A CD-ROM for the future generationJoseon was a country of archivists. Their detailed records of history have left “big data” to the future generation.
2015 is a meaningful year to the historians of Joseon, celebrating 20th anniversary of complete digitalization of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty and 10th anniversary of free online release. Back in 1995, the CD-ROM version of the modern language edition of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty was published. The index and search function even surprised foreign historians.
Seoul System Inc. produced the CD-ROM after investing 5.6 billion won ($5.18 million) over three years. Late Lee Woong-geun, who had been a professor of public administration at Seoul National University, resigned from the school and started the company to build a database of Korean historical documents.
The biggest beneficiaries of the digital Annals were writers. Lee Hwan-kyung, the author of hit historical drama series “Tears of the Dragon,” used it frequently. Jeong Ha-yeon, who wrote “The King and Queen” and “Queen Insoo,” said in an interview, “Reading the Annals used to be torturous, but the CD-ROM has made it so much more convenient.”
In 2005, free online service of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty began. The National Institute of Korean History created an exclusive website, sillok.history.go.kr, with 800 million won in government funding. The project was made possible, thanks to the CD-ROM by Seoul System.
After the online release, young writers increasingly used the service. Authors of “Masquerade” and “My Love from the Star” said that they were inspired by a single line from the Annals. Online cartoon “The Talks of the Joseon Dynasty” was based on thorough interpretation of the Annals.
In 1998, Seoul System was faced with financial problems. The company has sold 300 copies of the official copies, priced at 5 million won. But hundreds of thousands of illegal copies were sold. Even public agencies and universities mostly used illegal copies. Lee Woong-geun’s business had a number of bankruptcies and comebacks, but in 2008, Lee passed away at age 78. The president mentioned the fashion trend and economic impact of “My Love from the Star.” But who remembers the valuable seeds planted by a businessman 20 years ago? Planting the seed for the future generation is the creative economy.
Shim Seo-hyeon,Digital contents writer of the JoongAng Ilbo