History

Hwang Sun-won: Lost Souls Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton Columbia University Press 2010, 354pp Having quite enjoyed two of Hwang Sun-won’s fuller-length stories – Trees on a Slope and Descendants of Cain – though without necessarily being enamoured of the characters of the stories they inhabited, I was looking forward to tackling Lost Souls, […]

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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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2016 travel diary 16: Yun Du-seo’s historic house

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2016
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Hyeonsan-myeon, Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do, 18 May 2016, 5pm. By the time we leave the Jindo bridge area it’s past 5pm. I have a huge range of things on the itinerary that I could try to fit in, should there be time. But to rush anything would not feel right, particularly when the weather is so conducive […]

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2016 travel diary 15: Song of the Sword and Roaring Currents – the two sides of Myeongnyang

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2016
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Munnae-myeon, Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do, 18 May 2016, 4:30pm. The battle of Myeongnyang, in October 1597, was Yi Sun-shin’s penultimate victory, and the last one that he came out of alive. His final victory, the Battle of Noryang, came in December 1598 in the narrow strait between Namhae and the mainland, when a stray bullet killed him. […]

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2016 travel diary 14: Journey towards Jindo and the Myeongnyang Monument

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2016
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Sancheong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, Wednesday 18 May 2016, 10am Sancheong -> Sacheon -> Suncheon We say our farewells to the mayor and tourism chief at the County administrative offices. Kyung-sook is driving me to Suncheon – about 90 minutes’ leisurely drive away – so that I can meet up with Insoon. She is scheduled to arrive in […]

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2016 travel diary 11: Buyeo National Museum and the tombs at Neungsan-ri

by Philip Gowman 17 May 2016
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Buyeo-eup, Chungcheongnam-do, 17 May 2016 10am. Buyeo National Museum Next stop was the Buyeo National Museum. Here, we were totally shameless in our visit. It was to be a precision strike: go and see the the famous Gilt Bronze Incense Burner of Baekje and get out quick: we had an appointment in Sancheong. But of […]

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2016 travel diary 10: early morning in Baekje Cultural Land

by Philip Gowman 17 May 2016
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Gyuam-myeon, Buyeo-gun, Chungchongnam-do, 17 May 2016, 7am. Lotte and early Korea-Japan connections Baekje is known for its close ties to early Japan. According to one version of events, Empress Jingu was an invader from the Korean peninsula and had Baekje blood in her. Such a controversial hypothesis does not appear as a possibility on Jingu’s […]

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Song Si-yeol, the scholar with the chisel

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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I have now visited three places where Joseon dynasty scholar-official Song Si-yeol has made his mark. In none of the places did I register the connection until after returning to London; in two of the places I never got to see the mark he left (there wasn’t enough time on the schedule) and in the […]

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2016 travel diary 9: Busosanseong – the Baekje royal garden

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016, 5:30pm. The Archaeological Site in Gwanbuk-ri Sometimes, collecting UNESCO points is not as fulfilling as it might be. The item of heritage that has been registered might not be particularly exciting to look at, even though it is historically important. But if a site is historically important you may well […]

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2016 travel diary 8: Buyeo’s Jeongnimsa Temple Site

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016, 4:45pm. The sun is still hot as we arrive at our destination. We walk slowly, as there is little shade, past the ticket office to where is a wide, flat open space in the middle of which is National Treasure #9: the five storey stone pagoda of Jeongnimsa Temple. Is one allowed […]

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2016 travel diary 7: Gongju’s fortress

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016, 3pm. Not far away from Songsan-ri is the fortress of Gongsanseong. It clings to the banks of the Geumgang river (nothing to do with Mount Geumgang in north Gangwondo) and its walls scale the cliffs and meander along the contours of the hill, forming a 2.6km circuit which climbs to […]

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2016 travel diary 6: Gongju’s royal tombs

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016, 2:15pm. The Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri Our first stop in Gongju is the set of seven or more tombs in Songsan-ri. The experts think there may be as many as ten tombs in the area. It seems odd, in an age when so much in the way of sophisticated electronics […]

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2016 travel diary 5: An introduction to the Baekje Historic Areas

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016 The kingdom of Baekje had its beginnings as a small state founded on the south banks of the Han River in 18 BCE by King Onjo. The people were largely of Buyeo origins – an early kingdom absorbed into Goguryeo. The kingdom gradually grew, absorbing the small Mahan states to […]

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2016 travel diary 3: Seoul’s Fortress Walls, and genre painting at the DDP

by Philip Gowman 15 May 2016
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Jongno, Seoul, Sunday 15 May 2016. The time lag has caught up with me. My intention this morning had been to go along to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza to visit the exhibition of Joseon dynasty genre paintings from the Kansong museum before joining the RASKB for a walk along the eastern sections of Seoul’s fortress […]

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A way to make sure you never have enough time in Korea

by Philip Gowman 29 April 2016
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I’ve just discovered a great way to help plan a trip to a particular part of Korea to make sure you get maximum value from your time in the area. Go to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) website, go to Heritage Info, and then General Search. In the search form, select the Location (province or […]

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Lee Joon-ik’s The Throne: a familiar tale made a believable tragedy

by Philip Gowman 22 April 2016
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The first of the KCCUK’s “Teaser Screenings” for the London Korean Film Festival 2016 took place on Monday in the presence of Director Lee Joon-ik and the recently-arrived Korean ambassador. The chosen film was The Throne (사도) – a movie which was #5 in the 2015 Korean box office and deals with an incident in […]

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Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

by Philip Gowman 8 January 2016
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Paul Fischer: A Kim Jong-il Production Penguin / Viking 2015, 353pp Steven Chung: Split Screen Korea – Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema University of Minnesota Press 2014, 262pp The story of actress Choi Eun-hee and Shin Sang-ok combines elements of both romance and thriller as well as representing important phases in the history of film […]

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