RAS-KB: The Blog

RAS Lecture Video: Travellers' Tales, Or How the West Learned about Corea

By Brother Anthony, President RAS Korea

It is generally known that the Dutchman Hendrick Hamel was the first European to spend a considerable time in Korea then return home and write an account of the country. That account was published and translated into several languages. But what did people know about Korea before his shipwreck in 1653? And how was more discovered after him, both prior to the opening of the country from 1882, or even after that? How did Dutch ships come to be in this part of the world, and who else was interested in Korea?

This evening's lecture begins with the earliest European mentions of Corea, dating from the Middle Ages. Few people are familiar with the extraordinary adventures of the Portuguese adventurer Fernão Mendes Pinto, probably the first European to reach Japan; his visits led to the arrival in the 1540s of Portuguese and Spanish merchants and missionaries in Japan. From there the Jesuits sent reports mentioning the Japanese invasion of Corea in 1592. Then there is the extraordinary tale of how an Englishman-turned-samourai helped the Dutch to gain a foothold in Japan.
Early maps depict Corea as an island, and the arrival in Corea of shipwrecked Dutch sailors in the 17th century did not really contribute much to detailed geographical knowledge. Then the focus shifts from Japan to China, where succeeding generations of Jesuit missionaries contributed what knowledge they could gain of Corea to a Europe that was increasingly fascinated by exotic lands. In the earlier eighteenth century, the very different accounts of Hamel and the Jesuits were compared and combined in a variety of ways in popular encyclopedias, but it was the development of surveying to prepare accurate, large-scale nautical charts that brought a new kind of explorer to the waters (and occasionally the land) of Corea. The decision to force Corea to open its doors to the modern world finally gave explorers access to Corean territory, and more detailed travelers' tales began to appear. The final section of the lecture will mention some of those who pioneered the exploration of the land that had for so long been closed, and published accounts of their journeys in books that mostly used the spelling "Korea" familiar today..

Brother Anthony came to Korea in 1980, he is emeritus professor at Sogang University, chair-professor at Dankook University, translates Korean poetry, and has been President of RAS Korea since 2011.

RAS Lecture Videos on YouTube

If you missed a recent RAS Korea lecture, you can visit our YouTube channel where we have uploaded many videos of lectures during the past year. Usually each new lecture is recorded and uploaded to YouTube within a few weeks of taking place. Check our YouTube channel and our blog often for new lecture videos. More information about upcoming lectures can be found on our home page.

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RAS Lecture Video: The Female Face of North Korean Capitalism

Lecturer: Andrei Lankov

Recently North Korea has undergone a major - if unappreciated - social transformation. While the old facade of Juche socialism is still carefully maintained, the daily economy is now dominated by a multitude of private businesses. These businesses are largely run by women. Paradoxically enough, the old male-centered economic policy in the new situation has led to the marginalization of males. Unlike the case of many post-socialist countries, the arrival of market economy to North Korea has resulted in a significant improvement of females' social standing.

Andrei Lankov was born in Russia in 1963, he studied in Leningrad State University and Kim Il Sung University in North Korea. His major research interest is North Korean social and political history; he has published five books and a number of articles on this topic.

RAS Lecture Video: Crusader for Korea: Homer B. Hulbert

Leturer: Mr. DongJin (DJ) Kim

Tonight's lecture commemorates Homer B. Hulbert, one of the first Americans to come to Korea. In addition to his educational and missionary activities he wrote a number of major works including "The Passing of Korea" and the "History of Korea." He was also the editor of and main contributor to the Korea Review monthly journal (1901-5). One of the closest and most trusted foreign aides to Emperor Gojong, he went on his behalf to plead for Korean independence at the Peace Conference held in The Hague in 1906 and 1907, in vain. After that he was unable to live in Japan-dominated Korea. He continued to work and campaign on behalf of Korea while living in America. He finally returned to Seoul in 1949 and died within a few days of his arrival. He is buried in Korea. Hulbert's tombstone reads "I would rather be buried in Korea than in Westminster Abbey."

DongJin (DJ) Kim worked for over 30 years in the banking industry in Seoul and New York, most of that with JP Morgan Chase Bank. While in college, he read "The Passing of Korea" (1906), one of Dr. Homer Hulbert's masterpieces on Korean culture, history and tradition. Mr. Kim was struck by Dr. Hulbert's passion, scholarship and accomplishments in the service of Korea. Most importantly, he realized that Dr. Hulbert's story had nearly vanished in the study of that critical time in Korean history.

He took on a life-long task of ensuring a place for Dr. Hulbert in the annals of Korean history. Mr. Kim visited numerous places including Dartmouth College, Columbia University, in search of Dr. Hulbert's footprints. He located all the descendants of Dr. Hulbert and collected from them lots of important letters, books, records, pictures, and effects related to Dr. Hulbert. Mr. Kim is currently Chairman of the Hulbert Memorial Society and also serves as an adjunct professor of Seoul School of Integrated Science and Technology.



Spring Time with the RAS Korea

Dear members and friends of RAS Korea

I would like to encourage you to think very seriously about the benefits of staring hard and long at blossoming trees. Because we are organizing several excursions this month designed precisely with that activity in mind.
Why not join us on one (or even two)? Sign up soon!

This coming weekend, on Sunday, April 14, there is a wonderful full-day outing to Woraksan National Park, Gosu Cave & Chungju Lake. It includes a drive along a 6-kilometer-long avenue of cherry trees, as well as a restful boat trip and a visit to a spectacular cavern. This trip is a great favorite with families.

Then on Sunday, April 21 there will be a trip entirely devoted to cherry blossom in and around Seoul, the climax being the Ho-am Art Museum in Yongin, Gyonggi-do and its beautiful HeeWon garden.

On Sunday, April 28 you can enjoy the unique collection of magnolias and camellias in the Chollipo Arboretum, overlooking the sea on the West coast, at the moment when the flowers are at their height.This Arboretum was established by a former President of the RASKB, Mr. Ferris Miller (1921 - 2002) and its collections are world-famous.

In addition there will be an overnight in-depth visit to the ancient Silla capital of Gyeongju Saturday, April 27 -- Sunday, April 28, led by David Mason, an outstanding and expert guide.

Finally, let me remind you that tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at 7:30pm Professor Andrei Lankov will be giving us a lecture about "The female face of North Korean capitalism: North Korean gender relations in the post-famine era" because there are more important and interesting aspects to North Korea than its inflated rhetoric. The lecture will be in Somerset Palace.

I hope that many of you will be able to join us at these events.

Brother Anthony
President, RAS Korea

RAS Lecture Video: Catastrophic Losses of Korea’s Architectural Heritage

Lecturer: Peter Bartholomew

The speaker, Peter Bartholomew, will present an overview of Korea’s architectural heritage as it was up to 1910 and then review how it has been decimated to the point where now, in 2013, only a very few rare examples remain, one of the most significant architectural achievements in Asia.

The presentation will cover monumental architecture such as palaces, the sprawling provincial government centres and military compounds, all with their stately, graceful guest houses, administrative buildings, pleasure pavilions and imposing stone fortress walls as well as the vernacular architecture of the “hanok,” or residential houses, from the grand estates of the landed aristocracy to the commoners’ home which survived in abundance through the early 1970’s, but now are a rarity.

Mr. Bartholomew will first explain the uniquely sophisticated, Korean aspects of the architecture and the important design and aesthetic cultural values and then will then progressively clarify the history of their phased destruction, first the massive demolitions of monumental architecture nation-wide during the 1910~1945 Japanese occupation period, second during the terribly destructive war of 1950 ~ 1953 and finally the tragic losses during the post-war “development” period, especially from the mid-1960s and continuing as we speak, today.

Finally, Mr. Bartholomew will present an analysis of the Korean policies (government and personal) since the 1960’s toward continued preservation, reconstruction and maintenance of the very few remaining examples of Korea’s traditional architecture, with special emphasis on the “hanok” and the fight that he is waging to preserve the few remaining examples.

Mr. Bartholomew has lived in Korea since 1968, always residing in an original “hanok” home. He initially lived in Sŏn Kyo Jang estate in Kangnŭng, Kangwŏn Province (east coast), the 300-year-old home of a Chosŏn Dynasty aristocratic family which is arguably the finest example of semi palatial, aristocratic architecture remaining in the country. He has studied Korean architecture privately for the past 45 years, frequently appearing on television and other media to wage his preservation campaign and now among Koreans has the nickname of “Guardian of the Hanok” (한옥지킴이).


Special Invitations for RAS Korea Members

Dear members and friends of RASKB

Next week there will be a lecture on Tuesday (by me!) and an excursion to Sewang Brewery and Botapsa Temple on Saturday.

In addition, we have been sent two invitations for our members. Please reply as indicated below if you are interested in either.

Brother Anthony

In celebration of KBS Classic FM's 34th anniversary, the Korean Traditional Music Orchestra will be on stage next Wednesday, March 27th. The venue is KBS Hall, located in Yeoido (Address: 18, Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul). By subway, transit from National Assembly station (line 9, 국회의사당 역). The concert will begin at 8pm, please be there at least 30 minutes before to collect your tickets. Please RSVP to this email ( royalasiatickorea@gmail.com ) by Monday March 25 3pm if you wish to come, giving your name, mobile number and the number of people coming and you will then be sent further details on where to meet, etc.

Traditional Korean Court Dance Workshop and Performance Opportunity

In this unique opportunity you can learn the basics of Court Dance and also have the opportunity to actually participate in a performance of this dance in October at one of Seoul’s most famous palaces.

“Chun-aeng-jeon Workshop”

Dates: April – September (Every Saturday from 9am to 1pm)

Venue: Jongro Ward Office (behind the US Embassy)

Who: Anyone interested in learning Korean dance (First 100 applicants accepted)

What to Bring: Comfortable clothing, soft shoes/socks suitable for dancing (not tennis shoes) and “hansam” which are long, white sleeves (these can be purchased through the instructor)

Free of charge

What Will Be Taught: Basic Court Dance and Chun-aeng-jeon

※ Performance
Date: October 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Changgyeong-gung Palace, the courtyard of Munjeong-jeon hall

The Workshop will be led by the Court Dance “Chun-aeng-jeon” Preservation Society, under Professor Park Eun-young (who organized a similar performance in 2012)

For further information call: 02-746-9756 / 010-3139-4464 (may only speak Korean) or send an email to Ms. Suzanna Samstag jiyunsmom@hotmail.com

Lecture Video: The Long-Forgotten World War II Prisoner of War Camps in Korea

Lecturer: Jacco Zwetsloot

Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As an (unwilling) part of the Japanese Empire, Korea was involved in World War Two. We have all heard of the conscripts, the forced labor, and the comfort women. However, fighting did not actually occur on Korean soil. Soviet forces arrived in Korea from Manchuria in mid to late August, and US troops made landfall in Incheon on September 8 1945 to receive the Japanese surrender and disarm and demobilize Japan’s military.

One aspect of Korean history during that period that has been forgotten – seemingly by all sides – is the approximately 1,500 Allied Prisoners of War who were held in Korea from September 1942, only a couple of months after the last non-Axis foreign civilians had been forcibly deported from Korea by ship. The first Allies to be imprisoned here were British and Australian troops from the fall of Singapore. They were joined towards the end of the war by American soldiers captured in the Philippines, after they were initially held in the notorious “hell ships,” as well as in Japan. In all, three camps were operated, run by Japanese officers and staffed by Korean conscripts and civilians. A few POWs died, but most were rescued and brought home in September 1945.

Jacco Zwetsloot will give a presentation about these camps and how their locations were recently rediscovered by himself and Matthew Van Volkenburg.

Jacco Zwetsloot describes himself as a “Jacco of all trades, master of some.” In the past year he has worked as a business English teacher, translator, interpreter, simulation facilitator, corporate trainer, documentary cameraman and cataloguer, cultural lecturer, souvenir evaluator, radio commentator, magazine writer, voice actor, researcher, copy editor and tour guide. He is currently seeking a publisher interested in releasing translations of several North Korean comic books. He has a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Korean Studies from Monash University, and has lived in South Korea for over 12 years.

RAS March Newsletter

Dear members and friends of RAS Korea,

March is here and I hope that many of you will sign up for one or other of our excursions, now that the weather is warmer. It is such a good way of discovering Korea, in good company with enthusiastic guides! We are still working to improve our program, but for the moment here are the lectures, excursions and other events planned for the coming weeks.

As you may know, our office staff has changed several times over the past couple of years. As a result, our membership records are not fully reliable. We would like to check whether all paid-up members have received their membership card and we ask all our members to bring and show their RASKB membership card at the lectures in the coming months. This will help us improve our administration.

Our office is now completely transformed and offers a large variety of books about Korea for sale, many of them unobtainable elsewhere. In addition to RASKB publications, we now stock and sell most of the books published by Seoul Selection. RAS members receive a discount on book purchases.

Also in the office is our Library, its books are accessible to members wishing to consult them. Please phone before coming to the office, in order to check the opening hours.

Please tell us what other activities you would like us to offer, and take full advantage of the benefits of membership by coming on excursions at a discounted rate!

I look forward to seeing you soon

Brother Anthony
President, RAS Korea

This Week with the RAS-KB

Dear members and friends of the RASKB,

The cold weather is nearly over, spring is on the way at last!

Soon we will be sending out our full March program but first let me remind you of this this week's events.

Tomorrow, Tuesday February 26, at 7:30 pm in Somerset Palace, Jacco Zwetsloot will be giving a lecture
on "The Long-Forgotten World War II Prisoner of War Camps in Korea" which should be extremely interesting,
for almost nobody knows that approximately 1,500 Allied Prisoners of War were held in Korea during the Pacific War.

On Friday March 1, RAS Korea traditionally runs a bus to visit the memorial to Admiral Yi Sun-Shin at Onyang
then on to visit the nearby Independence Hall and museum, dedicated to the Koreans who suffered during the
Independence Struggle against the Japanese. If you want to join this excursion, please reply to this email very soon,
by Tuesday evening at the latest.

On Saturday March 2 at 4:45pm some of us will meet at exit 2 of Hongik University subway station
and go to meet a very famous senior Korean traditional musician, Kim Young-Jae, who holds "Living Treasure" status
for his skills on the Geomungo, and who also performs on the Gayageum, the Ajaeng and the Haegeum.
He will play for us and explain the characteristics of each instrument. After the performance we will go with him
for supper in a nearby restaurant. Please sign up for this visit quickly, it is free for RAS members!

For more details of these, please see our home page


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Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehangno 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
[03129] 서울시 종로구 대학로 19 (연지동) 한국기독교회관 611호

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