The small island, Songjukdo (松竹島), that Inspector Lee was referring to was Ulleungdo's neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島), which is two kilometers off Ulleungdo's east shore. In fact, in the same conversation, King Kojong said that Songjukdo (松竹島) was sometimes called "Songdo" (松島) and sometimes called "Jukdo" (竹島). However, the translation of "approximately 30 ri (里)" by Korea's National Insitute of Korean History would be a distance of approximately 12 kilometers, not two. That suggests that there may be a problem with the National Institute of Korean History translation of 三數十里.
“芋山島卽鬱陵島, 而芋山古之國都名也。 松竹島卽一小島, 而與鬱陵島, 相距爲三數十里。 其所産卽檀香與簡竹云矣。”
“우산도는 바로 울릉도이며 우산(芋山)이란 바로 옛날의 우산국의 국도(國都) 이름입니다. 송죽도는 하나의 작은 섬인데 울릉도와 떨어진 거리는 30리(里)쯤 됩니다. 여기서 나는 물건은 단향(檀香)과 간죽(簡竹)이라고 합니다.”
Usando (芋山島) is just Ulleungdo. Usan is just the name of the capital for the old country of Usan. Songjukdo (松竹島) is just a small island appoximately thirty ri offshore (相距爲三數十里). The products there are juniper (檀香) and pipestem bamboo.
In the Chinese phrase (三數十里), the character 里 (ri) was a unit of measure that was approximately 0.4 kilometers, which was different from the Japanese measure of 里. That means that ten ri would have been 4 kilometers. The Chinese characters in front of the 里 (ri) character was the number of ri. The number was 三數十, which literally translates as "three" (三), "number," and ten" (數十). However, instead of translating it as a possible range, the National Institute of Korean History translated it as "approximately 30 ri."
The problem with the Korean translation of "approximately thirty ri" is that it ignores the conventional way that Koreans translate numbers used with 數十 (수십). First, Koreans do not normally use 數十 (tens) with numbers less than ten. Second, Koreans always translate the number in front of 數十 (수십) first and then the "tens" (數十).
When Koreans say 백수십 (百數十), they mean "100 and some tens," which implies that it is more than 100 but less than 200. They could also say 오백수십 (五百數十), which means "500 and some tens" and implies more than 500 but less than 600. Koreans also say 천수백 (千數百), which means "1,000 and some hundreds" and implies more than 1,000 but less than 2,000. If we use the same convention with 삼수십 (三數十), the translation would be "three and some tens," which implies that it is more than three but less than "some tens." However, 삼수십 (三數十) is different from the normal way Koreans use 數十 (some tens) because the number in front of 數 is 3 (三), which is smaller than than the number that comes after 數, which is 10 (十). This suggests a different use of 數.
I think 三數十里 (삼수십리) should be translated as "three to ten ri" (1.2 km to 4 km) since the distance to Ulleungdo's neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島 - 죽도) from the northeast shore of Ulleungdo is about 2 kilometers, and the distance from Jedong Harbor, which is on the southeast shore of Ulleungdo, is about 4 kilometers. That means that 三數十里 (3 to 10 ri) describes the distance to Jukdo almost perfectly.
Since Lee Gyu-won told King Kojong in 1882 that the distance to Ulleungdo's neighboring island of "Songjukdo" (松竹島) was "3 to 10 ri," we can safely assume that Lee was referring to Ulleungdo's neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島). And since King Kojong said that "Songjukdo" (松竹島) was "sometimes called Songdo (松島 - 송도) and sometimes called Jukdo (竹島 - 죽도)," we know that Ulleungdo's neighboring island of Jukdo was sometimes called "Songgo" (松島 - 송도), which the Japanese pronounce as "Matsushima."
Link to an Old Post of the Subject
Here is a more detailed explanation of the logic I used to translate 三數十里 as "3 to 10 ri.":
- 數年(수년) = some years
- 三數年(삼수년) = 3 and some years
- 三十數年(삼십수년) = 30 and some years
- 三百數年(삼백수년) = 300 and some years
- 數年(수년) = some years
- 數十年(수십년) = some decades
- 數百年(수백년) = some centuries
- 百數十年(백수십년) = a hundred and some decades
- 三百數十年(삼백수십년) = three hundred and some decades
- 千數百年(천수백년) = a thousand and some centuries
The reason that 三數十里 does not make sense, in the way that the people at the National Institute of Korean History translated it, is the same reason that 三百數千里 (three hundred and some thousands) would not make sense; that is, the number before 數 cannot be smaller than the number that comes after 數 when one wishes to express such a meaning. Therefore, we need to consider another translation for 三數十里.
When Koreans want to say "3 to 4 years," they say 삼사년 (三四年). When they want to say "40 to 40 years," they say 삼사십년 (三四十年). I think 三數十里 (삼수십리) was using the same grammar and that the character 數 was placed between the 3 (三) and 10 (里) to make sure it was read as "3 to 10 ri" instead of as "30 ri." As similar use of 三數十 (삼수십) can be found in the following February 17, 1874 entry in the Annals of King Kojong:
The fact that 三數十年 was followed by 十餘年 (more than 10 years) suggests that 三數十年 meant "3 to 10 years" because if it had meant "approximately 30 years," then there would have been no need for 十餘年 (more than 10 years).
If one talks about the length of time of the people first selected, some have exceeded three to ten years, and others have exceeded ten years.
Therefore, I believe Lee Gyu-won's 1874 statement to King Kojong should be translated as follows:
The above translation makes the most sense because it describes almost perfectly the distance to Ulleungdo's neighboring island of Jukdo (竹島), which is the largest of Ulleuungdo two neighboring islands. The other is Gwaneumdo (觀音島), which is only about 100 meters offshore. Ulleungdo has no neighboring island "approximately 30 ri" (12 km) offshore, which is more evidence that Korea's National Institute of Korean History translation is wrong.
松竹島卽一小島, 而與鬱陵島, 相距爲三數十里
Songjukdo (松竹島) is just a small island and its distance from Ulleungdo is 3 to 10 ri.