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Book showcases images of Korean cities in 18th century

Posted June. 16, 2018 09:15,   

Updated June. 16, 2018 09:43


In the 18th century, Hanyang, the capital of the Joseon Dynasty, was a metropolis where more than 300,000 of Joseon’s 8 million population were living. Bars were the most prosperous business at the time, and as a result the royal government would frequently place ban on drinking.

Then, what was happening in Europe during the same period? What was the situation in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital where the “Tulip mania” swept in the 17th century? Over a period of one century, the city witnessed capitalism booming due to the emergence of financial systems, including those similar to futures trading in today’s world and diverse trading centers. The city also experienced side effects including a serious wealth gap between the rich and the poor and discrimination against lower social classes amid influx of impoverished people from across Europe. On Wall Street in New York, the world’s financial capital of today, a real wall reportedly existed to prevent Native Americans from attacking European migrants.

In this book, 25 humanities scholars who are members of the “Korean Society for the 18th Century” shed lights on society of cities including Joseon’s Hanyang, and those in Europe, North America and Asia during the 18th century. “In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution started in Europe, while East Asia achieved rapid economic growth amid stable political situation,” the writers say. “It was the most important period of time in the development of modern cities.”

“We hope that this book is read light-mindedly as if the reader gets off from a car in old town in a city thousands of years old, checks in a hotel, and leisurely walks along the city street, before taking a seat at a street café to enjoy a cup of coffee,” Chung Byeong-seol, a professor of Korean literature at Seoul National University, wrote in the preface, advising on how to read the book. It is a great book that you will find all the more inviting and fun if you take your time to read and appreciate cities of the 18th century.

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com