Guest Editor: Kenneth R. Robinson
Guest Editor’s Introduction
Kenneth R. Robinson, 1
Pyongyang, one Korea’s oldest cities, was considered an important defense site during the Koryŏ dynasty, but did not develop significantly until the Chosŏn dynasty in the seventeenth century. This was partly because of its border location and unsuitability for farming but most of all because of discrimination by the central government. After the eighteenth century, however, Pyongyang led in the social development of Chosŏn. With stability in the relationship with Qing China, the area was free from the threat of war. The accumulated money and grains were used to entertain foreign diplomats and prepare for war while also providing commercial capital. The fact that the traditional ruling order and ideology were not strong was an advantage for the development of commerce. On the other hand, the government tried to induce Pyongyang’s development within the system, as by, for example, holding a special civil service examination and recruiting members for the Royal Guard. During that time, Pyongyang progressed and continued to develop as the new urban cultural center of the region.
Homes ranging from one-room dwellings to forty-five-room mansions were constructed in the Kaesŏng area around 1900. Analysis indicates that 23 percent were small, 57 percent were medium, and 20 percent were large. Medium-sized dwellings constituted 80 percent of the total number of habitations, indicating that the middle class constituted approximately four-fifths of the area population. The large middle class is unusual compared to other urban areas of the period and is related to commercial activity. More than 80 percent of the citizenry of Kaesŏng engaged directly in merchant activities or in something related. The merchants of Kaesŏng had outstanding financial skills that transformed their commercial capital into industrial capital via the ginseng trade. The people of Kaesŏng did not aspire to high government positions, but rather for commercial success. For this reason, Japanese businessmen could not penetrate the Kaesŏng market during the colonial period.
An Island’s Place in History: Tsushima in Japan and in Chosŏn, 1392–1592
Kenneth R. Robinson, 40
The proximity of the Japanese island of Tsushima to the Korean peninsula made plausible the views among Korean elites in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the island had been Korean territory in the historical past. The Chosŏn court expressed historical and contemporary possession of Tsushima/Taema-do through assertions of the island’s Korean history, dispatch of officials bearing domestic administration posts, and cartography. The court’s claims neither challenged the Muromachi bakufu nor threatened the authority of the governor of Tsushima, who encouraged treatment of the island as Korean territory as well as Japanese territory. The incomplete insertion of royal power into the island highlights different forms of sovereignty. In the early Chosŏn period, the area was encompassed within the king’s territorial sovereignty. The jurisdictional Chosŏn composed a different space than the territorial. Within this gap between the two Chosŏns can be seen underappreciated features of Korean history and Chosŏn society.
In Chosŏn-period Korea, calamities at sea occurred with some frequency, leaving the ships and their occupants to be washed onto the shores of both Chosŏn and Japan. With the large number of Koreans drifting to the shores of Japan, the study of repatriation of castaways illuminates aspects of the historical interactions and relations between the two countries. This article discusses the question of whether the castaways’ drifting was predetermined and the effect their repatriation had on Chosŏn-Japan relations.
Ancient Learning, an approach to overcoming Zhu Xi Neo-Confucian metaphysics, emerged and developed as an intellectual track at about the same time in Korea, China, and Japan. This school was introduced to Chosŏn via Korean elites who visited Japan as members of diplomatic embassies. Upon returning, these Sirhak elites wrote commentaries on the Japanese Ancient Learning school text. This article discusses the historical interaction between Sirhak and the Japanese Ancient Learning school and examines Sirhak commentaries on Japanese Ancient Learning writers.
Chun Soonok, They Are Not Machines: Korean Women Workers and Their Fight for Democratic Trade Unionism in the 1970s
reviewed by Mary Margaret Fonow, 110
Tobias Hübinette, Comforting an Orphaned Nation: Representations of International Adoption and Adopted Koreans in Korean Popular Culture
reviewed by Barbara Katz Rothman, 112
Jackie J. Kim, Hidden Treasures: Lives of First-Generation Korean Women in Japan
reviewed by Barbara Mori, 114
Roy Richard Grinker, Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War
reviewed by Changzoo Song, 118
Bradley K. Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty
reviewed by James I. Matray, 120
James M. Minnich, The North Korean People’s Army: Origins and Current Tactics
reviewed by James E. Hoare, 124
Chongko Choi, Law and Justice in Korea: South and North
reviewed by Tom Ginsburg, 126
Robert Bley-Vroman and Hyunsook Ko, ed., Corpus Linguistics for Korean Language Learning and Teaching
reviewed by Jinsook Kim, 128