[KS] Maps Missing Mountains (allegedly)

Marion Eggert marion.eggert at ruhr-uni-bochum.de
Tue Jan 11 08:32:06 EST 2005

Dear Aidan, dear listmembers,

as I understand it, the Korea Times article is not about mountains 
missing from maps, but about symbolic representations of the Korean 
landscape: does it consist of one large  mountain range (Paektu taegan) 
with many branches, as indigenous Korean geography described it since 
the mid-18th century, or of five distinct major  mountain ranges, as 
Japanese geography and, in its wake, modern academic geography in Korea  
would have it?  Critics of the colonial tradition in geography like Yi 
Uhyông (d. 2001) maintain that the Japanese division of mountain ranges 
(five major and seven minor) purposely hacked the unified body of the 
Korean landscape into pieces.  If some of the 14 mountain ranges 
designed by the Japanese are said to be missing from the map of the 
reform-geographers, this probably means to say that the Japanese 
stressed unimportant parts of  the landscape at the expense of the 
integrity of the whole.
This concern with Korean physical geography has deep roots but became, 
as far as I know, rampant in South Korea from the late 90s onward, 
echoing early 20th century nationalism: The geographic unity of the 
Korean peninsula, symbolically expressed in the unity of mountain ranges 
descending from Paektu-san, was an important topic to Ch'oe Namsôn, for 
One outflow of this recent interest is Kim Sôngbae's book "Paektu 
taegan-ûl kada" (2003) which documents a foot journey (actually, many 
individual journeys) following"paektu taegan" from south to north (of 
course only in South Korea). The author reports that a geography reform 
acknowledging Paektu taegan, although under another name, has taken 
place in North Korea in 1996.
Needless to say, both concepts of Korean  geography are constructs of 
the mind. When I once saw satellite photos of the Paektu-san region, I 
was impressed by the volcanoe's isolated elevation rather than by its 
connectedness. if I remember correctly, this is, in fact, the way 
pre-18th century maps of Korea tended to depict  the mountain.
In the context of symbolic representations  of geographical features, I 
have one inquiry to add. As far as I know, in Chosôn times the Korean 
peninsula was imagined to picture an old man bowing towards China. When 
I studied in Korea in the mid-eighties, the shape of the peninsula was 
quite ubiquitously declared to resemble a rabbit. Nowadays, it is 
usually represented as  that of a tiger. The changes in self-image these 
different interpretations of the land-shape represent are obvious 
enough. My question is: can anyone direct me towards pictures of Korea 
as "old man" or "rabbit"? I've searched on the internet, but found only 
the "tiger".  Any help would be greatly appreciated.
With best regards,
Marion Eggert

Afostercarter at aol.com wrote:

> 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),
> Aidan
> Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds 
> University
> Home address: 17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK
> tel: +44(0)  1274  588586             mobile:  +44(0)  7970  741307
> fax: +44(0)  1274  773663             ISDN:   +44(0)   1274 589280
> 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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