[KS] Re: Tsushima/Taema-do

sungjong.paik at uni-tuebingen.de sungjong.paik at uni-tuebingen.de
Wed Oct 14 13:15:00 EDT 1998

Dear Professor Ledyard,

Thanks very much for your instructing, kind message. Surely, King Sejong
was very cautious and excellent scholar. At the same time, however, he
was a king, the most powerful politician in his time. In the case of
disscussion on the Tsushima's territorial question, he functioned as
Korean monarch or political successor of King T'aejong.

The territorial question of Tsushima during the first half of the 15th
century might have to be connected, as you pointed out, with other
important problem. In this sense, I really agree with you, when you
insist that "King T'aejong's remarks on this subject were only
the tip of an iceberg in which feeling about the Korean ownership of the
island were very strong." The whole discussion, which stated by King
T'aejong during the large scale expedition to the island in 1419,
pursued , in my view, a concrete political goal: Korea would annex the
problematic island Tsushima, stronghold of the Japanese pirats. We read
in Sillok of 1419 that King Sejong degraded the status of the island
after the successful expedition. At the same time, the island was
subordinated to KyOngsang province refered to diplomatic contact with
Korean government for a while. (Sejong 2/1#/23 Imjin: Sillok, 2:370) In
a word, even if the expedition was successful, Korea could not annex it.
Hence, the Korean king sought a compromise. It is my interpretation.  

To legitimate it, King T'aejong invented a theory that the island
belonged to Korea in the old times but he failed to find the historical
documents suppoting his theory. His successor King Sejong made great
endeavor to secure historical records on the topic but had to be
satisfied with an private document on slaves of Kim Chunggon. King
Sejong's problem was that the island had a different named, that was
Tujido not Taema, in the Kim's document.(Sejong 2311/21 Kabin: Sillok,
4:370) Because the wise king already knew that his and his father's
theory could not be proved, he did not punish the scholars such as Yu
Uison, when they added the island to the map of Japan, as you know.
(Sejong 20/2/19 Kyeyu: Sillok, 4:131) If the king had been strongly
believed in the theory, he should oder to extinguish the island from the
Japanese map and, of course, punish the officials. 

If you want to do it, we can extend our discussion into other important
topics on the relationship among Korea and many Japanese rulers on the
small islands and inland, of course.


Paik Sungjong

Very sorry for my bad English. Please, forgive some grammatical erros!
Gari Keith Ledyard wrote:
> Dear Professor Paik,
>         I appreciated very much your thoughts on the Tsushima/Taemado
> question in the 15th century, and especially the detailed references and
> the comments that you added to them.  Some of the notices you cited were
> familiar to me, especially the interesting developments in 1438 concerning
> the Korean map of Japan and the emphasis on Iki and Tsushima being on it.
> I cited this passage in my "Cartography in Korea" (ref in my earlier
> posting) but had forgotten about it since.  Your observations on the
> tributary system and how it worked in Korean-Japanese relations also gave
> much ground for thought.  There is no doubt that on the ceremonial/ritual
> level, and in economic matters, the form of the relationship came from the
> tributary model.  On the political level, it is interesting that Korea had
> relations with Tsushima, but also with other local or regional powers in
> the Japanese islands, as well as with the Ashikaga shogunate itself.  From
> a tributary perspective, this arrangement had its attractions, as most of
> the people that Korea actually dealt with were of secondary status within
> Japan itself, so that it was no particular problem to enforce degrees of
> subordination on their various Japanese clients.  I think that Korea
> probably saw it in its practical interest to have relations with as many
> regional powers as possible, so that when and if pirate troubles recurred
> there would be that many more buttons to push in efforts to deal with
> them.  But, with you, I believe that this is a completely separate matter
> from questions of territoriality.
>         Indeed, it is interesting to see how Sejong, in the context of his
> relations with various Japanese groups, worked to define the territorial
> status of Tsushima as Japanese.  This must have had a stabilizing, if
> probably also unwelcome, effect on irridentist Korean opinion itself,
> since it is clear that King T'aejong's remarks on this subject were only
> the tip of an iceberg in which feeling about the Korean ownership of the
> island were very strong.  That stabilizing effect was probably not what
> these Koreans believed or wanted to accept.  But in many areas, Sejong was
> ahead of his scholars insofar as concrete study and research were
> concerned.  At least he cited names and general dates and had some concern
> for documentation (clear from the 1438, 1441, and 1444 sillok passages
> that you cited), which is apparently more than his father ever did.
> Yours truly,
> Gari Ledyard


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