From "Korea and Her Neighbors" by Isabella Lucy Bird.

Isabella Bird, the famous traveler and a writer in the late 19th century, visited Korea four times between January 1894 and March 1897. Her book on Korea "Korea and Her Neighbors" is a very important record of Korea, as she witnessed real Korean empire just after the Sino-Japanese war and just before the incorporation of Liancourt rocks.

from "Introductory Chapter":

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.
In those days, most Korean fishermen used to engage in coast fishing. This is not a story of Ulleungdo, but the situation in Ulleungdo may be almost the same.
from the 12th chapter "Along the Coast":
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.
Isabella wrote about Korean junk, which is not seaworthy.

Also from the 12th chapter "Along the Coast":

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.


  1. Thank you, pacifist.

    "It lies between 34 degree 17' N. to 43 degree
    N. latitude and 124 degree 38' E. to 130 degree 33' E. longitude"
    Considering not only this book but also many British Sea Chart books and Western maps set eastern limit of Choson excluding even Ulleundo, I would say Japanese did tried to be a gentlemen, unlike the "greedy and aggressive Japanese Imperialism" which Korean government were trying to picture today.

    "A Korean junk dose not impress one by its seaworthiness, and it is not surprising that the junkmen hug the shore and seekshelter whenever a good sailing breeze comes on. "
    It's very understanadable. As I said before, Confuciaus Choson Lee dynasty didn't value fishery industry since they put high value on agriculture (農本主義) which they can easily control the farmers and their crops. Fishermen in Choson were discriminated.

    By the way, I found very interesitng book by Japanese in Meiji who stayed in Korea in 1894. Though it is written in Japanese, there are many pictures which tells us very interesting informations of the daily life of Korean peopl in Choson era. It looks like he thought Choson officials are very crude and foreigners hated them. And Japanese civilians were sometimes openly bashed by them before the people. If you are interested in the book, go to 「朝鮮雑記」 on Kindai digital Library site by NDL of Japan.

  2. Anonymous7/11/07 09:33

    Thank you, Pacifist.
    It is of great help.

  3. Anonymous7/11/07 22:28

    If you want to know the situation about Ulleungdo at the time. Cite the historical references at the time don't guess.

    Koreans sailed to Ulleungdo 550kms every spring from Chollanamdo Pacifist. This was recorded by Koreans themselves. Thus their boats were more than capable for the journey. These people gathered abalone, seaweed, hunted seals, gathered medicinal products and built boats.

    I don't know what the connection between some tourist lady who "visited" the mainland of Korea has to do with Koreans on Ulleungdo. The fact is by 1882 there were at least 100 Koreans building sailboats on Ulleungdo that had come from hundreds of kilometers away.

    Read the truth.

    Korean life of Ulleungdo 18th~19th Century

    Looks like this tourist lady forgot that Ulleungdo was part of Korea. Her territorial limit obviously didn't include islands or was horribly wrong....

  4. Dokdo-Takeshima.com (Steve Barber),

    The Koreans did not sail 550 kilometers in the open sea. They hugged the coast, just as Ms. Bird said, until they got parallel to Ulleungdo, which is only about 135 kilometers from the shore. Korean records say how dangerous the trip was, and how Koreans sailors were afraid to make.

    As for the boundary of Korea, we do not know if she was including Ulleungdo or not, but even Joseon maps and documents never set Korea's border beyong Ulleungdo.

  5. Anonymous8/11/07 00:24

    Gerry, says "Only 135 kms from Ulleungdo" ONLY 135kms?? That was quoted as two days sailing. That's almost as far as Oki to Matsushima. I don't know what your point is anyway. The Koreans sailed to Ulleungdo and built sailboats there since at least 1787.

    135 clicks from the mainland in the waters of the East Sea IS open sea. The Koreans did this annually, they did it at will. And I don't think it was a big deal at all to them especially the islanders from Cholla Province.

    Follow the link to post above and there are no less than four historical references that show Koreans voyaged to Ulleungdo annually, built sailboats (not rafts), hunted seals, and gathered abalone on Ulleungdo.

    How seaworthy were Chosun Koreans' boats??

    Seaworthy enough apparently.

  6. There is absolutely no single evidence that Korean boat went to Takeshima/Liancour Rocks/Dokdo and fished there before 1905. On the contrary, Japanese have long history of using the island as a fishery base, a relay point to Ulleundo and landmarks for cargo vessel to Hokkaido(北前舟)since around 1852 and there are hundreds of maps and documents to support the claim. Actually, a new map 「日本針図(しんず)」(1836) was reported to be found in this week which has clear sea route between Matsushima(Takeshima/Liancour Rocks) and Ulleundo. Two islands were coloured in the same as Japanese mainland. By the way, Korean boats which you post on your site is clearly not suitable for open sea. And the book I introduced above tells that there were so many pirates around Korea and travelling by boats were very dangerous in those days in Choson era.

    As for the eastern limit of Choson,

    British Publication "China Sea Directory," 3rd Edition, Vol 4 (1894) says the eastern limit of Choson as 130°35′ and it excludes both Ulleundo and Liancourt Rocks.

    Japanese "Sea directory of Choson" in 1894 also clearly states the eastern limit of Choson as 130°35′ and it excludes both Ulleundo and Liancourt Rocks.

    Korean Geogaphy text Daehanjiji (大韓地誌) in 1899 states that the eastern limit of Choson is E130º35’.

    "History of Joseon Civilization" (朝鮮開化史) by Tsuneya Seihuku(恒屋盛服)in 1901 also says that the eastern limit of Joseon is 130 degrees 35 minutes.

    It is clear that the eastern limit of Choson was commonly recognized as 130°35′ which exclude not only Takeshima/Liancour Rocks/Dokdo but also Ulleundo in fact. Mr. Kimotsuki, the director of Japanese Navy surveyrance department clearly knew this, but he didn't even think about suggesting Nakai Yosaburou to apply incorporating Ulleundo or even lobbying government to do so by himself. I would say Japanese were acting very fairly and peacefully, and followed international law, unlike Pro-Korean Dokdo-lobbyist are trying to illustrate them "grabbed the island".

  7. Correction

    since around 1852

    since around 1652-1654

  8. Anonymous8/11/07 13:58

    kaneganese, none of those references you mention even remotely suggest the Japanese considered Takeshima or Matsushima Japanese territory. Just they knew about the islands.

    All this shows is that Japanese were voyaging in regions they were forbidden to travel to. Ullengdo (Takeshima) was Korean territory and the Japanese had no business being in the region at all. In fact at the same time this map was printed Japanese had just been executed for travelling to Ulleungdo. This map clearly shows how Japanese continually violated their own domestic law and agreements made to stay away from Ulleungdo Island.

    Kaneganese, stop with the Japanese propaganda. You keep yammering on that Koreans couldn't sail even though I've shown numerous historical references proving Koreans sailed to Ulleungdo 550 kms from Korea's South coast. Stop wasting everyone's time, you've lost that argument with this post.

    Koreans Annually Sailed to Ulleungdo

    Every territorial boundary you've posted excludes Ulleungdo Island Kaneganese.

    Japanese acting fairly and peacefully???

    Japanese in Korea1
    Japanese Military in Korea2
    Japanese Military in Korea3

    Not everyone is a Japanese Right Wing lobbyist who supports Japan's Colonization of Korea like you Kanganese.

    Tora Tora Tora Kaneganese!!!!

  9. Steve,

    "Tora Tora Tora Kaneganese!!!!"
    ...sigh. Japanese incorporation of Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks was done peacefully in 1905 and it has absolutely nothing to do with WWII. Why are you desperately trying to connect other war history with this issue? Korean illegal occuption was brutelly done militarily and 44 Japanese civilians were brutally killed or sevearly injured by Korean Navy and other authorities. 3,929 Japanese fishermen were abducted and detained in Korean jail for almost 3 years and since they were not fed enough and even suffered from T.B. We don't even know how many of them died now. It was Korea who slaughtered innocent Japanese civilians. Stop demonizing Japanese and spreading anti-Japanese propaganda.

    "Not everyone is a Japanese Right Wing lobbyist who supports Japan's Colonization of Korea like you Kanganese."
    When did I support Japan's colonization of Korea? I never said that. Show me the evidence. You always distort fact. On the contrary, I always think they shouldn't have annexed Korea even they had begged us to. Next time they are in danger, we'll just watch how it goes since we don't have army anyway. And what is a proof that I am the right-winger? When you are cornered you always call Japanese a right winger without any proof. Real Japanese right-winger call themselves as they are since that is the method they make money.

    Many Japanese maps and documents, and Western maps and British sea chart excluded Ulleundo from Korean territory and included in Japanese territory. But Japanese gentleman Mr, Kimotsuki, the director of the surveyrance department didn't incorporated Ulleundo when they could have done if they want to. Ulleundo was much important than Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks but Japense incorporated only Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks which they considered outside Korean territory, but not Ulleundo which apparently Korean territory. If they were "greedily enough to grab the island" as pro-Korean Dokdo lobbyist like you always claim, why they didn't incorporated more important and huge Ulleundo instead of tiny Takeshima? We already knew that Director Kimotsuki clearly knew that Takeshima was outside Korean territory and there were no Korean fishermen except some who were hired by Japanese to come to help Japanese hunt sealions on the island at the time.

    Your site has no single evidence Korean went to Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks at all. I have never said that Korean was not able to voyage to the island, but I said it was not probable since all the document clearly tells that Korean were only collecting Seaweeds and abalones around Ulleundo. Ulleundo was their destination, not Liancourt Rocks which is more 92km far from Ulleundo. Korean have to show the physical evidence, not a circumstancial evidence that Korean went to Takshima/Liancourt Rocks before Japanese did.

    If you want to know how vicious Choson official were to Japanese and other foreigners, get an translater and read the book I posted above. Speaking of translations, why are you even citing our translations on your site? You claimed that you can't trust what we say since we use ID. You said you can hire a cheap Japanese translater in Korea. Oh, yes, you are not living in Korea anymore, right?

    Japan has plenty of concrete evidences that they had economically owned and used the island since 1652-1654 and they officially incorporated Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks in 1905.

    Apparently, Korean didn't even know where it is or what a size it is accurately and she has no single evidence that they had even considered the island within their territory before 1950 except for the head of Ulleundo Shim, who couldn't even tell where it is correctly in 1906.

  10. Perfect, Kaneganese!

    Steve, all you have to do is to bring the evidence that Koreans knew Liancourt rocks, reached there and used the rocks before Japanese did. We have kept you asking to show us the evidence but you have failed. Steve, we are still waiting for that.

  11. Kaneganese said that "[t]here is absolutely no single evidence that Korean boat went to Takeshima/Liancour Rocks/Dokdo and fished there before 1905." This is indeed a preposterous proposition that insults intelligence of esteemed readers of this site! Rock carvings at Bangudae in Ulsan Korea shows whaling ships accommodating 20 sailors in prehistoric times. And somehow, Korean sailed to Ulleungdo in prehistoric times as numerous excavation sites there prove. And Ulleungdo is not visible from the Korean peninsula!! Now, Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo. Surely, Kaneganese could not be suggesting that people can sail to an island that they cannot see (to Ulleungdo) but they cannot sail to an island that they can see (to Dokdo). One of normal intelligence would assume that sailing to an unobservable island proves the near certainty of sailing to a visible island from there.

  12. B.J.

    Are you joking?

    "And Ulleungdo is not visible from the Korean peninsula!!"

    Ulleungdo can be seen in the distance from a mountain above the Korean east coast city of Donghae.)

    Now, read the sentence below.

    于山武陵二島 在縣正東海中 二島相去不遠 風日淸明 則可望見 新羅時 稱于山國 一云鬱陵島. 地方百里

    "Now, Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo. Surely, Kaneganese could not be suggesting that people can sail to an island that they cannot see (to Ulleungdo) but they cannot sail to an island that they can see (to Dokdo)."

    Takeshima is only visible from Ulleungdo less than 5 days a year and only few hours of those lucky day during autumn and winter. And you need to climb high mountain peaks. It doesn't fit the description of Korean old geography text.

    "One of normal intelligence would assume that sailing to an unobservable island proves the near certainty of sailing to a visible island from there."

    It is not "visibility" what is important. Critical point is, there is absolutely no single document which shows Korean had ever been to Takeshima. None of Joseon inspectors including 張漢相, who is the only one who could have witnessed Takeshima in 1694, didn't go to the island. And Joseon government ignored the island Jan witnessed. In result, Joseon government missed the chance to include the island into their territory.

    Look, what wee need is not assumption, but concrete evidence that Korean really travelled to the island and Joseon government recognized it as her territory.


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