Monday, September 14, 2009

Archives: 1898

My own post on Kando (간도/間島; Jiandao/间岛 in simplified Chinese; aka Gando) and Wangkon's post on the same at The Marmot's Hole, has prompted me to look through Isabella Bird Bishop's 1898 work, Korea and Her Neighbors for any reference to Koreans in the area above the Tumen River before the 1860s. It's always an interesting read, this perusal of the Taehan Empire (in the waning days of the Chosŏn era's Yi Dynasty) between the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War.

Google Scholar has the whole book laid out in electronic form. From page 236:
In Korea I had learned to think of Koreans as the dregs of a race, and to regard their condition as hopeless, but in Primorsk I saw reason for considerably modifying my opinion. It must be borne in mind that these people, who have raised themselves into a prosperous farming class, and who get an excellent character for industry and good conduct alike from Russian police officials, Russian settlers, and military officers, were not exceptionally industrious and thrifty men. They were mostly starving folk who fled from famine, and their prosperity and general demeantor give me the hope that their countrymen in Korea, if they ever have an honest administration and protection for their earnings, may slowly develop into men.
The next paragraph, I dare say, suggests that the Koreans might have been better off had the Russians won influence over the entire peninsula, though I'm not sure that's a what-if prospect I wish to examine. Anyway, in my mind's eye I imagine Ms Bishop and Sonagi — former resident of China and Korea and fluent enough to converse with the locals in both — as something like kindred spirits, both dispensing wise observations about a largely misunderstood people.


  1. I thought about giving you a HT but I actually saw the article before on google news feeds.

    Remember, all my posts are indigenous creations, just like ROK weapons systems!.. ;)

  2. Ah, no worries. I do like hat tips, but not necessarily if it's going to bring out the ilk like those spilling all the ink on your post over at The Marmot's Hole. No offense.


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