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Old Korean map discovered at U.S. university

A rare map of Korea was discovered at the Library of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Jeong Woo-seob, an associate professor at UWM’s School of Information Studies confirmed the discovery of the 1861 Daedong Yeojido (Territorial Map of the Great East) last Tuesday (Nov. 10).

The American Geographical Society Library at UWM will present the significance of the map at its Korean Conference Day scheduled for this coming Friday (Nov. 20). The academic seminar is titled “Legend to the Daedongyeojido”

The map comprises 22 books and is the lifetime achievement of Kim Jeong-ho (?-1864), a royal cartographer for the Joseon Dynasty, who traveled for years to depict an accurate landscape of the Korean Peninsula. In the map, Kim divided the kingdom’s eight provinces into 22 folded sheets, each representing a distance of 50 kilometers contained in one book. The complete map of Korea made by laying out all 22 books of the Daedongyeojido is 6.7 meters high and 3.8 meters long.

Only 25 complete 22-volume sets of Kim’s map exist in Korea. Only two schools, Harvard and the UC Berkeley were known to hold a complete set in the U.S.

“We confirmed the existence of the Daedongyeojido while analyzing map information in the school library with the Korean consulate office based in Chicago last winter,” Jeong said, adding that the library has preserved the map well in a room that maintains the proper temperature and humidity level. 

Records show that the map originally belonged to George C. Foulk (1856~1893) who served as a diplomat to the Joseon court. Having served as an interpreter for the U.S. delegation and unofficial advisor to Korea’s Emperor Gojong (1852-1919), it is likely that he used the map while traveling around the peninsula. An avid photographer, some of his photos were recently published in Korea.

The newly discovered map also contains notes Foulk scribbled on the sheets during his 20-month stay in Korea.

The New York-based American Geographical Society bought Foulk’s maps, books on maps and 43 photos of Korea from his family in 1895. The material was later purchased by the UWM and State of Wisconsin. The library holds some 500,000 maps collected from around the world together with over 1 million related materials.

“The late-Joseon Dynasty was an era in which the government monopolized possession of maps and other geographical information about the country, so it’s surprising that the map got outside,” said Kim Ki-huk, a professor of Pusan National University and chairman of an association for old Korean maps. “Since the route this map took is quite clear, as are Foulk’s notes, we can use this incidence as a clue to how other maps were used and taken abroad.”

UWM is holding an academic seminar, “Korean Maps of the 19th Century: the Korean National Treasure Daedongyeojido,” together with its Korean Day function on Nov. 20.

Gari Ledyard, Professor Emeritus of Korean Studies at Columbia University will give a special lecture about the cartographer Kim, and other professors will speak on the historical significance of historic Korean maps. Korean cuisine and traditional dances will accompany the seminar.

For more information on Korena Day Conference visit the website.

By Kim Hee-sung Staff Writer

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