Photo exhibition shows Koreans of 100 years ago
By Philip Iglauer
The curious will soon get a chance to glimpse into the past and see for his or herself what it was like in Korea over 100 years ago.
The Italian Embassy here will hold a photo exhibition of an Italian diplomat’s experience in Korea at the turn of the last century.
Some 200 photographs taken by the Italian Consul to Korea Carlo Rossetti in 1902 and 1903 will be on display, as well as several original documents from the diplomatic archives of Italy and Korea, such as maps of Korea and Asia and items that belonged to Rossetti, including the camera he used.
“La Seoul di Rossetti 1902-1903” (In Rossetti’s Eyes 1902-1903) will be open to the public from April 26 through July 1 at the Seoul Museum of History.
After establishing official diplomatic relations with Korea in 1884, Italy opened a consulate in Seoul. In 1902, Lieutenant Carlo Rossetti of the Italian Royal Navy was posted in Seoul in charge of Italy’s diplomatic mission here from November 1902 to May 1903. He was Italy’s second consul here.
Rossetti’s accounts provide “us with some of the most powerful evidence of the well structured statehood reached by Korea. This exhibition will therefore contribute to a better knowledge of the Korean society of the time, especially form a visual point of view. It also aims to celebrate the long lasting friendship and cooperation that has bound Italy and Korea since the second half of the 19th century,” said Lucio Izzo, director of the Italian Cultural Institute.
Rossetti proved to be a very deep and careful observer of Korean society, collecting information and studying the geography, economy, culture and traditions of Korea, described in those days as the “Hermit Kingdom.”
His photos depict ordinary people and daily life in Seoul. The photos were taken by Rossetti himself.
Once he got back to Italy, in 1904, Rossetti held two lectures and published in two books: one book out of the letters he had written from Korea and a second book on his experiences in Seoul.
Rossetti’s work was the first and most extensive documentation produced in the West about Korea at the time and it remained so for many years, Izzo said.