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  • Guest Editor's Introduction
  • Kenneth R. Robinson (bio)

Scholars of the Chosŏn period long have recognized the significance of region for social, economic, and intellectual histories. However defined or conceptualized, region shapes an area and enables its differentiation from and contrast with other areas. The greater density of official descent groups in Kyŏngsang Province than in northern provinces and their varied expressions of power offer examples. So too do maritime economies, the agricultural abundance in the "three provinces" (samdo) of Ch'ungch'ŏng, Chŏlla, and Kyŏngsang, and the challenging topography and climate further north.

The five articles that follow are based upon papers presented at the "Critical Issues in Korean Studies in the Millennium" conference held in Honolulu, Hawai'i, in February 2000. Though not delivered under the rubric of "region," their concentration on the distinctiveness of specific areas in Chosŏn and on forms of interaction with foreigners suggested complementary insights into how the state shaped space, how local residents composed areas of routine interaction, and how individuals imagined shared communities. Soo-Chang Oh (O Such'ang) and Sung Oh (O Sŏng) focus on Pyongyang and on Kaesŏng, respectively. Kenneth R. Robinson and Hoon Lee (Yi Hun) observe Tsushima/ Taema-do, southeastern Chosŏn, and western Japan. Woobong Ha (Ha Ubong) traces the composition of a kind of reading community in which Koreans and Japanese separately read Confucian texts and Koreans commented upon Japanese scholarship.

Working often from local documents, these historians compose regions from administrative units, rhythms of interaction, and shared intellectual interests, and the state is present in each of their constructions. The roles of local elites in trade, administration, and fishing remind us that yangban families depended upon such individuals for many of daily life's needs. State travel extended [End Page 1] administration into Tsushima/Taema-do in the fifteenth century and later provided venues where Koreans discovered a changing society through brush conversations and the writings of Japanese scholars. Region and other spatial categories of analysis offer effective means of integrating local economies and interaction into images of Chosŏn history. [End Page 2]

Kenneth R. Robinson

Kenneth R. Robinson (robinson@icu.acjp), Division of Social Sciences, International Christian University, 3-10-2, Ōsawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo, Japan 181-8585



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