Saturday, May 03, 2008

What was Ulleungdo like in 1899?

For anyone who might be interested, below is a translation I did of a September 23, 1899 article from the Korean newspaper Hwangseong Sinmun (皇城新聞), which described the Korean island of Ulleungdo and the problems it was having with Japanese settlers and merchants coming to the island at the time.

It was a difficult but interesting translation for me, so there may be some mistakes, but I am posting it here to give you an idea of how Koreans wrote their language more than 100 years ago. If you find any mistakes, please let me know. And if you would like to look at the original article, it is posted below the translation. You can enlarge the article by clicking on it twice.

Special Report (別報)

Ulleungdo Situation (鬱陵島 事況)

There is an island in the sea east of Uljin called "Ulleung" (蔚珍之東海에 一島가 有하니 曰鬱陵). Among its six, small neighboring islands (其附屬한 小六島中에) the most prominent one (最著者는) is Usando/Jukdo (于山島竹島이니). According to the Daehanjiji (大韓地誌에 曰), Ulleungdo is the old country of Usan (鬱陵島는 古于山國이라). It has an area of 100 ri (地方이 百里오) and three peaks that stand out (三峰이 律兀한되).

Its products are (所産은) siho (柴胡 – bupleurum root), gobon (藁本 Ligusticum sinense Oliv. root), seoknam (石楠 – Photinia serrulata Lindl), wisteria (藤草), juniper (香木), zelkova (槻木), and nojuk [(蘆竹 - a reed-like bamboo)이오]. The land is suitable for barley (土性은 宜麥하고). In the past (古에), there were water animals that looked like cows without horns that were called “gaji” (牛形無角한 水獸가 有하니 名曰可之오). There are also seabirds that are called "gwakjo" (海鳥가 有하니 名曰 霍鳥러라).

There are few people on the island (島中에 人烟이 稀少하야), so the government exempts them from paying tax (國家에서 公稅를 免徵하고). Every three years (每式年에), the authority in the neighboring region (附近地方官으로) selected and sent emissaries (差使員을 定送하야) to inspect the situation on the island (島中情形도 査察하고) just bring back juniper and nojuk to present to the king (香木과 蘆竹을 裁還하야 御貢할 뿐이러니).

In 1883 (癸未年에), the royal court (朝廷에서) appointed Kim Ok-gyun as the Southeast Islands Development & Whaling Official (金玉均으로 東南諸島開拓史兼捕鯨使를 任하고) and appointed Baek Chun-bae as his assistant (白春培로 從事官을 任하야). They were given the task of settling the island (該島開拓事務를 辦理케하였더니), but because of the Gapshin Coup the following year (翌年 甲申의 變을 因하야), they could not achieve much (泰效치못하였고).

Afterwards, in 1888 (其後戊子年에), island resident Seo Gyeong-su was appointed Wolsong Commander and given the duty of increasing the island’s population and preventing the illegal harvesting of the island’s forest by foreigners. (島民徐敬秀로 越松萬戶를 差定하야 該島人民을 繁殖하고 外國人의 樹木侵伐하는 弊를 防禦케 하였더니), but Seo Gyeong-su died the following year before completing the job (翌年에 徐敬秀가 身死未遂하였고).

In 1895 (開國五百四年에), the Ministry of the Interior appointed island resident Bae Gye-ju as the Island Supervisor and had him manage the island (內部에서 本島民 裵季周로 島監을 任하야 島務를 管理케하였더니).

In the spring of this year (1899), Bae Gye-ju reported to the Ministry of Interior that Japanese had recently been arriving in large numbers and were cutting down trees, encroaching on residents, and causing disturbances (本年春에 裵季周가 內部에 來報하되 近者에 日本人이 夥數流入하야 樹木을 斫伐하고 居民을 侵擾하니), and requested that the government establish law and order (政府에서 設法防護하기를 請함의), which prompted the Interior Ministry to request Sir John McLeavy Brown, chief commissioner of the Korean Customs Service, to dispatch one Westerner to the island to investigate the situation there (內部에서 海關總稅務士 柏卓安에게 委託하야 西人一員을 派送하야 該島情形을 査報케 하였더니). A summary of the report follows (其報告의 槪況이 如左하니):

Ulleungdo is about 200 ri from land (鬱陵島는 距陸二百餘里오). It has an area estimated to be about seventy-five square ri (面積은 約計 七十五方里니). The entire island had little cultivated land (遍嶋中에 耕植하는 地는 不多하고), and there was a thick forest of trees from the seashore to the mountain ridge (樹木이 海濱으로 從하야 山嶺까지 鬱密하였는되). The height of the mountain is calculated to be 4,000 English feet (山高는 計有四千英尺이오). The depth of the water within three ri of the shore is between 6,000 and 9,600 English feet (距岸三里內의 水深은 自六千至九千六百英尺이라).

There are about 300 families of men and women living on the island (居民은 男女 約 三百口이니). Over the past couple of decades (數十年來로), shipbuilders/merchants and fishermen/farmers have gradually come to live together on the island. (漸次 船匠商客과 漁人耕夫가 相隨而至하야 居生하는되). Since the water is extremely deep, it is said that fishing is unprofitable, but annual shipments of seaweed reach as much as 2,000 dam (海水가 太深하야 魚産은 未益하고다만 海菜의 運出이 每年에 二千 擔에 多至하고).

The land is fertile, so fertilization with night soil is unnecessary (土質은 膏沃하야 糞漑 를 要치아니하고), but wood ash is plowed into the fields to achieve two harvests a year (樹叢燼灰로 覆耕하야 一年兩熟을 得하니). Barley and wheat are planted in the spring (春季에는 大小麥이오), and potatoes and beans in the fall (秋季에는 薯와 豆인 되). Last year’s harvest was 20,000 po of potatoes, 20,000 po of barley, 10,000 po of yellow beans, and 5,000 po of wheat (上年所穫이 薯 二萬包, 大麥 二萬包, 黃豆一萬包, 小麥五千包이오). The incline of the land is too steep to grow rice (地勢가 太斜하야 禾穀은 耕作지 못 하고). There are many wood products, including old, large Japanese cedar and a variety of rare, valuable trees (材木은 老年巨杉과 各種貴重寶木이 亦多하고). There are zelkova, juniper, pine nut, and Integra holly (槻木 香木 柏子木 甘湯木이 産有하어라).

Trade with the mainland is extremely rare, but they occasionally get a shipment of only a few po of such things as foodstuff, tobacco, and cotton cloth (大陸과 通商이 極少한 되 往往히 商簇의 輸入하는 物貨는 食物烟草布疋 等數包 뿐이오.) The goods they ship out is mainly seaweed, but also lumber, and occasionally clothes (其 載出하는 物品은 海菜가 居多하고 板木 間或 裝 運하더라).

Among the confusion of seal peaks and rock cliffs along the shoreline (嶋邊海狗峯石壁亂叢中에), there is a small inlet about 100 English feet wide (一小灣이有하니 約闊一百 英尺이라), where Japanese ships loaded with such imports as rice, salt, pottery, Japanese wine, wool, cotton cloth, kerosene, matches, and umbrellas trade with the locals using the barter method (該灣으로 日本船商의 輸入品은 米 塩 瓷器 日本酒 洋布 木綿 火油 火柴 雨傘等件인되 土民으로더부러 交易하는 法은 物로物을易하고). Besides beans and barley, the exported goods include wood that is cut indiscriminately from all over the mountain, loaded onto ships, carried away--the price is insufficient (其輸出品은 豆麥外에 満山材木을 亂斫鋸削하야 船隻에 載往하는者--其値가 不實하고).

There are places on the island where about 200 Japanese have built houses and are living temporarily (本嶋中에 築室旅居하는 日本人이 二百餘名인되). They encroach on the locals and have inappropriate relations (土民을 侵凌하야 相関하는 弊가 有하어라). The farmers and merchants are originally not taxed 農民商民의 公税는 原定함이 無하고), but, the island supervisor is collecting one-tenth of the seaweed (但 嶋監이 海菜에는 十分의一을 徵하고) and a wood charge of 100 ryang per ship (木料에는 毎船一隻에 葉一百 兩을 徴하여). When the Japanese sell goods, they paid only a negotiated fee of two percent, but no tax (日本人은 賣貨時 口文(百抽二)外에는 納税함이 無하더라).

In September of this year, the Interior Ministry (本年九月에 内部에서), based on the above report (右項報告을 等因하야), requested that the Foreign Ministry request the head of the Japanese mission in Korea (外部에 照會하였더니 外部에서 駐京日本公使에게 照會하야) to promise to correct the situation and remove the Japanese trespassing on the island (該嶋에 潜越한 日本人을 訂期刷還하고)…. Have him prohibit and stop trade…. (不*******買賣함을 禁戢케하라하였더라).


  1. Thank you SO much for taking the trouble to prepare and post this. It's especially interesting for people who've been fascinated by your earlier posts on Ulleungdo to see a document of this kind, so informatively transcribed and translated. But even aside from the historical interest, there's enough linguiustic meat here to keep me busy and fascinated for a few days, or even weeks...

  2. You are welcome, Annonymous.

    By the way, some mistakes were pointed out to me, so I have just made some corrections to the post.

    If you have any questions or suggestions, just let me know.


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