The geography of Korea, or Ch'sao Hsien ("Morning Calm," or "Fresh Morning"), is simple. It is a definite peninsula to the northeast of China, measuring roughly 600 miles from north to south and 135 from east to west. The coast line is about 1,740 miles. It lies between 34 degree 17' N. to 43 degree N. latitude and 124 degree 38' E. to 130 degree 33' E. longitude, and has an estimated area of upwards of 80,000 square miles, being somewhat smaller than Great Britain. Bounded on the north and west by the Tu-men and Am-nok, or Yalu, rivers, which divide it from the Russian and Chinese empires, and by the Yellow Sea, its eastern and southern limit is the Sea of Japan, a "silver streak", which has not been its salvation. Its northern frontier is only conterminous with that of Russia for 11 miles.
The raison d'etre of Ma-cha Tong, and the numerous coast villages which exist wherever a convenient shore and a protection for boats occur together, is the coast fishing. The fact that a floating population of over 8,000 Japanese fishermen make a living by fishing on the coast near Fusan shows that there is a redundant harvest to be reaped. The Korean fisherman is credited with utter want of enterprise, and Mr. Oiesen, in the Customs' report for Won-san for 1891, accuses him of "remaining content with such fish as will run into crudely and easily constructed traps, set out along the shore, which only require attention for an hour or so each day." I must, however, say that each village that I passed possessed from seven to twelve fishing junks, which were kept at sea. They are unseaworthy boats, and it is not surprising that they hug the shore. I believe that the fishing industry, with every other, is paralyzed by the complete insecurity of the earnings of labor and by the exactions of officials, and that the Korean fisherman does not care to earn money of which he will surely be deprived on any or no pretence, and that, along with the members of the industrial classes generally, he seeks the protection of poverty.
A Korean junk dose not impress one by its seaworthiness, and it is not surprising that the junkmen hug the shore and seek shelter whenever a good sailing breeze comes on. She is built without nails, iron, or preservative paint, and looks rather like a temporary and fortuitous aggregation of beams and pranks than a deliberate construction. Two tall, heavy masts fixed by wedges among the timbers at the bottom of the boat require frequent attention, as they are always swaying and threatening to come down. The sails are of matting, with a number of bamboos running transversely, with a cord attached to each, united into one sheet, by means of which tacking is effected, or rather might be. Practically, navigation consists is running before a light breeze, and dropping the mass of mats and bamboos on the confusion below whenever it freshens, varying the process by an easy pull at the sweeps, one at the stern and two working on pins in transverse beams amidships, which project 3 feet on each side. The junk is fitted with a rudder of enormous size, which from its position acts as a keel board. The price is from 60 to 80 dollars. This singular craft sails well before the wind, but under other circumstances is apt to become unmanageable.