The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Royal Asiatic Society

Birthdays this week

I thought some of you readers might be interested in knowing that two of our long-time resident foreigners in Korea – Brother Anthony and Frederic Dustin celebrated/are celebrating their birthdays this week.  Both of these men have done a great deal for Korea -not only Korea Studies but also for their everyday acts of kindness.

Brother Anthony just had a piece come out in Korea Times a couple of days ago that I enjoyed reading.  I think it is a shame that so much of Korea’s past is being lost in the present.  Brother Anthony is also the president of the Royal Asiatic Society – Korea Branch (RAS-KB).

Fred Dustin has been – for the most part – in Korea since 1952 and lives on Korea’s self-proclaimed Hawaii of the Far East.  (I still remember the first time I went to the island with the military so many decades ago during the winter.  I was there for training and had been told it was a tropic paradise – I arrived to snow).  Mr. Dustin runs the Kimnyoung Maze Park (English tab at the top but the Korean site gives the best images of the park), cares for a large number of cats and does a lot of good work for the community that (his) modesty prevents me from going on about.

If you get a chance – come and see one of the RAS-KB’s lectures or go on one of their tours.  And speaking of tours – why don’t you visit the Kimnyoung Maze Park – the oldest maze park in Korea.  When you go to one of these events why don’t you say hi to the gentlemen and wish them a happy birthday.  Also tell them you read about them on The Hole.

Richard Rutt – pioneer in Korean studies – passes away

On July 27, Richard Rutt, one of the last of the great missionary scholars,  passed away in England.   Brother Anthony describes Rutt as:

Richard Rutt was the last of the line of scholar-missionaries that began with James Scarth Gale, Homer B. Hulbert, George Heber Jones and the Anglican bishop Mark Napier Trollope, the pioneers who laid the foundation of what is now known as Korean studies.

On arriving in Korea, he began to explore in great depth its language, culture and history, as well as Classical Chinese. He was an active member of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, serving on the council, overseeing its publications and serving as its president in 1974. He published several scholarly papers in the RASKB’s journal, Transactions, which reveal his deep knowledge of the Classical Chinese used in pre-modern Korea.

His deep affection for the traditional culture of Korea, which had almost ceased to exist by the time he arrived, was particularly expressed in his popular 1978 volume, “Korean Works and Days: Notes from the Diary of a Country Priest.” His most outstanding work of scholarship, apart from his translations, must be his annotated edition of the “History of the Korean People” by James Scarth Gale, which was first published in 1927. It includes a thoroughly researched biography and bibliography of the author.

Rutt was fascinated by traditional, formal “sijo” and older forms of Korean poetry in general. This led to the publication in 1971 of “The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo,” containing pioneering translations of many of the most celebrated Korean sijo. Like Gale, Rutt was deeply interested in Classical Chinese, and after his retirement he published a new translation of the challenging ancient Chinese classic, “The Book of Changes” in 1996.

I have always enjoyed his research and regret never having had the opportunity of meeting him. May he rest in peace.

Were early Christian missionaries in Joseon Korea violent?

The role of missionaries in China and Korea recently came up during the first Nishan Forum on World Civilizations in east China’s Shandong Province.  According to Prof. Yang Sung-moo of Chung Ang University (People’s Daily, September 27, 2010) the entrance of Christianity into Joseon Korea was very violent.

Christianity had come to [this] country “very violently” in the 1880s when missionaries disregarded local Confucian rituals by forbidding believers to kowtow to their enshrined ancestors and destroying Buddhist statues.

There is some truth to that.  I believe it was fiery old Samuel Moore who went to one of the temples outside of Seoul and “accidentally” broke a couple of “heathen idols.”  At first Moore denied it but when confronted with the testimony of a fellow Westerner, he admitted that some of the idols were broken but claimed that the head monk had agreed with him that they should be destroyed.  (You can read some more about Moore’s unwillingness to accept Korean social norms and culture here at JoongAng Daily April 24, 2010). 

There were other ugly foreign missionaries.  I remember hearing during an RAS lecture (I think Donald Clark’s lecture concerning his book  Living Dangerously in Korea ) that a missionary discovered a young Korean man (boy) had been stealing from his orchard and took it upon himself to brand him with a cross either on his forehead or arm.

Fortunately Prof. Yang didn’t include any anecdotes but he did have this to say:

The violent reputation remained until the democratic movement started in South Korea in the 1970s, when churches became a shelter for labor union activists and democrats seeking fairness and justice.

“If Christianity wants to spread across the world, its preaching must respect cultures and cater to the needs of local people.”

But who were these violent Christian missionaries who did not respect Korean culture and the needs of the local people?   

Continue reading

TBS chat, Essay on Songgwang-sa

This noon I was interviewed on TBS FM radio, about my RAS lecture “The Sacred Sites of Korea: Criteria, Listings and Tourism” — which went quite well, thanks, and no it wasn’t video-recorded — and the 15-min clip can be heard near the end of the Fri March 26th “Soul of Asia” show here.  Still tryin’ to scare-up some interest in Spiritual / Pilgrimage Tourism here…

And, my 5th article in the KT Greatest Icons of Korean Buddhism Series “Songgwang Temple Spreads the Monastic Jewel” is now online.    Index of Links for them all so-far.    Jes’ keepin’ busy…

Korea Through Western Eyes

Korea Through Western Eyes 

Yes, I know, it is a shameless plug but……what can I say?  It has been no easy matter in getting this book out (the other one seems to have been a lot easier in comparison) and there are many people I owe thanks – many of them are Marmot’s Hole readers – and this is as good as place as any for me to express my appreciation.  I would also like to thank my co-author Cheong Sung-hwa for his great patience (he needed it) and his attention to detail – especially when it came to the footnotes.  There were times that I am sure we each harbored murderous thoughts for one another but he taught me a great deal and for this I am indeed thankful.

Hope some of you purchase it but remember – I cry easily. 

Suggestion to the Marmot – there should be another category – “shameless plugs.”

RAS Lecture: Windows to a Lost Culture

It might be a little late to post, but please, if you make it to only one RAS lecture this year, MAKE IT TONIGHT’S!

RAS Lecture: Escaping North Korea

Tonight’s RAS lecture promises to be a goodie:

Please join us at the RAS Lecture as Mike Kim, founder of Crossing Borders, an NGO assisting North Korean defectors in China, shares his experiences along the China-North Korea border and through the six-thousand-mile modern-day underground railway leading North Koreans to asylum. Mike Kim’s uniquely personal perspective on the human security challenges facing North Koreans builds on his intimate conversations with refugees who helped him understand the hidden world of ordinary North Koreans.

Mike Kim will speak about experiences that culminated in his book, “Escaping North Korea”. It’s a current events memoir based on his time at the China-North Korea border helping North Koreans escape the regime.

Mr. Kim chronicles his effort to lead North Korean refugees through the 6,000-mile underground railway through China in this exposé of the astonishing day-to-day realities of famine, religious oppression, torture and sexual abuse in the most secretive and impoverished member of the axis of evil. The author, a former missionary, spent four years at the China–North Korea border building shelters and orphanages, and his access to government officials, journalists, aid workers and hundreds of North Korean refugees provide him a unique vantage point from which to synthesize current research and policy on conditions in North Korea with affecting real-life testimonials. His intrepid effort to help four North Korean teenagers avoid arrest and repatriation on the journey from northern China to the British consulate in Shanghai is riveting, as is his insider knowledge of the perilous route refugees navigate across the borders of China, Laos and Thailand.

Some Interesting Stuff to Do

For those with interests beyond the troubling political crapola now raging:

I just guided a tour of the Bukchon hanok traditional-houses neighborhood for SIWA this morning, under such a fortunately- glorious blue sky.  I’ll do the same again for the Royal Asiatic Society this Saturday (May 30th) morning, 9:30 am–1pm, and if you’d enjoy that there’s still time to sign up.  See:

I spent last Sunday with Lourdes viewing the Jeong Seon (early 18th-Cen) exhibit at the Gansong Art Museum in Seongbuk, a place that Robert has often recommended (only open in May & October), and it was great — if you love Korea’s Daoist-flavored mountain-landscape paintings like i do, ya gotta see this — and Thurs thru Sun May 31st is your last chance — these are amazing artworks!

We also drank teas in the wonderful 19th-Cen Suyeon-Sanbang Teahouse there, which Rob called his favorite; see:

AND we toured a unique Buddhist temple with great folk-art close nearby, very cool fresh discovery… see:

Next week the Seoul Tourism Awards are being presented, and this year i’m a Judge of them (i know what you’ll ask, and NO the “Sparkling” slogan did not win anything!).  We have a formal welcoming banquet at the Samcheong-gak on Wed (6/3) evening, then the “Seoul Tourism Forum” (academic/policy symposium) all morning Thurs at the Dynasty Hall of the Shilla Hotel, then the big Awards Ceremony/Dinner at the Shilla that evening.  If you’re interested in this kinda thing, contact the Seoul Tourism Organization.

And then this coming Sunday morning (5/31) the Gangbuk-gu District Gov is holding a special “Barefoot-Walking on Mountain-Trail Event”, a chance to de-stress in some sweet nature, a family-friendly “well-being” sortta gig.  I’ll post details in response #1 here…

Enjoy the end of Spring, no matter what the Norks do to spoil it!!

(RAS) The Inquiring Literatus: Yi Sugwang’s Brushtalks with Phùng Khắc Khoan in Beijing in 1597

Rather interesting RAS-K lecture this evening by Dr. William Pore, a visiting professor at Pusan National University:

When the Korean tribute envoy Yi Sugwang and his Vietnamese counterpart Phùng Khắc Khoan met in Beijing in 1597, Yi interrogated Phùng at some length about Vietnam. Yi’s detailed record of his meeting with Phùng is possibly the earliest extant direct evidence of Korean-Vietnamese envoy contact. One of the most remarkable features of Yi’s interrogation of Phùng is its rather relentless intensity, a feature which, if Yi were not already recognized as a “practical learning,” or Sirhak, scholar, would alone place him among Korea’s more enlightened literati. Not only is Yi’s interrogation of Phùng remarkable for its intense inquiry, but also for the type of questions asked, which seem quite modern in the concerns they express. Indeed, the information Yi sought about the contemporary situation in Vietnam forms what could be regarded as a kind of sixteenth century intelligence report.

The Speaker: A visiting professor in the Global Studies Program at Pusan National University during the spring semester of 2009, William F. Pore has a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian History with a concentration on Vietnam.

RAS Lecture: Korea Forty Years Ago: A Nostalgic Slideshow

From the RAS-KB homepage:

April 28, 2009
RAS Lecture Meeting
Dr. Martina Deuchler
7:30 p.m 2nd floor, Residents lounge, Somerset Palace, Seoul
Korea Forty Years Ago: A Nostalgic Slideshow

Forty years ago, when I first came to Seoul to study, Korea was a different country. Fascinated by what I saw around me, I started to take pictures, although I had never held a camera in my hands before. The slides therefore are amateurish, but they do show scenes which by now have long since disappeared. They thus have already a certain historical interest.

I made a random selection from more than a thousand slides. There are a few shots of “old” Seoul, but the majority of the pictures were taken in the countryside. They show landscapes, villages, and market scenes. Women’s work in and outside the house was a major focus, but as a historian of the Chosŏn dynasty, I was also deeply interested in ancestral and shamanic rituals. By showing these slides, I shall be able to introduce a few thoughts about the central role Confucian rituals played in the life of Chosŏn-Koreans.

Martina Deuchler was born in Switzerland, did her undergraduate work at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and earned a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University with a dissertation on the opening of Korea to Japan and the Western world. This work was later published as Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875-1885 by the University of Washington Press in 1977. Her study of the impact of Confucian thought on Chosŏn-dynasty society appeared as The Confucian Transformation of Korea—A Study of Society and Ideology by Harvard in 1992. Deuchler was professor of Korean Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from 1988 to 2001.

(RAS Lecture) Sosaewon: a Scholar’s Garden

Dr. Werner Sasse — a true gentleman and scholar — will be lecturing about Damyang’s Sosaewon Garden tomorrow evening (Tuesday, March 24, 7:30pm) at the Somerset Palace. From the RAS-Korea Branch homepage:

Soswaewon is one of the most famous scholar’s gardens in Korea, tucked away in a small valley in the beautiful landscape behind the Mudeung mountains near Gwangju in South Jeolla. Covering ca 4600 m2 in terraces, it was built in the 16th century by a scholar who lived in voluntary exile with his educated friends. The group, which also developed an important literary genre, long poetry called Gasa, had chosen to keep out of the life-endangering political struggles among the various politico-philosophical schools in their days.

Beautiful as the garden is at a glance with its pavilions above a brook, and its assorted plants, rocks and walls, the real beauty lies in the combination of the natural and the overlying literary structures. The garden is carefully designed to look as natural as possible, while at the same time each rock, plant and terrace carries a deeper meaning, which is only obvious to the literary mind.

The lecture will introduce this garden supported by slides. It will also introduce the social background and the frame of mind of these scholars, who were trained to be Confucianists but developed the art of leisurely bohemian life immersed in the arts and literature.

Werner Sasse was born in Germany and first came to Korea in 1966, when he spent 2 years as a development advisor to a number of schools in Jeolla province, then another 2 years teaching in Seoul. Returning to Germany, he studied Korean Studies (with Chinese literature) at Bochum University. On completing his studies, he remained at Bochum teaching and building up the Korean Studies programme until 1992, when he moved to Hamburg University and developed the programme there. On his retirement in 2006 he came back to Korea and lives in Tamyang (South Jeolla province). He currently holds the position of chair professor in Cultural Anthropology in the School of International Culture at Hanyang University. He is also an artist.

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