Korean Economic Analysis

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When discussing the Korean economy, the focus tends to be on the last 40 years of significant progress and growth. However, this perspective leaves out an enormous time period of economic changes, such as the late Joseon dynasty. During those centuries not only the Han River valley was relatively successful, but also the people were able to lead sufficient lives, the poverty was low and the trade was becoming more and more important. Even though, there have been some drawbacks, the overall situation was prosperous and interesting to analyse. Therefore, this essay is aiming to present a very interesting view on the on the 19th century’s Korea and its society, focusing on the economics parts. It is the travel journal of Isabella Bishop, one…show more content…
The author discusses the stores of the city, that are supposedly not worthy looking at, that they have no real value and that their only main characteristic is that they have none whatsoever. Yet, she still describes the variety of goods offered in the shops, the list may not seem too extensive, but all the necessities seem to be provided. For example, pottery, decorated pillowcases, laundry sticks, seaweed, dried persimmons, and even, “foreign trash”, a.k.a. small knick-knacks brought from abroad. According to James Palais, the limited number of stores and offered goods may be due to the widely spread monopolistic merchandise. It was simply difficult to enter the market controlled by several big sellers. Compared to the rural villages, Seoul still has much more to offer, as it is the commercial and trade centre of Korea. Its location gives much advantage, as the river is the main link between the South China Sea and the eastern provinces. Due to that, Seoul is undoubtedly considered the transfer point for the tradesmen. In addition to the commercial part of the city, Isabella Bishop also notices the last remaining public slaves of the Joseon dynasty. As her trip took place around 1894, the Kabo reforms were coming into action, and slavery was being dissolved with it. The author sees unveiled women on the stream washing clothes day and night, those are the last slave women who were able to work in the day time in…show more content…
The peasants make their own iron utensils at home, but the activity is not wide enough to be considered significant. Due to this, many goods have to be imported either from abroad or other regions, and the main payment for the outside goods is by agricultural produce, such as rice. Furthermore, the river itself provides gold, as it is rather abundant in it. However, the author claims that the gold from the river is not used as cash, the importance of it remains a mystery for her. She sees people gathering it, but does not notice it anywhere else, i.e., art or décor. Yet, based on James Palais, the gold was in fact used as medium of exchange, just not in the domestic market. Silver and gold coins were mainly used by merchants in the “tribute trade with China” (Palais 16). Talking about the currency of Korea, the main cash is simple coins, which are in very small amounts, have no multidenominational worth, therefore take up a lot of space if carried in big values. Isabella Bishop does not mention what type of coins were those, but they were most probably made of copper. James Palais confirms the views of Bishop, as in the 19th century the coinage system in Korea was still rather primitive. There were no multidimensional coins, therefore any transaction involved a huge amount of money, was not very useful for trade (Palais 12). Still the increasing money supply in the economy helped the development and

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