Welcome to The Korea History Group Blog

Welcome to 우물 안 개구리, the newest addition to Frog in a Well. This new academic group blog is primarily focused on the study of the history of Korea, broadly defined, but some of our contributors will be writing from the perspective of other fields.

This is the sister blog to 井の中の蛙, or Frog In a Well – Japan, focusing on Japanese history, as well as 井底之蛙, or Frog In a Well – China, focusing on Chinese history. The weblog’s name 우물 안 개구리 is originally from a Chinese proverb that comes from the writings of Zhuangzi, one of the founders of what we now call Daoism (In the Burton Watson translation of his Basic Writings the story behind this proverb can be found in Section 17 “Autumn Floods” on pages 107-8). A frog tries to convince a turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he is a master. After trying to get in and getting stuck, the turtle withdraws and tells the frog instead of how deep and wide the sea is. The frog is left dumfounded. The proverb, which grew out of this Daoist fable, has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside one’s own immediate environment.

Our collaborative weblogs here begin from this position of humility, and we look forward to a useful and lively exchange of ideas and perspectives on the study of Korean history.

Our starting contributers are each graduate students or professors studying Korea and have agreed to share some of their ideas, discoveries, and other comments online here. I will invite each of them to introduce themselves so you may learn a little more about their respective interests and background and will then add them to the list of authors in the side bar. Information on how to contact us is also available in a link from the sidebar.

Let us hope that this new weblog, which will eventually be a multilingual Korean and English weblog, will not only make a useful contribution to online discourse about Korean history but also catches the interest of other academics who may have yet made the plunge to share their thoughts and research directly online. For those who are interested, below is a more detailed description of the goals, audience, and content for this weblog.


1) CONTENT – To bring together graduate students and scholars who study Korea on a single group blog to share information about their own research, passing discoveries they have made, and an opportunity to discuss and critique current research and scholarship in our field. In addition to our own research, we may end up posting links to other articles, write reviews of books read or presentations attended, make comments on interesting passages found in the archives, and information on useful resources available to those interested in studying Korea etc.

This is primarily a weblog about the history of Korea but we will be welcoming contributors from other fields or who are working between them. Some of us already dabble in literature, anthropology, and other areas and all of us can benefit from rich interdisciplinary interaction. Also see below under transnational.

2) WEBLOG AUDIENCE – My greatest hope is that our audience will include our peers – other scholars and students studying Korea who will find an interest in what we write and will post comments and criticism to our postings, or even better: will be motivated to continue the discussion online by creating their own weblog or at least makie an effort to bring their ideas online in some format so that everyone has access to it.

Too much of the best research by leading scholars in our field continues to be accessible to only small number of us who can consult expensive online databases and large libraries. Time and time again I have heard academics and students complain about the poor quality of content on the internet related to our fields of research. Until we contribute ourselves, there is little to be gained from such dismissals.

Thus ultimately, while I hope blogs like this will attract scholars and students of history and Korea specifically, the Frog in a Well-Japan and Frog in a Well-China blogs have already shown that there is a large audience of non-specialists out there who are interested in reading our postings regularly and post comments and questions, even when such postings are of a detailed and academic nature.

3) MULTILINGUAL – It is our hope to grow to include a number of contributors who are native speakers of Korean or students/scholars who are studying Korean history in Korea proper or other academic communities which are deeply connected with Korean language scholarship. Such contributors will be welcome to post in Korean and thus visitors who can only read English may at some point not be able to enjoy all the postings on this site. The idea is for contributors to use the language they feel most comfortable with when they write or respond to our postings, despite the sacrifice in readability which this will create for our non-Korean reading audience. The original idea behind Frog in a Well, and indeed the reason I chose this Chinese proverb was the frustration I felt at the fact that many of us studying in the US or outside of East Asia are often ignorant of the newest developments in the scholarship by those active in the Korean language academic communities outside of their own narrow topics of interest. Most of us recognize that there is a growing amount of high quality research in the Korean language that we don’t have the time to read or simply don’t know about.

It is the hope of many of us that Frog in a Well blogs will eventually have many contributors who are working in a number of academic communities, scholars based in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea etc. who know what is going on and who are interested in coming together on a weblog with students/scholars studying the history of this region elsewhere. There needs to be more of this interaction and this blog is one way to do this – but only if students/scholars whose native language is Korean feel comfortable posting and commenting in the language they work best in. Having said that, some contributors (such as is still unfortunately the case for myself) may have no or limited Korean language ability.

4) CROSS-POSTING AND TRANSNATIONAL – Many of us are working on areas that do not comfortably fit into just “Korea”. Postings here may include some which are transnational but might be of strong interest to those who want to read about “Korean history”. We will settle for the broadest and most inclusive definition possible for our postings. While Frog in a Well may eventually have a specific blog dedicated especially to transnational history focused on the Asian/Asia-Pacific region, for now, postings that may be of interest to readers of the Japan or China blogs that are hosted here at Frog in a Well, may be cross-posted at both blogs so that readers who regularly visit just one can find our postings.

Our homepage displays our Frog in a Well logo, based on a painting by Joseph Y. Lo, who has kindly given us permission to use a modified version of it.

In addition, I have prepared two buttons that you are free to use when linking to us:




  1. Welcome to the neighborhood. I think of all the three Frog Blogs this is the one I have been looking forward to most. People talking about China and Japan are dime a dozen. Informed people talking about China and Japan are not that much rarer. Korea, as you no doubt know, is a whole different kettle of cabbage. It will be interesting to see how (or, realistically, if) this develops given the limited amounts of Korea-commentary to leach off of. You will have to be a lot more creative dedicated, and intelligent than the China and Japan bloggers. Fortunately, that should not be difficult.

  2. “The proverb… has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside one’s own immediate environment.”

    And so would it be the participating bloggers who have limited vision or are even ignorant, or would it be Korea, about which they write?

    I was quite surprised to see the title “frog in a well.” Only after looking around a while do I see this (buried deep in the present entry, above):

    “I felt at the fact that many of us studying in the US or outside of East Asia are often ignorant of the newest developments in the scholarship by those active in the Korean language academic communities outside of their own narrow topics of interest. Most of us recognize that there is a growing amount of high quality research in the Korean language that we don’t have the time to read or simply don’t know about.”

    Fair enough, but I think it is possible there will be “native speakers of Korean or students/scholars who are studying Korean history in Korea proper” who take offense at the title. It sounds very non-native to me and at the very least I think that might hinder the formation of group of participants that includes those who feel more comfortable writing in Korean.

    That said, I’m only a wee bit concerned because I like what you are trying to do and wish you the best.

  3. Hmm. I certainly didn’t choose this title to cause offense. It is chosen out of humility and reflection of all our own limitations. This is not a proverb used or native to the English language. However, it is found in Korean, Chinese, and in Japanese, as a dictionary search in any of those languages will show.

    I think it is important for all of us participating in this project, on all three weblogs, to admit our own limitations and attempt to overcome them. This means not only that those of us outside the academic communities of the regions we study build stronger networks with those communities, but that historians can learn from the specialists of other fields, and that we also each try to look beyond the limitations of national history. While we have divided the three weblogs roughly along “national” history lines – this was done out of linguistic concerns, as each weblog is to eventually be bilingual.

    We all hope to learn from eachother.

  4. I have to say that I don’t share Oranckay’s concerns about this title. In fact, I think it is entirely appropriate. I have heard Koreans use this phrase disparagingly about their own society, criticising its parochialism. However, I think it should be clear to readers that in this context it has a much broader, universal application. In fact, it highlights the real need to learn from and about one another, to move beyond simplistic generalisations and into the territory of human experience in all its complex mixture of universality and particularity. That this need and ambition can be summed up by a phrase coined by a man living in an ancient ‘Chinese’ state which is now common linguistic currency over two thousand years later among millions of people across at least three countries makes it even more appropriate.

  5. I freely admit that I blog out of ignorance. I blog when I discover something that I didn’t know; I blog when I want to learn something; I blog when I discover that someone else doesn’t know something that I know.

    As Konrad notes, it’s a proverb which is common to the three major East Asian civilizations, and which provides a powerful metaphor for the “progressive discovery of our own ignorance” (Durant, I think) which is life-long learning and the particular heritage of scholars.

    If anything, it’s the anglophone blogosphere and academy which is grossly ignorant of Asian history in general, and Korea in particular.

  6. 안녕하세요.
    외국어로서의 한국어교육을 공부하고 있습니다.
    인터넷 검색하다가 들어왔는데,
    아마 여기 계신 분들께서 한국인인 저보다 한국 역사에 대해서 더 잘 알고 계실 것 같네요.
    한글로 쓰는 제 글을 읽고 이해하실 분이 얼마나 되실지 궁금합니다.
    하지만 한국 역사에 관심이 있으시니 한국어에도 어느 정도 관심이 있으실거라고 생각합니다.
    제가 도움을 드릴 수 있는 일이 있었으면 좋겠네요.

    I’m studying ‘Teaching Korean as a Foreign Language at a graduate school.
    I’m a native Korean.
    I was surfing the internet for my thesis research and visited here.
    I guess you(the users of this group blog) know about Korean history a lot more than I am.
    I wonder how many of you understand my writine in Korean here.
    But I think some of you DO have interest in Korean language since you are interested in Korean history.
    I hope I could be some help anyhow.

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