JEJU, Aug. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — In 1653, 364 years ago, the first man to leave a written record about the Korean people set foot on Jeju Island soil. Hendrick Hamel and his crew of Dutchmen were on a merchant ship christened “De Sperwer” headed to Japan when fearsome waves and winds in the seas wrecked their vessel.
Thirteen years later, Hamel and eight others escaped to neighboring Japan (they were not allowed to leave Joseon), where it is believed that Hamel recorded his stay in Korea, titled “Hamel’s Journal and a Description of the Kingdom of Korea, 1653-1666”.
To commemorate the courage of the Dutch sailors and mark the meeting of East and West, the Ocean Exploration and Culture Research Institute, the Hendrick Hamel Memorial Society and the neighborhood of Sindo 2-ri have announced a memorial to be built in memory of Hamel’s crew.
The location of the memorial will be a spot on the coast of Sindo 2-ri near the port. The decision to place it there was not been made lightly, with discussion regarding where exactly Hamel first set foot on Jeju an intellectual quagmire that had lasted many years.
What turned the quagmire into a full-on slop fest was the discovery of the “Jiyeongnok”, a book written by a missionary named Lee Ik Tae stationed in Jeju Island from 1694 to 1696. Lee devoted a section of the book to a “Written Record of Wandering Westerners”.
According to the official translated transcript of the original document (old Korean texts were written in traditional Chinese characters), the shipwreck location was deduced to be somewhere near the coast of Sindo 2-ri. The case for Sindo 2-ri was solidified when the Hendrick Hamel Memorial Society announced in 2014 that it had confirmed that the site was the accurate location of the shipwreck by undertaking site inspections and data analysis using the Jiyeongnok as a reference.
Director Chae of the Ocean Exploration and Culture Research Institute said, “From ‘Hamel’s Journal’ and through the Korean War to Guus Hiddink, the Netherlands is a country that has a deep connection with us, a country that is ‘far but close.’” She added, “After the completion of the memorial I hope that there will be more cultural exchanges of the sea between the Netherlands and Korea.”
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)