I’m sorry I never had any time to write up the Map exhibition at the KCC properly. Alas, it’s over now. I managed to miss most of Beth McKillop’s informative talk, and never had the chance to persuade Shin Eunjeong to show me around. If I get a moment I’ll do a quick Reader’s Digest version of the catalogue, but in the meantime here’s the map I found most fun – because it’s a little bit controversial.
It looks innocuous enough to start with. Here’s the little label that goes with it.
Sorry it’s a bit blurred, but you can read it.
A nice pretty pictorial map. The coastline has nice pretty crinkly edges. It’s not a terribly good photo, but I think you can just make it out. In the centre of the map is Mount Baekdu, with Lake Cheonji clearly visible in the middle:
Enough to stir any Korean’s heart with pride and yearning, and maybe not a little han.
We were told some of the background to this map. It’s the early Qing Dynasty. Choson Korea didn’t particularly like those uncivilised Qing. They’d just unceremoniously booted out the nice civilised Ming emperors. Mapping the borderlands between Choson Korea and Qing China was a matter of some importance; a matter of national security.
Hang on a moment.
Mount Baekdu’s in the middle of the map. You can just make out the Yalu River flowing south west from the mountain.
And what is that line running parallel with the Yalu and Tumen Rivers, maybe a hundred miles to the north and west of the current border with China? (Click to expand)
It’s a line of fortifications.
Does that mean Choson Korea claimed the carefully drawn territory within that line of fortifications? Even if not, the map suggests that there was some sort of buffer zone between the Yalu and the “border” delineated by the forts. Don’t tell the Chinese.