6. Description of the Kingdom Korea
The country, which is called Korea by us and Chosŏn Kuk by the inhabitants themselves, is situated between 33 and 44 degrees latitude and is from north to south around 150 miles long and from east to west around 75 miles wide. Korean cartographers depict the country like an oblong, like a playing card, though it has several extensions which point deep into the sea.
The country is divided into eight provinces, in which you will find 360 cities and furthermore a big number of fortresses and castles, which are located partly in the mountains and partly alongside the coast. For whom is not known locally, it is very dangerous to approach the country by ship, because everywhere alongside the coast cliffs and shallow places will hinder a safe passing by ship.
The country is densely populated and can maintain in its own needs in favorable years, because of the surplus of rice, grain and cotton, which is provided by the south of the country. To the southeast the country is closely situated near Japan. The distance between the Korean city Pusan and the Japanese city East Shimonoseki amounts to 25 to 26 miles (Hamel wrote Hacca, "Ha-kwan" is the Korean pronunciation for Shimonoseki in Japan and 25-26 miles with 1 mile being 7.5 = 195-210 the real distance is 205 km!).
In the strait between Korea and Japan lies the island of Tsushima, which the Koreans call Tymatte (The Japanese called it in effect Tsushima and the Koreans Taimato). According to the Koreans this was originally part of their country, but was taken by the Japanese, in exchange for the island of Quelpaert (This is historically not true, look here). To the west side, the kingdom is being separated from China by rough mountains, so it's almost an island.
To the southeast is a vast sea. Not seldom, one finds whales
with Dutch harpoons in their body. In the months
of January to April a lot of herring is being caught. In the first
two months the herring is the same as the one that is caught in the
North Sea; after that they catch a smaller species. Presumably there
is a passage from Waaigat.
He who wants to travel from Korea to China,
almost always goes by ship, because the voyage by land in summertime
is dangerous because of the game, which are roaming around in the
mountain range in big numbers, and in wintertime impossible due to
the severe cold.
For the defense of the country there are several thousands of soldiers
in the capital, both cavalry and infantry. They are maintained by
the king. Their duty is to guard the king and protect
him if he goes out. Each province is obliged to send all its free
men, once every seven years to the capital, to guard the palace of
the king during two months; every two months another group and each
year another province. Each province has a general who has three to
four colonels below him. Below each colonel are a number of captains,
who are commanders of a city or a stronghold. Each ward has a sergeant,
each village a corporal and at the head of each group of ten men is
a soldier first class. All officers and noncommissioned officers have
to keep records with the names of all the men who falls under his
command. These records have to be handed over to their superiors once
a year. In this way, the king always knows how many soldiers he has
at his disposal. The horsemen always wear a suit of armor and a helmet.
They carry a sword, a bow and arrows and a kind of flail with sharp
points. Of the infantry, some wear suits of armor and helmets, made
of iron plates, and also from bone. They are armed with muskets, sables
and short lances. The officers are armed with bow and arrow. Each
soldier has to have gunpowder and bullets for 50 shots at his own
expense. When we served in Seoul , we received
on a certain day 10 blows on our bare buttocks, because we didn't
have enough gunpowder on us. Each city has to appoint a number of
monks from the monasteries in its surroundings
who have to maintain the fortresses and strongholds in the mountains.
In times of great need these monks are being used as soldiers. They
are armed with sword, bow and arrow.
The war fleet
Each province has an admiral, who drills the crew of the junks and inspects them yearly. He reports his findings to the admiral general, who sometimes takes a naval review. When one establishes only the smallest failing in the fulfilling of the duty of the admirals or the generals, the culprit is exiled or condemned to death. Such happened in 1666 with our governor.
The Crown Council forms the advisory council for the king. It gathers daily at the palace. Its advises are not binding for the king. Members of the Crown Council are the most important people of the country. As long as they don't misbehave, they remain members of the Crown Council until they are 80 years old. This counts for all high functionaries, everybody keeps his function until he is 80 years old, unless he is promoted.
The term of office of a Stadtholder is three years, of the remaining functionaries one year. A lot of them however are relieved of their function before the term of the office ends because of fraud, corruption or any other offense. Everywhere in the country there are spies of the king, who spot any irregularity immediately. He who has been caught, risks death or lifelong exile.
The king derives his income from taxes, which are raised on the profit of agriculture and fisheries. These taxes are often paid in kind, for which the king has warehouses in all cities and villages. What the king receives in silver, he lends to the civilians again at an interest of 10%. Well-to-do live, like previously mentioned, from their own income and as far they're in service of the king, from the allowance they get from him. The local authorities raise taxes on the properties on which houses are build, both in cities and in villages. The height of the tax is determined by the size of the property. The profit is used for the maintenance of all kind of local provisions.
Who doesn't fulfill military service, has to perform replacing activities, and that during three months per year. Cavalry and infantry in cities and villages have to hand over three pieces of linen, or the equivalent in silver on behalf of the cavalry and infantry that services in the capital. Further taxes and excises do not exist in this country.
High treason or other serious crimes aimed at the king of the state, are punished very severely. The whole lineage of the culprit is wiped out. His house is demolished until the ground, On that place it is not allowed to build another house, ever.
All his slaves and goods are confiscated. These are being used for either the good of the country or given away to deserving civilians.
A woman, who kills her husband, is buried alongside a road on which a lot of
people pass, in a way that only her head sticks out of the ground.
Next to her they put a wooden saw, with which everybody who passes
her, except the nobility, has to saw one time on her head, until she
dies. The city or the environment in which the murder has taken place,
loses during a number of years the right to have its own governor.
During this period the city is administrated by the governor of a
neighboring city or by a nobleman, on behalf of the king. A man who
kills his wife goes freely if he can proof that he had a good reason
for that, for instance adultery or having failed in her marital duties.
A man, who kills a female slave, has to pay to the owner of the female
slave, three times the value. Slaves, who kill their master, are being
tortured during a long time until death follows. A master can kill
his slave because of a small offense. Commonly killers are killed
in the same way as they killed their victims, but first they receive
several beatings on the soles of their feet.
Though also theft and burglary are severely punished, a lot is being stolen. Thieves are generally beaten on the soles of their feet until they pass out.
Who commits adultery with a married woman, is lead through the city, together with the woman, naked or just dressed in thin underpants. From both the face is smeared with slake lime, they have an arrow through each ear, and on their back a small drum is tied on their back on which a judicial servant beats while he shouts: "Look people!, this man and this woman committed adultery!". After being led through the city like this, they conclusively got 50 to 60 beating on their buttocks in the square in front of the city hall.
Who doesn't pay his taxes in time, is beaten on the shins twice or three times a month, until he pays his debt. If he dies before this time, his family or friends have to foot the debt.
The most usual punishment in this country consists of beatings on the calves or buttocks. This is not considered to be disgraceful, because a little offense. can already be a cause.
The common governors cannot condemn somebody to death without the consent of the Stadtholder.
The beatings of the shins are done as follows: the condemned is placed
on a stool with his legs tied together. On his shins they put two
stripes, one a hand width under his knees, and one a hand width above
his feet. There ( between the stripes ) he is beaten with sticks
of one arm length, round at the top and flat at the bottom, two fingers
wide and a two and a half guilder coin thick, made of oak or alder
wood. After 30 beatings the condemned gets three to four hours rest.
Then the treatment continues, until he had his share.