우물 안 개구리


Now in Firefox: Korean Newspapers at the National Library

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:46 pm Print

I just heard from one of our fellow contributors here at Frog in a Well that the National Library of Korea now offers limited support for a variety of browsers! Up until now anyone trying to use any browser except Internet Explorer in the Windows operating system would not get far beyond the search component of the national library – a source of endless frustration for many of us who do not use Windows.

However, one can now view at least some (I have not confirmed this for all digital resources) of the scanned texts at the library using the “new viewer” (신규뷰어).

Visit, for example, the fantastic collection of rare pre- and postwar (despite what the header says) newspapers found here. I am able to view these without problem on both Firefox and Safari browsers.

Using the old search interface from the home page, default links to the original images or 원문 of old books that have been scanned by the library will also open in these browsers with the multi-browser new viewer if there is an brown icon of a book with no “won” image in it.

Many resources, including many pre-1945 Japanese language materials, however, seem to be blocked outside of the National library and certain partner libraries1 depending on the way one searches for that information.

I am very pleased to see this support and only hope they will also include support for printing (still IE only) and make sure that all their online resources will function. I also hope they will expand access to may items which clearly cannot be said to be protected by copyright from the colonial period, especially from the 1920s and earlier.

  1. I get the message blaming copyright restrictions: 접속하신 PC(IP:140. … )에서는 본 자료를 이용하실 수 없습니다. 본 자료는 저작권 관계로 국립중앙도서관 및 협약을 체결한 도서관 내의 지정된 PC에서만 이용하실 수 있습니다. Anyone else get access outside of Korea or in Korea but not at the National Library? I don’t know what libraries are included among the 협약을 체결한 도서관 outside of Korea, but here is a list of libraries within Korea where one can apparently get access. []


EALA Update: Yonsei Library and Korean Film Archive

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:34 am Print

I have added two entries to the East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki here at Frog in a Well.

Yonsei University Central Library

I have so far only made a few reconnaissance trips to the library and checked out a few books so I don’t know all the tricks or secrets about making full use of the library’s collections but as my year in Korea progresses I’ll be updating the wiki entry.

 Users Fool Library Application-Support Ecto Attachments Dscf1622

Korean Film Archive

The film reference library at the Korean Film archive, located near Susaek station is really wonderful and the archivists have also done a fantastic job of putting together DVDs of some of the old classic movies, and providing access to movie scripts. The library was a bit of a pain to locate, even with the map found on their website, since the “Digital Media City” is still mostly an urban wasteland but I put detailed instructions on the wiki entry.

Korean Film Archive

Cultural Content Center

Have you been to these places? Do you see some mistakes on the wiki entry? Fix them! Have you been to other useful Korean libraries, archives, or museums? Add an entry! The EALA wiki will only be as good as the information that gets added to it and updated as time passes.


History news round-up (brought to you by the Korea Times)

For some reason the Korea Times seems to be quite a decent source of history news these days, so in the absence of a more heavyweight post, here’s a round up of articles I’ve come across in the last week or so:

A couple of weeks ago the Korean Supreme Court released a bundle of court rulings from the early colonial period for the first time. The rulings date from 1912-1914 and the article notes how at that time custom still had an important influence on how the law was executed:

The court acknowledged concubines and gave supreme rights to the eldest sons of families. A person’s legal capacity was decided not by his or her age but by whether he or she had the intelligence to determine gains and losses.

Last week it was announced that a number of Chosŏn royal seals are missing, having been lost by various Korean museums. This is really not good for Korean museum PR:

The Board of Audit and Inspection also said that the surface of a royal seal made for the concubine of King Sonjo rusted away and a turtle-shaped seal, made of jade for the wife of King Sonjo, had been destroyed.

They said that every one of the of 316 seals owned by the National Palace Museum of Korea had been damaged in some way.

Two wooden ships found off the coast of China last year have turned out to be extremely rare examples of Koryŏ flat-bottomed wooden ships.

“It provides evidence that flat-bottom ships could sail as far as Shandong Province. Flat-bottom is a unique feature of ancient Korean ships unlike Chinese ships that had relatively pointy-shaped bottoms,” Choi Hang-soon, professor at the Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering at Seoul National University, told The Korea Times.

“It seems the Koryo ships arrived in the Chinese port, and had some big repairs there,” said Choi, who participated in the international academic conference on the ancient ships last week in Penglai.

And finally… A KT student guest columnist lauds the philanthropic attitude of Chosŏn dynasty sŏnbi (Confucian scholar-officials). This is something that interests me a lot as I’m planning to do some research on the ‘gift economy’ in Chosŏn Korea. However, I must admit that I can’t help being a bit put off an article when I see empty catchphrases like ‘sŏnbi spirit’ being thrown around and I’m not entirely convinced about the idea of seeing members of the exclusive and exploitative yangban class as moral models for our age, however philanthropic they may have been. Actually I could criticise numerous aspects of that column, but that would seem rather misanthropic of me…


Yun Chi-ho’s Diary Online

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:45 am Print

Owen has posted some great links on the study of pre-modern Korean history. In one of his postings he mentioned the National History Compilation Committee (국사편찬위원회 國史編纂委員會). I poked around the site when Owen linked to it but had no idea they had great modern materials as well.

A Japanese friend of mine just returned to Japan and Waseda after spending a week here collection some colonial period materials. He was hoping he could buy a copy of Yun Ch’i-ho’s original Chinese/English diary while he was here which he had heard was out of print and only now available in Korean. I went used book shopping with him but we had no luck. However, after his return, he discovered—and was kind enough to tell me—that the entire diary is online via the 국사편찬위원회 website.

To find this diary, simply go to the history.go.kr website, enter 尹致昊日記 or 윤치호일기 in the search box and you will find three hits. The first hit will lead you to a volume index, followed by a year and month index where you can read his entries directly online. Whoever compiled it was also nice enough to mark proper nouns as “People” or “Places.” If you are not sure what kind of thing one of the specially colored words are, simply hover your mouse over it and it will tell you whether it is a person, place, etc.


Korea Foundation Cultural Center

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:35 am Print

IMG_2068.JPGYesterday I paid a visit to the Korea Foundation’s Cultural Center (한국국제교류재단 문화센터). The center features gallery space, seminar and movie rooms, and a lending library. I also noticed at the center a notice listing times for free Korean lessons. The library is a small but very nice place to visit if you are in Seoul, don’t have easy access to a large research library in the city, and want to read or check out works about Korea, especially in non-Korean languages. There are half a dozen seats, a long sofa, some computers to access the library catalog, and a few thousand volumes available. They also have a collection of recent journals related to Korean studies, a small reference section, a Korean music collection, and a small collection of DVDs of Korean movies.

IMG_2069.JPGFull members of the center can check out two books at a time from the library for two weeks (plus one renewal) and can take advantage of their inter-library loan system to get works they don’t have access to. However, in order to become a member you have to be in Korea more than a month, make a 10,000 deposit for the period of membership, and unfortunately cannot get membership immediately on your first visit. According to a librarian there, you have to wait two days or so for your membership to come through.

The cultural center also offers other regular events such as Korean and non-Korean movies, art and lecture events, etc. The website has a lot of this information and members get a newsletter. However, the library website is not well designed. If you are unfortunate enough to be using web browsers other than Internet Explorer or a non-Windows machine, you may have trouble signing up as a member through their online form (JavaScript Issues), and cannot easily access the library’s pages or their search engine. I hope the center will improve their website in the future and make it function under standard’s compliant browsers.

It is unfortunate that excellent resources like these are often not well known. I remember a very similar small-scale international library in Yokohama, located a dozen or so floors up Landmark Tower that had very few visitors. This made it an ideal as a quiet place to study and get internet access in the middle of the city and I often studied there while a student at IUC. I imagine that there are many visitors to Korea who might be staying or living in the country for some time who may not know that there are these kinds of resources available.

Location: 1st floor of the JoonAng Ilbo Building five minutes walk from Exit 9 of the City Hall Station on Line 1 and 2.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:30 to 18:00 (until 21:00 on Wednesdays)


Into the archives

Major source material publication projects for premodern history

A bit of a change of pace here, but I thought I’d share a bit of the information I’ve gathered from working on cataloguing Korean books in the library here at SOAS. Of course if you are uninterested in premodern Korean history or have a low boredom threshold this would probably be a good time to click away.

I’ve posted before about accessing the major Chosŏn dynasty annals online. These have formed the backbone of studies on premodern Korean history during the last few decades, but now it seems the emphasis is moving toward more detailed research using archival sources. What I mean by archival sources are all the surviving public and private documents from the Chosŏn period that tend to be called komunsŏ (古文書) in Korean. These sources are becoming increasingly available to researchers through a number of massive compilation and publication projects being carried out by some of the main organisations in Korea responsible for promoting the study of Korean history: namely the Academy of Korean Studies (韓國學中央硏究院); the National History Compilation Committee (國史編纂委員會); the Kyujanggak library of Seoul National University (奎章閣); and the Korean Classics Research Institute (民族文化推進會).

Below I will look in turn at the collections that each of these institutions is publishing and what they offer for historians. If anyone knows of any important ones that I have missed out, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

>>Academy of Korean Studies:

Komunso chipsong
Komunsŏ chipsŏng 古文書集成 (76 vols)
A very impressive collection of archival materials, often from the archives of individual clans/families, now at volume 76 and counting. It includes mainly facsimiles of the originals but also some transcribed versions too.

Han’gukhak charyo ch’ongsŏ
Han’gukhak charyo ch’ongsŏ 韓國學資料叢書 (36 vols)
Another very important collection which seems to have reached volume 36. The materials appear to be similar to those in the Komunsŏ chipsŏng collection but I think in this collection there is a greater preponderance of reprinted old books and diaries rather than komunsŏ as such. Among recent volumes are two covering the archives of the Pak family of Matjil village in Kyŏngsang province upon which the groundbreaking book ‘The Farmers of Matjil Village’ (맛질의농민들, 2001) was based.

Hanguk kanch'al charyo sonjip
Hanguk kanch’al charyo sŏnjip 韓國簡札資料選集 (6 vols)
A series of volumes of collected letters including quite a lot written in han’gul (called ŏn’gan 諺簡) which could be very interesting for research into Chosŏn social history. Seems to have reached at least volume 6.

>>National History Compilation Committee:

Hanguk saryo ch'ongso
Han’guk saryo ch’ongsŏ 韓國史料叢書 (47 vols)
This collection appears to be quite a diverse collection of historical documents, including many that are kept in collections outside of Korea. It turned out to be very useful for me as I discovered a whole new cache of documents relating to the topic of my thesis in one of the volumes dedicated to materials kept in Japan. It is also particularly great because most or all of these materials seem to be available online here.


Komunsŏ 古文書 (29 vols)
Straightforwardly enough, this is a series of collections of komunsŏ from the Kyujanggak archives. As one might predict, considering this was once the royal library, about half of them consist of collections of government documents. You can find some more information about the contents of the volumes here.

Kyujanggak charyo ch’ongsŏ I & II 奎章閣資料叢書
Another couple of volumes of materials from the Kyujanggak archives.

>>Korean Classics Research Institute:

Hanguk munjip ch'onggan
Han’guk munjip ch’onggan 韓國文集叢刊 (301 vols?)
I’m not sure whether this one really fits in this category, but it is certainly a publication mega-project that dwarfs the others, being a comprehensive collection of the collected works of Korean literati, or munjip. On the basis of the holdings in our library it seems to have reached volume 301, but it may have got further than that by now.


New version of Yorha Ilgi discovered

It’s always exciting when something new and exciting is discovered getting dusty in a forgotten corner of a library somewhere. This time it’s an early nineteenth century version of Pak Chi-won’s (朴趾源) Yorha Ilgi (熱河日記), a travelogue of the writer’s journey to Beijing in 1780, when he accompanied his older brother on a diplomatic mission. What makes this different is that it’s written in vernacular Korean. In other words, it’s a very early translation of the original text written in literary Chinese. In fact it’s the only complete translation of the text found to date. According to the Korea Times it was discovered in the library of Tokyo University by a Seoul National University professor. We have a few of these han’gŭl manuscripts at SOAS, mostly very well-thumbed late nineteenth-century novels, but could there be a lost treasure among them?


Finding Korean journal articles online

Filed under: — Owen @ 11:12 am Print

One of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of studying Korean history while outside of Korea must be getting hold of the most up to date research in Korean. For quite a while I thought that it was impossible to get hold of Korean journal articles online if my university library didn’t hold them. Of course there are e-journal sites which libraries can subscribe to, but getting your library to sign up to access non-English language journals online is easier said than done in my experience.

That said, I have recently discovered that it is possible to get hold of quite a large proportion of Korean journal articles online in PDF form and completely free. Here is, hopefully, a failsafe guide to getting hold of the Korean journal article you need in four stages:

Stage One: Look for Korean journal articles on your subject. I would recommend using the history bibliography run by Hongik University called Korean Historical Connection. Alternatively, you can go directly to stage two.

Stage Two: Go to the RISS site (Research Information Service Something-or-other / 학술연구정보서비스) and register – they have a special option for foreigners or other people unfortunate enough not to have a Korean ID number (주민등록번호).

Stage Three: Now you can search for the articles you require at RISS. Many articles are free to download as PDF files, while others you have to pay for (I haven’t tried this option yet so I’m not sure how expensive it is). However, if the article you need is unavailable, don’t despair.

Stage four: If you couldn’t get the article you needed at RISS then there is another option. If you return to the KHC site you will find that they provide a special service to historians of Korea residing overseas whereby they will find and photocopy any article you require and send it to you, only charging for the copying and postage. Again, I haven’t ever needed to try this out, but it sounds like a good service and I’d be interested to know if anyone else has tried it.


Online resources for Chosŏn history: Government annals

Following the lead of Konrad I thought I might start off my posts with something about finding Korean history resources online. It is now actually possible to do quite a bit of research, even on pre-twentieth century primary sources without getting up from your computer (whether this is as interesting as searching stuff out a library or archive is quite another question). Of course the biggest advantage of these sources being online must be for people who are physically a long way away from a library that holds, say, a copy of the massive Sŭngjŏngwon Ilgi 承政院日記 (Daily Records of the Royal Secretariat). Thus, with a decent internet connection it should now be possible to live in Zanzibar and research 18th century Korean political history.

A second advantage is the ability to search for keywords within these massive texts. Some of the physical editions of the Chosŏn government annals do have indexes, but searching a text online is much quicker and more precise (bearing in mind that these books run into hundreds of volumes and looking things up from an index means continually pulling different volumes off the shelf).

So far, the site I’ve made most use of when searching pre-twentieth century sources is probably Seoul University’s Kyujanggak Library website. Here you can do a simultaneous search for keywords in a number of different categories of sources, including kodosŏ, komunsŏ, modern government records and two different Chosŏn government annals: the Ilsŏngnok 日省錄 (Records of Daily Reflection) and the Naegak Illyŏk (Daily Records of the Kyujanggak). The Kyujanggak site also has two further annals online in scanned form: Sŭngjŏngwon Ilgi and Pibyŏnsa Tŭngnok 備邊司謄錄 (Records of the Border Defence Command), through which you can browse but not search.

The National History Compilation Committee (국사편찬위원회) website does have a searchable digitised version of the Sŭngjŏngwon Ilgi online, which I’ve found to be quite easy to use. And the Korean Classics Research Institute (민족문화추진회) appears to be gradually uploading some sections of the modern Korean translations of the Ilsŏngnok and Sŭngjŏngwon Ilgi that have been coming out in book form over the last few decades. So far they have a few years of Chŏngjo’s reign for the Ilsŏngnok and years 1-35 of Kojong’s reign for the Sŭngjŏngwon Ilgi.

The Korean History Data Integration System (한국역사정보통합시스템) is supposed to be a way of bringing all these different online sources together in a single searchable database. I found it quite hard to use for a while, but it seems to have been improved quite a bit recently. Basically it allows you to search all the sources on the sites mentioned above and quite a few more sites besides.

One word of warning on all these sites: they don’t seem to be very Firefox-friendly and like some other Korean websites they can be messy to navigate and require you to download some piece of viewing software or other. Oh, and they seem to love pop-ups too.

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