중앙데일리

Life in Joseon, through one missionary’s eyes

‘Village Life in Korea’ was written by his great-grandfather in 1909, and depicts life during the Joseon era.

Aug 27,2008
Jeffrey Jacobs
“A long time ago, when I lived in Joseon ...”

While other children got stories of evil witches and fairy queens, American businessman Jeffrey Jacobs, 55, used to love nothing more at bedtime than his grandmother’s exotic tales of life during the last Korean dynasty.

Robert Moose, Jacobs’ great-grandfather, was a Methodist Christian missionary. He came to Korea in 1899, when it was still Joseon, on a steamship to preach the gospel. Moose’s three children were born here, including Nancy Moose, Jacobs’ maternal grandmother.

To the young Jeffrey, Korea was a wonderland. As he listened to these vignettes of life in the Korean countryside, he dreamed of one day going to this faraway country and meeting the people his grandmother described as warm-hearted, full of integrity and sincerity.

Today, Jacobs has realized that dream. A real estate entrepreneur, he is expanding his investments in Asia, with plans to concentrate his core business in Korea.

His affection for Korea deepened three years ago when his mother Helen gave him a family heirloom. “Village Life in Korea,” a book published in 1909, was written by his great-grandfather Moose. The book, Jacobs said, depicts Korean life and culture, based on Moose’s observations in traveling the country as a missionary.

“I was so happy getting the book that I read it immediately from cover to cover,” Jacobs said.

It was a rare find indeed. According to Jacobs, his copy is only one of two left in the world. The other one sits in the archives of the U.S. Library of Congress.

He thought it was a real shame that the book remained unknown to Koreans. So he contacted a Korean acquaintance and floated the idea of publishing the book in Korean.

A few months later, “1900, Joseon-e Salda [Living in Joseon in the 1900s]” was published here. The book was launched two weeks ago, and Jacobs dropped in to see his book in print for the first time in Korean.

“Korea today is definitely different from the Joseon that my great-grandfather described in the book,” Jacobs said, “but the sincerity and warmth of the people seem to have remained unchanged. Every time I come to Korea, I feel at home.” He planned to visit his great-grandfather’s old house while he was here.

Jacobs served as a state representative to the Ohio House of Representatives for four years from 1982. Since 2005, he has @been working on plans for a hotel and leisure-related business on Jeju Island.


By Chun Su-jin JoongAng Ilbo[joe@joongang.co.kr]



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