Before I get into the article proper, can I ask of you who are reading this: are you a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch?
If not, why not? If you read LKL, you should should definitely join the RASKB, whether you happen to live in Korea or not. Why? For starters, you’ll be keeping alive an organisation which has been in existence (bar some necessary intervals caused by global conflict) since 1900. But if you’re not a traditionalist but rather a self-interested pragmatist (and we all have a bit of that in us): if you live abroad
- you will be getting the annual Transactions – articles and papers on Korea, some of which have been presented at their reasonably regular Tuesday meetings
- you will be supporting an organisation that maybe will give you a reason to visit Korea: I often time my trips to Korea to take advantage of an interesting excursion that the RASKB have planned, whether to Jinhae’s cherry blossoms in April or the tea-picking regions of Jirisan in May. A list of past excursions can be found on the RASKB website here.
And if you live in Korea you will get the above plus discounted access to talks and excursions, the value of which will easily offset your annual membership. And you get an invitation to the premier social event of the year: the garden party that is often held in the garden of the British Ambassador’s residence just next door to the Deoksugung.
End of commercial.
In the Korea Times last week the current vice president of the RASKB, Steven L Shields, wrote an article advising readers of some free historic resources that are available on the website of Brother Anthony, current RASKB President.
I had a quick browse at the final issue of the Korea Magazine, dated April 1919 – a month after the March 1st movement. The editorial comment refers elliptically to the troubled times as follows …
MOMENTOUS events are taking place in Korea of which it is not the privilege of THE KOREA MAGAZINE at present to speak. It is hoped that in the near future we may be granted some of the rights which daily papers now alone possess.
… before turning to progress in eliminating a disease in Korea’s cattle.
Later on in the same edition, something equally interesting caught my eye – a pretty random article that translated a Memorial to the Qing Emperor from King Gojong, dating from 1868. The memorial sought assistance from the emperor to punish some unruly foreigners who had raided the tomb of the King’s grandfather, Prince Namyeon.
I (the King) learning this, was in great distress and terror not knowing what to do. Prince Nam-yun’s grave is none other than the grave of my grandparents. As to what nation these pirates belong, I cannot say (they were Germans – Ed), or what enmity possesses them I do not know that they should land thus and desecrate the tomb of one’s ancestors. Such a vile, depraved act I have never before seen recorded in history.
Later, the 1919 author of the article commented “This, it seems, was the German way of doing things in 1868 much the same as today”.
All this minor historical detail might appear dull to some, but having visited Prince Namyeon’s tomb a couple of years ago and consequently having heard about Jacob Oppert’s bit of tomb raiding, seeing the raid mentioned in official correspondence between the King and the Emperor made for interesting reading.
In the same edition of the magazine is an instalment of an ongoing project to translate the 1712-13 travelogue of a Korean envoy on his way to Peking. As this was the last issue of the magazine, the project does not seem to have been completed. But Brother Anthony has helpfully uploaded a consolidated version of the diary, adding in the episodes translated in prior numbers of the magazine. If it’s as interesting as Pak Chiwon’s 1780 Jehol Diary it will be well worth a browse.
Browse all the editions of The Korea Magazine (Jan 1917 – Apr 1919) on Brother Anthony’s website. On the same website there are uploads of the complete run of The Korean Repository (1892 and 1895-98), The Korea Review (1901 – 1906) and the Transactions of the RASKB (1900 – 2017). Sources of endless fascination.