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Fri, October 22, 2021 | 15:01
A Romanian visitor's street views of Korea
Palaces, gates, temples and old monuments are often the subject in old photographs of Korea. The value of these images is undisputed as they provide us with a glimpse of these important sites from a century ago, but the sheer number of them and their lack of different perspective of view make them repetitive and boring.
A dirty misperception
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a popular subject in letters home or to local newspapers was Western visitors' perceptions of cleanliness in Korea. While there may have been some truth to their observations, most appear to have been exaggerations - if not fabrications - to amuse their audience.
Pak Seon - A scapegoat for regicide
Korea in the mid-1890s was changing rapidly. The 1894-95 First Sino-Japanese War had ended Chinese dominance in the kingdom's politics and replaced it with Japanese reforms and interference. Nowhere were the changes more evident than in Seoul, as people from all over the country sought opportunities. People with initiative, courage and ability were able to find lucrative posi...
Queen Min's death and Joseon's failed future
In the late 19th century, Korea, like most of the world, was a man's country. Everything centered on and revolved around men. Women were usually invisible in men's writing, but when they were described in newspapers and magazines, they were portrayed as belonging to their husbands or assisting male counterparts. Fortunately, not all Western journalist who visited Korea were m...
Adventurous eating in Joseon
When Sumner Vinton and his wife traveled to Japan and Korea in 1918, they found themselves under strict surveillance. The world was still at war and visitors were few. It was only natural that they were suspected of being German agents and were questioned unmercifully.
Joseon's first encounter with a 'wheel'
The wheel has been described as one of the greatest inventions of humanity and has been around for millennia. Who invented the wheel and when are not known, but the first known encounter Koreans had with a Yankee-style bicycle “wheel” occurred in the winter of 1884-85.
Horace Allen's arrival in Joseon
Horace N. Allen, an American missionary, arrived in Jemulpo on Sept. 20, 1884, at age 26, aboard the English steamship Nanzing. He had come to Korea - leaving his wife and infant son in Shanghai - in search of opportunity and adventure as a doctor.
Hunting tigers in Manchuria in 1912
In March 1912, Sontag Hotel was the place to be in Seoul. Some described it as a place of political intrigue - backrooms haunted with shady characters plotting anarchy and unrest. Others, like Roy Chapman Andrews, saw it as a place to begin a great adventure. It was filled with gold miners from the Western-owned concessions in the northern part of the peninsula. In fact, acco...
Hunting 'devilfish' in Korea in 1912
In February 1912, an American arrived at a small Japanese whaling station near Ulsan, Korea. He was 28 years old, a naturalist and an explorer, and possibly the inspiration for Indiana Jones; he was Roy Chapman Andrews.
Joseon women and their manifest destiny (II)
A frequent observation by Western visitors to Korea in the late 19th century was the constant sound of tapping coming from most houses in the middle of the night. This was the sound of women ironing their clothing. According to Isabella Bird Bishop, the only sound that broke the stillness of the night in Seoul was the “regular beat of the laundry sticks.”
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