By Kang Gahui and Hahm Hee-eun
Photos = Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation
The first travel essay about the U.S. written by a Joseon or Korean person, the “Misokseubyu” (미속습유, 美俗拾遺), has now been published in modern Korean.
The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation has issued a translated version of the “Misokseubyu,” a U.S. travel essay written by Joseon’s first minister plenipotentiary to the U.S., Park Jeong-yang (1841-1905). The new edition of the travel essay was published in Korean on May 7 to commemorate 130th anniversary of the Korean Legation building and its new re-opening in Washington, D.C.
The “Misokseubyu” is a travel essay about the U.S. written in classical Chinese characters that Park Jeong-yang wrote during his service in the U.S. under an 1888 order from the Joseon monarch Gojong (r. 1863-1907). Park Jeong-yang wrote a review about 44 systems and goods that he experienced in the U.S. between January and November 1888. The travel essay is organized systematically as a report to the royal office.
The complete book also contains information about the general state of affairs in the U.S., including democracy, the courts, education, diplomacy, media, the arts and culture, so that Gojong and Joseon government officials would be able to garner some insight into the U.S. and actually improve relations with the U.S.
The “Misokseubyu” was written in 1888 and published in 1895, which makes it one year older than the “Seoyukyeonmun” (서유견문, 西遊見聞), observations on travels in the West that was previously thought to be the first travel essay about Europe, written by Yu Kil-chun. Hence, this new publication is a highly-valued historical record.