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Frontier Contact between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan

 
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Nerroth
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:20 am    Post subject: Frontier Contact between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan Reply with quote
Recently, another look at the Edo Period arrived in the local JF library; this time, a work by James B. Lewis titled Frontier Contact between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan.

Quote:
East Asia from 1400 to 1850 was a vibrant web of connections, and the southern coast of the Korean peninsula participated in a maritime world that stretched to Southeast Asia and beyond. Within this world were Japanese pirates, traders, and fishermen. They brought things to the Korean peninsula and they took things away. The economic and demographic structures of Kyongsang Province had deep and wide connections with these Japanese traders. Social and political clashes revolving around the Japan House in Pusan reveal Korean mentalities towards the Japanese connection. This study seeks to define 'Korea' by examining its frontier with Japan. The guiding problems are the relations between structures and agents and the self-definitions reached by pre-modern Koreans in their interaction with the Japanese. Case studies range from demography to taxation to trade to politics to prostitution. The study draws on a wide base of primary sources for Korea and Japan and introduces the problems that animate modern scholarship in both countries. It offers a model approach for Korea's northern frontier with China and shows that the peninsula was and is a complex brocade of differing regions. The book will be of interest to anyone concerned with pre-1900 East Asia, Korea in particular, and especially Korea's relations with the outside world. Anyone interested in early-modern Japan and its external relations will also find it essential reading.


Despite the title, the bulk of the work covers the Edo-period relations between the Joseon court (or, more specifically, the Magistrate in Tongnae county) and the lords of Tsushima (or, more to the point, the Waegwan (Wakan), or "Japan House" formerly in what is now part of modern-day Busan).

Interestingly, the book opens with a reference to this period by none other than Roh Tae-woo, the former President of the Republic of Korea, who referred to this era of Joseon-Tsushima relations in an address given during a state visit to Japan; at which he surprised his hosts by explicitly referring to Amenomori Hoshu, a noted Confucian advisor to the lords of Tsushima, who advised in favour of "sincere relations" with Joseon. (What he let unsaid was the context of this advice, given as it was in an era when the So lords of Tsushima, and their representatives in the Japan House, were quite regularly anything but.)

The book has different sections it covers. Part of it looks into the economic impact in Tongnae (and the rest of the province of Gyeongsang) stemming from the Tsushima trade. Other sections look into some of the social and political issues that arose for the Tongnae Magistrates; disturbances caused by the Tsushima residents in the Japan House, unauthorised relations (consensual or otherwise) between individuals or groups on either side of the border wall, and so forth.

While the main focus is on the Edo period itself, there are a few glimpses into other eras, in order to help provide context. The situation in the "post-1600" era of trade is compared to the different set of rules in play prior to the Imjin War, and show how that conflict cut a sharp dividing line between what was acceptable to the Joseon court in one era to that they woul tolerate in another. On the other side, there is the odd reference to the later fate of the Waegwan; or as the Meiji government re-named it, the "Tae-Ilbon Konggwan" (Dai-Nihon Kokan). The Japan House became the site of Meiji Japan's first overseas consulate; and while the buildings no longer stand, the area it once stood on has become part of the bustling city of Busan. (I'm not sure where in the city the current-day Japanese consulate is, or if it has any connection to the old Japan House.)

Overall, the work is worth taking a look at, for those looking for more details on the main point of contact between the Joseon Dynasty and the Tokugawa shogunate (via its point men on the island of Tsushima), as a means of helping to show how the modern-day trade links which connect Japan and South Korea via the port of Busan build on a succession of local historical precedents.
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for posting about this, Nerroth. I'm considering delving into researching the Ryukyu-kan in Kagoshima, so looking at the Waegwan / Wakan in Pusan could also provide some interesting comparative bits. There are already a good handful of books on Korean-Japanese relations in this period, but this one sounds like it could be a good addition to the discourse.
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Nerroth
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Do you know if the Ryukyu-kan site is still around, or has it gone the same way as the Waegwan?

(I gather that there are at least a few elements from the Edo period that are still present in the modern-day city of Kagoshima, but wasn't sure if it was one of them ot not.)
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Th one in Kagoshima is gone, I think. The one in Fuzhou is still there. John
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Is the one in Fuzhou used as a museum covering the connections with the Ryukyu Kingdom, or is it left fallow (or used for some other purpose)?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The site of the Ryukyu-kan in Kagoshima is today a public middle school (中学校). A stone stele marker stands within the school grounds, marking the former site of the Ryukyu-kan.

I haven't been there myself, but only seen photos of the marker in books. I assume the school has no gallery or museum or the like, though the city museum or prefectural museum or city archives or something presumably have materials or artifacts related to the site.

A brief description of the site, in Japanese, from the personal website of historian Watanabe Miki:
http://www.geocities.jp/ryukyu_history/Japan_Ryukyu/Satsuma1.html
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
On the topic, we'll have a podcast about international trade during the Edo period up in a couple days.
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