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Newspaper Publication in the Late Yi Dynasty Lee Kwang-rin 1. Introduction The era of enlightenment in Korea usually refers to the forty-year period from the 1860s to 1910. This is the period of transition from a traditional to a modern society. It was during this period that Korea experienced turbulence and difficulties, as the Korea of the complacent Hermit Nation was suddenly confronted with the aggressive designs of capitalistic powers and her land and social system came face-to-face with a critical situation. In order to overcome this crisis, several leaders of foresight proposed the idea of enlightenment. Aware of the physical strength of the foreign powers, these leaders advocated opening the doors of Korea to the outside world in order to obtain foreign technology and institutions needed in Korea. Also they emphasized the importance of enlightening the people as a whole. So Chae-p'il (Philip Jaisohn, 1866-1951) contributed an article entitled "What Korea Needs Most," to the March 1896 issue of the Korean Repository, a magazine published by Westerners residing in Korea. In this article So wrote, The government must know the conditions of the people, and the people must know the purpose of the government. The only way to bring about mutual understanding between the government and the people is the education of both parties. . . . Without education the people will never understand the good intentions of the government, and without education the government officials will never make good laws. Education here meant enlightenment. Thus So argued that the enlightenment of the government and the people was more important than anything else. How to enlighten the public, then, was an important issue. The enlightenment leaders believed that newspapers would be the most efficient means of achieving their goal. This is best illustrated by Pak Yöng-hyo (1861-1939), who set up the Bureau of Newspapers shortly NEWSPAPER PUBLICATION63 after he was appointed governor of Seoul upon his return from Japan. There he had headed a special diplomatic mission following the Soldiers' Revolt of 1882. When he returned from the mission in Japan, he brought with him Yu Kil-chun (1856-1914), a Korean student who was studying in Japan, and several Japanese technicians, including pressmen. Yu Kil-chun was the first Korean to have studied in Japan. He had enrolled at Keiö School, which was run by Fukuzawa Yükichi (18341901 ), the foremost Enlightenment leader in Japan. More than anyone else, Yu Kil-chun was aware of the necessity to publish a newspaper in Korea. Within ten months of his arrival in Japan, he had contributed an article, written in Japanese, entitled "On the Power of Newspapers," to the April 21, 1882, issue of the Jiji Shimpö, published by Fukuzawa. A portion of this article reads as follows: In order to lead a country toward enlightenment and civilization, the spirit of vitality, determination for courage, and force of sustentation are most important . These three elements are indispensable. What then will enable the people to possess the spirit of vitality, the determination for courage, and the force of sustentation? It is not the powerful steam engine, nor the mysterious electricity. It is none other than a newspaper, that is simple and easy for the public to understand. Electricity may be able to send a message to remote places in a day, but it has no merit ofuniversality like a newspaper. The steamship may cross the rough ocean to reach a place thousands of miles away, but it cannot spread influence as widely and effectively as a newspaper. Therefore the influence of a newspaper is mightier than a steam engine and faster than electricity, and at the same time it can teach and enlighten the people of the world more effectively. Even thousands of teachers working day and night cannot compete with newspapers in enlightening the people. If we have a newspaper, it is possible to achieve the merit ofteaching and guiding in every corner of the world without hard effort or talk. This can be done as easily as turning over a hand. There is no need to seek an example from the far away Western countries. We can talk about it by citing...


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pp. 62-72
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