better to hold back. Over time, you develop a sense of unwritten prohibitions. I have my own opinion about the policy, but I will keep it to myself. I make sure I never have a camera with me, not even on my phone. I do this so no one thinks I want to photograph something without permission. I live in the Bulgarian Embassy because there are no mixed residences. I never visit North Koreans at home and do not talk to them on the street. I do talk to children occasionally. They are not afraid of foreigners and like to try out their English vocabulary. They will say things like; “How old are you?” Where do you come from? Bye-bye.” Then they run away giggling.

Basically, I lead a fairly normal life here. I can move around in my free time and go to the mountains and play golf or tennis. There is a night life in Pyongyang with bars and karaoke. More precisely, there are two types of night life, one for locals and one for foreigners. For example, I do not get tickets to the local cinema. Today I went to an amusement park that many North Koreans visit. The park was built in 2010 and is equipped with fair attractions like the kind they have once a year in small German towns.

Shopping is not a problem. There are no signs of a food shortage as the shops are packed. Curiously, a kilo of chicken on the market is often cheaper than a kilo of vegetables. This may be because chickens can live in backyards and on balconies. Vegetables cannot, that would require offseason greenhouses, which are not found in North Korea. Imported goods usually have astronomical prices. For example; a Hungarian salami costs the equivalent of 42 euros. Other products like yogurt cannot be found in the summer because the refrigeration is inadequate. Sometimes I shop at the diplomatic supermarket and buy things like Haribo, Mosel wine and milk chocolate.”

FT: Of course, the well-equipped shops have a catch; purchases must be paid for in euros.

VE: “By the way, last Saturday night something strange happened. I had an accident. A man ran out in front of my car. He was in dark clothing and came out of nowhere across the eight-lane main road. I slammed on the brakes, but the car hit him, and he fell onto the road. When someone came to help him up, he quickly departed from the scene of the accident. You call that a victim’s escape?

A short time later, three police officers arrived on motorcycles. They were friendly and professional, and they even offered me a cigarette. In some other countries, I would have been imprisoned or would have been asked to pay an exorbitant bribe. Here I was only given a warning, because I had forgotten my passport and driver’s license and the technical inspection (also here) was outdated by nine months. That was all. There was not a victim. Only screeching tires in the night.”

The original German verison can be found here:
Unser Mann in Pjöngjang
Financial Times (German edition)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010


According to the Joong Ang Daily:

[Radio Free Asia] reported on its Korean Web site that the poster shows a fully armed soldier cutting a corvette similar to the Cheonan in half with his bare fist. Below the image is the phrase “Deom-byeo-deul-myeon Dan-mae-e!” (“Ready to crush any attack with a single blow!”).

Radio Free Asia based its report on an interview with the businessman, who took the photo of the poster on a recent trip to North Korea. The poster is shown on the RFA Korean Web site. The RFA did not specify the date the photo was taken but, citing unnamed sources, said it was likely the poster was made after the Cheonan sinking to encourage military heroism among North Korean soldiers.

The RFA quoted the Chinese businessman as saying, “Officials in North Korea have claimed that the South Korean government’s accusation of North Korea as the culprit in the Cheonan incident is a false charge, but the propaganda poster showing the breaking of a ship in two pieces seems to conflict with their claim.”

The full Joong Ang Daily article can be seen here.

Here is a picture of the Cheonan:


At first glance the painting seems like it could be the Cheonan or some kind of corvette vessel.  I looked through my books on North Korean propaganda and found several images of soldiers smashing things with their fists (western books and videos, the US capital, imperialist soldiers, etc—but no naval vessels). I also found several posters with naval ships…but they were all of the USS Pueblo.  This is the first North Korean poster I have seen that features a naval vessel that is not the Pueblo.  However, I am more inclined to think it is a generic ship “form” meant to convey a broad idea rather than a specific act.  This is because the painted ship, in addition to bearing some slight differences with the actual Cheonan,  is “stylized”–it lacks a propeller and a flag of origin. A great new addition to the North Korean propaganda collection nonetheless.

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Martyn Williams releases three DPRK stories this week all covering interesting issues…

North Korea Moves Quietly onto the Internet

North Korea, one of the world’s few remaining information black holes, has taken the first step toward a fully fledged connection to the Internet. But a connection, if it comes, is unlikely to mean freedom of information for North Korea’s citizens.

In the past few months, a block of 1,024 Internet addresses, reserved for many years for North Korea but never touched, has been registered to a company with links to the government in Pyongyang.

The numeric IP addresses lie at the heart of communication on the Internet. Every computer connected to the network needs its own address so that data can be sent and received by the correct servers and computers. Without them, communication would fall apart.

It is unclear how the country’s secretive leadership plans to make use of the addresses. It seems likely they will be assigned for military or government use, but experts say it is impossible to know for sure.

North Korea’s move toward the Internet comes as it finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage. The recent sinking of a South Korean warship has been blamed on the insular country. As a result, there are calls for tougher sanctions that would isolate North Korea further.

“There is no place for the Internet in contemporary DPRK,” said Leonid A. Petrov, a lecturer in Korean studies at The University of Sydney, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “If the people of North Korea were to have open access to the World Wide Web, they would start learning the truth that has been concealed from them for the last six decades.”

“Unless Kim Jong-Il or his successors feel suicidal, the Internet, like any other free media, will never be allowed in North Korea,” he said.

The North Korean addresses were recently put under the control of Star Joint Venture, a Pyongyang-based company that is partly controlled by Thailand’s Loxley Pacific. The Thai company has experience working with North Korea on high-tech projects, having built North Korea’s first cellular telephone network, Sunnet, in 2002.

Loxley acknowledged that it is working on a project with Pyongyang, but Sahayod Chiradejsakulwong, a manager at the company, wouldn’t elaborate on plans for the addresses.

“This is a part of our business that we do no want to provide information about at the moment,” he said.

A connection to the Internet would represent a significant upgrade of the North’s place in cyberspace, but it’s starting from a very low base.

At present the country relies on servers in other countries to disseminate information. The Web site of the Korea Central News Agency, the North’s official mouthpiece, runs on a server in Japan, while Uriminzokkiri, the closest thing the country has to an official Web site, runs from a server in China.

North Korean citizens have access to a nationwide intranet system called Kwangmyong, which was established around 2000 by the Pyongyang-based Korea Computer Center. It connects universities, libraries, cybercafes and other institutions with Web sites and e-mail, but offers no links to the outside world.

Connections to the actual Internet are severely limited to the most elite members of society. Estimates suggest no more than a few thousand North Koreans have access to the Internet, via a cross-border hook-up to China Netcom. A second connection exists, via satellite to Germany, and is used by diplomats and companies.

For normal citizens of North Korea, the idea of an Internet hook-up is unimaginable, Petrov said.

Kim Jong-Il, the de-facto leader of the country, appears all too aware of the destructive power that freedom of information would have to his regime.

While boasting of his own prowess online at an inter-Korean summit meeting in 2007, he reportedly rejected an Internet connection to the Kaesong Industrial Park, the jointly run complex that sits just north of the border, and said that “many problems would arise if the Internet at the Kaesong Park is connected to other parts of North Korea.”

Kim himself has made no secret of the Internet access that he enjoys, and famously asked then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for her e-mail address during a meeting in 2000.

The government’s total control over information extends even as far as requiring radios be fixed on domestic stations so foreign voices cannot be heard.

The policy shows no signs of changing, so any expansion of the Internet into North Korea would likely be used by the government, military or major corporations.

The World’s Most Unusual Outsourcing Destination

Think of North Korea, and repression, starvation and military provocation are probably the first things that come to mind. But beyond the geopolitical posturing, North Korea has also been quietly building up its IT industry.

Universities have been graduating computer engineers and scientists for several years, and companies have recently sprung up to pair the local talent with foreign needs, making the country perhaps the world’s most unusual place for IT outsourcing.

With a few exceptions, such as in India, outsourcing companies in developing nations tend to be small, with fewer than 100 employees, said Paul Tija, a Rotterdam-based consultant on offshoring and outsourcing. But North Korea already has several outsourcers with more then 1,000 employees.

“The government is putting an emphasis on building the IT industry,” he said. “The availability of staff is quite large.”

At present, the country’s outsourcers appear to be targeting several niche areas, including computer animation, data input and software design for mobile phones. U.S. government restrictions prevent American companies from working with North Korean companies, but most other nations don’t have such restrictions.

The path to IT modernization began in the 1990s but was cemented in the early 2000s when Kim Jong Il, the de-facto leader of the country, declared people who couldn’t use computers to be one of the three fools of the 21st century. (The others, he said, are smokers and those ignorant of music.)

But outsourcing in North Korea isn’t always easy.

Language can be a problem, and a lack of experience dealing with foreign companies can sometimes slow business dealings, said Tija. But the country has one big advantage.

“It is one of the most competitive places in the world. There are not many other countries where you can find the same level of knowledge for the price,” said Tija.

The outsourcer with the highest profile is probably Nosotek. The company, established in 2007, is also one of the few Western IT ventures in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

“I understood that the North Korean IT industry had good potential because of their skilled software engineers, but due to the lack of communication it was almost impossible to work with them productively from outside,” said Volker Eloesser, president of Nosotek. “So I took the next logical step and started a company here.”

Nosotek uses foreign expats as project managers to provide an interface between customers and local workers. In doing so it can deliver the level of communication and service its customers expect, Eloesser said.

On its Web site the company boasts access to the best programmers in Pyongyang.

“You find experts in all major programming languages, 3D software development, 3D modelling and design, various kind of server technologies, Linux, Windows and Mac,” he said.

Nosotek’s main work revolves around development of Flash games and games for mobile phones. It’s had some success and claims that one iPhone title made the Apple Store Germany’s top 10 for at least a week, though it wouldn’t say which one.

Several Nosotek-developed games are distributed by Germany’s Exonet Games, including one block-based game called “Bobby’s Blocks.”

“They did a great job with their latest games and the communication was always smooth,” said Marc Busse, manager of digital distribution at the Leipzig-based company. “There’s no doubt I would recommend Nosotek if someone wants to outsource their game development to them.”

Eloesser admits there are some challenges to doing business from North Korea.

“The normal engineer has no direct access to the Internet due to government restrictions. This is one of the main obstacles when doing IT business here,” he said. Development work that requires an Internet connection is transferred across the border to China.

But perhaps the biggest problem faced by North Korea’s nascent outsourcing industry is politics.

Sanctions imposed on the country by the United States make it all but impossible for American companies to trade with North Korea.

“I know several American companies that would love to start doing IT outsourcing in North Korea, but because of political reasons and trade embargoes they can’t,” Tija said.

Things aren’t so strict for companies based elsewhere, including those in the European Union, but the possible stigma of being linked to North Korea and its ruling regime is enough to make some companies think twice.

The North Korean government routinely practices arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill treatment of detainees, and allows no political opposition, free media or religious freedom, according to the most recent annual report from Human Rights Watch. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are kept in political prison camps, and the country carries out public executions, the organization said.

With this reputation some companies might shy away from doing business with the country, but Exonet Games didn’t have any such qualms, said Busse.

“It’s not like we worked with the government,” he said. “We just worked with great people who have nothing to do with the dictatorship.”

Radio Wars Between North and South Korea (YouTube Video)

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Geoffrey Cain writes in Time:

Few investors can boast the one-of-a-kind global pedigree of Felix Abt. Since 2002, the Swiss businessman has found his calling as a point man for Western investments in — of all places — North Korea, where he helped found the Pyongyang Business School in 2004. He also presided over the European Business Association in Pyongyang, a group in the capital that acts as a de facto chamber of commerce. A few years ago, that position led him to help set up the first “European Booth” featuring around 20 European companies each year at the Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair, an annual gathering of 270 foreign and North Korean companies currently underway in the hermit kingdom until Thursday.

Yet Abt, 55, who lives in Vietnam and therefore won’t be attending the trade fair this year, laments the giant cloud hanging over the country: in recent years, political turmoil on the peninsula has raised the stakes even further for doing business in North Korea — even for the country’s main patron, China. Though investors have always faced the prospect of sanctions, he says, the situation has worsened after the United States ratcheted up sanctions on the government in 2006 on allegations that it was counterfeiting U.S. dollars. And in 2006 and 2009 the Kim Jong-il regime tested two small nuclear bombs, prompting heavier sanctions from the United Nations in 2006. Recently, tensions with Seoul have spiked over the March sinking of a South Korean corvette in waters near the North.(See pictures of the rise of Kim Jong-il.)

Those measures hit home for Abt. While he was running a pharmaceutical company in Pyongyang called Pyongsu in the mid-2000s, he learned that the U.N. Security Council had imposed sanctions on certain chemicals — a move that could have forced him to completely stop manufacturing medicine. Thankfully, he adds, he had already secured a large stock of the substance beforehand. “Whatever business you are involved in,” he says, “some day you may find out that some product or even a tiny but unavoidable component is banned by a U.S. or U.N. sanctions because it can, for example, also be used for military purposes.”

Those dilemmas haven’t stopped Abt. In 2007, he co-founded an information technology firm in Pyongyang called Nosotek, whose 50 or so employees design software applications for the iPhone and Facebook. The venture has already seen its share of success: one of its iPhone games ranked first in popularity for a short while on Apple’s Top 10 list for Germany — though he can’t name the software out of concern for protecting his contractors from bad publicity.(See pictures of North Koreans at the polls.)

For some companies, the stigma of a “Made in North Korea” label matters less than the competitive edge gained from having low overhead costs and a diligent workforce whose wages remain less than outsourcing powerhouses like China, Vietnam and India. In the past, North Korea has attracted the interest of multinational corporations looking for cheap labor in fields as diverse as electrical machinery and cartoon animation. Yet few multinationals show their faces at this month’s fair, a decline from the early 2000s when Abt says they were appearing regularly to look for opportunities in electricity, infrastructure, transportation and mining.

Not all foreign ventures in the North are driven by profit margins alone. The 2005 animated Korean movie Empress Cheung, a popular fantasy film drawn jointly by South and North Korean animators, brought attention to the animation industry in North Korea. Nelson Shin, head of the Seoul-based animation studio that started the project, claims he worked with North Korea for a greater cause than cheap labor. “It wasn’t so much because of cost efficiency as because of cultural exchange between the two Koreas,” he says.

For a country so poor, North Korea has churned out a remarkable number of talented engineers and scientists who fuel some of these small sectors (along with its controversial nuclear weapons program). In the 1960s and 1970s, the government pushed the country to become self-sufficient through development projects, a part of its ideology of “Juche” that promotes absolute autonomy from foreign powers. The communist regime of Kim Il-sung prided itself on its universities and public housing system, in particular. “It was an advance from pre-World War II days,” says Helen-Louise Hunter, a former CIA analyst now in Washington, D.C., who researched North Korea during those decades. “Kim Il-sung was genuinely interested in improving his people’s standard of living, and was off to a good start in a couple of areas compared to South Korea in those early days.”

Yet North Korea fell behind after the South’s own military dictators put their country into industrial overdrive throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Then the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, depriving North Korea of valuable aid. Then came a famine in the mid-1990s that delivered the final blow, leaving up to 3 million people dead and crippling the capacities of the already isolated state.

Today, the pariah regime of Kim Jong-il is allegedly known to raise money through illicit activities like trafficking narcotics and money laundering. But it’s not known how much those activities figure into the country’s GDP of $28.2 billion in 2009 and its $2 billion worth of exports in 2008, the most recent year data is available. “Not that much income comes from illegitimate operations if you mean drugs and counterfeited dollars,” says Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul. “More come from arms sales, though, but I would not describe this as an illegitimate trade.”

Abt shakes off the image of Pyongyang being the center of a mafia state. He sees himself and other foreign investors as the potential movers and changers of Kim’s hermit regime. “Cornering a country is ethically more questionable than engagement,” he says. “Foreigners engaging with North Koreans are change agents. The North Koreans are confronted with new ideas which they will observe and test, reject or adopt.”


N. Korea [not] growing more tolerant of foreign movies

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

UPDATE 2: (hat tip to a couple of appreciated readers) Park Soo-me reports on the proliferation of South Korean films in the DPRK:

“It’s safe to assume that a majority of North Korean residents have watched a South Korean film or a soap opera at least once,” said Kim, who left North Korea in 2004, and established a think-tank in Seoul called the “North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.”

The group, which frequently communicates with their inside contacts in the North, recently broke revealing news that a group of North Korean students were caught watching “Haeundae,” a mega-hit South Korean disaster film locally released just over a month ago, at a computer lab inside a Pyongyang college.

The defector group cited an anonymous source in Pyongyang who told their reporter that the government is tightening a crackdown of digital files, as South Korean films smuggled through China are endangering the North’s dictatorial regime.

A student identified only as “Choi” said he had downloaded the film at his relative’s house in Cheongjin, a city about 50 miles from the Chinese border. He was arrested for promoting the ideology of his enemy state, not for circulating a pirated film.

Since the late 1990s, South Korean dramas and films were illegally traded in the North through local businessmen frequenting the Chinese borders. The phenomenon is not unlike that from the young Soviets in the 1970s, who secretly acquired rock ‘n’ roll records and American videotapes through its black market, despite the country’s ban on the cultural products of the capitalist state.

Last year, an insider from another defectors’ group based in Seoul broke news that DVD compilations of South Korean adult films and TV dramas are becoming popular in the North, as the sales of the average South Korean soap opera has declined in recent years. Such DVDs were found in a North Korean market in Cheongjin, the group said through its newsletter.

The situation in the North has gotten to the point where Oh Yang-yeol, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, published a paper on “Hallyu in North Korea: Now and Future.”

The term hallyu recalls the Korean wave of pop culture that hit Southeast Asia in the early 2000s. Oh’s paper stresses the spread of South Korean fashion, drama and music among the younger generation of North Koreans.

In a separate release by the Korean Institute of National Unification, experts have quoted North Korean defectors who have testified that South Korean melodramas like “Autumn in My Heart” and “Winter Sonata” have become a such hit in the North that a special squad was once organized to crack down on the violators.

But not all dramas smuggled into the North are soft, touchy-feely soap operas. Among the works that have been found and blacklisted by the Northern authorities include films like Park Chan-wook’s “Joint Security Area,” a story which is essentially built around a forbidden friendship between solders from the North and South who are stationed in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries.

On the distribution side, South Korean films and TV dramas are appearing in the North faster and with a broader reach, as evident in the recent case of “Haeundae.”

“In the past, it normally took up to six months for a South Korean film to arrive in the North,” Oh said. “Now, it takes little over a month. In wealthier neighborhoods in Pyongyang we start to see local girls imitating the hairstyle and fashion of South Korean celebrities who starred in the latest TV dramas.”

Irritated by the spread of hallyu — often referred to as the “yellow wind” in the North — authorities have tightened censorship regulations and house inspections to encourage “ideological discipline.” But there is a limit as to what they can do.

Although limited to a privileged few, more computer-savvy Koreans in Pyongyang are finding easier alternatives to enjoy pop culture from the outside world, making the North’s isolation more difficult. Internet access is limited to an Intranet for most people in the North. But USB drives are becoming more common among local college and middle school students, and frequent traffic between North Korea and China is increasing opportunities for cross-border smuggling of pirated films from Hollywood and Seoul.

Read the full story below:
Pop culture making inroads into North Korea

UPDATE 1: Although the Donga Ilbo previously reported that the DPRK was growing more tolerant of foreign films (below), Channel News Asia reports the DPRK is clamping down:

The student in Pyongyang was caught on September 5 while watching a digital copy of “Haeundae” with his dorm friends, the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said in a newsletter posted on its website.

The student allegedly acquired a file of the film at a relative’s house in the northeastern port city of Chongjin and downloaded it onto his college computer, it said.

The case prompted authorities to launch an extensive probe aimed at preventing the spread of the movie, the group said, quoting a “correspondent” in the North.

The inspection revealed that tens of thousands of North Koreans have secretly seen foreign films, it said.

Defectors say South Korean pop songs and movies are popular in the isolated communist country, despite a steady campaign to weed out what state media has termed “decadent foreign culture and ideals”.

In December 2007, three North Koreans including a schoolteacher were sentenced to death for smuggling illegal adult films from China and South Korea, according to Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group working in the North.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Donga Ilbo:

Recently, the North has televised the shows “International Common Sense,” “Animals in the World,” and “Foreign Culture,” programs which had been abolished long ago. Those programs even show the daily lives of Westerners.

A few days ago, a video clip was aired in which North Korean singers in military uniform played the guitar and sang Italian songs. When broadcasting sports, Pyongyang used to simply air competitions in which North Korean athletes participated, but when airing the IAAF World Championship in Athletics in Berlin last month, the North summarized footage of major events and televised them.

North Korea’s attitude toward foreign movies has also changed. CD-ROMs containing foreign movies have been manufactured by the state-run Hana Electronics, which has sold them across the nation. Most of the CD-ROMs include foreign movies aired by Mansudae TV, which serves Pyongyang only.

A CD-ROM is priced at 1,500 North Korean won (41 U.S. cents) and a DVD goes for 7,500 won (2.07 dollars). CD-ROMs of cooking game programs as well as those on the lives of famous soccer players such as Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer are also on the market.

The North has also embraced world-famous animated films. The Disney productions of “Cinderella,” “Pinocchio,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Robin Hood” are available across the nation. The popular American cartoon “Tom and Jerry” is called “The Magic World of a Mouse” in the North.

The proliferation of foreign movies has also led to an increase in secret movie rental stores. Government-manufactured CD-ROMs can be rented out at 300 won (eight cents) per day and illegal movies can be borrowed at 500 won (14 cents) per day.

Yet most foreign programs broadcast in North Korea are created in China, which, in turn, has encouraged North Koreans to adopt the Chinese way of life. Mansudae TV routinely broadcasts Chinese soap operas like the drama “Unnamed Hero” and “Vertical Blow,” which shows the training of China’s special forces.

Despite the apparent liberalization of North Korean television, Pyongyang has toughened its punishment for those watching South Korean TV programs. In the past, punishment for watching a South Korean program was usually avoided through a bribe but the offense is now considered more severe than a drug-related crime


Dutch stamp dealer accused of being a spy in North Korea

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

By Michael Rank

A Dutch stamp dealer who was arrested in North Korea this summer has told how he was held in solitary confinement for two weeks and threatened with spending 15 years in prison for spying.

Willem Van der Bijl said in a telephone interview that he had visited North Korea about 24 times since 1998 in order to buy stamps, postal stationery and propaganda posters, and that three of his business contacts were arrested with him last August. Although he was freed after a highly unpleasant two weeks during which he was held in a two-by-three metre cell, he has no idea what has happened to his North Korean colleagues, but fears they will be severely punished.

He said he had been “intimidated” by his interrogators but not physically mistreated during his detention. “They yelled at me but did not hit me”, he said, adding that he was accused of being a spy apparently because of the large number of photographs he had taken of the North Korean countryside during trips to factories outside Pyongyang to discuss possible joint ventures.

He was released after signing a confession to his alleged crimes, and said the North Koreans confiscated his laptop and camera as well as a Kim Il Sung badge that had been given to him, but his money was returned to him. “I was happy to leave,” he said, adding that “There was nothing really wrong in what I did…All I did in North Korea was fairly correct”.

Van der Bijl, 60, photographed here with an interview in Dutch, said his North Korean colleagues were held in the same interrogation centre as he was and that he was deeply concerned that “They will have to face trial, and I will never see them again.”

Although mainly a stamp dealer with a stamp shop in Utrecht, he said he had become interested in collecting propaganda posters during his last few visits, and had a collection of thousands of posters.

He said North Korean officials seemed divided in their attitude as to whether such posters should be sold to foreigners. “The ‘doves’ say this art is popular in the west and should be sold; the ‘hawks’ do not want to export secret paintings, they are meant for the Korean people,” Van der Bijl said.

He said his hopes mounted every Tuesday and Saturday that he would be released as there are flights from Pyongyang to Beijing on those days, and as time progressed he became more worried that he would be sentenced to spending up to 15 years in jail for espionage. When he was freed he was told he could apply for a visa to visit North Korea again, but he told NKEW said he had no wish to do so as long as the current regime remains in power.

He said he had taken car journeys about 120 km outside Pyongyang nominally to visit companies to discuss joint ventures, but he was more interested in taking photographs of the impoverished countryside, and that North Korean factories were too dilapidated for there to be any serious chance of doing business with them.

Somewhat surprisingly, Van der Bijl is quoted on two official North Korean websites here and here before his arrest concerning local elections in North Korea in July. He visited a polling station during the elections and was quoted as saying, “Looking round the poll, I have been greatly impressed by the free and democratic elections and I have had a better understanding of the DPRK’s reality.

“In the DPRK every citizen is eligible to vote and to be elected. Those who have worked a lot for the people are elected as deputies. The popular election system of the DPRK is really excellent.”

He confirmed he had spoken to North Korean reporters at a Pyongyang polling station, but said all he had told them was that he had never seen elections run in such a way before, and strongly denied praising the elections as free and fair

Also surprisingly, Van der Bijl is shown wearing a Kim badge in two photographs of him on the Pyongyang Times websites. It’s rare for foreigners to be given a Kim badge and still rarer for them to be shown wearing one in the official North Korean media. Van der Bijl said he was unsure where the photos were taken. One of the websites shows Van der Bijl’s signature, copied from his passport.

Friday, December 10th, 2010

1. This first item is from the DPRK publication Korea Today—an article hilariously titled “For the Good of Ladies“:

For those who do not wish to visit the DPRK’s new Naenara webpage, I post the text below.  The story perfectly demonstrates the fundamental problem with economic calculation in a socialist society (or the non-price political allocation of resources):

One summer day in 1979 the leader Kim Jong Il went to see the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital under construction. Looking up with great delight at the grand concrete skeleton of the building completed in a short span of time, he entered the central hall, when an official told him that they were going to lay only the ground, first and second floors with marble and the rest with scagliola because it would cost too much to lay all the floors with marble.

“What then do we use marble for? All the floors should be laid with marble,” said Kim Jong Il. After a while of deep thought, he proposed making a decorative floor of jewels, which are much better than marble. The officials were all amazed at his suggestion of using valuable natural jewels for the floor decoration.

Kim Jong Il reiterated his suggestion, saying they had better make a jewel floor by plastering the central hall, the main passage for all patients and visitors to the hospital, with a mixture of natural jewels.

This was how over 100 tons of natural jewels and colour stones were supplied to the project, and the floor of the central hall was studded with rubies, sapphires, topazes and other precious jewels, reminding one of a jewel carpet.

I have no idea how to build a hospital, but I am fairly confident that this was a poor suggestion.

UPDATE: here is the “jewel carpet”

2. The second item is some interesting video footage shot by a representative of the Czechoslovakian Embassy (1989/1990) and posted on YouTube.

3. The third item is a new web page featuring selected pictures of Kim Jong-il’s guidance tours.  Check out “Kim Jong-il looking at things“.

4. The Fourth item is a discussion that is part art and part propaganda.  Is this Kim Jong-un or not?

38 North and Leonid Petrov offer some information.

UPDATE: it is not.  The painting is of Kim Il-sung in Manchuria

Military resources

Although this web page does not focus on military affairs, I have decided to post a few resources that I found helpful in understanding North Korea. If there is additional material that should be added to this list, please let me know.


The Armed Forces of North Korea, Jospeh Bermudez, 2001

North Korea Country Handbook, US Department of Defense, May 1997

North Korea’s Military Threat: Pyongyang’s Conventional Forces, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Balisitc Missiles, Andrew Scobell and John M. Sanford, US Army

Web Resources:

KPA Journal, Joseph Bermudez

North Korea Military Guide, Global Security

The North Korean Military, ROK National Intelligence Service

DPRK Intelligence Agencies, John Pike (FAS)

Bluffer’s Guide to KPA

North vs. South Korea: A Military Comparison, Global Bearings

Other Security/Intel web resources:

Arms Control Wonk

Debka File

Stratfor Global Intelligence

Intelligence Online

North East Asia Matters

Joseph Bermudez
Robert Collins
Osamu Eya

The Korea Historic Collections Part Two:Choson Dynasty 1700-1800

The Choson Historic Coillections 1700-1800

Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM

Goal of 605 Posts Completed



I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. — Steven Wright


Pre Choson Dynasty


Goryeo Dynasty

the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918


Taejo Choson  Dynasty


The Choson Dynasty(1392-1910) is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”),

Early Joseon Dynasty


King Taejo‘s portrait

Monarchs of Korea
Joseon (Choson) Dynasty
  1. Taejo 1392–1398
  2. Jeongjong 1398–1400
  3. Taejong 1400–1418
  4. Sejong the Great 1418–1450
  5. Munjong 1450–1452
  6. Danjong 1452–1455
  7. Sejo 1455–1468
  8. Yejong 1468–1469
  9. Seongjong 1469–1494
  10. Yeonsangun 1494–1506
  11. Jungjong 1506–1544
  12. Injong 1544–1545
  13. Myeongjong 1545–1567
  14. Seonjo 1567–1608
  15. Gwanghaegun 1608–1623
  16. Injo 1623–1649
  17. Hyojong 1649–1659
  18. Hyeonjong 1659–1674
  19. Sukjong 1674–1720
  20. Gyeongjong 1720–1724
  21. Yeongjo 1724–1776
  22. Jeongjo 1776–1800
  23. Sunjo 1800–1834
  24. Heonjong 1834–1849
  25. Cheoljong 1849–1863
  26. Gojong 1863–1907
  27. Sunjong 1907–1910


 King Sejong the Great

King Sejong‘s portrait

In August of 1418, following Taejong’s abdication two months earlier, Sejong ascended the throne.


Middle Joseon monarchs: Seongjong to Injo

Portrait of Emperor Gojong, Yi Haeung wearing Tongcheonggwan and Gangsapo. Portrait painted by Yi Hancheol and Yu Sook.

Portrait of Emperor Gojong, Yi Haeung wearing Tongcheonggwan and Gangsapo. Portrait painted by Yi Hancheol and Yu Sook.

Following Seongjong’s reign, the next six Joseon monarchs ruled for a period of 150 years, most of them staying on the throne much longer than the early Joseon monarchs, characterizing the middle years of the dynasty with a sense a security. When King Sejongjong reach the end of his life, he had to choose an heir. Of Seongjong’s many sons, only two were the sons of queens. One of them, Jungjong, was only six years-old when Seongjong died, so the throne went to 18 year-old Prince Yeonsan (Yeonsangun), the son of a concubine who had become queen shortly before the Prince’s birth. Yeonsan proved a violent monarch, seeking vengeance for the death of his mother who had been exiled and poisoned by rival factions at court, and after 12 years he was removed from the throne and replaced by his half-brother Jungjong, whom everyone in the court recognized as the son of a full Queen. Because he was deposed, Yeonsan was stripped of the title King, and given only the rank of prince. At the same time, Yeonsan’s son, Crown Prince Hwang, became ineligible for the throne when his father was deposed, so the line of succession moved to a different branch of the family.

King Jungjong held the throne for a long time, reigning for nearly 40 years. Jungjong was succeeded by his first son King Injong, who reigned only a year and died without an heir, and then his second son, King Myeongjong, who ascended the throne at 12, with his mother Queen Munjeong as regent. Although King Myeongjong held the throne for 22 years, Munjeong did not give up control when her son reached the age of 20, and he was over 30 before he she died in 1565, giving him a chance to rule on his own. He died two years later, and his only son had already died, leaving him without an heir, so he was succeeded by his nephew, Seonjo, the son of his youngest brother, Prince Deokheung.

King Seonjo’s 41 year reign started out well, but as time went by, he became greedy and corrupt. Toward the end of Seonjo’s reign, he entrusted a lot of responsibility to his two eldest sons, Princes Imhae and Gwanghae, sons of one of Seonjo’s concubines. Gwanghae ran the country while Seonjo fled to safety during the seven years of war with Japan under Hideyoshi. Feeling that Prince Gwanghae had more leadership ability than his elder brother Imhae, King Seonjo directed that Gwanghae should succeed him to the throne. This decision was opposed by the Chinese Emperor, who had some control of Korea throughout almost all of the Joseon Dynasty, and felt that the oldest son, Imhae, should succeed Seonjo. There was also opposition to Gwanghae from elements in the court who felt the crown should go to Seonjo’s youngest son, Prince Youngchang, the only Prince whose mother was a Queen. Seonjo’s wishes prevailed, and Prince Gwanghae ascended the throne and ruled for 15 years, and ruled with skill, but the controversy surrounding his succession eventually caused him to be deposed and replaced by his nephew King Injo, the son of Gwanghae’s younger half-brother Wonjong (Prince Jeonwon). Like Prince Yeonsan, Gwanghae was not given the title ‘King’ because he was deposed, and is referred to as ‘Prince’ (Gun), the title of Crown Prince was taken from his son, and the line of succession passed to his brother Wonjong’s line.

King Seongjong
Prince Yeonsan
Crown Prince
          Grand Prince
            Grand Prince
Prince Gwanghae
Crown Prince
            Donsu           Prince
King Injo
King Jungjong
King Injong
          Wonjong     Prince
King Myeongjong
    Crown Prince
Sun Hoi
    Prince Yeongyang           Prince Heungan
King Seonjo


King Injo
    Crown Prince
King Gyeongjong
King Hyojong
King Hyeonjong
King Sukjong
King Yeongjo
                  Crown Prince
    Grand Prince
King Jeongjo
King Sunjo
    King Ikjong
(posthumous title)
King Heonjong
King Cheoljong
      Grand Prince
      Grand Prince
    Yi Jinik
    Yi Jintae    
            4 illegitimate
      Yi Byeongsun           Prince
      Yi Byeongwon     Prince
    Prince Heungwan     Yi Jaemyeon
      Yi Byeongjun           Prince
Emperor Gojong
    Yi Jaeseon

 Classic Choson

Korea, 1600–1700 a.d. 


포항 중성리신라비20090901And while we’re on the subject… Apparently on the same day as they announced the Munmu stele, the Kyongju museum also announced they had discovered the oldest Silla inscription yet in the P’ohang area. No details yet regarding the contents, but it seems fairly legible… (via 조선일보)

포항 중성리 신라비_이성시_20090903

Here Prof Yi Song-si of Waseda is seen inspecting the new find…


Part of King Munmu’s stele


Saw on the KBS evening news yesterday that part of King Munmu’s stele has been rediscovered. It was found in an old hanok in the eastern part of Kyongju. Apparently it had been used in the backyard to make a platform or bassin for the water tap… King Munmu (661-681) is famous as the Silla unifier and also for his ‘underwater tomb’ near Kamp’o on the East Sea coast east of Kyongju. According to the Samguk yusa he was cremated and given a water burial, but at the same time there must also have been a conventional tumulus – a stele such as this one would have been placed near a tumulus. It is also said however that the stele was discovered at Sach’onwang-sa, but it would have been unusual to place a stele of a king in a temple; at least I haven’t seen any other examples of that.

The text is not exactly unknown – the stele had earlier been discovered in 1796, as reported in Hong Yangho (1724-1802)’s Igyejip 耳溪集, and rubbings were sent to China where Liu Xihai (1793-1853) included them in his Haidong jinshi yuan. But the stele itself went missing again; another part was discovered in 1961, and now the top part has been found, though it is not clear how complete the text now is. People at the Kyongju museum seem confident that they can decypher a few more characters – i.e. ones that are not included in the Haidong jinshi yuan edition. 


This is the part from the Kyongju museum. Not very spectacular… from this very useful website, which brings together all the epigraphy from Korea:)

신라문무왕릉비 20090903

This gives a better idea of how it was found, and how the part really fitted in as a nice flat stone to do your washing on! (via 조선일보)


Still exorcizing the past

August 13, 2009It is still a tradition to put to rest some minor remnant of colonial history before the major national holidays in Korea, March 1 and August 15 (Liberation day). Kim Young Sam undoubtedly tops the list of such acts with his demolition of the former government general building, later National Museum, which started on Aug. 15, 1995. However, I was surprised to confirm again the nationalist vigour of the Jogye order. These monks of Beomeosa (i.e. 범어사 – one example of how awful the current romanization system can be) are joyfully tearing down a small ballustrade, apparently in Japanase style, despoiling their pagoda, which is treasure no. 250.  The idea is, as always, to restore it to ‘its original state.’ Not very enlightened behaviour, to say the least:

 범어사)난간 해체20090813MSN

법어사 monks20090813

Another famous example that always shows up is that of the iron rods supposedly driven into the soil to destroy the geomantic power – or prevent the birth of great people, according to an 80-year old villager in Gangcheon, near Yeoju (Gyeonggi-do), where an example was recently recovered:

Iron rod 20090813

According to the report, the rod is about 4-5 cm in diameter and 50 cm out of the earth – it is not known yet how deep it is embedded in the earth. As a perceptive student in one of my classes once pointed out, it resembles a rod used in surveying land or rods used to delineate plots of land… As far as I know, nobody has yet seriously looked at any documentary evidence to back up the popular claims that these were meant to be some kind of voodoo needles to sap the strength out of Korea…


Choson royal tombs

Taereung of Q Munjeong_K Jungjons spouse_KR_090624_p25_royal3

As ‘predicted’ in one of the earliest posts on this blog, the royal tombs of Choson kings, queens, and princes (?) have been registered as UNESCO world heritage. The Korean application was approved at the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville on June 26. It is number nine on the list for the ROK, and more seem to be planned – Hahoe is one of them.

joseon tombs_KT_090624_p25_royal9

(photos via the Korea Times)

This whole UNESCO business seems to be getting out of hand, with everyone pushing whatever they have in order not to be left behind. A refreshing satire from the Chinese side – where the same thing is happening – can be found here.


Colonial era heritage still controversial…

There seems to be a growing acceptance in Korea of the value of colonial-era buildings, with many now being registered with the Cultural Heritage Administration. Thus the former Bank of Chosen building in Kunsan – which has a rich colonial heritage - was registered last year as ‘registered cultural property 등록문화재 no 374′. However, there are still throwbacks to past attitudes,  witness this proposal by Chang Sehwang of the DP to make it impossible to make “exploitative facilities from the colonial period” cultural heritage. He does not seem to advocate their demolition, but wants to put them in a different category of “historical materials to be preserved” (역사적보존자료); apart from the problem of how to distinguish exploitative from non-exploitative facilities, if the law passes it would probably become easier to demolish them anyway. Hence the strong opposition to this law from conservation groups such as the 한국군축역사학회 (Korean architectural history society?) and also the city of Kunsan.


Despite its protected status (see the small board in front of the building), the 1923 former bank of Chosen in Kunsan is obviously in need of some repair.


Through Gates of Seoul …

Borrowed this title from an old guide book to Seoul by Edward Adams. It’s exactly a year now since the South gate (Namdaemun/Sungnyemun) burnt down; a tragedy of course for Seoul’s (meagre) heritage, but in a way it seems to tie in well with the city’s plans to restore the city walls. I’ll have to hunt down some evidence for this, but it seems that there are definitely plans to rebuild the walls, and then apply for Unesco heritage status… Even the demolition of the old Tongdaemun stadium seems to be connected to this – underneath it was uncovered some pretty impressive remains, including this water gate:


For a good overview of the excavation activities concerning Seoul’s walls and gates, see this article in the Chosun.


Relic case discovered at Miruksa

20090119_ebafb8eba5b5ec82acec82aceba6aced95a8Today the munhwajae yon’guso unveiled the sarira (relics) case discovered underneath the central pillar shaft (心柱)at Miruk-sa, the famous Paekche stupa near Iksan. Normally such a case is buried underneath the plinth supporting the central wooden pillar of the pagoda – however, as we all know the Miruk-sa stupa (NT 11) is completely made of stone … (Jonathan Best cites a Chinese source which claims that the originally wooden pagoda was destroyed by lightning in 639; so perhaps the box may indeed have originally been placed under a wooden pagoda)


This picture shows the completely dis-assembled pagoda, with the lid just being taken off the sarira case. (from here) It will be interesting to see how this will affect our knowledge of Paekche history. I haven’t seen any transcription yet of the text, but one thing is clear: the Samguk yusa’s romantic story of how the daughter of Silla king Chinp’yong eloped to marry King Mu of Paekche (600-641) will have to be taken with an extra pinch of salt. It is correct though in saying that the temple was founded by King Mu’s queen, but she was a daughter of a Paekche nobleman.


Locks.. but not under lock!


150 locks and other small metal objects from the Lock museum (쇳대박물관) are currently on exhibit in Tokyo… although they are ‘undesignated cultural treasures’ (비지정문화재) they need permission from the Cultural Heritage Admin. to travel abroad… Permission which was not applied for, yet they clearly left the country without problem! Pictured is a lock said to date from the Koryo period (via Donga)


Destruction of Silla fortress

This story just caught my eye on Daum (via Ohmynews) - apparently the city of Mungyong is destroying the ancient fortress of Komo sansong (Sinhyon-ri, Masong-myon, Mungyong), believed to have been built ca. 470. The reason? To make way for a Confucian Culture zone tourist project – whatever that may be. Despite protests by local cultural protection groups, the work is continuing. Apparently permission was granted, and the Cultural Heritage Administration is powerless because the site is not listed… It is really baffling, all the more so since excavations were carried out last year, by the Chungwon munhwajae yon’guso (presumably yonguwon), which revealed a unique subterranean wooden structure, believed to date to the Silla period:

This image via the Dong-a ilbo. Just imagine what the outcry would have been like if China had touched a Koguryo fortress … From this picture it appears that the purpose is simply to remove the old walls and replace it with a flash new structure as can be seen in the foreground:



The Manchu invasions of the Korean peninsula and the subsequent establishment of the Qing dynasty in China during the first half of the seventeenth century shape the Joseon elite’s view of its own culture. Scholars and officials increasingly take an interest in Korea’s history, geography, agriculture, literature, and art. The new strain of research, now commonly termed sirhak, or “practical learning,” is in vogue through much of the two centuries between 1600 and 1800. It is manifested in practical legislation that seeks to control and enhance the government’s bureaucratic workings and the lives of the general population, especially the peasants.

Culturally, a similar strain of interest in things Korean finds expression in works of art that explore native vernacular, geography, and social customs. Fiction written in hangeul (Korean writing) explores nontraditional themes that fall outside of yangban (literati) interests, and are often authored by people of the lower classes. Paintings of the eighteenth century depicting famous sites in Korea and the daily lives of people—known as “true-view” landscape painting and genre painting—evidence the vibrant and “Korean” artistic expressions of this period. Ceramic production, having suffered setbacks following major Japanese and Manchu invasions of the peninsula, reemerges with fresh creativity by the second half of the seventeenth century and through the eighteenth century.

Attention to Korea’s history and culture does not mean indifference to foreign stimuli. On the contrary, there is enduring, if selective, interest in and relations with the world outside, alongside discoveries of native potentials. Diplomatic and cultural exchanges with China and Japan continue, despite ambivalence and mistrust, and contribute significantly to shaping Joseon culture. Sporadic and largely accidental contact with the West sparks the two worlds’ awareness of each other.


Woodblock of the Tripitaka Koreana.
Woodblock of the Tripitaka Koreana. The carving of the woodblocks for the Korean Tripitaka (Buddhist canon) began in the early eleventh century and was completed in 1087. The original woodblocks were destroyed during the thirteenth-century Mongol invasions. The Tripitaka Koreana that remains today is a later edition, begun on Kanghwa Island, where the court had taken refuge from the Mongols. It was completed in 1251. Requiring about 81,200 woodblocks, this edition combines accuracy with beauty. This woodblock was presented to then- Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin by Dr. Hong Joo Moon, President of the Academy of Korean Studies, in 1986. (Korean Collection, Asian Division)

The Library’s Korean collection has made up for a relatively late start and now stands as the largest The Library’s Korean collection has made up for a relatively late start and now stands as the largest and   most comprehensive outside Korea. Although the collection is largely contemporary (this aspect is discussed later), it does contain a number of valuable pre-nineteenth-century publications in traditional format. Korea, like Japan and Vietnam, absorbed early cultural influences from China, including language, and many of its early classics were written in Chinese. Old Korean books, however, are quite different from their counterparts in China and Japan. They tend to be larger and are often printed on tough, durable paper, which is noted for its beauty and uniform whiteness. Because of the paper’s quality, Korean versions of Chinese classics sometimes survived the original printings in China. For example, the only existing version of an important fourteenth-century Chinese map, Sheng-chiao Kuang-pei t’u (Map of the Vast Reach of China’s Moral Teaching), is a fifteenth-century Korean work containing a copy of the original.

The Library has some 422 titles (2,900 volumes) of rare Korean books, printed on mulberry paper in Chinese characters, many of which were obtained in the 1920s. While the majority of the Korean rare books are in the Asian Division, thirteen titles are in the Law Library. There are also rare Korean maps in the Geography and Map Division, including those provided to the Library by the American geographer Shannon McCune. Unique Korean photographs may be found in the Prints and Photographs Division.

Yi Munsun Chip (1241).
Yi Munsun Chip
(1241). The collected works of Yi Munsun (the literary name of Yi Kyu-bo), the great poet, scholar, and statesman of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty (918-1392), were edited and printed with metal movable type by his son Yi Ham in about 1241. This was some 215 years before Gutenberg used a similar process to print his famous Bibles in Germany. Printed on handmade mulberry paper, the eight-volume work contains Yi Munsun’s essays, poetry, descriptions of early printing, warnings against shamanism, and his autobiography. (Korean Collection, Asian Division)

The most important contributor to the Library’s classical Korean book collection was Dr. James S. Gale, a Canadian missionary who arrived in Korea in 1888 and spent the next forty years there. A prodigious scholar, Gale translated many of Korea’s literary classics into English and wrote numerous books on Korean history, literature, and culture. Gale helped the Library procure a number of Korean classics, including rare books from the estate of the Korean scholar Kim To-hui. In 1927, the Library received the major portion of Gale’s own library, more than doubling its Korean holdings.

Korea made a special contribution to the technology of printing by developing movable cast metal type, beginning in 1241. Although China first used movable type made of clay, it was in Korea that printing with movable metal type reached a high point in the fifteenth century. Korean printing technology spread to China and Japan, but movable type was not a commercial success and by the nineteenth century had been almost completely displaced by the older woodblock printing. This technology in turn soon gave way to European typography. The Asian Division holds some fine examples of Korean printing from metal movable type. These include the collected writings, printed in 1744, of the renowned sixteenth-century Confucian scholar and statesman Yi I and the 1834 reprint of the works of the “father of Korean literature,” Ch’oe Ch’i-won (857-915 A.D.). Examples of rare woodblock-printed books include a history of the Koryo Dynasty (Koryð Sa), printed in 1590, and the law code of the Yi Dynasty (Kyongguk Taijon), printed in 1630.

Map of Korean Peninsula.
Map of Korean Peninsula.
This map of Korea is one of twelve handcolored maps in the manuscript atlas, Tae Choson Chido (Great Korean Map). The atlas, dating to circa 1800, has individual maps of the provinces of Korea and maps of the world, China, and Japan. (Geography and Map Division)
Tonqui Pogam (A Valuable Treatise on Oriental Medicine). Tonqui Pogam (A Valuable Treatise on Oriental Medicine).
The Tonqui Pogam was written by the physician Ho Chun at the order of King Sonjo (1567-1608). Completed in 1611, it combines Chinese and Korean medical writings on disease and treatment, and covers topics such as pediatrics, gynecology, acupuncture, surgery, and general medicine. The most important medical compendium of Korea’s Yi Dynasty, the work was widely read in China and Japan. This 1754 edition, consisting of twenty-two volumes, was printed with wood blocks.

Group of miniature funerary vessels, porcelain, Choson dynasty, 1400-1600

Yun Hyu (尹鑴, 윤휴, 1617-1680) was a Chosun dynasty scholar and government official. His ancestral home is Namweon (南原, 남원); his courtesy name was Heuijung (希仲, 희중), which indicates he was the second born son; and his pen names were Baekho (白湖, 백호, “white lake”) and Haheon (夏軒, 하헌, “summer veranda”).  He was nominated to be a Jipyeong (持平, 지평) as a Yebinshijeong (禮賓寺正, 예빈시정) and had served in various other posts, before he left politics to absorb himself in scholarly pursuits. He was a member of the Southerner faction (南人派, 남인파). With the expulsion of that faction, he was exiled to Gapsan (甲山, 갑산) and sentenced to death by poisoning.

陋巷 누항

The Squalid Alley

明着衣冠士子身 명착의관사자신
簞瓢陋巷不厭貧 단표루항불염빈
雲開萬國同看月 운개만국동간월
花發千家共得春 화발천가공득춘
邵子吟中多氣像 소자음중다기상
淵明醉裏樂天眞 연명취리낙천진
從來大隱皆城市 종래대은개성시
何必投竿寂寞濱 하필투간적막빈

Augustly wearing the clothes and hat, a body of a scholar,
On the squalid alley with its bamboo baskets and gourd dippers, does not get annoyed at the poor.
When the clouds open, ten-thousand [1] countries altogether see the moon.
When a flower blossoms, ten-thousand households [2] together have Spring.
In the poems of Soja [3], much of nature and temper.
In the drunkenness of  Yeonmyong [4], the joy of innocence [5].
From times past, large hermits all lived in towns and markets.
Why is it necessary to throw a fishing line from the tranquil water’s edge?


  1. That is, everyone or many people.
  2. Again to mean “many people.”
  3. Refers to a Song dynasty scholar and poet by the name of Shao Yong (邵雍, 소옹, So’ong, 1011-1077).
  4. Refers to the Eastern Jin dynasty poet Tao Yuanming(陶淵明, 도연명, Do Yeonmyeong, 365-427).
  5. 天眞 (천진, cheonjin) does not mean “heavenly truth” but “innocence” or “naivete.”


  • 陋 (루, ru) – to be squalid (누추하다) or filthy (더럽다).
  • 簞 (단, dan) – bamboo basket (소쿠리) or lunchbox (도시락).
  • 瓢 (표, pyo) – gourd dipper (바가지).
  • 濱 (빈, bin) – water’s edge (물가).

An Jeongbok (安鼎福, 안정복, 1712-1791) was a Chosun dynasty scholar and government official. He was of the Gwangju (廣州 ,광주) An clan. His courtesy name was Baeksun (百順, 백순) and his pen name was Sun’am (順庵, 순암). He belonged to the Southerner’s faction and the Silhak school of thought, and did initially take interest in Catholicism when it was first introduced by Yi Seunghun and other Silhak scholars. However, unlike the others authors covered this week, in the end, An Jeongbok criticized Catholicism and Western thought and warned other scholars who took interest in it in his work, Thoughts on the Study of Heaven (天學考, 천학고, Cheonhakgo).

白雲有起滅 백운유기멸
靑山無改時 청산무개시
變遷非所貴 변천비소귀
特立斯爲奇 특립사위기

white-cloud-to have-to rise-to destroy
blue-mountain-to have not-to change-time
to change-to move-to be not-that/which-value
to be special-to stand-this-to be-commendable

White clouds have risings and vanishings;
Blue mountains do not have changing times.
Transformations and alterations are not something to be valued.
Standing independently — this is [what is] commendable.

     *Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin
11—49 years old. Born on 1670 (11 th year of King Hyunjong)
Later, Mother of King Youngjo. She was honored as Sukbin which is located third level in Chosun lady’s hierarchy system.
She is very bright, smart and witty. Not only smart but also warm heart, she cannot pass poor person freely. After her father and brother was executed bitterly, she became a orphan. As police officer Mr. Seo Yongki chase her continuously, she hide herself in Jangakwon, which is music academy, with the help of Suli. With her born familiarity and wit, she is chosen as a helper in palace from the slave position. Behind her, there is Cha Chunsoo, who gave her a love in spite of all kind of sacrifice. He is best friend of her brother, Dongju.
Later, surprisingly, she was picked up by Sukjong to sleep with. Then, discord against queen Chang Heebin, then, return of queen Inhyun, giving birth to a prince, Yeonanggun. Love from Sukjong, trouble with queen Inhyun. Education of prince Yeonanggun, whose position was always in danger.
Within the difficulty which concubine would face and her son’s royalty to her, her life faced incredible turning point.
    *Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong
24-60 years old. The 19th king of Chosun dynasty (1661—1720)
His- childhood- time name was Soon.
He was absolute monarch of Chosun. He recovered the authority of king which had dropped before. Though he became a king when just 14 years old, with the powerful leadership and wide knowledge, he succeeded and ruled experienced old his subjects. To recover royalty of king which had dropped through 2 times war, he eliminated Song Siyul who was the biggest scholar in Chosun.
With the powerful leadership and gut, he controlled his subjects and used the power game among his subjects.
Though he was scareful king to his subjects, he is delicate and smart. That means, he was smart and fantastic king to the numerous concubine. He met Dongyi first time during palace festival, then, he was impressed by her warmth and smartness.    *Bae Soo Bin as Cha Chun Soo
20-55 years old
New leader of Hanyang Gumgae, which is secret swordsman organization.
He worked as corpse inspector during the day and acted as a key member of Gumgae, whose purpose was cleaning the governmental disorder during the night. Though he is in low class person, he has academic ability and can use sword very well.
He is trusted very much by Choi Hyowon, who is father of Dongyi. He was a young staff of Gumgae organization and best friend of Dongju, who is brother of Dongyi. When Mr Choi and Dongju were executed, they ask him to take care of Dongyi. Afterwards, he took care of Dongyi for his whole life. After Choi Hyowon died, he rebuilt Gumgae organization and became a new leader. He never forgets the word of baby Dongyi, which is, “When I grow up, I will marry with Chunsoo”. He loves Dongyi with his whole life.    *Park Ha-sun as Queen In-hyun
(1667 – 1701)
First queen of Sukjong, who was 19th king of Chosun dynasty.
She has warm heart , but she was paid no attention by Sukjong. She was expelled out of palace once, then, she came back as a queen again. But she died early. She trusted Dongyi very much and gave many helps to her.    *Lee So-yeon as Lady Jang
(1659 –1701)
Second queen of Sukjong.
She entered palace with the help of Cho Sasuk. Her first name was Chang Okjung. She received love of Sukjong, but she was expelled by Sukjong’s mother. When her party, Namin, succeeded to get power, she could come back to palace and succeeded to give birth to prince, Kyun. When her son became a successor of king, her position was upgraded to second queen.
When Sukjong’s first queen, Inhyun was expelled, she became first queen. But, afterwards, Sukjong regrets his mistake, he recovered Inhyun’s position, then, made Heebin Chang to second queen again.From the start to the last, she made rivalry with Dongyi. Finally she died by the penalty of death.

    *Jang Jin Young
30 – 60 years old. Police chief.
He has fair and straight personality and careful.
He valued high the ability of Choi Hyowon who was working as a corpse inspector, which is the lowest job. Mr. Seo has treated Mr. Choi as a normal class person in spite of his low society position.But, after his father was killed by Gumgae member, he feel betrayal and swear to clean Gumgae.
When Dongyi became the helper of police, he met her again. At that time, he was high official, then, help her lots of times.

    *Choi Cheol-Ho
    *Jung Yumi

In full disclosure, unlike many Korean-Americans (“1.5 generation” included), the author of this blog is not a Protestant. In fact, he tries to stay away from Protestantism for the same reasons that he stays away from the beer Keystone. He is Catholic, though not too happy about the state of the Church today, as hopefully made clear in the following post.Yi Byeok (李檗,이벽, 1754-1786) was born into the Gyeongju Yi family clan (慶州李氏, 경주이씨). His pen name was Gwang’am (曠菴, 광암, “empty hermitage”). Although well-versed in Confucian classics like many early Korean Catholics and unlike his brothers, he did not take the civil entrance exam and did not pursue government position. He was Korea’s first Catholic catechist. Unlike many lay catechists today, who teach from books that are no more informative than coloring books, Yi Byeok actually taught Catholicism. One of the remarkable things about the Catholic Church in Korea is that it was not founded by missionaries. Rather, it was started by Korean literati who read Catholic books and wished to pursue the religion on their own. Indeed, as there were no Catholic clergy established in Korea until the mid-18th century, Yi Byeok was baptized by fellow Catholic layman Yi Seunghun. The following is an excerpt from his catechism, The Essential Meaning of the Heavenly Religion, or Seonggyoyoji (聖敎要旨, 성교요지). It is modeled on the poems found in the Classic of Poetry, and was meant to be sung. Most of the early Catholic works written by Korean Catholics were done in Classical Chinese, was only translated into Korean later.未生民來 前有上帝 미생민래 전유상제
唯一眞身 無聖能比 유일진신 무성능비
六日力作 先碧天地 육일역작 선벽천지
萬物多焉 旣希差異 만물다언 기희차이
遂辨和土 將位靈矣 수변화토 장위영의
命處賜薹 千百皆與 명처사대 천백개여

There was not yet life and the advent of mankind; [but] before, there existed the Lord Above [1].
There was only one true body: there was no sage that can be equaled [to Him].
In six days, with His strength, He created: first, the blue heavens and earth [2].
All creation is many; from the beginning, [how] rare and [how] distinct.
At last, He decided, collecting earth, in order to place a soul.
Life and place, He bestowed rapeseed [3]. To thousands and hundred, all He gave [to them].


  1.  上帝 (상제, Sangje) – Confucian word for God. Pope Clement XI’s decree Ex Illa Die actually forbid the use of this word among Chinese Catholics in 1705.
  2. Catholic Church does not teach literal six day creationism.
  3. That is, nourishment.
  • 薹 (대, dae) – rapeseed

Late Choson Period

DSC00472.JPG (145346 bytes)

The postwar period of the 17th century in Choson witnessed a great deal of social and economic upheavals.  The rise of wealthy merchants contributed to the decline of the yangban society, while financial difficulty drove the government repeatedly to undertake tax reforms and sales of titles.  Upward social mobility, almost unknown in the prewar period, began to take place.  Rich peasants and merchants acquired yangban status, and nobi bondsmen were able to purchase freedom.

Neo-Confucian orthodoxy was called into questions by a rising critical spirit which engendered distrust of the yangban.  The impact of Western culture, entering through China, gave further impetus for the development of pragmatic studies which called for socioeconomic reforms and readjustments.  Factional strife also intensified.  Attention was drawn to agricultural problems as more yangban – dropouts from the struggle for official power – became involved land cultivation issues.  As a result, agromanagerial techniques and production methods were steadily improved  Privately operated handicraft factories replaced government-operated ones, stimulating the production of goods for sale.

The increase in mercantile activities expedited the rise of commercial farming, which in turn began to transform rural life.  The circulation of coin currency spread, provided a bridge between rural life and city economy.  The rise of popular verse and fiction drew the attention of the people to the government abuses and encouraged their participation in social reforms.




The factional split in 1585 was between a younger and an elder group of scholars, called the Tong-in (Eastern) faction and the Soin (Western) faction, respectively, and this rivalry was intensified under the postwar financial difficulties.  Splits often occurred over issues such as the questions of selection of the crown prince and rituals of royal mourning.


TheTong-in faction divided again into the Namin (Southern) faction and the Pugin (Northern) faction, and the latter gained power during the reign of King Kwanghaegun (r. 1608-1623), who made efforts to restore the Confucian state.  When the Manchus rose up against Ming China, who asked Choson for assistance, King Kwanghaegun, mindful of the assistance rendered by the Chinese in Choson’s struggle against the Japanese, promptly sent an army of 10,000.  However, when it became obvious the Manchus would be victorious, the Chosons quickly surrendered thus avoiding any retaliation.


In the aftermath of this switch, King Kwanghaegun was deposed by the newly ascendant Soin faction which was pro-Ming.  The insurrection which ensued demonstrated the necessity of strengthening the defense of the capital area.  Accordingly, new camps were built around the capital city, and Namhansansong fortress was constructed for its protection.


The Manchus thus felt the need to eliminate any threat from Choson.  The peace treaty concluded after the first Manchu invasion stipulated that Choson would come to the aid of the Manchus, not the Ming.  Upon King Injo’s (r. 1623-1649) refusal to acknowledge a suzerain-vassal relationship in 1636, the Manchu ruler, now enthroned as the Qing Emperor of China, invaded Choson.  King Injo fled to Namhansansong fortress, then capitulated to the invaders on a bank of the Han-gang river.  He agreed to break relations with the defeated Ming and to send princes as hostages.


This personal surrender of King Injo was a double blow to the monarchy and yangban, as the nation had  to acknowledge subservience to the “pagan” tribes of the Manchu.  Distrust of the orthodox Neo-Confucian yangban began to grow in the minds of the people, who had been denied an opportunity to resist the Qing army.


A deep sense of humiliation and disgrace was felt, and sympathy toward Ming was strong.  The peasants and bondsmen openly ridiculed the yangban; offspring of interclass mating, mostly between yangban men and non-yangban women, also posed a serious social problem.  These illegitimate sons of prominent officials were considered outcasts and banned from governmental service.


Resentment of the rigid social stratification as described at the Hong Kil-tong chon spurred the rise of revolutionary ideas.  The basic theme in the novel – that all men were created equal – gave encouragement to the people and further undermined the prestige of the yangban society.


Postwar Readjustment

The urgent tasks of the postwar period included the reorganization of defense forces and the increase of state revenues.  The Border Defense Council (Pibyonsa) was elevated to the status of a de facto decision-making body, consisting of state councilors, ministers of the six boards and military staff generals, which made important decisions ranging from war to the selection of the Crown Prince.

The arts of war which had proved to be effective in defense against Japanese pirates on the south China coast were given first priority in the postwar defense activity.  This system of army training, however, required an additional budget which had to be collected as taxes from the peasants.  Privately owned bondsmen, who had previously been exempted from military service, were recruited for training, and had a new reason to consider themselves equal to commoners.

The reconstruction of palace buildings and the printing of lost books, such as duplicate sets of the Choson Wangjo Shillok (Annals of the Choson Dynasty), land ledgers, and census records, all required extra funds.  Wooden printing type was carved because of the metal shortage brought about by arms production.  Books were sold to pay for expenses, contrary to the prewar practice.  Efforts were made to revive the peasant economy, the main source of revenue.


Medical care for the disease-stricken populace was an urgent need and gave impetus to the compilation of medical treatises such as Tong-ui pogam (Exemplar of Korean Medicine), which was completed in 1610.

The system of recruitment for the bureaucracy by merit had long deteriorated, as both civil and military service examinations virtually became levers in the hands of powerful officials and the faction in power.  The irregular special examination graduates created a pressing demand for land, at the same time the practice of holding unregistered land was draining state revenue.  As some yangban sought control of tax-free school land, the number of private schools quadrupled during the 17thcentury alone, multiplying the school estates which sheltered an increasing number of literati and students.

The royal relatives and officials in power accumulated land deserted in wartime and converted it into tax-exempt holdings.  Competition for government office became intense, since a term in office could easily lead to economic advantage. 


Tax Reforms

During this period, there was a gradual rise of subordinate agents of the tribute-tax collector who collected extraordinary additional amounts.  This practice, started during the prewar period, became so rampant that peasants often turned over their land to powerful yangban, who would then help them to withdraw the land from registration so that the yangban could collect the tax themselves.

Attempts to convert the tribute-tax to an additional tax on land were partly successful.  An additional tax on land, Taedongpop (Uniform Land Tax Law), was vigorously advocated by Kim Yuk, the chief minister of King Hyonjong (r. 1649-1659).  Its implementation proved highly advantageous both to state revenues and to the lot of the peasants.  Such an outcome was especially valuable to King Hyojong, whose aim was to strengthen the army and increase national revenue so as to oppose the Qing.  As a further revenue measure, he decreed a universal tax in exchange for exemption from military service to be paid by all males, even monks.

Hyojong’s anti-Qing ideas came to naught, for in 1654 and 1658, he was forced to send trained military men at the request of Qing China to help them fight in Manchuria against Russian invaders.  His economic policies were more effective and the population more than doubled in the ten years after his death.

The increase in the national population from 2,290,000 in 1657 to 5,018,000 in 1669 was remarkable.  The Hanyang population grew from 80,572 to 194,030 in the same period.  The national increase was largely due to the enforcement of tax reforms and the improvement in agromanagerial and agricultural techniques.  The increase in the Hantang population along can be attributed to the influx of merchants dealing in goods no longer paid to the government as tribute-tax.

After the Taedongpop was implemented in most parts of the country the governmental demand for local products in kind was met by merchants who became purchase agents for that purpose.  Acquiring the privilege of monopoly, they set the pattern for the guilds which spread nationwide.  The decline of government-operated workshops and manufacturer stimulated artisans and technicians to create private workshops and to go into business as dealers in their own products, often forming into guilds.

In the provincial towns, markets were held every five days, serving as channels between producers and Hanyang merchants.  The licensed suppliers of local products in Hanyang gradually accumulated capital with their lucrative and guaranteed transactions.

Thus a new notion of wealth came into being: that of mercantile wealth, consisting no longer of land and bondmen but of commodities for quantitative trade in money.  Commercial capital was given a foundation on which to grow, as trade flourished and currency circulated.  However, these efforts, whose purpose was to preserve the Confucian yangban society, led to the erosion of that same society.

Rise of a Reformist School

With the death of King Hyojong, the yangban no longer paid the universal military service tax, and were once again virtually exempted from military service.  A critical attitude developed among the out-of-power yangban.  Yun Hyu and Pak Se-dang were among the prominent scholars who attacked the idolized system of Chu Hsi.  Conservative yangban branded them as heretics, but the time was ripe for the rise of a new school of thought critical of the traditional order.

To the new generation of scholars, the living  conditions of the people meant more than the problems of legitimacy and ritual so head to the literati of Neo-Confucian bureaucracy.  “No nation can survive without the well-being of the peasant, whereas the people can flourish even without a monarch.” Such was the modern thinking that underlay the reformist schools’ pragmatic studies.

Yu Hyong-won in his Pan-gye surok (Essays on Social Reform) suggested the following measures: the establishment of a land system under which benefits could be shared equitably by all; the institution of the recommendation system which would replace civil service examinations; the establishment of equal opportunities for all men; the reform of government organization; and the adoption of new learning.  His proposals found no official acceptance, but his reformist school of thought became the mainstream of pragmatic studies.  Emphasis was given to agriculture, since the success of the suggested reforms depended upon the solution of agricultural problems.  The need for pragmatic studies was keenly felt by scholars who were removed from the bureaucracy.  The latter, on the other hand were preoccupied with internal power struggles, and factions clashed over differing interpretations of Neo-Confucian rites.\

During the latter half of the 17th century,


 the struggle for power among the factions became fierce and more factions split off, among which the Noron faction, or the elder group, and the Soron, the younger group, were prominent.  Such factional strife had nothing to do with the life of the peasant or national interests.  The majority of the younger group began to show concern over the well-being of the peasants, who condition was closer to their own, since many of the yangban engaged in farming and could not even afford to hold bondsmen.

It was in this process of socioeconomic change that the reformist school went with the demands of society.  Mercantile activities continued to grow with the development of government-licensed supplier guilds on a nationwide scale and their transactions accounted for 60 percent of the total government revenue.  Government revenues were constantly growing during this period, and some wealthy farmers converted their status to that of the yangbanKing Yongjo’s Reforms

Realizing detrimental effects, on state administration, of factional strife during the latter half of the 17th century in Choson Dynasty, King Yongjo (r. 1724-1776) attempted to end factional strife as soon as he ascended the throne.  To reinstate the short-lived universal military service tax, he even came out of the palace gate and solicited the opinions of officials, literati, soldiers and peasants.  He reduced the military service tax by half, and ordered the deficiency supplemented by taxes on fisheries, salt, vessels and an additional land tax.  King Yongjo also regularized the financial system of state revenues and expenses by adopting an accounting system.  His realistic policies allowed the payment of taxes in grain in the remote Kyongsang-do province to nearby ports, and payment in cotton or cash for grain in mountainous areas.  The circulation of currency was encourage by increased coin casting.

His concern for the improvement of peasant life was manifest in his eagerness to education the people by distributing important books in Korean script, including books on agriculture.

The pluviometer was again manufactured in quantity and distributed to local offices, and extensive public works were undertaken.  King Yongjo upgraded the status of the offspring of commoners, opening another possibility for upward social mobility.  His policies were intended to reassert the Confucian monarchy and humanistic rule, but they could not stem the tide of social change.

Mercantile activities increased in volume at a rapid rate in the 18th century.  There was accumulation of capital through monopoly and wholesaling that expanded through guild organization.  Many merchants were concentrated in Hanyang.  The traditional divisions of government-chartered shops, the licensed tribute-goods supplier, and the small shopkeepers in the alleys and streets, were integrated into the fabric of a monopoly and wholesale system.  The temporary shops were originally set up to meet the demands of the people on special occasions, such as civil service examinations, royal processions and other national events, but the continued after the events to supply the general populace with groceries and sundry items.  Operated by poor shopkeepers in temporary huts, they were for the most part dependent on the wholesale merchants.  As a result, the wholesale merchant’s price policies had direct impact on the life of the populace of Hanyang.

The artisans often became self-employed producers.  Some even developed into factory owners and obtained charters of monopoly for the sale of their products.  In some cases, it proved more lucrative simply to be a wholesale dealer in certain commodities than to engage in the production of goods.  It was becoming fashionable among merchants and artisans to obtain charters by creating a new commodity through minor refinement of goods already chartered.  The charter ensured monopoly and the protection of the government.

The so-called estuary merchants monopolized commodities from the provinces of Kyonggi-do and Ch’tungch’dong-do, and other wholesale merchants had nationwide networks for the sale of ginseng.  The merchants of Kaeson or Songdo competed vigorously with their Hanyang counterparts in wholesale activities, conducting tripartite international trade between Japan and China; they traded ginseng and other Korean products for Japanese silver and Chinese books and silk.  They even accompanied the envoy missions to China in their quest for gain.  They went into the business of buying up paper for trade to China from the original producers in Buddhist temples, horse hair for hats from the remote southern Chjudo island and otter fur from hunters on the east coast.

The constant movement of trading ships between and among these remote ports is described in Yi Chung-hwan’s T’aengniji (Ecological Guide to Korea) and depicted in Yi In-mun’s painting, the Inexhaustible Rivers and Mountains.

The monopoly and wholesale activities created a larger demand for silver and copper, which in turn gave impetus to the mining industry.  Under strict control of the government in prewar times, mines were turned over to private operators.  In the 17th century, 68 silver mines were in operation but copper mining was not well developed, as copper was supplied by Japan.  In the 18th century, however, copper mines were also developed when the Japanese stopped exporting copper and Qing demanded great supplies of it.

The constant rise in price of commodities would have threatened the livelihood of the populace of Hanyang had they not been involved one way or another in mercantile activities.  Regardless of status, many yangban and commoners engaged in some kind of merchant activity.

Thus Hanyang made great strides as a commercial and industrial city in the 18th century.  The popular demand for handicraft goods such as knives, horsehair hats, dining tables and brassware was ever increasing.  Restrictions on the wearing of the horsehair hat, originally a symbol of yangban status, virtually disappeared.

The increase in the number of yangban had been the root cause of their impoverishment, as their land-holdings had to be divided equally among the sons at the least, and often among daughters as well, whether married or not.  The yangban of declining fortunes had the choice of either engaging in agriculture as an owner-cultivator, or in lucrative enterprises indirectly.  Money-lending was another field they entered as trade and currency circulation expanded.

The traditional Confucian notion that commerce and industry were marginal occupations, unworthy of pursuit by the yangban, also changed, and the necessity for hands-on learning was encouraged by Qing China.  Pak Chi-won, Pak Che-ga and others who had traveled to Qing with the Choson’s envoy missions witnessed the rapid development of commerce and manufacturing industry there.  Upon returning to Choson, they proposed positive policies for the development of commerce, metallurgy, fishing, stock farming, horticulture and mining.

Even pirating of books became commercialized, as competition developed among well-to-do yangban in the publication of collected literary works of renowned ancestors.  This led to the printing of popular fiction and poetry.  The people especially appreciated satire and social criticism.  The Ch’unhyangjon (Tale of Ch’unhyang), about the fidelity of an entertainer’s (kisaeng) daughter, was widely read as a satire aimed to expose the greed and snobbery of government officials.

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Development of Agriculture

The development of trade and manufacturing stimulated agricultural diversity.  Commercial farming of ginseng, hemp, tobacco and medicinal herbs was practiced in various parts of the country.  Improved agricultural techniques increased yields.  For example, transplantation of rice, which ad been common only in the fields of Cholla-do, Kyongsang-do and Kangwon-do provinces, now spread northward to the provinces of Ch’ungch’long-do, Kyonggi-do and Hwanghae-do.  This technique not only yielded more rice but allowed for the harvesting of two crops a year, barley and rice.

The improved ration between productivity and labor gave peasants the incentive to revolutionize agromanagerial procedures, since it ws possible for them to rise to wealth through managerial expansion.  The wealthy yangban and peasants gradually enlarged their farm lands by renting other land.  This drove the poor peasants elsewhere for employment in cities, mining and manufacturing.  Some became mountain recluses living by slash-and-burn agriculture practices.

The land-tax burden was shifted to the tenant farmers.  As in other decaying medieval societies, this sort of socioeconomic change drove the poor peasant further into poverty.  The well-to-do peasants, on the other hand, were able to purchase yangban titles which increased their prestige and power in the local community.

Rules were set for sale of titles, and there was a gradual rise in such sales as the government was often faced with a shortage of revenue.  Bondsmen were emancipated and often became owners of land and other bondsmen.  The increase of yangban from the 1690s to the 1850s was extraordinary.  In these years, the number in some sectors increased from 9.2 to 70.2 percent of the population, whereas the commoners, mostly peasants, decreased from 53.7 to 28.2 percent, and the bondsmen from 37.1 to 1.5 percent.  This upward mobility was a result of the exploitation of newly created wealth by a chronically deficit-ridden government.   The forging and purchase of genealogies conferring social recognition on members of the non-yangban class was prevalent in the 18th century.

There was, however, another side to the picture.  Some yangban actually descended to the status of commoner, and began to intermarry with peasants and other lower classes.  Government offices, unable to afford the support of bondsmen, gradually freed them in return for tribute or a lump-sum tax payment.  The number of office-owned bondsmen decreased from 190,000 in the 17th century to 27,000 in the mid-18th century.  Bondsmen privately owned by yangban numbered 400,000 in 1623, but decreased sharply in the course of social change, and many of the yangban could not afford to hold even a single bondsman.  Under such conditions some private bondsmen became part-tenant and part-free cultivators.  Finally in 1801, all bondsmen registers of government offices and palaces were destroyed by the government to assure their emancipation.

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Pragmatic Studies

The pragmatists’ urge to learn about Qing China in the late Choson period was propelled by the recognition that Korea’s well-being as a nation was in need of dramatic improvement.  Many scholars thus attempted to seek the solution to social problems by administrative reforms in land distribution and thus attempted to seek the solution to social problems by administrative reforms in land distribution and agricultural improvement, emphasizing limitation of landholding and application of egalitarian principles in land tenure.  Yi Ik proposed the creation of an open society by abolishing class distinctions and emancipating all bondsmen.  Pak Chi-won wrote stories ridiculing the idle, unproductive and pretentious way of life of the yangban.  For the social advancement of Choson, he advocated the improvement of agricultural equipment, irrigation systems and new cultivation techniques.  There were scholars like Pak Che-ga, Yi Tok-mu and Hong Tae-yong who recommended that Choson import Western techniques and participate in international trade along with Qing China.  They were the vanguard of a movement that was destined to destroy the traditional yangban attitude toward technology and commerce.

Even while absorbing Western culture and techniques by way of China, concern for Korea’s identity began to revive as Koreans began to study their own history, geography, language and epigraphy.  Painter departed from traditional China-oriented painting styles and began to paint the scenery and life of Choson.  An Chong-bok asserted an independent Korean line in Korea’s historiography by emphasizing Tan-gun and Kija and the first legitimate rules.  This reinterpretation can be seen as parallel to Chu Hsi’s legitimation by Shu Han of China’s San Guo (Three Kingdoms) period.  An’s contribution to the historiography of Korea was his emphasis on the role of the people who expelled foreign invaders.  He reprimanded the ruling classes for having mainly concerned themselves with how best to exploit the people.

His book Tongsa kangmok (Annotated Account of Korean History) made a lasting impression on such modern historians as Pak Un-shik and Shin Ch’ae-ho.  Han Ch’i-yun paid great attention to the kingdoms of Koguryo and Parhae, viewing the latter as an integral part of Korean history.  In the same vein, Yu Tuk-kong, another historian, wrote a monograph on Parhae (Parhaego).

Historical geography kept pace with other branches of historical study, and wood block cartography developed.  Chong Sang-gi’s ingenious scaling device stimulated Korean cartography.  Kim Chong-ho created a scale map of modern cartographic precision on the basis of his indefatigable travels throughout the peninsula.

Compilation of books increased in the 18th century.  Tongguk munhon-pigo (Reference Compilation of Documents on Korea) was supplemented; Taejon t’ongp’yon (Comprehensive National Code) and the Compendium of Korean Music were compiled, as were diplomatic archives.  King Chongjo (r. 1776-1800), himself a scholar, employed young scholars of mixed origin in his newly established Inner Royal Library for such projects.

For the economic publication of fine editions, moveable metal type was repeatedly cast, and the carving of wooden type continued.  The printing of fiction developed into a business enterprise in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Korean typographical enterprise gave stimulus to developments in Qing China.  The famous Chinese encyclopedia Kuchin Tushu Chich’eng was printed for the first time with moveable copper type in 1772.  Ssuk’i Ch’uanshu, the great Chinese bibliography, was also printed with wooden type when a Korean Manchu, Chin Chien, suggested this economical method to the Ch’ien-lung Emperor.

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Emergence of Modern Culture

The most significant change in this period was the rise of a critical spirit and a new philosophical thinking, which made deep inroads into the traditional Confucian outlook.  The rise of popular novels and mass participation in cultural activities presaged the decline of traditional society.

In his popular novel, The Hong Kil-tong chon, Ho Jyun (1569-1618) advocated popular revolt against misrule.  His hero, Hong Kil-tong, like the virtuous outlaw Im Kkok-chong, was enraged by governmental corruption and rose up against it.  Ho Kyun realized that, if provoked, the lower classes, together with the peasant class, could become a powerful tool in the struggle for social justice.

Like the Renaissance philosophers, he made a bold departure from traditional norms and values, basing his morality on the true nature of man.  It was Ho Kyun’s conviction, eloquently expressed in his pioneering egalitarian novel, that every man was endowed with particular talents to survive, and ought not to be exploited by others.  He found the class-divided, traditional society abominable.

In the Ch’unhyangjon, an unknown author exposed the corrupt magistracy and the decaying yangban ethos.  Giving a happy ending to an interclass mating, he held out the promise of a brighter society characterized by equality and justice.  This popular novel was also dramatized in quasi-operatic style.

Yi Su-gwang (1563-1628), probably the earliest Korean thinker to have contact with Catholic and European culture, stressed the idea that knowledge is of no value unless itresults in action, just as enforcement is an essential part of the law.  His Chibong yusol (Topical Discourses of Chibong) published in 1614, is an encyclopedic effort similar in inspiration to the work of French encyclopedists.  It greatly expanded the knowledge available to Koreans about Europe and Southeast Asia, and explained the nature of Catholicism for the first time.

Pak Chi-won (1737-1805), a thinker comparable to Ho Kyun, declared that Heaven bestows unique talents on all men.  His  Tale of the Yangban describes a yangban who had done nothing but read while subsisting on government provender.  To reimburse the government, the yangban sold his status to a merchant, but the latter discarded it when he realized that the essence of yangban life was idleness, corruption and hypocrisy.  The discrediting of the traditional yangban values left a void that was keenly felt, and it was in response to this need that pragmatic philosophy developed.

Hong Tae-yong (1731-1783), in his scientific quest, declared that “nothing is substantial without a sincere mind.”  He saw in natural science the essence of all spiritual activities, and refuted the traditional Confucian concept that science and technology were marginal branches of knowledge.   The earth’s rotation, the cause of eclipses and the nature of the rainbow were included among his scientifically valid findings, and his work in mathematics was no less noteworthy.  He rated Western science and technology superior to anything Tang or Song civilization could offer, and advocated the pursuit of such learning for the advancement of society.

Remarkable scientific achievements were also made by Chong Yak-yong (Tasan, 1762-1836), who was also know for his deep concern for the peasants and people.  His construction plan for the Hwasong Fortress as Korea’s emergency capital included the use of his own applications: cranes, windlasses, pulleys and specially design vehicles.  Yi Kyu-gyong, another revolutionary thinker, also compiled works on various branches of natural science.  His collected work on astronomical and meteorological development in Korea was published in 1818.


Welfare Programs

The ideal of a Confucian welfare state during the Choson Dynasty was conceived and implemented by King Sejong in the 15th century, but it was Yi Su-Gwang who elaborated on the philosophy of welfare in the period following the Hideyoshi invasions.  He expounded the idea that the Way of Heaven was to be found among the people, and its noblest realization was to feed and clothe the people properly.

Pak Se-dang said he would go to the country and engage in manual labor, since Confucius endured labors more onerous than farming.  Since such men espoused egalitarian principles, their concerns were more and more centered upon public welfare programs.

Yi Ik stated that learning or knowledge should not be sought unless it as of benefit to the daily life of the people in general.  His sharp analysis of the causes of factionalism stemmed from a deep-seated concern for the welfare of the people.

Kim Yuk, who is known for his implementation of the Taedongpop, recommended the increased use of vehicles.  Hong Tae-yong and Pak Chi-won also saw increased vehicular traffic as promising great advantage for the national economy.  Pak made a far-sighted statement: “The ruler will be blamed by future generations for not having learned from pragmatic studies.”

Chong Yak-yong was outstanding among the scholars who analyzed the evils of society and made positive proposals for reform.  He advocated a system of land distributions based on egalitarian principles, and the placement of people in professions in accordance with their ability.

Exploitation continued, however, and distressed people sought salvation.  Catholicism met the needs of many, since its tenets accorded with the new egalitarian principles in addition to stressing salvation.

Some scholars converted to Catholicism, and others benefited from the scientific learning that accompanied the religion.  The number of Catholics in Korea gradually increased.

Since Catholicism was opposed both to Confucian ancestral rituals and to rigid social stratification, Catholics were termed criminals by the state.  Many of them, including prominent scholars such as Chong Yak-yong and his brothers, were punished or even executed.

Catholicism prospered secretly nonetheless, especially among artisans such as pottery makers. The negation of traditional values in a quest for salvation was an enigma to the Confucian-oriented yangban officials, and they resorted to various means of suppressing the alien faith.  It was evident that the men in power were far behind the people in their social and intellectual consciousness.

For the welfare of the people, medical jurisprudence was emphasized in order to ensure fair practice of medicine.  Other significant studies related to the welfare of the people included work on therapeutic practices based on the physical features of mankind.  Yi Che-ma (1838-1900) classified men into four different physical types and developed different physical types and developed different therapeutic treatments for each.

Equality, human dignity, opportunity, public welfare, and the advancement of the national economy were conspicuous principles in the philosophy that emerged in this period.  This development of the 17th-18th centuries is in some respects reminiscent of the Renaissance period of Western Europe.

In the literary scene, love stories were popular and sold well.  Since books printed from metal type were far too costly for commoners, popular demand was met by the use of the cheaper clay-carved plates, in addition to wood-type printing.  Anthologies of shijo poems by two intermediary class men were noteworthy.  Kim Ch’long-t’aek assembled 580 poems, from the Koryo period on, in his Ch’eonggu yong-on (Enduring Poetry of Korea), and Kim Su-jang (b. 1690) compiled a similar anthology entitled Haedong kayo (Songs of Korea).  Chong Ch’ool (Songgang, 1534-1593) and Yung Son-do (Kosan, 1587-1671) were talented yangban poets whose individual anthologies were also published.

Korea-centered painting also came into vogue.  Chong Son (Kyomjae, 1676-1759), unlike his predecessors, depicted the landscape of Korea, while Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok concentrated on themes of the daily life of the masses.  White porcelain with underglaze blue-line drawings was produced in quantity to meet public demand.  Modern intellectuality dawned in all sector of 18th century Korea.




 Korea, South THE CHOSoN DYNASTY -

Statue of King Sejong (1418-50), Toksu Palace, Seoul
Courtesy Oren Hadar

At 518 years (1392-1910), the Choson Dynasty is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”), moved the capital to Hanyang (Seoul), and named the dynasty after the ancient Choson Kingdom. This ended the Koryo Dynasty Wang family’s rule and supplanted it with the Chonju branch of the Yi family. Referring to this family name, the Choson Dynasty is often mistakenly called the Yi Dynasty


Middle Joseon Dynasty

1402Kangnido, a Korean-made map of the world was created in 1402 by Kim Sa-hyeong (김사형, 金士衡), Yi Mu (이무, 李茂) and Yi Hoe (이회, 李撓). The map was created in the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon. The map was made by combining Chinese, Korean and Japanese maps.


The middle period of Joseon dynasty was marked by a series of intense and bloody power struggles between political factions that weakened the country and large-scale invasions by Japan and Manchu that nearly toppled the dynasty.

Factional struggle

Main article: Sarim

The Sarim faction, which suffered a series of political defeats during the reign of Yeonsangun, Jungjong, and Myeongjong gained control of the government in Seonjo‘s reign, but soon split into Western and Eastern factions, the Eastern faction in turn splitting into Northern and Southern factions. The Western faction also eventually split into Old Learning and New Learning factions. The alternations in power among these factions were often accompanied by charges of treason and bloody purges, initiating a cycle of revenge with each change of regime.


One example is Gichuk Treason Case of 1589 (기축옥사), in which Easterner Jeong Yeo-rip was accused of conspiracy to start rebellion. Jeong Yeo-rip had formed a society with group of supporters that also received military training to fight against the Japansese marauders. There is still a dispute about the nature and purpose of his group, which reflected desire for classless society and spread throughout Honam region. Jeong Cheol, head of the Western faction, was in charge of investigating the case and used this event to effect widespread purge of Easterners who had slightest connection with Jeong Yeo-rip. Eventually 1,000 Easterners were killed or exiled in the aftermath.


Early Japanese invasions

The Turtle ship. While the spikes are known to have been made of iron, the historical existence of the ironclad roof is disputed.[9][10][11]

Throughout Korean history, there were frequent pirates attacks on both the sea and land. The only purpose for the Koreans running a navy was to secure the maritime trade against the Wokou pirates. The Korean navy repelled the pirates by using an advanced form of gunpowder technologies (i.e. cannons, fire arrows in form of Singijeon deployed by Hwacha, etc.).

During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, plotting the conquest of Ming China with Portuguese guns, invaded Korea with his daimyō and their troops in 1592 and 1597, intending to use Korea as a stepping stone. Factional division in the Joseon court, inability to assess Japanese military capability, and failed attempts at diplomacy led to poor preparation on Joseon’s part. The use of European firearms by the Japanese left most of the southern part of the Korean Peninsula occupied within months, with both Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and Pyongyang captured.

Rear view of the statue of Admiral Yi Sunsin at Busan Tower, in Busan, South Korea.

However the invasion was slowed down due to Admiral Yi Sun-shin destroying the Japanese invasion fleet. The guerrilla resistance that eventually formed also helped. Local resistance slowed down the Japanese advance and decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi Sun-sin left control over sea routes in Korean hands, severely hampering Japanese supply lines. Furthermore, Ming China intervened on the side of the Koreans, sending a large force in 1593 which pushed back the Japanese together with the Koreans.

During the war, Koreans developed powerful firearms and the Turtle ships (right before the war started however). The Joseon and Ming forces defeated the Japanese at a deep price. Following the war, relations between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended until 1609.


Manchu invasions

After the war, Korean peninsula was seriously devastated. Meanwhile Nurhaci (r. 1583–1626), the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, was unifying the Jurchen tribes of Manchuria into a strong coalition that his son Hung Taiji (r. 1626-–1643) would eventually rename the “Manchus.” After he declared Seven Grievances against the Ming dynasty in 1618, Nurhaci and the Ming engaged in several military conflicts. On such occasions, Nurhaci required help from King Gwanghaegun (r.1608–1623), putting Joseon in a difficult position because the Ming court was also requesting assistance.[12] The Joseon king tried to maintain neutrality, but most of his officials opposed him for not supporting the Ming, which had saved Joseon during Hideyoshi’s invasions.[12]

In 1623 King Gwanghaegun was deposed and replaced by King Injo (r. 1623–1649), who banished Gwanghaejun’s supporters. Reverting his predecessor’s foreign policy, the new king decided to support the Ming openly, but a rebellion led by military commander Yi Gwal erupted in 1624 and wrecked Joseon’s military defenses in the north.[12] Even after the rebellion had been suppressed, King Injo had to devote military forces to ensure the stability of the capital, leaving fewer soldiers to defend the northern borders.[12]

In 1627, a Jurchen army of 30,000 led by Nurhaci’s nephew Amin overran Joseon’s defense.[13] After a quick campaign that was assisted by northern yangban who had supported King Gwanghaegun, the Jurchens imposed a treaty that forced Joseon to accept “brotherly relations” with the Jurchen state.[14] Because King Injo persisted in his anti-Manchu policies, Qing emperor Hong Taiji sent a punitive expedition of 120,000 men to Joseon in 1636.[15] Defeated, King Injo was forced to end his relations with the Ming and recognize the Qing as suzerain instead.[16] Injo’s successor King Hyojong (r. 1649–1659) tried to form an army to chase the enemy away and save China from the Manchus, but could never act on his designs.[17]

Despite becoming a tributary state of the Qing dynasty, Joseon leaders and intellectuals remained resentful for conquest by the Manchus, whom they regarded as barbarians.[14] Long after submitting to the Qing, the Joseon court and many Korean intellectuals kept using Ming reign periods, as when a scholar marked 1861 as “the 234th year of Chongzhen.”[18]

Korea became increasingly isolationist. Its rulers sought to limit contact with foreign countries.

.[citation needed]


Joseon dynasty was a highly centralized monarchy and neo-Confucian bureaucracy as codified by Gyeongguk daejeon, a sort of Joseon constitution.

The king

The throne of the king of Joseon in Gyeongbokgung.

The king had absolute authority, but his actual power varied with political circumstances. He was bound by tradition, precedents set by earlier kings, Gyeongguk daejeon, and Confucian teachings. The king commanded absolute loyalty from his officials and subjects, but the officials were also expected to persuade the king to the right path if the latter was thought to be mistaken. The natural disasters were thought to be due to the king’s failings, and therefore, Joseon kings were very sensitive to their occurrences. When there was severe drought or a series of disasters, the king often formally sought criticism from both the officials and citizenry, and whatever they said or wrote were protected from prosecution in such cases (although there were few exceptions).

The officials

The government officials were ranked in 18 levels, ranging from first senior rank (정1품, 正一品) down to ninth junior rank (종9품, 從九品) based on seniority and promotion, which was achieved through the royal decree based on examination or recommendation. The officials from 1st senior rank to 3rd senior rank wore red robes while those from 3rd junior rank to 6th junior rank wore blue and those below wore green robes.[21]

Here a government official refers to one who occupied a type of office that gave its holder a yangban status – semi-hereditary nobility that was effective for three generations. In order to become such an official, one had to pass a series of gwageo examinations. There were three kinds of gwageo exams – literary, military, and miscellaneous, among which literary route was the most prestigious. (Many of key posts including all Censorate posts were open only to officials who advanced through literary exam.) In case of literary route, there was a series of four tests, all of which one had to pass in order to qualify to become an official. 33 candidates who were chosen in this manner took the final exam before the king for placement. The candidate with the highest score was appointed to a position of 6th junior rank (a jump of six ranks). Two candidates with the next two highest scores were appointed to a position of 7th junior rank. Seven candidates with next highest scores were assigned to 8th junior rank while the remaining 23 candidates were given 9th junior rank, the lowest of 18 ranks.

The officials of 1st senior rank, 1st junior rank, and 2nd senior rank were addressed with honorific “dae-gam” (대감, 大監) while those of 2nd junior rank and 3rd senior rank were addressed with honorific “yeong-gam” (영감, 令監).[22] These red-robed officials, collectively called “dangsanggwan” (당상관, 堂上官), took part in deciding government policies by attending cabinet meetings. The rest of ranked officials were called “danghagwan” (당하관, 堂下官).

Central government

State Council

Portrait of The Chief State Councillor, Chae Jegong (1720~1799).

State Council (Uijeongbu, 의정부, 議政府) was the highest deliberative body, whose power however declined over the course of dynasty. The Chief State Councillor (Yeonguijeong, 영의정, 領議政), Left State Councillor (Jwauijeong, 좌의정, 左議政), and Right State Councillor (Uuijeong, 우의정, 右議政) were the highest ranking officials in the government (All three were of 1st senior rank). They were assisted by Left Minister (Jwachanseong, 좌찬성, 左贊成) and Right Minister (Uichangseong, 우찬성, 右贊成), both of 1st junior rank, and seven lower ranking officials. The power of State Council was inversely proportional to the king’s power. There were periods when it directly controlled Six Ministires, the chief executive body of Joseon government, but it primarily served in advisory role under stronger kings. State councillors served in several other positions concurrently.

Six Ministries

Six Ministries (Yukjo, 육조, 六曹) make up the chief executive body. Each minister (Panseo, 판서, 判書) was of 2nd senior rank and was assisted by deputy minister (Champan, 참판, 參判), who was of 2nd junior rank. Ministry of Personnel was the most senior office of six ministries. As the influence of State Council waned over time, Minister of Personnel was often de facto head of ministers. Six ministries include in the order of seniority:

  • Ministry of Personnel (Ijo, 이조, 吏曹) – was primarily concerned with appointment of officials
  • Ministry of Taxaton (Hojo, 호조, 戶曹) – taxation, finances, census, agriculture, and land policies
  • Ministry of Rites (Yejo, 예조, 禮曺) – rituals, culture, diplomacy, gwageo exam
  • Ministry of Defence (Byeongjo, 병조, 兵曺) – military affairs
  • Ministry of Justice (Hyeongjo, 형조, 刑曺) – administration of law, slavery, punishments
  • Ministry of Works (Gongjo, 공조, 工曹) – industry, public works, manufacturing, mining

Three Offices

Three Offices, or Samsa (삼사), is a collective name for three offices that functioned as major organ of press and provided checks and balance on the king and the officials. While modeled after Chinese system, they played much more prominent roles in Joseon government than their Chinese counterparts. In their role as organ of press, they did not have actual authority to decide or implement policies, but had influential voice in the ensuing debate. The officials who served in these offices tended to be younger and of lower rank compared to other offices but had strong academic reputation and enjoyed special privileges and great prestige (For instance, censors were permitted to drink during working hours because of their function of criticizing the king). To be appointed, they went through more thorough review of character and family background. Three Offices provided the fastest route of promotion to high posts and was almost a requirement to becoming a State Councillor.

  • Office of Inspector General (Saheonbu·사헌부) – It monitored government administration and officials at each level in both central and local governments for corruption, malfeasance, or inefficiency. It was also in charge of advancing public morals and Confucian customs and redressing grievances of the populace. It was headed by Inspector General (Daesaheon·대사헌), a position of 2nd junior rank, who oversaw 30 largely independent officials.
  • Office of Censors (Saganwon·사간원) – Its chief function was to remonstrate with the king if there was wrong or improper action or policy. Important decrees of the king were first reviewed by censors, who could ask to withdraw them if judged improper. It also issued opinions about the general state of affairs. It was composed of five officials, led by Chief Censor (Daesagan·대사간), of 3rd senior rank.

While the primary focus for Office of Inspector General is the government officials and Office of Censors is focused on the king, two offices often performed each other’s functions, and there was much overlap. Together they were called “Yangsa,” (양사) which literally means “Both Offices,” and often worked jointly especially when they sought to reverse the king’s decision.

  • Office of Special Advisors (Hongmungwan·홍문관 弘文館) – It oversaw the royal library and served as research institute to study Confucian philosophy and answer the king’s questions. Its officials took part in the daily lessons called gyeongyeon (경연), in which they discussed history and Confucian philosophy with the king. Since these discussions often led to commentary on current political issues, its officials had significant influence as advisors. It was headed by Chief Scholar (Daejehak·대제학), a part-time post of 2nd senior rank that served concurrently in another high post (such as in State Council), and Deputy Chief Scholar (Bujehak·부제학), a full-time post of 3rd senior rank that actually ran the office. There was great prestige attached to being Chief Scholar in this deeply Confucian society. (The office was established to replace Hall of Worthies (Jiphyeonjeon·집현전) after the latter was abolished by King Sejo in the aftermath of Six martyred ministers.)

[edit] Other Offices

The major offices include the following:

  • Royal Secretariat (Seungjeongwon·승정원) served as a liaison between the king and Six Ministries. There were six royal secretaries (승지), one for each ministry, and all were of 3rd senior rank. Their primary role was to pass down royal decree to the ministries and submit petitions from the officials and the populace to the king, but they also advised the king and served in other key positions close to the king. In particular Chief Royal Secretary (도승지), a liaison to Ministry of Personnel, served the king in the closest proximity of all government official and often enjoyed great power that was derived from the king’s favor. Hong Guk-yeong (during Jeongjo‘s reign) and Han Myeong-hwe (during Sejo) are some examples of chief royal secretaries who were the most powerful official of their time.
  • Capital Bureau (Hanseungbu·한성부) was in charge of running the capital, Hanyang or present-day Seoul. It was led by Paanyoon(판윤), of 2nd senior second rank equivalent to today’s mayor of Seoul.
  • Royal Investigation Bureau (Uigeumbu·의금부) was an investigative and enforcement organ under direct control of the king. It chiefly dealt with treason and other serious cases that concerned the king and royal family and served to arrest, investigate, imprison, and carry out sentences against the suspected offenders, who were often government officials.
  • Office of Records (Chunchugwan·춘추관) – Its officials wrote, compiled, and maintained the government and historical records. It was headed by State Councillors, and many posts were held by officials serving in other offices concurrently. There were eight historiographers whose sole function was to record the meetings for history.
  • Seonggyungwan or Royal Academy (성균관) – Royal university served to prepare the future government officials. Those who passed first two stages of gwageo examinations (literary exam) were admitted to Seonggyungwan. The class size was usually 200 students, who lived in the residential hall and followed strict routine and school rules. (The tuition, room and board were provided by the government.) It also served as the state shrine for Confucian and Korean Confucian sages. The students’ opinions on government policies, especially collective statements and demonstrations, could be influential as they represented fresh and uncorrupted consesus of young scholars. The official in charge was Daesaseong (대사성), of 3rd senior rank, and 36 other officials including those from other offices were involved in running the academy.

 Local government

The officials of high rank were sent from the central government. Sometimes a secret royal inspector (Amhaeng-eosa·암행어사) was appointed by the king to travel incognito and monitor the provincial officials. These undercover inspectors were generally young officials of lower rank but was invested with the royal authority to dismiss corrupt officials.

  • Provinces (Do·도) – There were eight province, each of which was governed by Governor (Gwanchalsa·관찰사), a position of 2nd junior rank.
  • Bu(부) – administrative offices in charge of major cities in provinces. Each bu was led by Buyoon (부윤), which was equivalent to Governor in rank.
  • Mok (목) – There were twenty moks, which governed large counties named ‘ju’(주). They were run by Moksa (목사), of 3rd senior rank.
  • County (Gun·군) – There were eighty counties in Joseon, each governed by Gunsu (군수), a 4th junior rank.
  • Hyeon (현) – Large hyeons were governed by Hyeongryeong (현령) of 5th junior rank while smaller hyeons were governed by Hyeonggam (현감) of 6th junior rank.

Administrative divisions

During most of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces (do; 도; 道). The eight provinces’ boundaries remained unchanged for almost five centuries from 1413 to 1895, and formed a geographic paradigm that is still reflected today in the Korean Peninsula’s administrative divisions, dialects, and regional distinctions. The names of all eight provinces are still preserved today, in one form or another.


Social and population structure

The population of Joseon Korea is controversial. Government records of households are considered unreliable in this period.[23] One recent estimate[by whom?] gives 6 million at the start of the dynasty in 1392, growing irregularly to a peak of as many as 18 million by about 1750. Between 1810 and 1850, the population declined approximately 10% and remained stable.[24] By the early 20th century, at the close of the Joseon Dynasty, the average life expectancy for Korean males was 24 and for females 26 years.[25]

Joseon Korea installed a centralised administrative system[when?] controlled by Confucian scholars who were called Yangban. By the end of the 18th century, the yangban had acquired most of the traits of a hereditary nobility except that the status was based on a unique mixture of family position, gwageo examinations for Confucian learning, and a civil service system. The family of a yangban who did not succeed to become a government official for the third generation lost their yangban status and became commoners. For most part, the only way to become a government official was to pass a series of gwageo exams (One had to pass “lesser gwageo” exam (소과) in both of two stages to qualify for greater gwageo exam, which again one had to pass in both of two stages to become a government official.) The yangban and the king, in an uneasy balance, controlled the central government and military institutions. The proportion of yangban may have reached as high as 30% by 1800, although there was considerable local variation.[26] As the government was small, a great many yangban were local gentry of high social status, but not always of high income.[27]

Another 30-40% of the population were slaves (nobi), “low borns” (cheonmin) or untouchable outcastes (baekjeong). Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment. There was a slave class with both government- and privately owned slaves, and the government occasionally gave slaves to citizens of higher rank. Privately owned slaves could be inherited as personal property. During poor harvests, many sangmin people would voluntarily become slaves in order to survive.[citation needed] During the Joseon Dynasty about 30% to 40% of the Korean population consisted of slaves.[28][29][30] However, Joseon slaves could, and often did, own property.[31] Private slaves could buy their freedom.

A Joseon painting which represents the Chungin (literally “middle people”), equivalent to the petite bourgeoisie.

Many of the remaining 40-50% of the population were surely farmers,[32] but recent work has raised important issues about the size of other groups: merchants and traders, local government or quasi-governmental clerks (Chungin), craftsmen and laborers, textile workers, etc.[33] Given the size of the population, it may be that a typical person had more than one role. Most farming was, at any rate, commercial, not subsistence.[34] In addition to generating additional income, a certain amount of occupational dexterity may have been required to avoid the worst effects of an often heavy and corrupt tax system.[35]

During the Late Joseon, the Confucian ideals of propriety and “filial piety” gradually came to be equated with a strict observance to a complex social hierarchy, with many fine gradations. By the early 18th century the social critic Yi Junghwan (1690–1756) sarcastically complained that “[W]ith so many different ranks and grades separating people from one another, people tend not to have a very large circle of friends.”[36] But, even as Yi wrote, the informal social distinctions of the Early Joseon were being reinforced by legal discrimination, such as Sumptuary law[37] regulating the dress of different social groups, and laws restricting inheritance and property ownership by women.[38]


Yet, these laws may have been announced precisely because social mobility was increasing, particularly during the prosperous century beginning about 1710.[39] The original social hierarchy of the Joseon Dynasty was developed based on the social hierarchy of the Goryeo era. In the 14th–16th centuries, this hierarchy was strict and stable. Since economic opportunities to change status were limited, no law was needed.

In the late 17–19th centuries, however, new commercial groups emerged, and the old class system was extremely weakened. Especially, the population of Daegu region’s Yangban class was expected to reach nearly 70 percent in 1858.[40]


King  Jeong Jo


(info from my  korean friend)

 *Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin      11—49 years old.

*Han Hyo Joo as DongYi / Choi suk bin

Born on 1670 (11 th year of King Hyunjong) Later, Mother of King Yeongjo.

King  Jeong Jo

She was honored as Sukbin which is located third level in Chosun lady’s hierarchy system. She is very bright, smart and witty. Not only smart but also warm heart, she cannot pass poor person freely. After her father and brother was executed bitterly, she became a orphan. As police officer Mr. Seo Yongki chase her continuously, she hide herself in Jangakwon, which is music academy, with the help of Suli. With her born familiarity and wit, she is chosen as a helper in palace from the slave position. Behind her, there is Cha Chunsoo, who gave her a love in spite of all kind of sacrifice. He is best friend of her brother, Dongju.

Later, surprisingly, she was picked up by Sukjong to sleep with. Then, discord against queen Chang Heebin, then, return of queen Inhyun, giving birth to a prince, Yeonanggun. Love from Sukjong, trouble with queen Inhyun. Education of prince Yeonanggun, whose position was always in danger. Within the difficulty which concubine would face and her son’s royalty to her, her life faced incredible turning point.   

 *Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong      24-60 years old.

Ji Jin-hee as King Sukjong (1661-1720)

The 19th king of Chosun dynasty (1661—1720) His- childhood- time name was Soon. He was absolute monarch of Chosun. He recovered the authority of king which had dropped before. Though he became a king when just 14 years old, with the powerful leadership and wide knowledge, he succeeded and ruled experienced old his subjects. To recover royalty of king which had dropped through 2 times war, he eliminated Song Siyul who was the biggest scholar in Chosun. With the powerful leadership and gut, he controlled his subjects and used the power game among his subjects. Though he was scareful king to his subjects, he is delicate and smart. That means, he was smart and fantastic king to the numerous concubine. He met Dongyi first time during palace festival, then, he was impressed by her warmth and smartness.

In 1801,

 Government-owned slaves were all emancipated, and the institution gradually died out over the next century.[41] The institution was completely abolished as part of a social plan in the Gabo Reform of 1894.



The Joseon Dynasty presided over two periods of great cultural growth, during which Joseon culture created the first Korean tea ceremony, Korean gardens, and extensive historic works. The royal dynasty also built several fortresses, palaces.


Male dress of a Confucian scholar. A portrait painted by Yi Je gwan (1783-1837)

In Joseon Dynasty, jeogori of women’s hanbok became gradually tightened and shortened. In the 16th century, jeogori was baggy and reached below the waist, but by the end of Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century, jeogori was shortened to the point that it did not cover the breasts, so another piece of cloth (heoritti) was used to cover them. At the end of 19th century, Daewon-gun introduced Magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, to Korea, which is often worn with hanbok to this day.

Chima was full-skirted and jeogori was short and tight in the late Joseon period. Fullness in the skirt was emphasized round the hips. Many undergarments were worn underneath chima such as darisokgot, soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi to achieve a desired silhouette. Because jeogori was so short it became natural to expose heoritti or heorimari which functioned like a corset. The white linen cloth exposed under jeogori in the picture is heoritti.

The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best. The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal. Formally, when Korean men went outdoors, they were required to wear overcoats known as durumagi which reach the knees.

[edit] Painting

A late Joseon painting. It shows some influences of the Western painting techniques introduced to Joseon.

The Mid-Joseon dynasty painting styles moved towards increased realism. A national painting style of landscapes called “true view” began – moving from the traditional Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was academic enough to become established and supported as a standardized style in Korean painting.

The mid to late Joseon dynasty is considered the golden age of Korean painting. It coincides with the shock of the collapse of Ming dynasty links with the Manchu emperors accession in China, and the forcing of Korean artists to build new artistic models based on an inner search for particular Korean subjects. At this time China ceased to have pre-eminent influence, Korean art took its own course, and became increasingly distinctive to the traditional Chinese painting.

[edit] Architecture

Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall)

The history of Joseon architecture would be described in three periods of the early, the middle, and the late period, in accordance with the cultural and architectural development. In the early period, the architecture developed as a succession from the cultural inheritance of the previous dynasty with the new political guiding principles of Confucianism that took the place of Buddhism.

Through the influence of Confucianism, a refined aristocratic taste of the previous era was replaced by the characteristics of unsophisticated, simple and humble beauty with the qualities of commonness and steadiness. The intercolumnar bracket set system was used in building the most important edifice on the premises. The columnar bracket set system and the eclectic bracket system, which consists of architectural elements from both columnar and intercolumnar systems, were also used for temples and other important buildings. In the period of the Joseon dynasty, Korean architecture developed further with a unique will to manifest the expression of the ideas and values of the period.

The bracket cluster system, structurally and visually important elements of the buildings, were developed to follow structural function and to express the unique formal beauty of Korean architecture. Architectural ornaments and their symbolic connotation had more variety and richness. Architects of the period intended to express a strong will to form an indigenous style in architecture, and tried to use decorative elements of all kinds. This achieved a kind of symphonic quality with the methods of architectural organization by strong contrast of light and dark, of simplicity and complexity, and then finally reached the definite climax of architectural ingenuity. This tendency of architectural expression of the later period might remind us somewhat similar impressions of the Western Baroque and Rococo style.


The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (also known as The True Record of the Joseon Dynasty) are the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty, which were kept from 1413 to 1865. The annals, or sillok, comprise 1,893 volumes and are thought to cover the longest continual period of a single dynasty in the world. With the exception of two sillok compiled during the colonial era, the Annals are the 151st national treasure of Korea and listed in UNESCO‘s Memory of the World registry.

Main article: Uigwe

Uigwe is a collection of royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, which records and prescribes through text and stylized illustration the important ceremonies and rites of the royal family.


[edit] Science and technology

Korean celestial globe first made by the scientist Jang Yeong-sil during the reign of King Sejong.

The Joseon Dynasty under the reign of Sejong the Great was Korea’s greatest period of scientific advancement. Under Sejong’s new policy Cheonmin (low-status) people such as Jang Yeong-sil were allowed to work for the government. When Jang was very young he built machines to help make work easier, and supervised the building of aqueducts and canals. Jang eventually was allowed to live at the royal palace, where he led a group of scientists to work on advancing Korea’s science.[citation needed]

Some of his inventions were an automated (self-striking) water clock (the Jagyeokru) which worked by activating motions of wooden figures to indicate time visually (invented in 1434 by Jang), a subsequent more complicated water-clock with additional astronomical devices, and an improved model of the previous metal movable printing type created in the Goryeo Dynasty. The new model was of even higher quality and was twice as fast. Other inventions were the sight glass, and the udometer.

Also during the Joseon Dynasty Heo Jun, a court physician, wrote a number of medical texts, his most significant achievement being Dongeui Bogam, which is often noted as the defining text of Traditional Korean medicine. The work spread to China and Japan, where it is still regarded as one of the classics of Oriental medicine today.

The highpoint of Korean astronomy was during the Joseon period, where men such as Jang created devices such as celestial globes which indicated the positions of the sun, moon, and the stars.[42] Later celestial globes (Gyupyo, 규표) were attuned to the seasonal variations.



The apex of astronomical and calendarial advances under King Sejong was the Chiljeongsan, which compiled computations of the courses of the seven heavenly objects (five visible planets, the sun, and moon), developed in 1442. This work made it possible for scientists to calculate and accurately predict all the major heavenly phenomena, such as solar eclipses and other stellar movements.[43] Honcheonsigye is an astronomical clock created by Song I-yeong in 1669. The clock has an armillary sphere with a diameter of 40 cm. The sphere is activated by a working clock mechanism, showing the position of celestial objects at any given time

The first soft ballistic vest, Myunjebaegab, was invented in Joseon Korea in the 1860s shortly after the French campaign against Korea. Heungseon Daewongun ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of increasing threats from Western armies. Kim Gi-du and Gang Yun found that cotton could protect against bullets if thick enough, and devised bullet-proof vests made of 30 layers of cotton. The vests were used in battle during the United States expedition to Korea, when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Island in 1871. The US Army captured one of the vests and took it to the US, where it was stored at the Smithsonian Museum until 2007. The vest has since been sent back to Korea and is currently on display to the public.



During the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea had a healthy trade relationship with the Arabians, Japanese, Chinese, and Manchurians. An example of prosperous, international trade port is Pyongnam. Koreans offered brocades, jewelries, ginseng, silk, and porcelain, renowned famous worldwide. But, during the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism was adopted as the national philosophy, and, in process of eliminating certain Buddhist beliefs, Goryeo Cheongja porcelains were replaced by white Baekja, which lost favour of the Chinese and the Arabians. Also, commerce became more restricted during this time in order to promote agriculture. In addition to this, constant Chinese request for tribute pushed the Korean policy of ceasing to produce various luxury item elements (i.e. gold, silver), and importing only the necessary amounts from Japan.[citation needed] Because silver was used as currency in China, it played an important role in Korea-China trade.



 Titles and Styles during Joseon Kingdom

King -1

  • Great Predecessor King (seondaewang, 선대왕, 先大王) or Great King (daewang, 대왕, 大王) used to reference a late monarch.
  • Queen Dowager (daebi, 대비, 大妃), the consort of the deceased King (perhaps the mother of the current king), with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Queens dowager often exercised a great deal of influence on the king’s influence through their regencies, which took place when the king was too young to rule in his own name, or simply through their role as the mother or even a senior female relative of the monarch.
  • Royal Queen Dowager (wangdaebi, 왕대비, 王大妃), a former consort preceding a least senior queen dowager or current king’s aunt or grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
  • Grand Royal Queen Dowager (daewangdaebi, 대왕대비, 大王大妃), a former consort senior to two other queen dowagers or the current king’s great-grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
  • Grand Internal Prince (daewongun, 대원군, 大院君), the father of a king who was unable to take the throne himself as he was not part of the generation following that of the last incumbent of the throne (kings who are honored at the royal Jongmyo Shrine must be senior generation-wise to the current incumbent of the throne). There have been cases when Grand Internal Prince acted as regent for his son, the last person to do so having been the Regent Heungseon.
  • Grand Internal Princess Consort (budaebuin, 부대부인, 府大夫人), the mother of a king whose father himself never reigned.
  • Internal Prince (buwongun, 부원군, 府院君), the queen consort’s father.
  • Internal Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the queen consort’s mother.

 King -1/2

  • King Former (sangwang, 상왕, 上王), a yet living king who has voluntarily abdicated to the current king. They usually remained influential or even powerful through the remaining years of their lives. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.
  • Grand King Former (taesangwang, 태상왕, 太上王), an abdicated king whose relinquishment of power precedes that of another former king. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.


  • King (wang, 왕, 王), the king, with the style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, not as correct but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Before the style of “jeonha” were used a variety of titles for the king. Native names such as “naratnim” (나랏님) and “imgeum” (임금) were also used colloquially. For foreign envoys the title used was State King (gugwang, 국왕, 國王); and for those in the court who needed to mention the king outside his presence, and thus more formality was required in addressing the monarch, the title was Current King (geum-sang, 금상, 今上),Sovereign (jusang, 주상 , 主上 or sanggam, 상감 , 上監), or Grand Palace (daejeon, 대전, 大殿). The style remained the same for all titles with the exception of queens dowager and the relatively few kings who abdicated, who simply addressed or mentioned the king without using his style.
  • Queen consort (wangbi, 왕비, 王妃), the queen consort, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). The title used in the court language was Center Palace (junggungjeon, 중궁전, 中宮殿 or jungjeon, 중전 , 中殿). Queens consort that remained married to the king until their death were generally given a title consisting of two Hanja in the front and the customary suffix Queen (wanghu, 왕후, 王后) in the back.

King +1/2

  • Royal Prince Successor Brother (wangseje, 왕세제, 王世弟), the younger brother of the king who has been formally invested as heir apparent when the king has no offspring. King +1
  • Prince Royal (wonja, 원자, 元子), the firstborn son of the king before being formally invested as heir apparent, with the style of His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Generally, princes royal were the son who was born first between the king and his official wife, but there were exceptions when the title of Prince Royal was given to the firstborn son of the king through a concubine, the most notable case having occurred in the reign of King Sukjong.
  • Grand Prince (daegun, 대군, 大君), a prince born to the official match between the king and queen with the style of His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward. The title of a grand prince is not inherited and his sons are generally referred to as mere princes.
  • Grand Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the consort of a grand prince.
  • Princess (gongju, 공주, 公主), the daughter of the official match between the king and his official wife, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
  • Prince (gun, 군, 君), a son born to the match between the king and a concubine or a descendant of a grand prince. The style used is His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward.
  • Princess Consort (gunbuin, 군부인, 郡夫人), the consort of a prince.
  • Princess (ongju, 옹주, 翁主), the daughter of the king and one of his concubines, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
  • Royal Prince Successor (wangseja, 왕세자, 王世子) the invested heir apparent to the throne, with the simplified title Prince Successor (seja, 세자, 世子) being frequently used instead of the full name with the style of His Royal Highness (jeoha, 저하, 邸下). Most of the time, he was the eldest son of the current king. In less formal but still official court language, the title Eastern Palace (donggung, 동궁, 東宮) or Spring Palace (chungung, 춘궁, 春宮) and the style His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used intermittently with “Prince Successor,” although the style was frequently dropped by more senior members of the royal family.
  • Royal Princess Successor Consort (wangsaejabin, 왕세자빈, 王世子嬪), the consort of the heir apparent, or simply Princess Successor Consort (saejabin, 세자빈, 世子嬪), with the style of Her Royal Consort Highness (manora, 마노라 or manura, 마누라).

Later, as the distinction between “Her Royal Highness” and “Her Royal Consort Highness” became unclear due to the influence of the Andong Kim clan, the style Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) also came to apply to the consort of the heir apparent. The style ~ Royal Highness also came to apply to grand princes, princes, and princess as well for the same reason.

 King +2

  • Royal Prince Successor Descendant (wangseson, 왕세손, 王世孫), the son of the prince successor and the princess successor consort, and the grandson of the king, with the style of His Highness (hap-a, 합하, 閤下).

Titles and Styles during the Korean Empire

  • Hwangje (皇帝 황제), the emperor, with the style of His Imperial Majesty (陛下 폐하 pyeha)
  • Hwanghu (皇后 황후), the empress (consort), with the style of Her Imperial Majesty
  • Hwangtaehu (皇太后 황태후), the empress dowager
  • Taehwangtaehu (太皇太后 태황태후), the empress dowager, current Emperor’s living grandmother
  • Hwangtaeja (皇太子 황태자), the crown prince of the Empire, the eldest son of the emperor, with the style of His Imperial Highness (殿下 전하 jeonha)
  • Hwangtaeja-bi (皇太子妃 황태자비), the crown princess (consort) of Empire, with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Chinwang (親王 친왕), the prince (imperial), son of Emperor, with the style of His Imperial Highness
  • Chinwangbi (親王妃 친왕비), the princess (imperial) (consort), with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Gongju (公主 공주), the princess of the Empire, the daughter of the emperor and his empress consort, with the style of Her Imperial Highness
  • Ongju (翁主 옹주), the princess of the Empire, the daughter of emperor and one of his concubines, with the style of Her Imperial Highness






 Nu Shi Yun Bing (active 1670-1710)


The population growth kept pace as well, increasing by almost two million in the 48 years from 1669-1717.




Jeong Yakyong (丁若鏞, 정약용, 1762–1836) was a Chosun late era philosopher, and is known perhaps better by one of his many pen names Dasan (茶山, 다산, “tea mountain”) . He is of the Naju Jeong clan. Jeong Yakyong passed the civil service examination in 1783. He was a philosopher in the Neo-Confucian movement of Pragmatic Learning (實學, 실학, Silhak), which wanted to reform Neo-Confucianism and return it to its early Confucian roots. Many in this movement became interested in Catholicism, as they rightly viewed Neo-Confucianism as lacking spiritualism. Along with many members of his family, Jeong Yakyong converted to Catholicism and took on the baptism name “John,” or in Korean Yowang (요왕). However, during the Catholic Persecutions of 1801, in which one his brothers was martyred, he renounced the Holy Faith but was nevertheless banished for having participated. Catholicism nevertheless had an effect on his philosophy. The following poem was probably written during his exile.

구우 久雨

The Long Rain

窮居罕人事 궁거한인사
恒日廢衣冠 항일폐의관
敗屋香娘墜 패옥향낭추
荒畦腐婢殘 황휴부비잔
睡因多病減 수인다병감
愁賴著書寬 수뢰저서관
久雨何須苦 구우하수고
晴時也自歎 청시야자탄

Living in destitute, [only] a few times I greeted others.
Everyday, I wore not my attire and hat.
In the dilapidated house, my fragrant wife has fallen.
In the ruined fields, my rotten maid has died.
Slumber reduces many illnesses.
Writing books makes light anxieties.
Why should the long rain be [this] distressing?
Even [1] when [the sky] clears, I will [still] be lamenting.


  1. 也 (야, ya) here means “also.” This seems to be a modern usage of that character.


  • 罕 (한, han) – to be rare (드물다).
  • 畦 (흉, hyung) – farm field.


the end @ copyright dr iwan suwandy 2011

The Korea Historic Collections Part Three Choson 1800-1900

The Choson Historic Coillections 1800-1900


Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Private Limited Edition In CRD-ROM


Part One Taejo- Choson 1342-1700

Part two Choson 1700-1800

Part Three 1800-1910



 Korea, South THE CHOSoN DYNASTY -

Statue of King Sejong (1418-50), Toksu Palace, Seoul
Courtesy Oren Hadar

At 518 years (1392-1910), the Choson Dynasty is the nation’s longest-lived. Its founder, Yi Song­gye, took the dynastic name Taejo (“Great Prog­enitor”), moved the capital to Hanyang (Seoul), and named the dynasty after the ancient ChosOn Kingdom. This ended the Koryo Dynasty Wang family’s rule and supplanted it with the Chonju branch of the Yi family. Referring to this family name, the Choson Dynasty is often mistakenly called the Yi Dynasty


The Koryo Dynasty had suffered from a number of internal problems; Yi and his followers implemented drastic reforms to place the new dynasty on firmer ground. One of these problems revolved around the deterioration of land administration, a basic issue in a predominantly agrarian society. Contrary to the law specifying public (governmental) ownership of land, powerful clans and Buddhist temples had acquired a sizable proportion of farmland. By exacting a disproportionate share of crops in the form of rents, the “landlords” were causing economic destitution and social discontent among the peasants. By illicitly removing the farms from tax rolls, these clans and temples reduced the government’s income, thus straining the treasury. Yi had sided with reformists even before he took power, hence it was natural for him to rectify past inequities after ascending to the throne.

The reform of the land system, however, had direct repercussions on the practice of Buddhism, because Buddhist temples and monks had been among those exacerbating the land problem. The economic influence of the temples was eliminated when they lost vast lands. The rectification went beyond economic reform, however, because the dominant forces in the new dynasty were devout Confucianists who regarded Buddhism as a false creed. The fact that Buddhist monks had wielded a strong influence in politics, the economy, and society during the latter part of the Koryo Dynasty–and that many of them had been corrupted by power and money–strengthened the opposition to Buddhism. Accordingly, the new dynasty launched a sweeping attack on Buddhism and its institutions, an attack that had profound and enduring effects on the character of civilization on the peninsula.

north korea 1800

Many of the outstanding temples were permitted to remain intact; indeed, a few Choson monarchs were devout Buddhists. Nevertheless, Buddhism exerted little influence over the religious life of Korea under the Choson Dynasty; nor did any organized religion replace it. Although many people adhered to shamanism, geomancy, fortunetelling, and superstitions, Korea effectively became a secular society.

Jar, porcelain decorated in underglaze copper red, Choson dynasty. 18th century.

The Choson Dynasty had an auspicious beginning. During the reign of the fourth monarch, King Sejong (1418-50), a Buddhist, enormous strides were made in the arts, science, and technology. The Korean script, known as han’gul(see Glossary), which eventually came into common usage in the twentieth century, was developed by scholars at that time.

After Sejong, however, the dynasty fell into the hands of lesser men, and in the late fifteenth century the country began a long decline. Succession to the throne often caused long and bitter struggles, particularly when a ruler did not leave behind an heir who had reached the age of majority. Members of the Confucian-educated, scholar-official elite yangban(see Glossary) class quarreled over minor points of Confucian ritual and etiquette, especially the proper period of mourning upon the death of a royal personage. Factional groups began vying for power, frequently going to the extreme of exterminating the members of defeated factions. The civil service examination became a sham, and corruption ran rampant. Royal relatives and members of powerful factions increased their landholdings, which became exempt from taxes and thereby reduced the dynasty’s sources of revenue. The farmers suffered more and more from tax burdens and other extractions imposed by greedy officials and landlords. In short, the country was not being effectively governed. To make matters worse, Japanese attacks in 1592 and 1597 and Manchu assaults in 1627 and 1636 ravaged the country’s economy and turned much of the farmland to waste for a long period thereafter.

The resulting social and economic depression of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fostered the rise of a new intellectual movement advocating the practical use of human knowledge. Pioneered by a Confucian scholar named Yi Su-kwang, the new thought–soon to be called Sirhak (practical learning)–was partly inspired by the firsthand knowledge of occidental sciences that Yi Su-kwang had acquired while on official visits to Beijing. As historian Ki-baik Lee has noted, Sirhak thought encompassed a variety of intellectual activities and several diverse viewpoints. These included proposals for refinement of the traditional administrative and land systems, advocacy of commercial and manufacturing activity, and a renewed interest in Korean history and language. Brought to maturity in the late eighteenth century by Chong Yag-yong, the Sirhak Movement was supported by a group of discontented scholars, petty officials, former bureaucrats, and commoners.

The Sirhak Movement found itself in direct confrontation with the dominant trend in neo-Confucian thought, which stressed the metaphysical and abstract teachings of the renowned Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi (see Traditional Social Structure, ch. 2). Neither the efforts of such wise and able kings as Yongjo (1725-75) and Chongjo (1776-1800), nor those of the Sirhak scholars, were able to reverse the trend against empirical studies and good government.

Western ideas, including Christianity, reached Korea through China in the seventeenth century. By 1785, however, the government had become incensed over the rejection of ancestor worship by Roman Catholic missionaries, and it banned all forms of Western learnin


Archive for the ‘Yi Gahwan (李家煥 이가환)’ Category

Yi Gahwan (李家煥, 이가환, 1742-1801) was a scholar and Chosun government official. He is of the Yeoju Yi clan (驪州李氏, 여주이씨); his courtesy name was Jeongjo (廷藻, 정조, “Water chestnut of the court”); and his pen names were Geumdae (錦帶, 금대, “Silk belt”) and Jeongheon (貞軒, 정헌, “loyal veranda”). In 1771, he passed the civil entrance exams and served on various posts. He was of the Southerners’ faction (南人, 남인) and a member of the Neo-Confucian School of Pragmatic Thought, or Silhak (實學, 실학). Yi Gahwan was also skilled in astronomy and mathematics. He was introduced to Catholicism by Yi Byeok, and studied the new thought with Yi Seunghun, Jeong Yakyong, and Gweon Cheolshin. He was involved in secretly inviting Chinese Catholic priest Ju Munmo (周文謨, 주문모). Yi Gahwan died in prison during the Persecutions of 1801 (辛酉迫害, 신유박해, Shin’yu Bakhae). The following poems (two truncated verses)  are about a pavilion (pictured above) on the Daedong River, which flows through Pyongyang.

練光亭次鄭知常韻 연광정차정지상운

The Yeon’gwang Pavilion Borrows the Tones [1] of Jeong Jisang [2]

江樓四月已無花 강루사월이무화
簾幕薰風燕子斜 렴막훈풍연자사
一色碧波連碧草 일색벽파연벽초
不知別恨在誰家 부지별한재수가

By the river and the pavilion, in April, already does not have flowers.
Upon the hanging bamboo curtains, in the warm breeze, the swallows [fly] crooked.
One color, the blueness of the waves connect with the blueness of the grass [3].
I do not know which house has the grief of separation.

仁聖遺祠歲月多 인성유사세월다
朝天舊石是悲歌 조천구석시비가
大同門外長江水 대동문외장강수
不見迴波見逝波 불견회파견서파

At the Shrine of Benevolent Sage [4], the years and months are many.
Upon the Old Rock of the Morning Sky [5] – this sorrowful song.
Outside the Gate of Grand Union [6], distant are the waters of the river.
I do not see the returning waves; [although] I see the departing waves.


  1. 次韻 (차운, Cha’un) – A technique used among Classical Chinese poets in which one poet takes another poet’s poem and changes some or all of the characters with other characters that are homophones or have similar or contrasting meanings.
  2. 鄭知常 (정지상, Jeong Jisang, ?-1135) – A minister and poet during the Goryeo dynasty.
  3. The colors “green” and “blue” are often called “blue” by Koreans.
  4. 仁聖遺祠 (인성유사, Inseong’yusa) – I think this is a name of a shrine. I cannot find any references of it online.
  5. 朝天舊石 (조천구석,  Jocheon’guseok) – Another reference to a geographic location.
  6. 大同門 (대동문, Daedongmun) – A gate in Pyeongyang.
  • 簾 (렴, ryeom) – bamboo curtain.
  • 薰 (훈, hun) – to be fragrant; or gently blow.
  • 燕 (연, yeon) – swallows.


- The first one baptished featured below is by Yi Seunghun (李承薰, 이승훈, 1756




Figure 12 Rank badge, embroidered silk. Choson dynasty;
19th century.



Western ships began to approach Korean shores after 1801, seeking trade and other contacts, but the government rejected all overtures from abroad. When news of the Opium War in China (1839-42) reached Korea, the dynasty had all the more reason to shut the doors tightly against Western “barbarians.” III.1870-1900


In the meantime, the Choson Dynasty suffered from a series of natural calamities including floods, famines, and epidemics, as well as large-scale revolts of the masses in the northwest (1811-12) and southwest (1862 and 1894-95).

The expansion of Western powers in East Asia in the nineteenth century significantly altered the established order, in which Korea had been dominated by China. China under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was in decline; its power waned rapidly under the concerted attacks of such Western nations as France, Britain, and Russia.

1800 – 1822 –

Joseon-do – Ulleungdo (朝鮮圖 – 鬱陵島)

The map below is from the atlas “Joseon-do” (朝鮮圖), which is stored in the Osaka Nakanoshima Library (中之島圖書館). It is believed to have been made sometime in the early 1800s.

One of the interesting things about the map is that it shows Ulleungdo (鬱陵島 – 울릉도) with a neighboring island labeled as “Usan” (于山 – 우산). Some Korean historians claim that Usando (于山島 – 우산도) was the old Korean name for “Dokdo” (Liancourt Rocks), but this map and many, many others show that Usando was just a neighboring island of Ulleungdo.
The fact that Usando was drawn just off Ulleungdo’s east shore strongly suggests that it was present-day Jukdo (竹島), which is Ulleungdo’s largest neighboring island and only about two kilometers off Ulleungdo’s east shore.

Notice that the above map of Ulleungdo is very similar to the following map of Ulleungdo in the Dongyeodo (東輿圖) atlas, which is stored in the University of Tsukuba Library (筑波大學附屬圖書館) in Japan. The Dongyeodo is believed to have been made sometime between 1795 and 1800.
Compare the above maps with the following satellite photo of Ulleungdo’s northeast shore. Notice that the location and shape of the small island offshore in the satellite photo is similar to that of the island labeled as “Usan” (于山) on the above maps. The small island offshore in the satellite photo is Ulleungdo’s neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島), which is about two kilometers offshore.




2. New Trends in Cultural Activities


(1) New Directions in Scholarly Activities

During the Choson period, scholarly works were based on the study of Songrihak or Neo-Confucianism. Scholars in metaphysics professed that only metaphysics was correct and dismissed other learnings. They dismissed not only Buddhism, but the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming which was one current in Confucianism, and concentrated on metaphysics alone. As a result, while it is true that metaphysics developed in Choson and obtained deeper roots, it is also true that by placing too much of a bias on the metaphysical theory alone, an atmosphere encouraging the free development of scholarly activities was not present.

In spite of the fact that the country’s social and economic problems were greatly affected by the damage of the two wars of Waeran and Horan and the livelihoods of the people greatly endangered, metaphysics, which concerned itself with philosophical questions, could not provide the answers to these difficult realities.

At this juncture, there arose a new movement in scholarly learning. To rectify the misaligned metaphysical and Yangban-centered reality and to set new directions for the country which would aid the livelihood of the people, new thinking called “Practical Learning” emerged.


(2) The Origin and Development of Practical Learning


The harbingers of Practical Learning were Han Paek-kyom and Yi Su-kwang; however, the actual leaders of Practical Learning who brought its ideas to fruit as a new thought were Yu Hyong-won and Yi Ik. They did not take positions as government officials, but made efforts in rural communities to nurture disciples in order to create opportunities for the development of this movement. Yu Hyong-won wrote the Pan’gye surok and Yi Ik was the author of Songho sasol, which was written in an encyclopedia form.

In the early 17th and 18th centuries, scholars of Practical Learning dealt mainly with the problems in rural areas, and from the latter 18th century to the early 19th century, scholars dealt with researching economic, technological, and social problems. Furthermore, around the 19th century, these scholars led efforts to build the axes of Han’gukhak (Koreanology) with studies in history, geography, languages, and epigraphy. This branch of Practical Learning led the scholarly world at this time.

So Yu-gu discussed problems in agriculture and showed the way to achieving stability in the livelihoods of the people. Hong Tae-yong, Pak Chi-won and Pak Che-ga insisted that agricultural and commercial industries should be regarded as important, and for that purpose Choson must open its posts to China, import technology and simultaneously increase trade activities.

Chong Yag-yong propagated structural reforms and a theory of industrial restoration based on these two positions. His scholarly activities contributed to the understanding of science, medicine, religion and Confucianism. There was not any field which was left untouched by his scholarly work. He wrote 500 volumes of books including the Mogmin simso, Humhum shinso and Kyongse yup’yo and achieved a synthesis of Practical Learning.


(3) Developments in Kukhak (national learning) and the Significance of Practical Learning


Scholars of the school of “on-the-spot survey” which was one of the trends in Practical Learning believed that people must achieve an academic understanding of the realities and culture of their country. They strove to conduct academic research concerning the country.

Yi Chong-hwi, Yu Tuk-kong, Han Ch’i-yun, and An Chong-bok studied history, and Sin Kyong-chun, Yi Chung-hwan, Kim Chong-ho studied geography. Chong Sang-ki and Kim Chong-ho drew maps of Korea, but Kim Chong-ho is particularly well known for the creation of a map known as the “Taedong yojido” which was made through actual field studies and had a variety of practical uses.


Taedong yojido : Dating back to 1861, it is the oldest detailed map of Korea

Many scholars also studied Korea’s language. The works of Sin Kyongchun and Yu Hui are famous. Springing from an interest in history, Kim Chong-hwi concentrated on studying the epigraphs on stone monuments. As the sphere of cultural activities expanded and scholarly interest in each of the fields increased, many encyclopedia-like books appeared.

Yi Ik’s Songho sasol, Yi Tok-mu’s Ch’ongchanggwan chonso, So Yuku’s Imwon kyongje-chi, Yi Kyu-kyong’s Oju yonmun changjon san’go and the palace-authorized Tongguk munhon pigo are representative examples of such works. Ch’oe Han-ki, during the reign of Honjong, was a scholar comparable to Chong Yag-yong who wrote hundreds of books on the subjects of government, geography, science, medicine, and mathematics.

Through the scholarly activities of these scholars throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, many measures concerning government administration and improvements in the welfare of the people were presented. The activities of field studies also greatly contributed to national development. These scholarly activities displayed an awareness of approaching modern times and a national consciousness, but were still not completely rid of the influence of metaphysics. In addition, because scholars were not in positions to influence policy making, their advancements didn’t affect the actual lives of the people.


(4) Developments in Science and Technology


As the sphere of cultural activities expanded, various industrial activities became active and developments in science and technology and medicine occurred. In addition, Western technology and medicine were partially accepted.

Books based on studies of agricultural technologies were reprinted. Among them were: Sin Sok’s Nongga chipsong, a technical guide to paddy farming; Pak Se-dang’s Saekkyong, a guide to fruit farming, tree planting, livestock farming, floriculture, irrigation and weather; and So Yu-ku’s Imwon kyongje-chi, a book dealing with agriculture, forestry, livestock farming, sericulture, food processing, food preservation, clothing, eating, and housing. In addition, Haedong nongso came out as a book which systematized the agricultural sciences of Korea on the basis of such theories of agricultural technologies and management.


A 1801 report stating the completion of Suwon Castle
Crane : created by Chong Yag-yong
(1752-1836), it’s mechanism is based on the theory of the pinwheel.


“Ssirum” or Korean-style wrestling and “Dancing Boy” by Kim Hong-to (1745~after 1814)

Chong Yak-chon, a pragmatist who went to the island of Huksan to study marine products, researched 155 varieties of fish which he collected and catalogued into a book, Chasan obo.

Many new theories also developed in the fields of astronomy and divination, which are closely related to agriculture. Yi Su-kwang introduced new theories based on his observations of solar and lunar eclipses, tides and other natural phenomena. Kim Sok-mun and Hong Tae-yong advocated a theory of heliocentricity and criticized the traditional geocentric world view.

Kim Yuk introduced the Western calendar from China and put it to use. It is a well-known fact that Chong Yag-yong designed a crane based on a book he read which was imported from China. This crane was used in the construction of Suwon Castle.

In traditional Chinese medicine, achievements were also made with regard to its theory and treatment methods. As basic Chinese medical texts, Ho Chun’s Tongui pogam and the Ch’imgu kyonghombang (a book on acupuncture) are famous and influencial even today. Research on the measles were carried out early on and Chong Yag-yong compiled many books on the subject in order to publish the Makwa hoet’ong. He even experimented with vaccinations.


(5) Growth in the Activities of Popular Culture


“inwang chesekdo : Clear Skies over Mount Inwang.”
by Chong Son(1751)

As industrial activities advanced and the welfare of the people improved with changes in the social status system, the population expressed interest in educational and cultural activities. As their knowledge gradually grew, people displayed creative talents in literature and the arts. Although there were some Sodangs (village schools for the learning of Chinese classics) in the early period of Choson, in the latter period, there was hardly a single village which did not have its own Sodang which was run and maintained by the local population. Sodangs were the institutions of primary education which taught Confucianism and history.

P’ansoris and other songs indigenous to Korea appeared. These accurately reflected the cultural tastes of the people and contained lyrics from novels and folktales. In addition, the Ch’ang-guk developed, a type of operatic theater which the general population greatly enjoyed, and the mask theaters which made fun of the Yangbans were very popular since they expressed the sentiments of the people.

Within the women’s society, traditional social activities were frowned upon. So, some ladies, who were learned, composed novels and short poems for songs in Han’gul.


(6) New Movements in Literature


“inwang chesekdo : Clear Skies over Mount Inwang.”
by Chong Son(1751)

Illustrious Yangban officials exerted most of their energy studying Chinese literature. In opposition to the Yangban’s interest in Chinese Literature, the pragmatists believed that the origins of Confucianism must be rediscovered. Thus, a movement to restudy the classics arose. There also appeared a new movement to use colloquial and everyday language and throw away the old conventions. Pak Chi-won’s Yolha Diary is a work which was written in this new style.

In the late 18th century, the middle class and illegitimate sons of Yangbans engaged in literary activities in order to raise their social status. They revealed the historical origins of the middle class, composed biographies of representative personages, and published anthologies of poems and songs. The Kyusa (History of the Sun Flower) and Ihyang Kyonmullok (Experiences in Foreign Countries) are representative of such biographies and the Ch’onggu yong’on, Haedong kayo and Haedong yuchu are anthologies of poems and songs.

The most conspicuous features of literary activities during the latter period of Choson are the appearance of works which display a popular consciousness and have been written to meet popular tastes. Examples are narratives, novels and the pansoris.

Tales such as the Taedong yasung and T’aep’yong kwanggi were composed. Among novels, Pak Chi-won’s Hosaeng-jon and Hojilmun (Tiger’s Reprimand) as well as works by Yangbanjon were written in Chinese characters. But Ho Kyun’s Hong Kil-tong-jon, Kim Man-chung’s Kuunmong (Dream in Nine clouds) and Sassi namjonggi (Southern Expedition), Changhwa hongnyon-jon (Rose and the Red Lotus), K’ongjwi P’atjwi-jon, Sim Ch’ong-jon, Hungbu-jon, Sukhyang-jon and Ch’unhyang-jon were written in Han’gul and read widely by women and common men. Pansoris were especially favored during the latter period of Choson. Ch’unhyang-ga, Chokbyok-ga, Simch’ong-ga, T’okki t’aryong (Song of the Hare) are the most popular pansoris. The man who became famous for the creation and arrangement of many Pansoris is Sin Chae-hyo.


(7) New Trends in Art Activities


In painting, a new trend arose. Korean landscapes in true life form were drawn. This genre of painting of peculiar customs of everyday life was in vogue and tales which were made popular by the common people laid the groundwork for such paintings.

The pioneers of true life landscape paintings were Chong Son and Sim Sa-hong of Hwawon. Kim Hong-to and Sin Yun-bok of Hwawon are also famous as genre painters depicting the lives of the people in the farming villages and cities. Kim Tuk-sin and Kim Sok-sin, two brothers, were also genre painters who possessed similar styles of painting.

Among civilian scholars, there were many who displayed outstanding talents in drawing. Among them, Kang Se-hwang, Sin Wi and Kim Chong-hui were particularly well known. There were also changes in the Yangban culture of calligraphy. Calligraphers of the past were not able to break away from the influence of Chinese calligraphers, but Kim Chong-hui succeeded in developing a peculiar style of calligraphy known as Ch’usa.


“Orchids” by Kim Chong-hui (1786~1857). Hanging scroll, ink or paper.
A 16th century white porcelain vase with a pinetree, deer, crane, and clouds, all symbols of longevity.


In the latter period of Choson, white porcelain was chiefly developed. Originally, white porcelain was forbidden to the common people, but in the latter period of Choson, white porcelain was freely sold, and even the common people were able to buy and utilize it. Among wares made in white porcelain, landscapes, flowers and grass were drawn on Ch’onghwa paekcha. They were used as jars, flower vases and water bottles. Among wooden goods, stationery cases, cabinets, tables, and small dining tables were the chief items used in everyday life.

Among the architectual works of the latter period of Choson, the most representative with its beautiful and solid structure is the castle of Suwon. Others which still remain today are the Maitreya Palace in the Kumsansa Temple, Taeung-jon in the Sogwangsa Temple, Kakhwang-jon of the Hwaomsa Temple and P’alsang-jon in the Popchusa Temple.


The Maitreya Hall at Kumsansa Temple is the only in Korea with a triple stories roof.
P’alsangjon, Popchusa Temple : built during the Shilla Dynasty under King Chinhung,
reconstructed in 1626.
Suwon castle, Suwon city, Kyonggi province. Built from 1794 to 1796, the castle has been designated Historic Site No. 3.


Peasant Wars of 1812 and 1862

During this period, drought and floods alternately struck the country, causing a succession of bad harvests, which in turn generated a grim cycle of famine.  Excessive tax collection and forced labor ensued.  These adverse natural and social conditions ignited a series of agrarian revolts.  In 1812, Hong Kyong-nae rose up in revolt with the peasants at Kasan, in the northern part of Korea, and held power in that district for some months.  Frightened government officials dispatched the army, and only after waging a hard campaign were they able to suppress the revolt.  In the south, all the way to Chejudo island, as well as in the north, peasants persevered in their struggle against oppression at the hands of the government, the local nobility and the wealthy landlords.

Half a century after Hong Kyong-nae’s well-organized fight, the situation had not improved.  A group of farmers in Chinju, Kyongsang-do province, rebelled against their oppressive overlords, the provincial officials and the wealthy landowners.  THis uprising of 1862 is directly attributable to the exploitation of destitute farmers by Paek Nak-shin, a newly appointed military commander who had jurisdiction over the western half of Kyongsang-do province.

Yu Kye-ch’un, an intellectual native to the district who was outraged by Paek Nak-shin’s rapacious conduct, led the farmers to riot, denouncing corrupt minor officials and wealthy landlords.  The rebels killed local government functionaries, set fire to government buildings and wrought considerable destruction.  The startled Hanyang government hurriedly sent an investigator to the scene.  On the basis of its findings of fraudulent practices by the local officials concerned, the government hastily revised the land, military and grain lending systems in an effort to eliminate such abuses.  From the outset, however, it was unrealistic to expect the ruling class in the central government, which was itself deeply involved in such frauds, to make radical changes.  But at least a superficial attempt at reform was made.

The agrarian revolt in Chinju served as a signal for similar uprisings elsewhere.  In Kyongsang-do, Cholla-do and Ch’ungch’nong-do provinces, on faraway Chejudo island and in Hamgyong-do and P’yong-an-do provinces in the north, groups of farmers rose up, attacking offices in principal towns and routing officials.

Under such social conditions, Ch’oe Che-u (1824-1864) formulated the ideology of Tonghak (Eastern Learning) in order to rescue the farmers from prevalent poverty and unrest, and to restore political and social stability.  His ideas rapidly gained acceptance and he set his doctrines to music so that farmers would understand and accept them more readily.  His teachings were systematized and compiled as a message of salvation to farmers in distress.  The songs he sang were a mixture of traditional elements from Confucianism, Buddhism and Son-gyo (teachings of Shilla’s Hwarang), and to these he added modern humanistic ideas.  Exclusionism was another characteristic of his religion, which incorporated an early form of nationalism and rejected alien thought.







 Document chest, wood covered with black lacquer, inlaid with mother-of-pearl; Tobacco box, iron inlaid with silver; Tobacco box, green soapstone. Choson dynasty, 19th century. .

 the Korean object, an iron helmet decorated with silver inlay, FOUND  in 1878, it was originally documented as Japanese. Such mis-attribution was a recurring feature in the early acquisitions history for Korea.

 the increase of Westerners travelling or living in Korea and returning with objects . Thomas Watters (1840-1901), the son of a clergyman from County Down, Ireland, resided in Seoul as Acting Consul General after having held the position of British Consul in China.  a substantial collection of Korean objects as well as Chinese artifacts. These included a black lacquer document chest (mun’gap) which would have graced the male quarters of a Korean house during the late Choson period (1392- 1910) (). The top of the chest is ornately decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay featuring deer, cranes, pine and bamboo motifs symbolizing longevity, while the sliding doors bear a complex geometric pattern. Tobacco boxes made from green soapstone and iron inlaid with silver, popular souvenirs often brought back from Korea by Western travellers during this period, .


Emperor Gojong

Gojong and the Korean Empire


      Wanchinwang     Prince
      Euichinwang     Yi Bang
            Yi Chang
            Yi Ju
            Yi Gon
            Yi Gwang
            Yi Hyun     30th
Yi Won
            Yi Gap     Yi Sangwoo
            Yi Seuk (Hwangson)
            Yi Hwan
            Yi Jung
Eumin taeja
Yi Gu (1931)

War, Chosun was finally free and no longer was a vassal state of China.

the Great Korean Empire (大韓帝國, 대한제국).

For the first time since the Goryeo dynasty’s subjugation to the Mongols, Korea was able to take titles reserved for China and its Emperor. Thus, to usher a new era, King Gojong assumed the title “Emperor” and changed the name of Chosun to the Great Korean Empire (大韓帝國, 대한제국).

 He attempted to put Korea on par with the imperial Western nations and Japan, and introduced reforms by opening port and bringing in both Westerners and the Japanese. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.

The Japanese, with their aspirations to have a foothold on the Asian mainland, interfered in internal Korean politics and forced Emperor Gojong to abdicted  After the defeat to  the Qing dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese


Emperor Gojong – Enjoying Spring

 a poem by Emperor Gojong (高宗光武帝, 고종광무제, r. 1863-1907, 1852-1919), the second to last monarch of the last dynasty.

賞春 상춘Enjoying Spring

花間看蝶舞 화간간접무
柳上聽鶯聲 유상청앵성
群生皆自樂 군생개자락
最是愛民情 최시애민정

flower-between-to see-butterfly-to dance
group-life-all-by themselves-joy
first-to be-love-people-condition

Between the flowers, I spotted a butterfly dancing.
Above the willows, I hearken the nightingale’s singing.
All sorts of life are all together by themselves enjoyable.
The first of these is to esteem the conditions of [Our country's] people.


  • 蝶 (접, jeop) – butterfly (나비).
  • 鶯 (앵, aeng) – nightingale (앵무새).


Stimulated by these events, Japan proceeded to modernize after having been forced to open its ports by Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy in 1853-54. Korea, however, remained dormant, having closed itself to all outside contacts in the early eighteenth century.



 Late Joseon period

Heungseon Daewongun

After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a renaissance of the Joseon dynasty. King Sukjong and his son King Yeongjo tried to solve the problems caused by faction politics. Tangpyeong’s policy was to effectively freeze the parties’ disputes.

Yeongjo’s grandson, King Jeongjo enacted various reforms throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak, a royal library in order to improve the cultural and political position of Joseon and to recruit gifted officers to run the nation. King Jeongjo also spearheaded bold social initiatives, opening government positions to those who would previously have been barred because of their social status. King Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars, who supported his regal power. King Jeongjo’s reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon’s popular culture.

In 1863

King Gojong took the throne. His father, Regent Heungseon Daewongun, ruled for him until Gojong reached adulthood. During the mid 1860s the Regent was the main proponent of isolationism and the instrument of the persecution of native and foreign Catholics, a policy that led directly to the French Campaign against Korea, 1866. The early years of his rule also witnessed a large effort to restore the largely dilapidated Gyeongbok Palace, the seat of royal authority. During Heungseon Daewongun‘s reign, factional politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim clan completely disappeared.

 In 1871,

 U.S. and Korean forces clashed in a U.S. attempt at “gunboat diplomacy” following on the General Sherman incident of 1866.

In 1873,

 King Gojong announced his assumption of royal rule. With the subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the future Queen Min (later called Empress Myeongseong) gained complete control over her court, placing her family in high court positions.



Empress Myeongseong.

Deokhye, Princess of Korea


Princess Deokhye
Spouse Count Sō Takeyuki
Countess Sō Masae
Father Gojong of Korea
Mother Lady Bongnyeong
Born 25 May 1912(1912-05-25)
Changdeok Palace, Seoul
Died 21 April 1989(1989-04-21) (aged 76)
Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, Republic of Korea
Burial Hongryureung, Namyangju, Republic of Korea
Deokhye, Princess of Korea
Hangul 덕혜옹주
Hanja 德惠翁主
Revised Romanization Deokhye Ongju
McCune–Reischauer Tŏkhye Ongju

Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last Princess of Korea.

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gwangmu and his concubine, Lady Bongnyeong. In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family’s registry. Her father, Emperor Gwangmu, loved her greatly, and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. In 1919, she was secretly engaged to Kim Jang-han, a nephew of Kim Hwangjin (a court chamberlain).

In 1925, she was taken to Japan under the pretense of continuing her studies. Like her brothers, she attended the Gakushuin. She was described as silent and isolative. Upon the news of her mother’s death in 1929, she isolated herself in her rooms and was eventually given permission to visit Korea temporarily to attend her mother’s funeral in 1930. In the Spring of 1930, upon the onset of mental illness (manifested by sleepwalking), she moved to King Lee’s Palace, her brother Crown Prince Eun‘s house in Tokyo. During this period, she often forgot to eat and drink. Her physician diagnosed her illness as precocious dementia, but by the following year, her condition seemed to have improved.

In May 1931, after “matchmaking” by Empress Teimei, the consort of Emperor Taishō of Japan, she married Count Sō Takeyuki (武志), {1923-1985} a Japanese nobleman. The marriage had in fact been decided in 1930; her brother had protested against it, and it had been postphoned because of her condition, but when she recovered, she was immediately given instructions that the marriage was to take place. She gave birth to a daughter, Masae (正惠) on 14 August 1932. In 1933, Deokhye was again afflicted with mental illness, and after this, she spent many years in various mental clinics. She finally divorced her husband in 1953. Suffering an unhappy marriage, her grief was compounded by the loss of her only daughter who committed suicide by drowning in 1955. After this, her condition deteriorated.

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the Korean government on 26 January 1962. She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, acquired Western military technology, and forced Joseon to sign the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876, opening three ports to trade and granting the Japanese extraterritoriality. Port Hamilton was occupied by the British Navy in 1885.

Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1894, the Donghak Peasant Revolution saw farmers rise up in a mass rebellion, with peasant leader Jeon Bong-jun defeating the forces of local ruler Jo Byong-gap at the battle of Go-bu on January 11, 1894; after the battle, Jo’s properties were handed out to the peasants. By May, the peasant army had reached Jeonju, and the Joseon government asked the Qing Dynasty government for assistance in ending the revolt. The Qing sent 3,000 troops and the rebels negotiated a truce, but the Japanese considered the Qing presence a threat and sent in 8,000 troops of their own, seizing the Royal Palace in Seoul and installing a pro-Japanese government on 8 June 1894. This soon escalated into the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) between Japan and Qing China, fought largely in Korea.

Empress Myeongseong[19] had attempted to counter Japanese interference in Korea and was considering turning to Russia or China for support. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong (referred to as “Queen Min”[19]) was assassinated by Japanese agents.[20][20] The Japanese minister to Korea, Miura Goro, orchestrated the plot against her. A group of Japanese agents along with the Hullyeondae Army[20] entered the Royal Palace in Seoul, which was under Japanese control,[20] and Empress Myeongseong was killed and her body desecrated in the North wing of the palace.

The Qing acknowledged defeat in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895), which officially guaranteed Korea’s independence from China. It was a step toward Japan gaining regional hegemony in Korea.


The Joseon court, pressured by encroachment from larger powers, felt the need to reinforce national integrity and declared the Korean Empire in 1897. Emperor Gojong assumed the title of Emperor in order to assert Korea’s independence. In addition, other foreign powers were sought for military technology, especially Russia, to fend off the Japanese.


Wongudan, Seoul


 An altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven

reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897

Wongudan, Seoul A 1925 photo of Wongudan, an altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven. King Seongjong of the Goryeo Dynasty was the first to perform the rite, designed to ensure a bountiful harvest, in the tenth century. The practice was discontinued by later Goryeo kings, revived briefly in the mid fifteenth century by Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty, then reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897. Much of the altar complex was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and the gate and fountain seen here were also subsequently removed, leaving only the three-storey Hwangungu pagoda remaining


 Technically, 1897 marks the end of the Joseon period, as the official name of the empire was changed; however the Joseon Dynasty would still reign, albeit perturbed by Japan and Russia.


In 1863, Prince Yi Ha-ung, better known as the Taewon-gun or Prince Regent, put into effect a series of sweeping reforms encompassing national finance and government administration in order to strengthen the royal authority.  He strongly opposed the increasing infiltration of foreign commercial interests into the country.  In the spring of 1866, the government ordered the rigorous persecution of Catholics.  Aroused by this measure, the French fleet sailed up the Han-gang river and hostilities broke out on Kanghwado island.

Economic and social developments drove the majority of yangban to bankruptcy, while the peasants and merchants were eager to throw off the traditional social constraints.  As these trends developed, the government devised measures to suppress them.  Another impetus to social dynamism was the increase in offspring of the yangban and mothers of lower origin.

Although the emancipation of bondsmen resulted in an increase in the number of taxable people, the exploitation of farmers by the ruling class caused the state’s tax revenues to decline



A Korean street, late 1800′s. A Korean street, late 1800s


The Japanese were the first foreign power in recent history to succeed in penetrating Korea’s isolation. After a warlike Japanese provocation against Korea in 1875 (when China failed to come to Korea’s aid), the Japanese forced an unequal treaty on Korea in February 1876. The treaty gave Japanese nationals extraterritorial rights and opened up three Korean ports to Japanese trade. In retaliation, China sought to counter Japan by extending Korea’s external relations and playing off one Western power against another. Accordingly, Korea signed treaties with the United States, Britain, Italy, Russia, and other countries were signed within the decade after the one with Japan.

Internally, the Korean court split into rival pro-Chinese, pro-Japanese, and pro-Russian factions, the latter two having more reformist and modernizing orientations. In 1895 the Japanese minister to Korea masterminded the assassination of the Korean queen, who with her clan had opposed reform-oriented, Japanese-supported leaders. The Korean king, however, rejected not only Japan but also the various reform measures and turned for support to one of Japan’s adversaries–Russia. The king fled to the Russian legation in Seoul to avoid possible Japanese plots against him and conducted the nation’s business from there. The Japanese blunder had served the Russians well.

In the meantime, under the leadership of So Chae-p’il, who had exiled himself to the United States after participating in an unsuccessful palace coup in 1884, a massive campaign was launched to advocate Korean independence from foreign influence and controls. As well as supporting Korean independence, So also advocated reform in Korea’s politics and customs in line with Western practices. Upon his return to Korea in 1896, So published Tongnip simmun (The Independent), the first newspaper to use the han’gul writing system and the vernacular language, which attracted an ever-growing audience (see The Korean Language, ch. 2). He also organized the Independence Club to introduce Korea’s elite to Western ideas and practices. Under his impetus and the influence of education provided by Protestant mission schools, hundreds of young men held mass meetings on the streets and plazas demanding democratic reforms and an end to Russian and Japanese domination. But the conservative forces proved to be too deeply entrenched for the progressive reformers who trashed the paper’s offices. The reformers, including Syngman Rhee, then a student leader, were jailed. So was compelled to return to the United States in 1898, and under one pretext or another the government suppressed both the reform movement and its newspaper.

The revolt of 1894-95, known as the Tonghak Rebellion, had international repercussions. Like the Taiping rebels in China thirty years earlier, the Tonghak(see Glossary) participants were fired by religious fervor as well as by indignation about the corrupt and oppressive government. The rebellion spread from the southwest to the central region of the peninsula, menacing Seoul. The Korean court apparently felt unable to cope with the rebels and invited China to send troops to quell the rebellion. This move gave Japan a pretext to dispatch troops to Korea. The two countries soon engaged in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), which accelerated the demise of the Qing Dynasty in China.

The victorious Japanese established their hegemony over Korea via the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) and dictated to the Korean government a wide-ranging series of measures to prevent further domestic disturbances. In response, the government promulgated various reforms, including the abolition of class distinctions, the liberation of slaves, the abolition of the ritualistic civil service examination system, and the adoption of a new tax system.

Russian influence had been on the rise in East Asia, in direct conflict with the Japanese desire for expansion. In alliance with France and Germany, Russia had just forced Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula to China (which Japan had seized during the First Sino-Japanese War) and then promptly leased the territory from China. The secret Sino-Russian treaty signed in 1896 also gave the Russians the right to build and operate the Chinese Eastern Railway across northern Manchuria, which served as a link in the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok. Russia proceeded to acquire numerous concessions over Korea’s forests and mines.

The strategic rivalry between Russia and Japan exploded in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, won by Japan. Under the peace treaty signed in September 1905, Russia acknowledged Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interest” in Korea. A separate agreement signed in secret between the United States and Japan at this time subsequently aroused anti-American sentiment among Koreans. The Taft-Katsura Agreement was cynical by modern standards, exchanging what amounted to a lack of interest and military capability in Korea on the part of the United States (Japan was given a free hand in Korea) for a lack of interest or capability in the Philippines on the part of Japan (Japanese imperialism was diverted from the Philippines). Given the diplomatic conventions of the times, however, the agreement was a much weaker endorsement of the Japanese presence in Korea than either the Russo-Japanese peace treaty or a separate Anglo- Japanese accord. Two months later, Korea was obliged to become a Japanese protectorate. Thereafter, a large number of Koreans organized themselves in education and reform movements, but by then Japanese dominance in Korea was a reality. Japan annexed Korea as a colony on August 22, 1910

The Last Empress a historical drama about

Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong) , who was assassinated by the Japanese

new information suggest by my friend Yeoung fron turkish site:


Princess Deokhye / 덕혜옹주[Resim: princessdeokhye1.png]

Prenses Deokhye(25 Mayıs 1912 – 21 Nisan 1989) Kore’nin son prensesidir.

25 Mayıs 1912’de Seoul’de Changdeok Sarayı’nda doğdu. Hükümdar Gwangmu ile cariyesi Lady Bongnyeong’un en genç çocuklarıydı. Adı, 1917’de İmparatorluk Ailesi kaydına resmi olarak işlendi. Babası hükümdar Gwangmu onu çokça severdi, onun için Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong Salonu’na Deoksu Saray Anaokulu’nu kurdurttu. Onun yaşındaki asil ailelerin kızları bu anaokuluna gitti.1919’da saray nazırı Kim Hwangjin’in yeğeni Kim Jang-han ile gizlice nişanlandırıldı ve eğitimine devam etmesi bahanesiyle Japonya’ya götürüldü. Erkek kardeşleri gibi Gakushuin’e girdi (Gakushuin, Kraliyet Üniversitesi olarak da bilinen eski bir Japon üniversitesidir). 1930 yılının baharında, ruhsal bir bozukluğun baş göstermesi üzerine (uyurgezerlik olarak ortaya çıktı) Kral Lee’nin sarayından erkek kardeşi Veliaht Eun’ın Tokyo’daki evine taşındı. Doktoru erken bunama teşhisi koydu ama ilerleyen yıllarda durumu düzelmiş olarak göründü.

Mayıs 1931’de İmparatoriçe Teimei’nin çöpçatanlığıyla Japonya İmparatoru Taishō’nın arkadaşı, asilzade bir Japon olan Kont Sō Takeyuki(武志) ile evlendi. 14 Ağustos 1932’de kızı Masae’yi (正惠) doğurdu. Mutsuz bir evliliğe katlanırken, buna intihar eden kızını kaybetmenin acısı da eklendi. Bu olaydan sonra durumu kötüleşti ve 1953’de eşinden boşandı.

Kore hükümetinin davetiyle 26 Ocak 1962’de Kore’ye geri döndü.21 Nisan 1989’da Changdeok Sarayı, Sugang Salonu’nda hayatını kaybetti, Namyangju’daki Hongryureung’a defnedildi.

[Resim: princessdeokhye2.jpg] [Resim: princessdeokhye3.jpg]


Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last Princess of Korea.

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gwangmu and his concubine, Lady Bongnyeong. In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family’s registry. Her father, Emperor Gwangmu, loved her greatly, and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. In 1919, she was secretly engaged to Kim Jang-han, a nephew of Kim Hwangjin (a court chamberlain) and was taken to Japan under the pretense of continuing her studies. Like her brothers, she attended the Gakushuin. In the Spring of 1930, upon the onset of mental illness (manifested by sleepwalking), she moved to King Lee’s Palace, her brother Crown Prince Eun’s house in Tokyo. Her physician diagnosed her illness as precocious dementia, but by the following year, her condition seemed to have improved.

In May 1931, after “matchmaking” by Empress Teimei, the consort of Emperor Taishō of Japan, she married Count Sō Takeyuki (武志), a Japanese nobleman. She gave birth to a daughter, Masae (正惠) on 14 August 1932. Suffering an unhappy marriage, her grief was compounded by the loss of her only daughter who committed suicide by drowning. After this, her condition deteriorated, and she finally divorced her husband in 1953.

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the Korean government on 26 January 1962. She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

By the 1880s, court power struggles were no longer a domestic issue and took on international aspects .As a newly emergent country, Japan turned its attention towards Korea. It was vital for Japan, in order to protect its own interests and security, to either annex Korea before it fell prey (or was annexed) to another power or to insure its effective independence by opening its resources and reforming its administration. As one Japanese statesman put it, Korea was “an arrow pointed at the heart of Japan”. Japan felt that another power having a military presence on the Korean peninsula would have been detrimental to Japanese national security, and so Japan resolved to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty over Korea. Moreover, Japan realized that Korea’s coal and iron ore deposits would benefit Japan’s increasingly-expanding industrial base.

In 1874, King Kojong began his rule and his wife, Queen Min, gained increasing power, which she used to support reform and use Japanese officers to train a new Korean  army .In 8882 a Japanese military instructor arrived to train Korean soldiers in modern methods .The Korean Daewongun (Prince of the Court) Prince Gung, who rejected modernization, used the discontent of the dismissed soldiers and a food shortage to incite them to attack the palace and the Japanese legation in 1882 .Queen Min barely escaped and seven Japanese officers were killed along with 300 pro-reform Koreans .The Chinese sent Admiral Ding Ju-chang twith six gunboats and two transports of troops to investigate the situation who took steps to avoid Japanese punitive action by having the Daewongun arrested and an indemnity of $550,000 to be paid to Japan.Japan was allowed to station troops at its legation .Queen Min returned, who was now strongly opposed to the Japanese .


After the insurrection of 1882, Li Hung-chang took steps to strengthen China’s position in Korea with a commercial treaty, loans and six Chinese battalions to maintain order and check Japanese aggression .Tension mounted between pro-Chinese and pro-Japanese forces. In 1884, China was involved in a war with France and withdrew three battalions. the pro-Japanese faction took this opportunity to launch a coup and captured the king. A pro-Japanese government was sworn in, independence from China was proclaimed and a new Japanese fiance minister was appointed .

The Japanese had been too heavy handed however, and many reformers and pro-Japanese switched to the conservative, pro-Chinese faction .A force of 5,000 Korean and Chinese soldiers under Yuan Shikai fell on the palace The chinese broke through the palace gates, and the Japanese detonated a mine which killed 90 Chinese soldiers .However, there were too many against the Japanese and pro-Japanese forces, and a company of 140 Japanese soldiers and the Japanese minister fought their way to Chemulpo ( Inchon). With the conservatives victorious, the remaing pro-Japanese and progressives were rounded up and executed , along with their families .

An envoy, Ito Hirobumi, was sent to confer with Li Hung-chang, where they reached the Sino-Japanese Tientsin Convention on April 18, 1885. Ito felt that Japan was not yet modernized enough for a war with China .This stipulated that both China and Japan would withdraw their troops from Korea in four months, neither side would train Korean troops and that each would notify the other before dispatching troops to Korea .This in effect made Korea a co-protectorate of China and Japan . Yuan Shi-kai, as chinese pro-consul was very powerful in Korea at this time.and basically ran the Korean government. He dismissed all pro-Japanese advisors, prohibited inland trade with Russia and the sale of rice to Japan, which had in part caused the food shortage before . This greatly angered the Japanese, who granted asylum to progressives who were wanted by the Korean government .There was great anger in the Korean countryside over the abuses of the Yangban ruling class over high taxes, buying land cheap or stealing it, forcing farmers into debt bondage and xenophobia against foreign intrusion in Korea. The Japanese secret society, began to secretly aid a group fighting these injustices, the Tonghaks, hoping Japan could profit from an unstable situation in Korea .

Waning of the Dynasty

uniforms in the late Choson Dynasty

Aside from perceived threats from the West, Korea also faced serious internal problems during the last century of the Choson Dynasty. The 1800s saw increasing corruption and inefficiency in government. The kings were weaklings and policies were made by powerful families or factions of high-ranking individuals at court. Cul­tural and artistic expression flourished, but the country was stunted politically and economically, poorly developed militarily, and naive in in­ternational relations. Voices of dissent were re­pressed and because of yangban oppression of the lower classes, dissatisfaction continued to ferment and sometimes boiled over. An effort, termed the Kabo Revolution, by upper-class pro-Japanese activists in 1884 to bring about drastic changes in government and institute re­forms (similar to those of the Meiji Restoration in Japan a few years earlier) also failed.

In the 1860s, the indigenous religion, Tong­hak(“Eastern learning”), ( more details on the Tonghaks )had been formulated. Combining elements from Buddhism, Confu­cianism, shamanism, and other sources, it es­poused the equality and dignity of all peoples, equal opportunity, national self-sufficiency, and independence from foreign influence. Tonghak followers in 1894 protested against social conditions and the growing dominance of Japanese merchants in the Korean market. They engaged in violent clashes with the Korean army, prompting both China and Japan to send in troops to help suppress the demonstrations. As China and Japan were at this time vying for influence over the Korean Peninsula, the Tong­hak Rebellion brought relations between the two giants to a head and helped spark the Sino­Japanese War (1894-95).


The Korean government banned the movement and had its founder Ch’oe Che-u, executed by decapitation in 1864  and the movement was forced to go underground .The Tonghaks, were aided by the Japanese Genyosha secret society, to organize a mass movement with large protests and stage a rebellion .A Korean army sent to attack the Tonghaks was defeated at Gobu in southwest Korea on January 11, 1894 and the Korean court, fearing a Tonghak invasion of Seoul, asked for Chinese aid.


The initial success of the revolt led a panic court to seek help from  China .In early June a Chinese force of 2,800 was dispatched from Chefoo ( Yingtan) to Asan under general Yuan Shikai, a port outside of Seoul, where they camped.The arrival of the Chinese forces caused the Tonghaks to call off their attack on Seoul after the Korean government arranged a truce . The Tonghak leader, Chon Pong-chun regarded this as an opportunity to archive his objectives without further recourse to warfare. In consequence hostilities came to an end, on condition that an end also be put to government misrule.  .The Japanese considered this action to be a violation of the Convention, and sent their own expeditionary force of 8,000 troops to Korea. to its legation in Seoul ad the surrounding area .

The Daewongun (Taewongun) (1821-1898) was the father of Kojong and was the de facto ruler of Korea as the regent of the young king till his death in 1898. As an old school Confucianist he promoted isolationism and persecution of Korean Catholics, leading to the French attack of Ganghwa Island in 1866 after the execution of a French priest. In 1882 he was abducted by the Qing General in China, Yuan Shihkai and taken to China. He returned 4 years later.

Partially fought on Korean soil, this was the first modern war engaged in by foreign powers on the peninsula. Japan won, dramatically ending Chinese influence there. Japan subsequently demanded that Korea make sweeping changes in its policies to benefit Japanese interests. Because of its loss in the war, China ceded Taiwan and the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan and was forced to recognize Korea as a fully independent nation, ending its centuries-long domination of the peninsula.


Gamgok Parish Church


From Anseong, we (i.e., Andy Jackson and I) got on a bus to Janghowon in nearby Icheon-si. And from Janghowon, we walked across the river to its sister city, Gamgok-myeon, Eumseong-gun in lovely Chungcheongbuk-do.

Gamgok-myeon is home to one of Korea’s oldest—and certainly one of its most beautiful—Catholic churches, Gamgok Parish Church, or more precisely, Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Catholic Cathedral (maegoe is the Sino-Korean word for the Rosary, so I guess the proper way to translate the name of the church—the English name of the official site not withstanding—would be Gamgok Our Lady of the Rosary Church).

Gamgok Parish Church sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Gamgok like a sentinel. The land where the church is now used to be the owned by Min Eung-sik, a second cousin of Empress Myeongseong and a major late Joseon-era conservative. During the Mutiny of 1882, when old-guard military units rebelled against the government’s military modernization plans, Min offered the empress sanctuary at his palatial home. After Empress Myeongseong’s assassination in 1895, Min was arrested and brought to Seoul. His home was occupied by loyalist militias, which made it a target of the Japanese Army, which proceeded to burn it down.

The upside to this was that when French priest Father Camillus Bouillon of the Paris Foreign Missions Society came around looking for a place to build a church, he could buy the land for a song.  Or a Gregorian chant, as the case may be.

It’s said that when Bouillon first saw the massive house (presumably before the Japanese torched it) and the hillside on which it rested, he prayed that if the Virgin Mary were to give him the house and hill, he would become her humble servant, and she would be the patron saint of the church. Well, as it would turn out, the Blessed Virgin Mary held up her end of the bargain (and even got the Imperial Japanese Army to foot the cleanup bill), so Bouillon kept his, establishing a church in May 1896 and dedicating it to the Virgin Mary.

The current Gothic-style church—a miniature version of Myeongdong Cathedral—was built in 1930 (by Chinese laborers), and was designed by French priest Father Pierre Chizallet.

I’ll say this—Bouillon couldn’t have chosen a better spot to put a church. The place gives off a very happy, loving vibe. The church itself is absolutely beautiful—a red-and-black brick Gothic structure of the kind loved by French missionaries in Korea. It’s the surroundings, however, that make it what it is—how it looks out over the surrounding countryside, the beautiful trees that surround it, how you can feel the spring breeze. It’s just a very peaceful place.


Yi Munsun Chip (1241).

missionary who arrived in Korea in 1888 and spent the next forty years there. A prodigious scholar, Gale translated many of Korea’s literary classics into English and wrote numerous books on Korean history, literature, and culture. Gale helped the Library procure a number of Korean classics, including rare books from the estate of the Korean scholar Kim To-hui


Figure 2 Stacking chest, wood covered with red lacquer, inlaid with mother-of- pearl. Choson dynasty, 1890-1910


1894. before the 1894 version of “Choson Seaway (朝鮮水路誌)”

1893 -

 “The Sea Chart of Hokkaido and Northeastern Islands(北洲及北東諸島)” plots Waywoda Rock far outside of Korean territory

Dec. 24th edition of Japan’s San-in Chuo Shimpo(山陰中央新報) (cache)reported that the new evidence which debunks pro-Korean’s distorted claim was found, again.”The Sea Chart of Hokkaido and Northeastern Islands(北洲及北東諸島)” was made by Hydorographic Office of Japan(日本水路部), basing on the British Navy’s seachart, in 1893 originally, just a year before the 1894 version of “Choson Seaway (朝鮮水路誌)” was published. The map plots Waywoda rock near Okushiri island of Japan’s Hokkaido and it also shows the trace Japanese Navy did fathomed to survey around the area, but labelled as “non-existant” just like British “China Sea Directory” reported. The location is exactly the place 1894 “Choson Seaway” reported and it is clearly far outside of Korean territory at a glance.Pro-Korean scholars like Prof. Hori Kazuo(1987) wrongfully claimed as follows and pro-Korean scholars have been blindlessly following his unrealistic claim even up until now.

“However, marine charts usually show geographical features and do not specify sovereign rights to islands in them. As for sovereign rights to islands, therefore, one has to consult a guide to sea routes, an expounder of a chart.(p105)”
“Moreover, the 1894 and 1897 editions of the Chosen suiroshi (Korea’s Sealanes) by the Japanese Navy show Liancourt Rocks/Tokdo,26) along with Ullungdo. There is no doubt the Japanese naval hydrographic anthorities were aware Takeshima/Tokdo belonged to Korea around the end of the 19th century.”

First of all, waterway magazines are just “guide to sea routes” and they don’t represent the “sovereign rights to islands”. They are written for the safety of the voyages as well as seachart. In fact, Liancourt Rocks was listed along with Matsushima(Ulleungdo) and Waywoda rock as “dangerous rocks in the Sea of Japan(左ニ記載スルモノヲ除ク外日本海内絶エテ暗岩危礁ナシ)” for the safe voyages in 1894 “Choson Seaway”. And Waywoda Rock was reported as situated in lat. 42°16′N., long.137°18′E. , way up north from Korean territorial limit in the first place. Pro-Korean always wrongfully refer to this book as one of the evidences Japanese considered Takeshima as Korean territory only because it was listed in the section “East Coast of Choson” of “Choson Seaway.”, ignoring Waywoda rock, which is clearly outside of Korean territory, was also listed in the same section.

Moreover, the preface of this waterway magazine clearly depicts eastern limit of Korean territory is 130º 35′ E.longitude, under the name of the Kimotsuki Kaneyuki (肝付兼行),a director of Hydrography Department. From this fact, we can see that Kimotsuki clearly recognized that Takeshima/Dokdo was outside of Korean territory when Nakai met him in 1904.

Lastly, Eastern Strait(東水道) of Choson Strait, between Tsushima and Iki(壱岐) of Nagasaki, Japan was also listed in the previous chapter(Chapter 3). You cannot claim that the strait between Tsushima and Iki also belong to Korea only because it is listed in the “Choson Seaway”. It also proves that Liancourt Rocks in this waterway magazines were not for territorial issue, but only for the safety of voyages.

It is funny to see that the Prof. Hori’s old unreliable thesis based on out-of-date resources, written more than 20 years ago, is still keep followed by Korean scholars and made them look stupid worldwidely.

1893 北洲及北東諸島_11893 北洲及北東諸島_221893 北洲及北東諸島_41893 北洲及北東諸島_5



The secret Sino-Russian treaty signed in 1896

also gave the Russians the right to build and operate the Chinese Eastern Railway across northern Manchuria, which served as a link in the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok. Russia proceeded to acquire numerous concessions over Korea’s forests and mines.


Queen Min


Funeral of Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong) in 1895 Seoul. She had been assassinated by Japanese due to her pro-Russian stance.Korea was declared a protectorate in 1905 and annexed in 1910. In 1910 name of the city of Seoul was changed to Keijo (Japanese Korean Hanseong).

 After the Chinese loss to the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War, the Korean government was forced to declare their independence from the Chinese and no longer being a tributary state King Kojong (Gojong) declared Korea to be the Korean Empire. Many in the Korean court such as Qin Minsought Russian help in thrawrting the growing power of the Japanese. Russia , England and France had recently forced Japan to abandon the Liaodong Peninsula which it had won in the recent war with China.


1953 newsreel on Changgyeonggung


The  Japanese, wishing to end this meddling sent a new ambassador to Korea, Miura Goro with orders to arrange the assassination of Queen Min which was done on Oct 8, 1895 at Gyeongbokgung. This is known as the Eulmi Incident. After the assassination King Kojong and Crown Prince Sunjong fled to the Russian Legation on Feb 11, 1896

After the murder of Queen Min in 1895, King Kojong and his heir fled to the Russ­ian legation. Emerging about one year later, the king proclaimed himself emperor. The country’s name was changed to Taehan Cheguk, or “Great Han Empire,” symbolically equalizing the status of Korea, China, and Japan. It was an empty honor, however, as Kojong was nearly powerless in the face of foreign imposition; Korea found herself the pawn of foreign governments which had little concern for the people of the peninsula.


coins started to be minted from modern presses in 1888, such as this silver 5 Yang (兩liang also known as a tael)

대한제국 (大韓帝國)   Greater Korean Empire   1897-1910


The earliest known footage of Korea from 1901.




In a complicated series of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, Japan pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of Port Arthur in 1905. With the conclusion of the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth, the way was open for Japan to take control of Korea. After the signing of the Protectorate Treaty in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan.


Itō Hirobumi was the first Resident-General of Korea, although he was assassinated by Korean independence activist An Jung-geun in 1909 at the train station at Harbin.


The strategic rivalry between Russia and Japan exploded in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, won by Japan. Under the peace treaty signed in September 1905, Russia acknowledged Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interest” in Korea. A separate agreement signed in secret between the United States and Japan at this time subsequently aroused anti-American sentiment among Koreans. The Taft-Katsura Agreement was cynical by modern standards, exchanging what amounted to a lack of interest and military capability in Korea on the part of the United States (Japan was given a free hand in Korea) for a lack of interest or capability in the Philippines on the part of Japan (Japanese imperialism was diverted from the Philippines). Given the diplomatic conventions of the times, however, the agreement was a much weaker endorsement of the Japanese presence in Korea than either the Russo-Japanese peace treaty or a separate Anglo- Japanese accord. Two months later, Korea was obliged to become a Japanese protectorate. Thereafter, a large number of Koreans organized themselves in education and reform movements, but by then Japanese dominance in Korea was a reality. Japan annexed Korea as a colony on August 22, 1910


In 1910,

although many Koreans opposed the annexation, the Japanese Empire annexed Korea by force

The Japanese Administration of Korea 

Did Japan ruin the economy of Korea during the Japanese Administration? Koreans say that Japan did, and that they even stole all the rice and left people starving. However, there is a lot of evidence to say that was not the case.

During the period of Japanese Administration,

there were great increases in population, unprecendented in Korean history. This is not consistent with a people that are starving, because the population should decrease in that case.

Not only are the Korean claims dubious, but it seems that they benefitted in many ways from the Japanese Administration. Lets take a look at picutures of Korea before and during the Japanese Administration.

This was the true state of Koreans in the Choson Era.

Before the Japanese introduced medicine in Korea, Koreans would cure Malaria by writing their names on their feet.

Pre-Japanese era Korean medicine. This childs parents are trying to cure this childs disease by throwing away this straw doll. Various diseases could be ‘cured’ by this ‘method’. The average Korea lifespan at this time was around 24 years old. Thanks to Japanese investment in medicine and nutrition in Korea, the lifespan went up to nearly 50 years old by the end of WW2

The center of Seoul, Namdemun, Circa 1880. Thatched buildings and shops.

Compare that with 1850′s Tokyo. Korea was a basket case.

The common people of the Choson Era lived in a state of slavery, if not in name then in practice. Picture is of Namdemun.

bare breasted woman
Typical Korean Woman of the pre-annexation period. It was common for women to walk around bare breasted in Korea at the time, as in Africa.

It is common in Korea to claim that prostitution did not exist in Korea before the Japanese came, but here is a picture of one anyway.

Che Yonhi
Koreans say that they were simply slaves during the Japanese administration, and werent even allowed to have Korean names. I wonder then how they explain the existence of dancer Che Yonhi, who not only became wealthy and famous, but kept her Korean name. Surely if the Japanese wanted to force Koreans to have Japanese names, they would have started with Korean role models? This is a picture of her in a hotel cafe in Seoul.

A department store in Seoul for Korean consumers. Picture 1937.

Koreans boldly claim that Japan destroyed many Korean cultural monuments that were in truth destroyed by Korean neglect. The above is a before and after photo of Namdaemun. Is this what Koreans mean by Korea being ‘ruined’ by the Japanese?

Massive Japanese investment created industry where there was none. The raised living standards and provided housing. The landlords and oppressors of common people lost their legal right to lord it over others.

The worlds largest Hydroelectric generator (at the time) was built in Korea by the Japanese, at the expense of the Japanese. This contributed much to Korea’s development.

This was Pyongyang under Japanese rule.

Pyongyang again.

Really, one could go on and on about this. I would conjecture that this kind of information is nowhere to be found in Korean textbooks, based on my conversations with Koreans. Could Korean anti Japanism be mostly founded upon Koreans vain belief in their ‘Great History’


Research Articles and Chapters

“Chosŏn hugi ŭi mukwa chedo wa Han’guk ŭi kŭndaesŏng” (The Late Chosŏn Military Examination System and Korean Modernity). In Korean. Han’guk munhwa (Korean Culture) 51 (September 2010): 299–319.

“Saeroun kajoksa ŭi ch’ugu: kŭndae Han’guk ŭi chokpo p’yŏnch’an kwa chungin ch’ŭng ŭi panŭng” [A search for a new family history: genealogy compilation and the reactions of chungin stratum in modern Korea]. In Korean. Trans. Yi Kanghan. Yŏksa munje yŏn’gu (Critical Studies on Modern Korean History) 20 (October 2008): 139–167.

“Imagined Connections in Early Modern Korea, 1600–1894: Representations of Northern Elite Miryang Pak Lineages in Genealogies.” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 21.1 (June 2008): 1–27.

“Status and ‘Defunct’ Offices in Early Modern Korea: The Case of Five Guards Generals (Owijang), 1864–1910.” Journal of Social History 41.3 (Spring 2008): 737–757.

“War and Peace in Premodern Korea: Institutional and Ideological Dimensions.” In The Military and
South Korean Society, edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, R. Richard Grinker, and Kirk W. Larsen, pp. 1–13. The Sigur Center Asia Papers Vol. 26. Washington DC: Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University, 2006.

“Local Elites, Descent, and Status Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century Korea: Some Observations on the County Notable Listings in the Chosŏn Hwanyŏ Sŭngnam.” In Han’guksa e issŏsŏ chibang kwa chungang [The periphery and the center in Korean history], edited by Chŏng Tuhŭi and Edward J. Shultz, pp. 205–225. Seoul: Sogang University Press, 2003.

“Military Examinations in Sixteenth-Century Korea: Political Upheaval, Social Change, and Security Crisis.” Journal of Asian History 35.1 (2001): 1–57.

“Military Examinations in Late Chosŏn, 1700–1863: Elite Substratification and Non-Elite Accommodation.” Korean Studies 25.1 (2001): 1–50.

“Chosŏn ch’ogi mukwa ch’ulsin ŭi sahoejŏk chiwi: T’aejong-Sŏngjong nyŏn’gan ŭi kŭpcheja rŭl chungsim ŭro” [The social status of early Chosŏn military examination graduates: passers from the reign of T’aejong through that of Sŏngjong]. In Korean. Yŏksa wa hyŏnsil (Quarterly Review of Korean History) 39 (March 2001): 100–126.

“Military Examination Graduates in Early Chosŏn: Their Social Status in the Fifteenth Century.” The Review of Korean Studies 3.1 (July 2000): 123–156.

Between Dreams and Reality: The Military Examination in Late Chosŏn Korea, 1600–1894

As previously mentioned, Rhee Syngman (李承晩, 이승만/리승만, 1875-1965) was the other South Korean president who wrote Classical Chinese poetry. He was of the Jeonju Yi Clan, the same family clan as the old royal family of the Chosun dynasty. His pen name was U’nam (雩南, 우남). After receiving his education in the US, Rhee Syngman became active in the Korean independence movement and served in the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai. As president, he was vigorously anti-Communist and went after the leftist political dissidents. He was also a bit mad with the lust for power and changed the election procedures in his favor. He also had members of the old royal family under house arrest, fearing their popularity. After his fourth re-election, the people started demonstrating and Rhee Syngman was exiled to Hawaii, where he passed away in 1965. The following is a poem, he presumably wrote during wartime, based on the title.

戰時春 전시춘

A War Time Spring

半島山河漲陣烟 반도산하장진연
胡旗洋帆翳春天 호기양범예춘천
彷徨盡是無家客 방황진시무각객
漂泊誰非辟穀仙 표박수비벽곡선
成市遺墟如古壁 성시유허여고벽
山川燒地起新田 산천요지기신전
東風不待干戈息 동풍불대간과식
細草遍生敗壘邊 세초편생패루변

On the mountains and rivers of the peninsula, military camps are full of smoke.
Barbarian [1] banners and Western sails conceal the Spring sky.
Wandering and lost are these exhausted travelers without homes.
Among the drifting and roaming, who is not as if living off of little sustenance [2]?
[Where] markets were open, the remaining ruins are are like old  walls.
In the mountains and streams, lands are being burn to arise [again] as new rice paddies.
The eastern winds do not tarry for resting pikes and shields [3].
On the sides of the defeated forts, small grass have [started to] grow about it.


  1. 胡 (호, ho) – refers to the Chinese here. This is the same character that was used referred to the Manchurian Qing Dynasty.
  2. 辟穀 (벽곡, byeokgok) – refers to abstaining (辟, 벽) from grains (穀, 곡).
  3. That is, soldiers.


  • 漲 (장, jang) – to be full of water (물이 넘치다); to be much (많은 모양).
  • 翳 (예, ye) – to conceal or cover (가리다).
  • 彷徨 (방황, banghwang) – to be lost or roaming.
  • 墟 (허, heo) – ruins or to be in ruins.
  • 壘 (루, ru) – small military encampment or fort.


 The last imperial family

This photo, taken about 1915 (actually a compilation of individual photographs taken since the Japanese did not allow them to all be in the same room at the same time, and some were forced to leave Korea) shows the following royal family members, from left: Prince Ui (Ui chinwang 의친왕), the 6th son of Gojong; Sunjong, the 2nd son and the last monarch of Joseon; Prince Yeong (Yeong chinwang 영친왕), the 7th son; Gojong, the former King; Queen Yoon (Yoon daebi), Queen Consort of Sunjong; Deogindang Gimbi, wife of Prince Ui; and Yi Geon, the eldest son of Prince Ui. The seated child in the front row is Princess Deokhye (Deokhye ongju 덕혜옹주), Gojong’s last child.

After the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910, the Princes and Princesses of the Imperial Family were forced to leave for Japan to be re-educated and married. The Heir to the Throne, Imperial Crown Prince Uimin, married Princess Yi Bang-ja née Nashimoto, and had two sons, Princes Yi Jin and Yi Gu. His elder brother, Imperial Prince Ui had twelve sons and nine daughters from various wives and concubines.

The Crown Prince lost his status in Japan at the end of World War II and returned to Korea in 1963 after an invitation by the Republican Government. He suffered a stroke as his plane landed in Seoul and was rushed to a hospital. He never recovered and died in 1970. His brother, Imperial Prince Ui died in 1955 and the Korean people officially considered this to be the end of the Royal line.[citation needed]

Presently Prince Yi Seok is one of two pretenders[citation needed] to the abolished throne of Korea (the monarchy was abolished in 1910 by Japan and following Japan’s defeat in World War II, North Korea has been organized as a communist regime and South Korea has been organized as a republic). Prince Yi Seok is a son of Prince Gang of Korea, a fifth son of Gojong of Korea and currently a professor of history lecturing at Jeonju University in the Republic of Korea.

Furthermore, many descendants live throughout the United States, Canada and Brazil, having settled elsewhere, outside of Korea.

Today, many tombs of the descendants still exist on top of the mountain in Yangju. According to the pedigree written on the tombstone, it is believed that these descendants are from the great king of Joseon, Seongjeong (The 9th ruler of Joseon Dynasty). It was discovered that this mountain belongs to the member of the royal family named Yi Won (Born in 1958). More details of current descendants of the House of Yi.

 The imperial family

the end @ copyright Dr Iwan 2011

Who Is William Colby ? some informations to open mystery



 Saigon, Vietnam; March 17, 1959


Central Intelligence Agency – Saigon Station Chief, William Colby was the key figure in Northern Service Planning and Command Committee.  Captain Ngo The Linh code name was “Mr. Binh”.  He worked very closely with Bill Colby from 1958 until 1964 (when CIA transferred its agent operations to MACV-SOG).  Central Intelligence Agency supplied advanced weapons, equipments and helped trained long-term spy agents and Sea Commandos at Long Thanh, Da Nang, and Nha Trang for missions to the North.

latest information by google exploration

old informations


New York Times report headline reads “Body of William Colby is found on river bank”
May 7, 1996

Former CIA Head William Colby

William Colby standing on NYC street with envelope and trench coat
Late 1980s


William Colby, President Gerald Ford and his cabinet with Colby family
In Oval Office receiving the National Secuirty Medal; 1976


William Colby with Colby family at home
Washington (front steps); Late 1960s


William Colby and Elbridge (not pictured, William Colby’s father)
Washingon DC National Airport.


William Colby standing with hands on desk taking oath to tell the truth
Testifying before Congress as CIA Director; 1975


William Colby in “Wanted Poster”
William Colby as the Ace of Spades anti-Vietnam war poster. Washington, DC; Early 1970s


Side angle of William Colby as CIA Director testifying before Congress


William Colby and Barbara Colby wedding
New York City; Sept. 15, 1945


WEC at cottage winter
Lake Champlain, VT; Early 1980s


William Colby, Barbara Colby and two kids
Piazza in San Marco, Venice, Italy; 1950s


Young Carl Colby on boat
Lake Champlain, VT; 1950s


William Colby Barbara Catherine Carl Jonathan
Lake Champlain cottage, VT; Mid-1950s


William Colby as a boy with toy soldiers in bedroom
Early 1930s


Farewell tea William Colby, Barbara, Carl, Catherine and Paul with President Ngo Dinh Diem
Presidential Palace, Saigon, Vietnam; 1962


Carl and William Colby at William Colby’s birthday
Saigon, Vietnam; Early 1960s


Carl with friends by pool
Saigon Le Cercle Sportif – Saigon, Vietnam; Early 1960s


William Colby testifying before Congress.


William Colby official passport photo
U.S. State Dept. cover for CIA; 1960s


William Colby with USMC cap team in Quang Nam Province in Vietnam War
Vitenam; Late 1960s


William Colby Major, OSS in Norway
With Herbert Helgesson, leader of Norway resistance.


William Colby with briefcase
White House anteroom of the White House – Washington, DC; 1975

Colbyimg95471 copy

New York Times front page article re: WEC death
“Nine days after canoe trip, Colby’s body is found”; May 17, 1996


Daniel Ellsberg protesting WEC involvement in Phoenix Program – sign
Early 1970s


Frontispiece of William Colby book with dedication to Carl
reads: “A great son, with a great future story to tell. With love, Dad.”; 1978


Congressional record – Senate
re: WEC and CIA (Phoenix Program) S15539; August 1, 1973


William Colby in black pajamas surrounded by civilian self defense team in Vietnam
Note: “To Carl with love, Dad”; June 9, 1968


William Colby U.S. diplomatic passport.


William Colby ID card – Cercle Sportif
Saigon, Vietnam; March 17, 1959


Young William Colby at cottage with spyglass looking out to sea
Lake Champlain, VT; Early 1930s


OSS application filed by William Colby.
October 20, 1943


Cartoon and quote from Ho Chi Minh
(VA006251) – Vietnam; March 17, 1959


William Colby major OSS Jedburgh teams and comrades
Fargland, Norway; 1944


Major Colby leading O.S.S. Jedburgh team in WWII
Operation Rype; 1944


Colby family on S.S. Constitution
Mediterranean cruise (from Spain to NY); 1962


Colby family returning from Vietnam to US
Turkey; 1962


Carl drawing on floor at home
Rome, Italy; Mid-1950s


Young Carl Colby at Korean DMZ
Demilitarized border of North and South Korea; May 1962


William Colby and son Paul in rocking chair
Rome, Italy; Mid-1950s


Colby family having picnic (passing a radio to someone)
Stockholm, Sweden; Early 1950s


Colby family
Stockholm, Sweden; Early 1950s


Colby family
In Florida on holiday, on home leave; Early 1950s


Colby Children at the Roman Forum
Rome, Italy; Early 1950s


Barbara and Colby children
Saubaudia Beac, Italy; Mid-1950s


William and Carl Colby
Bogor, Indonesia; 1966


William and Barbara Colby at Vermont cottage
Lake Champlain

please who know him,be kind to send more informations to open the mystery,thanks,this asking by my friend.

The French Indochina Post WW II PART TWO 1950-1954












Showroom :

The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum


(Museum Duniamaya Dr Iwan)

                    Please Enter


              DMC SHOWROOM

(Driwan Vietnam Cybermuseum)



1.Nha Trang Maritime Academy 1952-1970
skill 4 – small_taskforce_tactics;naval_engineering;naval_tr aining;seamanship
reference : Vietnamese source

2.Da Lat Military Academy 1930-1954
skill 2 – centralized_execution;small_unit_tactics;training
reference: Vietnamese source

3.Nguyen Van Hinh 1936 – 1955
skill 2 – decentralized_execution;piloting;fighter_tactics


22.Mining and Plantation Industry Facility 1930 – 1954 <= I can not find exactly company name under French rule in IndoChina, but I have find out the pic that the french have build a lot of plantation and mine so I add this team.
skill 1 – industrial_engineering;mechanics

23.Cam Tiem Power Plant 1930 – 1954
skill 1 – electronic

in the French Air Force.( 5)

Indochina 1949-1951



The S/S Champollion which took me from Bizerte to Saigon , 06/1949 – 07/22/1949

Saigon. First visit of the town.


In the mangrove bordering an arroyo (brook) at Bach-Maï


Hanoi. At the outdoor cafe, Paul Bert Street. The 421 game is on the table…

On the Doumer Bridge, crossing the Red River. Travelling to Gia-Lam Airbase. Note that even in winter in Tonkin, we must wear the woolen battle-dress uniform as on the mainland.



The Indochina war broke out in 1945 and escalated quickly. More troops were sent year after year. The 5th Wing based in Sidi-Ahmed (Bizerte) was assigned for a one year tour of duty in south-east Asia. But unlike the previous unit who had to use the equipment already there, the 5th was taking their own planes with them. So the wing would take their American P-63 Kingcobra. The support unit made of mechanics of various trades was constituted. Strangely, one member from the administration office was assigned to the unit. It was the technical supply-accountant which happen to be me ! Thankfully a lot my mechanics buddies from El-Aouina were part of the unit so we had a tight group. All personnels sent to Indochina were career soldier although we had a few draftees who were lured either by the cash bonus or the search for adventure. Before shipping out, I sold my side-car to the first guy with a descent offer. The entire 5th wing (Squadrons 1/5 Vendee and 2/5 Ile de France) and its auxiliary units gathered in Sid-Ahmed before boarding for Saigon. The S/S Champollion would ferry the personnel while the aircraft carrier Dixmude would handle the Kingcobras already partially disassembled and crated. We got on the way on June 30, 1949 for a long cruise with layovers in Port Said (entrance of the Suez canal), Djibouti, Aden, Colombo (Ceylon), Singapore et finally Saigon after a 100 km trip up the Saigon river. Life on board was new for most of us if you exclude the short hop we took to cross the Mediterranean. Except for the officers who had 1st class quarters, us non-Comm and troop were stuck below deck in the cargo space with rudimentary accommodations: a few benches and tables and hooks to setup our hammock for the night. No comfort what-so-ever, just a few sinks for the morning wash-up.
We were in July so the weather was getting hotter as we got closer to Egypt. From the very first day, I found it difficult to sleep below deck because of the heat and smell. I went in search for a better place. The emergency canoes located on the bridge turned out to be the perfect spot. Since they were covered, I was able to spend my nights very comfortably. Actually, a few of my buddies did the same. The only drawback was to make sure that we wouldn’t get caught by the crew. Since they we washing the deck early in the morning, we had to sneak back in at dawn.
We were able to go on shore during some of the layovers. We had 10 hours in the evening in Djibouti, a day in Colombo (Ceylon at the time but now known as Sri Lanka). The 1st and 2nd class passengers had the opportunity to come ashore in Singapore.
The sea had been calm for the first leg of the trip but everything changed once we were in the Indian Ocean. It was the summer monsoon and we were met by big storms and torrential rain. We were able to overcome being sea-sick thanks to a bunch of characters who endlessly entertained us. I’ve always been amazed how much a few distractions could relieve the sickness! A sigh of relief could be heard through out the ship when we finally reached Cap St Jacques at the mouth of the Saigon river. We dock in the Saigon harbor and came ashore under heavy rain and suffocating heat.
In spite of the fact that we were accustomed to the North African lifestyle already different from home, we now had to adjust to another life. Saigon was in the south and we were July 22nd so it was summer: rain and intense heat. After the usual landing inspection, we were trucked to the Tan-Son-Nhut airbase on the north side of town. We were housed in barracks nicknamed Fillod (they were manufactured by the Fillod company in St Amour). Nights had to be spent under the protective cover of mosquito nets listening to the deafening concert of the toads!.
It took several days before I could get ride of the rocking feeling from the ship on which we had spent 3 weeks. Our first few days were spent unloading the equipment from the Champollion and Dixmude. We had to handle ammunition crates and load them on those tall and narrow English made Trucks. The planes, still in crates, were loaded on trailers.
Both squadrons were reinforcements and were in Saigon only until they were operational. Once the planes were in flying order, they would move north. The 1/5 was ready first and left Saigon for Hanoi (Gialam) in September. Our auxiliary unit had to remain until the departure of the second group. During the four months we spend in Tan-Son-Nhut, we were unable to go site seeing. Even simple leaves to go into town were sparse for, they said, safety reasons. Regardless, we used the little free time we had to rest and catch up on sleep. When the last planes and personnel of the 2/5 made their way north, our group (40 strong) started to get ready to move out. Instead of Gia-Lam, our next home was going to be Bach-Mai (still near Hanoi though). We also were assigned an official title. Our unit was the Park 1/482 detached to Bach Mai (the headquarter of the park 482 was in Bien-Hoa). But instead of being flow to our new location like the rest of the wing, it was once again by boat that we made our way. The ship, the S.S Esperance (Hope in French) had a name full of promises. But all it was really, was a coal cargo ship with enough room to qualify as a troop transport. I believe he was ferrying coal from the north and picked up troop and supplies that needed to move from the south. Our trip that should have taken a day or two lasted 11 days! Slowly making its way along the coast with a three-day stopover in Tourane (although we were not allowed off the boat). During this journey, we did everything possible to keep ourselves busy and make time go by quicker. Our unit was the only one on board and the crew was all civilian and mostly Vietnamese. So discipline was lax but food was rather poor. We unloaded in Haiphong and made the last leg of the trip by train.
Weather in Indochina is very different from north to south. We arrived in September 49 at the beginning of winter which is a bit like the one in France, cold with frequent rain or drizzle and temps in the 10-20º C (14-68° F) maximum. On the other hand, the south was in the dry season with temps in the mid 20s to the 30s and sometimes higher.
Our tour of duty was supposed to be for one year unlike the Colonial tour that lasts two. However, we stayed for 18 months.
Our arrival was without celebration. Service personnel in Indochina really lived for the day of their return. Only flying personnel were really involved in military operations. Even the ground crews who were busy with plane maintenance to contend with had nothing else to do. The only military activity around was the base protection against the Viets.
We were pleasantly surprised to be housed outside of the base. Although we were close by, we were none-the-less outside of the guarded perimeter. So we were armed with a machine gun each. It was recommended to sleep with it, not only to keep it handy but also to prevent having it stolen by a night intruder. The Viets were known to be able to sneak everywhere at night. One night as we were sleeping peacefully, they infiltrated our perimeter using tunnels they had dug without anybody noticing. They got close to some planes and succeeded in blowing up a dozen JU-52 by planting mines near them and detonate them as they retreated. Since our duty was to guard our quarter, we were made aware of the result the next day.
From this point on, our off-site quarters became a possible target. So we moved into barracks located inside the base perimeter. Security was tightened as well.
On Saturdays afternoon and Sundays, it was relatively easy to go downtown. However, transportation was sparse. Bicycles and tricycles are very common in the north. There was a bicycle factory near Hanoi. With some friends, we went there and each of us acquired a bike. From this point on, we had more freedom to go into town et even visit our buddies at the 5th wing based out of Giam-Lam field by going across town and crossing the red river on the Doumer bridge (Eiffel design). In the spring, we enjoyed going into town (during the day only) and go shopping Rue de la Soie (Silk street) or any other street with their own specialty, hang out by the little lake in the center of town. There was 2.5 miles between the base and the center of town and the terrain is flat, so this was an easy ride. Other sources of entertainment were rare. There wasn’t even a theater on the base. There was a specialty house 300 feet from the base entrance. Civilians were running it but under the army’s supervision. All branches of the service attended this place, from the foreign legion to regular army, airforce and navy. The locals on the other hand rarely set foot in this place.
My work consisted of the technical equipment accounting. It was neither glorious nor fascinating. But the friendship that existed among us was strong and made up for the frustration of being far from home. We had a number of married guys, some with children and this was especially hard for them, more so than for singles.
I acquired a record player and some hard to come by records of French artists. But it wasn’t long before my buddies got bored to listen to the same tunes over and over. In the end, they started to buy new ones to expend our repertoire.
The favorite moment of the day was the morning meal. It wasn’t too hot yet and our break was long enough that we could make it to the mess for a real meal “a la carte”. We could choose a whole roasted chicken (for two), cold cuts, cheese, bananas or pineapple with a good bottle of Bourgogne to top this off. Often time, we were not hungry by lunchtime, either still full from our break or because the heat.
After a year spent in Indochina, we started to hope that our tour was near the end. But we had to come to the realization that the one-year tour model did not really fit our profile. Even for the non-support units, it was decided that the time spent re-assembling the planes would not be accounted for. Seeing that the situation was getting worse, headquarter didn’t seem ready to let us go. In December 1950, the army had already evacuated most isolated posts in the northern part of the country. All the units that could be spared moved south. Our unit moved to Bien Hoa where the Parc 482 we depended from was stationed. This time we made the trip in a C-47 Dakota. At that time, Bien Hoa (30 km for Saigon) was a small base without any fighting unit stationed. It later became a large US and South Vietnamese airbase. Although we were reunited with our primary unit, our group remained together and was kept apart. That was fine, as our main concern was our pending return.
We were housed in some very exotic looking huts without any facilities. Since we weren’t too busy, we had plenty of time for site seeing or go into the nearby town. This charming community had not yet been damaged by the war.
After two months of this life, the news of our return home came. We moved to Saigon to have our return papers issued. Most of us used this time to hunt for souvenirs and gifts to bring home if that hadn’t been taken care of already. In my case, shopping was take care of quickly as we were not accustomed to bringing souvenirs. The trunks were packed and made ready to ship home via boat while we were flying back.
On February 7th 1951, we boarded a DC-4 Skymaster heading for France. After multiple layovers, we landed at Paris-Orly on the 9th. Having left Saigon during the dry and hot season, we landed in the middle of winter wearing only light civilian clothes. Since we had layovers in foreign countries, wearing our uniform had been forbidden. For most of us, it had been two years since we had seen French soil, as we didn’t get a leave prior to our departure from Tunisia. After all these months of intense camaraderie, emotions were high as we parted company. A friend who was getting married in Pierre-de-Bresse and I took the train together. On the way down, we meet a journalist from Radio Luxembourg. He didn’t miss an opportunity to interview us at length on the war in Indochina. At that time, the war was so far away, most people didn’t care about it. None-the-less, the left wing (mostly communists) was very vocal in their opposition to this conflict, especially the troop deployment. In spite of this opposition, it took another three years, the Dien-Bien-Phu tragedy and the Geneva accords to put an end to it.

f.Bo Dai Saigon Regime in 1950

1) January 1950

(1)early 1950

(a)United States and Britain recognized Bao dai’s government (D).


(b) The US only recognized by  only several American Official.


(c) Charlton Oghurn,another State Department ‘s Bureau of Far east Eastren Affairs, excoriated the emperor as “ a figure deserving of the redicule and contempr with which he generally regarded by the Vietnamese, and any suppsition that he could succeed or that a french army in Indochina could possibly be an asset to us could be entertained only by one totally ignorant of Asian realities,

Another State Department expert, Raymond B.Fosdick, selivered an even more passionate diatribe in a memorandum that Potrayed the Bao Dai regime as “doomed”  and went on to foretell the future with remarkable prescience :”This shabby business probably represent as improvement over the brutal colonialism of early years, but it is now too late in the history of the world to settle of this cheap substitute” (D)


(d) With the recognition of Bo Dai’s regime, The US establised a full-fledge embassy in Saigon headed by Donald Heath , a veteran diplomat entranced by the French cause. They forbade US military advisers to supervise the use of American equipment, and  they barred them from planning sessins. They either refused them intelligence  or fed them misleading information , and they reacted fiercely to sugges-tions that they accord more latitude to Vietnamese nationalist. Top French official even suspected that American’s real aim was not to help them but to supplant French politically and economically.

Nor did the French , despite their’ solemn pledges’ yield more thatn a thin veneer of Independence to Bo Dai’s government.

Though they trained a few Vietnamese officers, they hept control of the army, breweries, and factories as well as imports and exports. They also devised a financial agreement under which piastres, the Vietnamese currency, could be exchanged for French Francs at a radiculously favorable rate, and those with licenses made fortune.

(e)One well-placed figure implicated in the traffic was the son of Vincent Auriol, the president of France.

Not that granting power t Bao dai at this stage mattered. He spent most his time at his lodge in Dalat, having delegated his nominal power to a new prime minister, Tran Van Huu, a rich landowner and Naturalized French Citizen. But the authority in his entourage belong to Nguyen van Tam, his security director, a gnarled creature known as the Tiger of Cailay, his native village in the Mekong Delta, where he had served the French by crushing Communist-led  peasant uprising. The Vietminh had killed two of his sons in retallion, and his speciality in Saigon was tracking down real and inncuos enemies of the French, whom he liquidated brutally.(D)

2) February 1950

     The stamp, a 3-piater value of dullblue color bore the westren attired Chief of State, ex-emperor Bao-Dai (scott#9) along with the stamp on First Day of Issues are the official govern-ment seal and Bao Dai’signature .

The South Vietnam  stamps collection began with the Ex emperor Bao-Dai ‘s return to his country as Chief of State, ranging in value from several hundred dollars to thousands od dollars each.  (Nguyen Bao Tung’s collection)

( I have the mint stamps of dullblue emperor Bo dai 3 piastres faund in HCM city-auth )

3) March 1950


(1) March,9th .1950

     Acheson advised Truman to allocate $15 million to France for Indochina.(D)


5) june 1950

Ban Me Thoot, May 1950. General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (right), commander of French troops in Indochina, and Bao Dai, the former emperor of Vietnam, visit in Ban Me Thoot with the Vietnamese Mois people, who were fghting the communist-dominated Vietminh forces.

Ban Me Thoot, May 1950. General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (right), commander of French troops in Indochina, and Bao Dai, the former emperor of Vietnam, visit in Ban Me Thoot with the Vietnamese Mois people, who were fghting the communist-dominated Vietminh forces.

6) June 1950

(1)June.28th 1950

     Three days after the Korean war broke out, Achenson persuaded Truman  to order an “ acceleration”  of assistance to the French.(D)


     Eight C-47 cargo aircraft flew across the Pacific to Indochina-  not only time that The US to act illegaly in Vietnam.(D)

     (3)Mid 1950

     Washington’s recognation of Bo dai sparked economic and Military-assistance program (MACP-auth) , began in mid-1950.(IMNAHA report the postal used cover of MACP-auth)

7)-11) not yet info

1) January 1950

(1)early 1950

(a)United States and Britain recognized Bao dai’s government (D).

(b) The US only recognized by  only several American Official.   

(c) Charlton Oghurn,another State Department ‘s Bureau of Far east Eastren Affairs, excoriated the emperor as “ a figure deserving of the redicule and contemporary with which he generally regarded by the Vietnamese, and any suppsition that he could succeed or that a french army in Indochina could possibly be an asset to us could be entertained only by one totally ignorant of Asian realities,

Another State Department expert, Raymond B.Fosdick, selivered an even more passionate diatribe in a memorandum that Potrayed the Bao Dai regime as “doomed”  and went on to foretell the future with remarkable prescience :”This shabby business probably represent as improvement over the brutal colonialism of early years, but it is now too late in the history of the world to settle of this cheap substitute” (D)

(d) With the recognition of Bo Dai’s regime, The US establised a full-fledge embassy in Saigon headed by Donald Heath , a veteran diplomat entranced by the French cause. They forbade US military advisers to supervise the use of American equipment, and  they barred them from planning sessins. They either refused them intelligence  or fed them misleading information , and they reacted fiercely to sugges-tions that they accord more latitude to Vietnamese nationalist. Top French official even suspected that American’s real aim was not to help them but to supplant French politically and economically.

Nor did the French , despite their’ solemn pledges’ yield more thatn a thin veneer of Independence to Bo Dai’s government.

Though they trained a few Vietnamese officers, they hept control of the army, breweries, and factories as well as imports and exports. They also devised a financial agreement under which piastres, the Vietnamese currency, could be exchanged for French Francs at a radiculously favorable rate, and those with licenses made fortune.

(e)One well-placed figure implicated in the traffic was the son of Vincent Auriol, the president of France.

Not that granting power t Bao dai at this stage mattered. He spent most his time at his lodge in Dalat, having delegated his nominal power to a new prime minister, Tran Van Huu, a rich landowner and Naturalized French Citizen. But the authority in his entourage belong to Nguyen van Tam, his security director, a gnarled creature known as the Tiger of Cailay, his native village in the Mekong Delta, where he had served the French by crushing Communist-led  peasant uprising. The Vietminh had killed two of his sons in retallion, and his speciality in Saigon was tracking down real and inncuos enemies of the French, whom he liquidated brutally.(D)

2) February 1950

     The stamp, a 3-piater value of dull blue color bore the westren attired Chief of State, ex-emperor Bao-Dai (scott#9) along with the stamp on First Day of Issues are the official government seal and Bao Dai’signature .

The South Vietnam  stamps collection began with the Ex emperor Bao-Dai ‘s return to his country as Chief of State, ranging in value from several hundred dollars to thousands od dollars each.  (Nguyen Bao Tung’s collection)

( I have the mint stamps of dullblue emperor Bo dai 3 piastres found in HCM city-auth )

3) March 1950

(1) March,9th .1950

     Acheson advised Truman to allocate $15 million to France for Indochina.(D)

4)-5) Not yet information

6) June 1950

1950 (June 12), Saigon to Paris flight, crashed upon landing at Bahrain, damaged envelope, without stamps and most of reverse missing addressed to Versailles and re-directed to Paris, straight line black “COURRIER ACCIDENTE” cachets (2), on reverse Versailles postmark of July 10 and small fragment of Officially Sealed tape (Nierinck 500612a)

(1)June.28th 1950

     Three days after the Korean war broke out, Achenson persuaded Truman  to order an “ acceleration”  of assistance to the French.(D)


     Eight C-47 cargo aircraft flew across the Pacific to Indochina-  not only time that The US to act illegaly in Vietnam.(D)

     (3)Mid 1950

     Washington’s recognation of Bao dai sparked economic and Military-assistance program (MACP-auth) , began in mid-1950.(IMNAHA report the postal used cover of MACP-auth)

7)- 9)no info9


The first LVT(4)s arrived in Indochina in October 1950 and were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Regiment for operational testing. This resulted in several organizational changes,

11) not yet info





12) December 1950

(1)December , 4 th 1950

The LAISSEZ-PASSER  ID with native Vietnamese photo,


           Valable Jusqu’a nouvei ordo(vALID UNTIL NEW ORDO)

(Giay thon-ba’nh tam du’ng de’m khi noi linh moi )

(Circulaire No.28 Cir/Mi/Ag du 24-5-46 du Ministre de L’Inte’riem)



Nome et prenom(NAME) :  Huynh Ngoc Hoa

 ..ssance(ADRESS): Phu Lun 19 a’Long Chau Vinlong 

 . ngay ,than,na’m dao(DAY,MONTH,YEAR)

.        native              .   cua mie : Thai Ti Bich

.    vietnamese        .  Ngieu      : Buon Ban

.         lady’s             .  Village hang : Long cha’u

.  photo      . hai neau : 1” quartier

.  . Maison  no(na s6) : 46 B Dong Khan.


                           Vinlong,le 4 December 1950

Lang : Lang-Cheung  4.12..50

        Huong Than               Xuong Truong          Huong-hau


          Handsigned            handsigned             handsigned &

  & red squared           round violet stamped

Stamped                DELEGATION DU CHEF -LIEU


                                      PROVINCE DE VINLONG 


(RARE  Document,revenue and postal history collections delegation du Chef-Lieu  Of Sud-Vietnam province Vinlong, the only one ID  found from the year 1950, why?,please comment-auth)

Saigon 1950s - Rue Catinat

Saigon 1950s – Rue Catinat

Saigon - Une Charette

Saigon – Une Charette

SAIGON, Riche enterrement

SAIGON, Riche enterrement

SAIGON, marchande ambulante

SAIGON, marchande ambulante

SAIGON, Rue Paul Blanchy

SAIGON, Rue Paul Blanchy

ngay nay la duong Hai Ba Trung

Saigon - Vue générale du Port

Saigon – Vue générale du Port

SAIGON. Les petites embarcations sur la rivière de Saïgon. 1951

SAIGON. Les petites embarcations sur la rivière de Saïgon. 1951

Small boats on the Saigon River. 1951

Saigon 1950 - A local citizen driving a crate moved by two bulls through the streets.

Saigon 1950 – A local citizen driving a crate moved by two bulls through the streets.

Saigon 1950 - Two brothers bathing in a river while peering into the distance.

Saigon 1950 – Two brothers bathing in a river while peering into the distance.

Anyone can see this photo Proud mother and son sitting near a docking area

Proud mother and son sitting near a docking area

Saigon 1950 - Mother and her two children taking a bath in the Saigon river

Saigon 1950 – Mother and her two children taking a bath in the Saigon river

Saigon 1950

Saigon 1950

Saigon 1950 - A mother carrying her son and fish to a boat.

Saigon 1950 – A mother carrying her son and fish to a boat.

Saigon 1950 - A local woman selling oysters while peering into the distance

Saigon 1950 – A local woman selling oysters while peering into the distance

Saigon 1950

Saigon 1950

Saigon 1950 -

Saigon 1950 -

Anyone can see this photo

Saigon 1950 -

Saigon 1950 -

Anyone can see this photo

Saigon 1950 -

Saigon 1950 -

Anyone can see this photo



g.The last year of Francaise Indochine and the First year Bao Dai regime in 1951




5)May 1951


 Pan Am First Air Mail flight from Wake Island to Saigon, Vietman 24 May 1951

6) June 1951

(1) June,6th 1951

The first Vietnamese postage stamp issued in this day, less than two year after the country recovered nominal independence. That date marked the anniversary of the national reuni-fication (Hung-Quoc Khanh-niem) decree by Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty .

     (The design two types, the low nominal value the emperor building and the high nominal the picture of emperor Bo Dai, this stamps rare mint without hing very find condition , 15 pi red brown and 30  pi blue green, -auth)

7) -12) not yet information.

September 1951



October 1951



 November 1951

December 1951














The Vietnam Postal History 1952  


20c Imperial Palace at Hue and 1P Temple at Saigon 1955 Banmethuot, Viet-Nam Printed matter to Vista, Calif. Crease at top. EUROPEAN SIZE.

50c Temple at Saigon (2) and 1.50P Empress Nam-Phuong (2) 1955 Nhatrang, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Crease. EUROPEAN SIZE.

1P Temple at Saigon (2) and 2P Imperial Palace 1955 Gia Dinh, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

50c and 1P Temple at Saigon, 80c Dragon, and 3P Emperor Bao-Dai c1955 Saigon-R-P, Viet-Nam Airmail to Ramsgate, England. EUROPEAN SIZE.

50c and 1P (3) Temple at Saigon 1952 Saigon – A, Sud Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reverse franked. Crease at right and one 1P stamp damaged.

50c Temple at Saigon (6) 1952 Da Lat, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Shortpaid so rated hs T in triangle. EUROPEAN SIZE.

20c Imperial Palace (2) and 50c (2) and 1P (2) Temple at Saigon 1952 Hue, Centre Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reverse franked.

20c Imperial Palace (4) and 50c and 1P (2) Temple at Saigon 1952 Saigon – R.P. Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Tear at bottom right. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls, 20c Imperial Palace (2), and 1P Temple at Saigon (3) 1952 Nam – Dinh, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reverse franked. Bit reduced at top.

50c Temple at Saigon and 3P Emperor Bao-Dai 1952 Hai – Phong, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

20c Imperial Palace, 1P Temple at Saigon, and 1.20P Emperor Bao-Dai (2) 1952 Gia Dinh, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

50c and 1P Temple at Saigon and 2P Imperial Palace 1952 Hon-Gay, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris France.

10c Bongour Falls (2), 20c Imperial Palace (7), 50c Temple at Saigon, and 1.20P Emperor Bao-Dai 1952 Nha Trang, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls (6) and 1.20P Emperor Bao-Dai (2) 1952 Ha-Noi, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Shortpaid so rated hs T in triangle. France 10F Wheat Sheaves Postage Due added. Crease.

10c Bongour Falls (3) and 1P Temple at Saigon (3) 1952 Ha-Noi, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reduced at top.

3.30P Viet Nam 1952 Ben Tre, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Crease at left. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls, 20c Imperial Palace, and 3P Emperor Bao-Dai 1952 Nha Trang, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

1P Temple at Saigon (4) 1952 Cholon, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reverse franked.

3.30P Viet Nam 1952 Aero-Port, Hanoi Airmail to Paris, France. Crease at left. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls (3), 1P Temple at Saigon, and 2P Imperial Palace 1952 Saigon – R.P. Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls, 20c Imperial Palace (7), and 1P Temple at Saigon (2) 1952 Dalat, Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Reverse franked. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls, 1.20P Emperor Bao-Dai, and 2P Imperial Palace 1952 Hue, Viet-Nam to Paris, France. EUROPEAN SIZE.

10c Bongour Falls (3) and 3P Emperor Bao-Dai 1952 Saigon – R.P. Viet-Nam Airmail to Paris, France. Crease at left.

3.30P Viet Nam 1952 Bien Hoa, Vietnam Airmail to Paris, France.

1) January 1952


(1)The federation of Indochine consist Republic Vietnam (Annam ,Tonkin ,Cochin China), the Kingdom of Cambodge and Laos.

 The Independence country under the Union of France since 1950.

(2) In 1952 ,


Sud-Vietnam, Saïgon, Le Trésor, 1952Some of the people want the full free country and they fight against French and their area called “Viet Minh” or Indochine Ho Chi Minh.



(3) South Vietnam Flag (OP)

(4) National anthem of Viet Nam (Quoc Ca Vietnam (OP)

(5) Vintage Saigon Map & District(Do-Thanh Saigon & Bang Chi Cac Congso) (OP)

(5)In 1952, when Nguyen Van Tam took over as  Bao Dai’s prime minister, he formed a cabinet described by the US consul in Hanoi as composed of “opportunist, nonentities, extreme reactionaries, assassins, hirelings and , finally , men of faded mental powers,”


(6)The minister of youth and sports, Vo Hong Khanh, had been responsible for the murder by garrting of no fewer than ten frenchmen some year earlier. Not only would the cabinet serve the vietminh as anindirect “propaganda tool”, the consul concluded , but it was :

“ a poor return for French blood and American money (ibis stenly Karnow ,p-195) 

2)February 1952


(1) February,11th 1952


(a)The latest used of  Indochine Francaise Timbre Taxes revenue.

Indochine farncaise timbre fiscal revenue, 5 piastres + 4 Piastres used one Hand written “Zuoc gia Vietnam Cho Chia Dat land transaction , the handdrawed map roeu Hin Tri road , R.100.00 Mai v nhan, R 130.00 Phan Mai ran  Louis, R 180.00 Phan Mai lung Chau, 226.00 Phan thai nan Nham, 180.00 Phan Hai thi Kiet.

 Signed  Thai van Nham, Thai San Kie, Mai thi Kiet , Ruong quae Phu, Phan v.Kiem and Chau v,Ruo’ng, fingerprint signed by Dau lang Say ngoui dung Chia dat vu nau ho cac cu con nho moi and Tran thi khuyen Kiu Gu La’ng Nay.

This certificate on double folio writting paper, in the last page

,”Thi Chung”

     Chung toi La Ban quan tri Lang Than Choi Chung

Mai oan Nhan, Mai thi Kiet. Quang quoc Phu Mai ton Luc va Tran thi Khuyuh Ken la Tu dten co Ky te’n va Lang tay truoc

Mat chung toi May nguoi nay dtung lap giao Keo co Khai

Voi chung toi rang hien ro to tren dtay  va ung nhan Y theo

Loi giao Ket trong to Va chung them co 2 nguoi toc nhon la

Phan van Kiem, Chau van Ruong co Ky ten truoc mat chung

Toi va Khai rang su chia dtat dtay vo va con cua Mai

Van Thoi ung thuan nhan.

                                      Thanh  thoi ngay 11.2.1952

          Thuong than                    Xa truong               Thuong hao

Hand signed                 Handsigned             Handsigned

                                      Violet squered stamped


                    :    NAM-VIET              :


:       TINH BENTRE            :

                                :    TONG-MINH HUE       :

                                :   LANG THANH-THOI     :


Hand written          0,6 %  = 162 ‘

Pho beud Naud              11%     = 495   >     837 $

Thue de chung ui dau   4%  = 180  ‘

Red squaered stamped.

            Dong Bang Phan Tai Myto

            Ngay  Thoi ba Shanghai 1952

             Quyen :———–

             Thue : Thau tran ba moi bay dtong bac ,180$

Signed &Red circle stamped :Binh Nam Tha Xuong Mytho. …….not clear…..      


(Four same document with same revenue , interseting collection-auth)


(b)The earliest Etat du Vietnam Timbre Fiscal revenue

The same document with (a) but  red-green 2×3 Piastres, Etat du Vietnam Timbrefiscal revenue, but signed only by three Dau Ky len cua Ky Lao , Lam thai Lang Banh Thoi ngay 8.2.1952. and the authetication :

               Thi Chung

Chung toi Ban quan tri lang thanh thoi chung

Ong Phan van Kiem-Chau van ruong ho dau

Sach dteu co thy ten truoc mat chung toi ba

Ong Ky Lao Nay la ban than cua gia toc cua

Ngai van Thoi dtung lap to tong chi tren dtay

                            Hanh thoi ngay 11.2.1952

            Houng than     Xa truong   Huong hao

             Signed            Signed        Signen


                        Squered black stamped


                             TINH BENTRE

                        TONG MINH-HUE

                        LANG THAN-HOI


( This collections very rare and  best to showed, because four same document with Indochine Francaise timbre fiscal revenue  5 + 4 piastres and one Document with  Etat du vietnam  Timbre fiscal 2 x 3 piastres. The latest and the earliest revenue at the same date february,11th 1952 and with same authentication, will be the historic fact abbout the transition between Indochine Francaises and the unoin France state Vietnam(etat du vietnam), please comment – auth)


4)April 1952

5-7) not yet information

August 1952

(1)August,15th 1952

     The common Empress Nam Phuong multicolour stamps were issued in this day.(I found this stamps in Indonesia-auth)


the first  Vietnam Aermaikl stamps postally used cover send from Saigon Vietnam  to Zurich Switzerland

(3)August.19th 1952

The Receipt of Police D’Abonne-ment A L’eau Portable, Service technique at Saigon, with Indochine Franchaise Timbre Fiscal revenue 5 Piastres. Stamped Prefecture De Saigon Cholon ,Etat Du Vietnam –Suid Vietnam ,signe 19 Aout 1952.


The certificate of Indochine Francaise Revenue sheet  16 piaster added revenue ofVietnam  union  (etat du Vietnam) 3 piaster and  3 x4 $dong vietnam thue coniem revenue.

Legalized by Vietnam Naval Chief(Hang Tau Viet Saigon) in 27.2.1958 during Ngo Dinh Diem Era


 not yet info

10) October 1952


Indochine 40 cent revenue sheet used added Indochine Francaise 10 cent timbre fiscal and Saigon Cholon taxes  Regionales 10$00 –brown –old chinese style building(the cholon market?) , the revenue sheet used as“To ban nha”  (contract?) between Nguyen van Thoai ,carte de service (Car services) n so 4121 ngay 1-8-1950 with Pham Thi Dieuw “Laisser-passer” so 2108 ngay 8.3.1949 tai  ho 4 Saigon. (The very rare revenue history collection  because in one sheet were found three types revenue, Indochina lettter sheet revenue, & revunue timbrefiscal and Taxes Regional Saigon Cholon revenue. Auth)



11) November 1952


(1) November ,9th 1952

   Original vintage private photo, three native vietnamese lady at the bulding near the beach, back  handwritten  Nha’ Beach , 9-11-52.

     (maybe Nha Thrang ?-auth)


12) December 1952


(1) December.12th 1952

Vintage Photo” A man rode a Mobilete“ in the Saigon road, always seen an antique  car. Behind the photo “ Sur Mobylete de Luxe te sou du 5/12/52 a’la rue Cabina

( Unique vintage picture of vintage mobylete with written motorbike type information ,date and location, biside that The same antique car now put in the left front near entrace of the Ho Chi Min city Museum, during my last visit in July, 2009 I made my own photo in the front of that antique card help the museum guard, look at that photo -auth   )

(2) By 1952,

 according to a secret US report, Bao Dai was recieving an official stipend of more that $4 million a year.

He was not a big spender- his four private airplanes were his majr expense, and his wife and children lived in relative modesty on the Cote d’Azur,

while his own residence in Dalat was no more Lavish than a house in an affluent New York suburb

Bao Dai palace  where the last Emperor of Vietnam – Bao Dai (1913-1997) stayed and ruled his Vietnam from 1949 to 1954 and then transfer to Mong Mo hill, Love Valley  is beautiful and romantic landscape of Dalat Vietnam. One of highlight in Dalta is Truc Lam Zen Monastery – The largest Zen Monastery of Vietnam in Dalat city. Tuyen Lam Lake – The nicest Lake of Dalat. and then and enjoy Lat Ethnic band
Dalat tour

( I had seen in internet auction the photo of Bao Dai House when he get out of the car and went in the house-auth).

But he was transferring enormous sums to French and Swiss banks and investing extravagantly in real estate in French and Marocco ( I have a letter send from Marocco to Saigon, may be many Rich Vietna-mese stayed at Marocco-auth)

   The annual payment consumed 5 % of the Regime’s total revenue- four times more than the appropriation  for land reform program.

Even so, Bao dai was chronically strapped for funds, and he relied heavily on Bay Vien, the boss of the Binh Xuyen gang, to supplement his finaces handsomely.

He put Bay Vien in charge of Saigon’s casino, bordellos, opium dens, gold  smuggling  and other rackets, and even promoted him to rank of General.

Soon the French sanctioned Bay Vien’s respectability by emplying him hoodlums against the Vietminh and other  nationalist.

The corruption became institutionalizes , making a farce of earnest American hopes for a credible Vietnamese administration that would check the Communist, indeed , the French and Bao dai seemed at that stage to have His reached a tacit understanding : he played the puppet and they indulged his pleasures.

 His inner circle at one point included a spectacular blond French courtesan billed as a : member of the Imperial film unit” Once hearing her disparaged, he remarked “ She is only plying her trade. I’m the real whore”(D)


i. Bo Dai regime in 1953


 Sud-Vietnam, Saïgon, Le Marché de Tân Dinh, 1953


1)-3) no info