History

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 […]

{ 2 comments }

Song Si-yeol, the scholar with the chisel

by Philip Gowman 4 August 2016
Thumbnail image for Song Si-yeol, the scholar with the chisel

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 14: Journey towards Jindo and the Myeongnyang Monument

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 17 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 11: Buyeo National Museum and the tombs at Neungsan-ri

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 […]

Read the full article →

2016 travel diary 10: early morning in Baekje Cultural Land

by Philip Gowman 17 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 10: early morning in Baekje Cultural Land

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 […]

Read the full article →

2016 travel diary 9: Busosanseong – the Baekje royal garden

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 9: Busosanseong – the Baekje royal garden

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 […]

Read the full article →

2016 travel diary 8: Buyeo’s Jeongnimsa Temple Site

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 8: Buyeo’s Jeongnimsa Temple Site

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 […]

Read the full article →

2016 travel diary 7: Gongju’s fortress

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 7: Gongju’s fortress

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 […]

Read the full article →

2016 travel diary 6: Gongju’s royal tombs

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 6: Gongju’s royal tombs

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 5: An introduction to the Baekje Historic Areas

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 15 May 2016
Thumbnail image for 2016 travel diary 3: Seoul’s Fortress Walls, and genre painting at the DDP

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 29 April 2016
Thumbnail image for A way to make sure you never have enough time in Korea

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 […]

Read the full article →

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

by Philip Gowman 22 April 2016
Thumbnail image for Lee Joon-ik’s The Throne: a familiar tale made a believable tragedy

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 […]

Read the full article →

Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

by Philip Gowman 8 January 2016
Thumbnail image for Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

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 […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Kim Namcheon – Scenes from the Enlightenment

by Philip Gowman 11 December 2015
Thumbnail image for Book review: Kim Namcheon – Scenes from the Enlightenment

Kim Namcheon — Scenes from the Enlightenment Translated by Charles La Shure Dalkey Archive, 2014, 254pp orignally published as 대하, Inmunsa 1939. A brief review, because this is a book I never finished. The blurb on the back of the book sums the contents up well: An account of seemingly trivial events – a wedding […]

Read the full article →

Book Review: Cho Chongnae — How in Heaven’s Name

by Philip Gowman 4 December 2015
Thumbnail image for Book Review: Cho Chongnae — How in Heaven’s Name

Cho Chongnae: How in Heaven’s Name Translated by Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton Merwin Asia, 2012, 141 pages. Originally published as 오 하느님 (O God) and renamed 사람의 탈 (Human Mask) How in Heaven’s Name is an appropriate title for the mind-boggling story of how a group of Korean country lads came to be fighting in […]

Read the full article →

Conference news: Conceptions of ‘Life’ and ‘Nature’ in Classical Discourses

by Philip Gowman 8 October 2015
Thumbnail image for Conference news: Conceptions of ‘Life’ and ‘Nature’ in Classical Discourses

SOAS’s Centre of Korean Studies is presenting a one-day conference tomorrow. The event is free and open to the public – no booking is required. Conceptions of ‘Life’ and ‘Nature’ in Classical Discourses 9 October 2015, 10:00 am – 5:30 pm Venue: 21/22 Russell Square Room: T101 and T102 Programme Presentations in Korean will be […]

Read the full article →