Our lives in the province of Chollado

In the beginning of March 1656, we left Seoul on horseback. We were accompanied by Weltevree and some other acquaintances to the river. When we stepped on the ferry, they returned to the city. This was the last time we saw Weltevree. We never heard anything of him again.

We traveled the road into the city Ieham and passed the same cities as before. At every new city we stayed, we were lodged at the expenses of the country, provided with new horses and provision as had happened as before. After a couple of days we arrived at Pyongyong or Kangjin ( Hamel calls it duijtsiang or thellapeing , if you follow this link, you will see where it is ). In this city resided the peingse (Pyongsa), the military commander of the province, who was immediately under the governor. We were handed over by the sergeant to the commander who immediately was ordered to get the three men who were sent away from the king's city and take to them to us. They were in an enforcement were the vice admiral lives 12 miles from there. We were immediately given a local house, where we lived together. Three days thereafter the three mates joined us and we then were 33 men altogether.

In April we received some hides who have been that long on the island ( Quelpaert ) that they were of no importance and not valuable enough to have been sent to the kings city. To this place not ten miles above the island and close to the seaside the named items could be taken there. With these hides we could dress ourselves a bit again and get some necessities for our new lodgment. The governor ordered us that we had to pluck the grass twice a month of the market or plaza in front of the city-hall and keep it clean..

In the beginning of the year 1657 the governor was withdrawn from his post because of bribery. He was very loved by the people and both representatives of the nobility and the people requested the king to treat him mildly. Thanks to their mediation, he was not put to death. He received another function.

In February the new governor arrived. With his arrival our situation deteriorated. From the previous governor we received firewood for free, now we had to cut it ourselves. On top of that he made us work harder. To get the wood we had to walk a round trip of six miles through mountainous terrain. We were happy when we heard that he died of a heart attack.

In November the new governor arrived. This one didn't interfere at all with our business. When we asked him for dressing money or another allowance, he answered that he only had the order from the king to provide us with a ration of rice. For the rest we had to maintain ourselves. Because our clothes were worn out due to the constant carrying of wood, we urgently needed new clothes. That's why we asked the governor permission to beg. In this country that's not considered to be something ungraceful and it is being done a lot, especially by monks .

The governor granted us permission, to beg during four days a week at the farmhouses and monasteries, of which there were a lot in that province. These begging tours were a great financial success, because both the farmers and the monks were very curious and in exchange for some money enjoyed listening to the fine stories we told them about our people and our country. In this way we could buy some new clothes to get through the winter. Luckily this winter was less severe then the ones we had in Seoul .

In the spring of 1658 we got a new governor, since the old one was replaced. This new governor had plans to restrict our freedom of movements and wanted us to work daily for him in exchange for three pieces of linen each. We didn't think this was a good idea, since due to the labor our clothes would wear out faster. On top of that there was a lack of food, so the cost of living was high. That's why we asked him to grant us a periodical leave of twenty days. During this period we could cut wood and sell part of it to the farmers, to maintain in our living.

He approved of this, the more, since a decease has had broken out in our house. Some of our mates had a terrible fever. The Koreans are very afraid of this. Our freedom of movements was limited only in so far that we were not allowed to come near the capital, nor near the Japanese enclave. But the obligation to take care of the lawn twice a month, remained. Under the condition that we left two of our men behind to care for the sick.

April 1659, the king died. With permission of the Tartarians, his eldest son was crowned king. We continued as ever. We sold some wood and begged especially at the monks . We discovered namely that these were more generous then the farmers. These monks were very inquisitive. They wanted to know everything about the customs of our own nation and from all the other nations we contacted. If we wanted to, we could have told our stories for nights in a row.

Because Korea was a vassal state of the Manchu's, a new king was not allowed to step on the throne, without their permission. This was a formality though; the permission had to be requested, but was always given.

In spring 1661 again another governor came. He was kindly disposed toward us. He often said if it was in his power, we would have received permission already for a long time to return to our country. Under his reign we could do whatever we wanted. Unfortunately this and the coming year there was a great lack of food. Because of the continuous drought, the harvesting failed. Spring 1662 thousands of people died because the famine. Everywhere a lot of highwaymen roamed the country. That's why there was a continuous patrolling on the roads by the soldiers of the king. They also had the assignment to clear the corpses which laid around hither and titter.
Several villages were ransacked by the roaming gangs and several storage rooms of the king were broken open. The ones from the nation, who survived the famine, fed themselves with acorns, bark from the trees and weeds.

In the beginning of the year 1663, when the famine already lasted for three years, many died of hunger, so that entire regions were depopulated. In the lower parts alongside the rivers, they could still grow some rice, because they have always been less dependent on the rain. If that would not have been the case, the whole population would practically die out. At a certain moment the governor was not able to provide us our monthly ration of rice. That's why he wrote a letter to the king with the request to transfer us elsewhere. In February came the order to divide us to three cities. We were still with 22 men. From these, twelve went to SaesOng, five to Sunchon and also five to Namwon ( Hamel speaks of Namman ).

We regretted this transfer enormously, after all we had a nice house in Duijtsiang, which we had decorated according to the customs of the nation, with around it a nice garden. We had to abandon all this, to start anew elsewhere. And this in a time of shortage. At hindsight this removal however appeared to be a happy circumstance for our mates who ended up in Nagasaki. But we couldn't foresee that at that moment.

At the south coast.

We said good-bye beginning 1663 to the governor and thanked him for all the things he had done for us. Then we left for our different destinations. We had to make the journey by foot. Only for the sick and the little things we were allowed to take along, some horses were put at our disposal. The ones who traveled to Sunchon and SaesOng, initially took the same road. After four days we arrived at Sunchon, Here we stayed overnight in the governmental warehouse. The next day we said good-bye to our four mates who stayed behind in Sunchon, and moved onwards. The evening of the same day we arrived at SaesOng, where we were handed over to the governor.

He had us accommodated in a scarcely furnished house and provided us with the usual ration of rice. He seemed us a friendly and good-humored man. But unfortunately, two days after our arrival he left. Three days later a new governor arrived. He appeared to be an utter disaster for us. In summertime he let us stand in the burning sun and in wintertime from early morning till late at night in rain and hail.

If the weather was beautiful, we did nothing else but cutting branches to make arrows with which the archers practiced, because it seemed to be an honor for each of the governors to have the best archers. He let us do other nasty jobs, about which we tell further on.

Because the winter was almost there, we felt the need for new clothes. That's why we requested the governor to employ six of us and sent the other six on leave. They could gather some money by begging or selling wood. Officially the permission was not granted, but eventually it was condoned. This lasted until 1664, then our governor was promoted to a higher position. His successor appeared to be much more lenient.

He relieved us immediately from all our work obligations. We only needed, according to the original arrangement, to report ourselves twice a month. Further we were obliged every time when we left to report this to his secretarial office and also where we went, so they could find us in case they needed us.

We thanked God we were finally relieved from the miserable guy, who had embittered our lives and that his successor was so kindly disposed toward us. He invited us many a time at his home, where he gave us a warm reception with spice and drinks. He also wanted to know all kinds of things about our homeland. He sincerely pitied us and wondered why we didn't try to go to Japan. To this we answered that we didn't have the permission to do so and on top of that we didn't have a suitable ship at our disposal. At which he remarked mischievously that in these coastal villages there were enough ships at our disposal.

We assured him that we would never dare to make use of a ship which was not our property, because if we failed then, we would not only be punished for our attempt to escape but also for theft. We said this to make him not suspicious. Every time we said this, the governor had to laugh heartily.

He had given us an idea though, and we started to think seriously about the fulfilling of this. Everywhere we informed if there was no boat for sale, with which we could go for fishing under the coast. But nobody wanted to sell us a boat. They had lived too long under the strict regime of the previous governor that they were very dutiful and were not easily willing to do something of which they would be blamed possibly later.

At the end of the year we saw shortly after each other two tail-stars or comets arising in the sky. The first one, in the southeast, was to be seen for almost two months. After that another one appeared in the southeast. The appearance of these celestial bodies, caused a big panic in the country. The war-fleet was standing by, the guards of the ports were reinforced, all fortresses were provided with extra provisions and extra munitions, while cavalry and infantry were exercising daily. Also was it not allowed to light any lamps, especially not in the cities along the coast. This fear was caused by the fact that when the Tartarians invaded the country, there were also similar signs in the firmament, as well as at the beginning of the war with the Japanese. Many a Korean asked us what we thought of it and if we considered the appearing of these celestials also as a bad omen. We answered that we, in Holland, usually expected that the appearance of a similar sign was an omen of one or the other disaster, be it a war, flooding or an epidemic.
These comets were also seen in the Netherlands, and in Japan




Because of this state of alertness, it was of course extra difficult to get a ship. We would have had a great problem escaping with it, because there was an intensive patrolling of war-junks. The situation seemed at a dead-end, but we accepted our fate. We were after all prisoners in a strange country and we had to be happy to have a roof above our heads and could make a living.

In the meantime one after the other governor succeeded each other. Some of them were kindly disposed toward us. Others begrudged us each privilege. One governor wanted us to stamp rice for him all day. The next one ordered us to twist 100 fathoms of rope for him. Every time we protested fiercely and appealed upon the king, who never had the intention to put us into slavery. But the darkest hour was always before the dawn. The governor, who wanted us to stamp the rice, threatened to force us, if necessary, with strong measures, when we were miraculously freed of him. During the fleet exercises, which were done daily, through negligence on one of the junks a barrel of gunpowder exploded, by which the junks sank and five persons on board were killed. The governor tried to keep this secret, but through his spies who were everywhere in the country, the king came to know it anyhow. Thereupon the governor was arrested and brought to the court. The verdict was disgraceful resignation, 90 blows with a stick and lifelong exile. When the new governor wanted us to twist rope, we hoped for a new miracle. But that stayed forthcoming for the time being. He had no heart-attack and he had no collision with the court as well. The situation became really unpleasant by now.

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