Matthew Jackson

Editor’s note: every now and then Matthew Jackson submits a cracking article from out of nowhere. Here’s one such article which, if I may paraphrase, wonders whether maybe han is healthy. I hope it’s not too long before the next one! The author and philosopher Nicholas Nassim Taleb (of ‘Black Swan’ fame) developed a concept […]

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Historical feature: Sejong of Korea – The Philosopher King

by Matthew Jackson 6 March 2017
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“There will be no end to the troubles of the state or indeed of humanity until philosophers become kings or until those we now call kings really and truly become philosophers.” This is one of the most famous quotations from Plato. It is taken from his work The Republic, which in attempting to set out […]

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The World’s First Referendum – and its aftermath

by Matthew Jackson 8 August 2016
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Korea is a country of hidden wonders. These wonders, which have remained hidden in some cases for centuries, are continually being unearthed. Many have something to teach us about the world we live in today. The Sillok – royal annals that documented every day of the Joseon dynasty for the five centuries it governed Korea […]

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The Confused Westerner’s Response to K-Pop

by Matthew Jackson 5 September 2015
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Have you read the Wikipedia article on K-pop? It’s really, really long. Seriously, I did not know most of that stuff. When you next have a sufficiently large mug of tea, I highly recommend giving it a read. Changing tack, did you see the article on Yahoo about K-pop? It’s shorter, and chimes with a […]

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UK-Korea Relations – A Talk by Thomas Harris KBE

by Matthew Jackson 2 July 2014
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The talk on UK-Korea relations by Sir Thomas Harris KBE CMG, held at Gresham College on Friday 27th of June, was both a stimulating and ultimately uplifting account of the diplomatic and economic interactions between the two countries before and after the Korean War. Amongst his various international posts as a businessman and diplomat, Sir […]

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Korean Naval Firepower Part 2 – Koryo and Columbus

by Matthew Jackson 9 September 2013
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Choi Mu-seon was not the inventor of heavy artillery, although he made many innovative variations of the concept. Why did other countries not simply take their cannons and heavy firearms with them on board their ships? The problem with a wooden ship is, if its displacement is sufficiently small, the recoil of a heavy weapon […]

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Concert Notes: All Eyes on Baramgot at the Purcell Room

by Matthew Jackson 30 July 2012
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I had expected the five-piece ensemble Baramgot (바람곶) to provide a solid evening of traditionally folk-inspired Korean  music. Having attended a number of traditional Korean music performances before, I had a fairly clear idea of what I was in for, and I was looking forward to it. The 75 minute programme consisted of seven items, […]

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K-pop Academy – The Curtain Falls…A New Era Begins?

by Matthew Jackson 28 May 2012
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26th of May marked the closing of the 1st K-Pop Academy, a 12-week course run by the Korean Cultural Centre for thirty K-pop fans who applied to learn more about the country and its culture. Witnessing the course unfold over the last 12 weeks, the enthusiasm of the students themselves, combined with the dedication of […]

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Korean Naval Firepower Part 1 – When Wako Attack

by Matthew Jackson 29 March 2012
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The Battle of Lepanto, wherein the allied forces of Venice, Genoa, and Spain overcame the Turks by means of a superior number of cannons, was a turning point in naval history in the West. Dominance of the sea enabled countries such as the Netherlands and England to play a dominant role in world affairs. The […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 3 – The Astronomical Legacy of King Sejong

by Matthew Jackson 28 February 2012
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As mentioned in part 1, King Sejong presided over the zenith of Korean astronomical achievement. The construction of a large observatory at Gyeongbok Palace in 1438 – later destroyed without a trace in the Japanese invasion – played a key role in the country’s progress. On the roof were installed various astronomical instruments such as […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 2 – World’s First Complete Star Map

by Matthew Jackson 21 February 2012
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Koguryo generally has the tag of a warlike kingdom, and I always assumed that it was the least culturally developed of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Amongst other things, however, it was responsible for the world’s earliest complete map of the stars. This planispheric star map is believed to have been produced in 1395, the […]

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Reading the Heavens Part 1 – Two Millennia of Astronomy in Korea

by Matthew Jackson 14 February 2012
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To celebrate star-crossed lovers everywhere, Matthew Jackson starts a series of articles on Korean astronomy As we can tell from ancient monuments like the Dolmen stones and more recent buildings such as Cheomseongdae, astronomy was big in Korea. Why was this exactly? Reverence for nature was part of it, but it was in fact more […]

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Festival Film Review: Blood, Sweat, Tears and Laughter – ‘Yellow Sea’ has it all

by Matthew Jackson 22 November 2011
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While on a visit to Korea, I once asked a wise, old-looking Korean how he would describe the spirit of the Korean people. My friend who was interpreting answered the question instead, to my initial annoyance, giving the answer ‘Fun’, which I found doubly disappointing given its apparent banality. Several years on, I am beginning […]

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‘War of the Arrow’ – Causing Death and Saving Lives

by Matthew Jackson 14 November 2011
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The opening gala of the London Korean Film Festival was a more rambunctious affair than I remember even last year’s being, due in no small part to the sudden and unexpected entrance of SHINee (I was lucky enough to be two rows behind them, but many who had specially booked seats I gather were incandescent […]

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Buddha’s Voice – The Bell of King Seongdeok

by Matthew Jackson 26 October 2011
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People sometimes take a jaundiced view of Korea’s estimation of the importance of its cultural heritage. In the case of the Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok, however, it was foreigner, Dr. Otto Kummel, a director at the National Museum of Germany, who suggested that the museum’s description of the bell as ‘the best in Korea’, […]

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Raindrops over Joseon – Sejong’s Cheugugi

by Matthew Jackson 22 October 2011
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King Sejong is most famous for the creation of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, which remains in use today. His whole career as king was underpinned by the philosophy that a king must serve his people, and this philosophy gave rise to many advances in science and culture that benefited the people of Korea. One less […]

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Stargazing in Ancient Silla – the Cheomseongdae

by Matthew Jackson 18 October 2011
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Cheomseongdae, the world’s oldest surviving observatory, features a great deal in tourism material, and even if you haven’t been to Korea or the Gyeongju area, you will probably have seen it. You will also, if you are like me, have been somewhat underwhelmed by its rather modest appearance, which if anything does it less justice […]

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