The first general history of Korea as seen through maps, Korea: A Cartographic History provides a beautifully illustrated introduction to how Korea was and is represented cartographically. John Rennie Short, one of today’s most prolific and well-respected geographers, encapsulates six hundred years of maps made by Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
Largely chronological in its organization, Korea begins by examining the differing cartographic traditions prevalent in the early Joseon period in Korea—roughly 1400 to 1600—and its temporal equivalent in early modern Europe. As one of the longest continuous dynasties, Joseon rule encompassed an enormous range and depth of cartographic production. Short then surveys the cartographic encounters from 1600 to 1900, distinguishing between the early and late Joseon periods and highlighting the influences of China, Japan, and the rest of the world on Korean cartography. In his final section, Short covers the period from Japanese colonial control of Korea to the present day and demonstrates how some of the tumultuous events of the past hundred years are recorded and contested in maps. He also explores recent cartographic controversies, including the naming of the East Sea/Sea of Japan and claims of ownership of the island of Dokdo.
A common theme running throughout Short’s study is how the global flow of knowledge and ideas affects mapmaking, and Short reveals how Korean mapmakers throughout history have embodied, reflected, and even contested these foreign depictions of their homeland.