Books Provide A Rare View of How Foreigners Viewed Korea

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Books Provide A Rare View of How Foreigners Viewed Korea

Foreigners have been coming to Korea for centuries, and Koreans have long been concerned with their reactions to this peninsula and it speople. Those reactions have not always been friendly.
Several books by Westerners written a hundred years ago are now being reissued, including "Korea and Her Neighbors" by Isabella S. Bird Bishop (1898), "Corea: the Hermit Kingdom" by William Elliot Griffis (1904) and "The Passing of Korea" by Homer Bezaleel Hulbert (1906).

Koreans are in for some nasty surprises because the books by and large display anti-Korean prejudice. Even "Korea and Her Neighbors" - regarded as the most reliable - views this country merely as China's poor cousin. All of these views were shaped before people thought about cultural relativism.

"These books have helped shape how Korea is viewed from abroad," said Professor Jung Sung-hwa of Myung-ji University. "This new collection will give Koreans a chance to reflect on what this means."

The books are among 300 volumes written between the 16th and the early 20th century that provide a record of how Westerners viewed Korea over the last few centuries. The Kyungin Publishing Co. will release the first 50 books this month, including the books by Bishop, Griffis and Hulbert. Another 100 books will be released next year and the remaining 150 in 2002.

Besides reminding readers of what outsiders thought and wrote about Korea in the past, the books offer valuable historical information and rare photographs.

The first 50 volumes include extremely rare books, with Maurice Courant's three-part series "Bibliographie Coreene" (1894) the rarest of all. Courant provides detailed insight into education, language, Confucianism, literature, art and dance and introduces 3,821 books related to the tiny kingdom at the time. Mr. Jung said that Courant was "the first scholar to carry out thorough research on Korea."

Martino Martini's "Bellun Tartaricum" was another famous book that told the West about Korea. And "The Journal of Hendrick Hamel," written in the 17th century, was widely acclaimed in Europe for its detailed account of Byungja-Horan when China attacked Korea in 1636.
"A Voyage of Discovery of North Pacific Ocean" by the British explorer William Robert Broughton (1804) contains 38 Korean words including numbers (hannah, tool - meaning one, two) and anatomical features (yeep for mouth and noon for eye).

For informaiton call the Kyungin Pub-lishing Co. at 02-718-4831.

by Jung Jae-wal

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