[KS] Maps Missing Mountains (allegedly)

Afostercarter at aol.com Afostercarter at aol.com
Mon Jan 10 09:52:20 EST 2005

Dear Listmembers,

This editorial from today's Korea Times caught my eye.
It's the first I'd heard of the matter.

Informed comment would be welcome. Is it really the case
that South (and North?) Koreans have been using inaccurate
maps, missing out most mountain ranges, for over a century?

I'm struck, too, by what one might call this article's implicit
metaphysics of national vertebracy ....

Happy New Year! (may all chickens come home to roost),

Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University 

Home address: 17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK 
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Email: afostercarter at aol.com             website:  www.aidanfc.net

Real Look of Peninsula
'Paektu Taegan' Must Be Preserved   

The map of the Korean peninsula we commonly use is largely based on what a 
Japanese geologist drew in 1903. There is no reason to discredit the map if it 
shows how the peninsula really looks. However, its accuracy has been questioned 
by a new map released by the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements.

The striking difference is the configuration of mountains on the peninsula. 
The new map, which the research institute drew based on satellite images and 
its own field studies, shows that the nation is interlinked with 48 mountain 
ranges. Of all the ranges, 47 branch out from Paektu Taegan, the backbone of the 
peninsula, which starts from Mt. Paektu in the North, the highest peak in the 
country, and ends at Mt. Chiri in the South. The old map shows only 14 ranges, 
some of which do not even appear on the institute's map.

More surprising than this difference is the accuracy of a map drawn by Kim 
Chong-ho, the nation's first cartographer, in 1861 on the basis of a lifetime of 
observation and studies of geographical figures on the peninsula. He is 
reported to have climbed Mt. Paektu seven times before completing his detailed map 
of Korea, the Taedong Yojido.

It is deplorable that we have ignored a map that accurately depicted mountain 
ranges more than 140 years ago, when it was impossible to travel to every 
corner of the then undeveloped peninsula. Probably decades before the state 
institute came up with a new map identical with Kim's, it had been known among 
mountaineering fans that the Japanese geologist drew the ranges according to his 
own whim simply as a means of locating the peninsula's natural resources to 
help his country when it colonized Korea, which took place in 1909.

Even though we are all responsible for having used the wrong map for some 
time, academic circles should bear most of the blame because they have never 
shown any concern. The first thing that the government should do right now is 
address the misrepresentation of the peninsula's appearance in textbooks used in 
primary and secondary schools. The government also needs to correct the names 
of certain administrative units that still carry the legacy of Japan's 36 years 
of occupation.

In the meantime, it is very urgent to take appropriate steps to prevent the 
further destruction of the 1,494 kilometers of Paektu Taegan, which carries the 
spirit of the Korean people. Many parts of the range in the South have 
already seen complete destruction, having become the victim of national development 
and the mountaineering boom in recent years. It is our duty to pass on 
well-preserved natural assets to coming generations 

01-09-2005 15:52


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