John D. Ford’s Korea

For readers interested in more early Western views of Korea and Koreans in a similar vein to those that Konrad has looked at in his series of posts here, Thomas Duvernay has posted chapters on Korea from John D. Ford’s 1905 travelogue An American Cruiser in the East at his website. (Actually the rest of his site on traditional Korean archery looks interesting too.) Good on him for putting this stuff out there for everyone to access.

Here’s a passage on Seoul that interested me since I am working on late Chosŏn commerce:

The shops are mean, and it is difficult to find fancy articles of Korean make. The best way to obtain curiosities is to let your wants be known as soon after your arrival as possible, name a place and date where you can be seen, and you will be waited upon by merchants who deal in such wares. Fans, antique metal-work, Korean coins and mats can be obtained in this way. The prices will be high, as the articles are rare and the owners not anxious to part with them.

It should be noted that by 1905 the merchants of Seoul had suffered from one blow after another (inflation, the collapse of government finances, loss of monopolies, massive currency devaluation and competition from Japanese and Chinese traders) so things may have been different had the author arrived some years earlier in the capital.

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