Original documents about the shipwreck

These documents have been discovered in 1999.

Click on the image to see the full document
( Courtesy National Museum Cheju-do)

Gary Ledyard made a translation :


Notice on the Western Castaways

During the administration of:

Yi Wnjin, Governor (moksa) of Cheju

No Chng, Executive Officer (p'an'gwan)

Kwn Kkchung, Magistrate (hyn'gam) of the district of Taejng.

On the 24th day of Seventhmoon in the year Kyesa (16 August 1653), sixty-four men headed by Haendlk Yamsin (Hendrik Janse), barbarians from a Western country and all together aboard the same ship, were wrecked along the coast near the Taeya River, just below the Ch'agwi Garrison in the district of Taejng, in the south-west of the island. Twenty-six men drowned and two died of injuries, but thirty-six survived.

Their clothing was of black, white, and red in no orderly pattern, and they were all looking around at each other, some sitting casually, some standing. When we questioned them in writing, one of them drew three crosses (tens), then counted out six extra digits and right away tapped his heart. Next he drew two crosses and counted out six extra digits, then closed his eyes and made a gesture of falling. Their appearance and looks were quite strange, their clothing was of a very odd fashion, and they couldn't understand our language, yet even so, by tapping the heart they conveyed the idea of living people, while closing the eyes and falling signified dead people. When we checked the numbers of the living and the dead, it was really as they had indicated. However, neither our interpreters of Chinese and Japanese, nor a person who had returned from a ship wreck in the Ryűkyű kingdom, could understand their speech, so there was no way that we could ask about their situation. But we suspected that they were people from the southern barbarians or a Western country, and so reported. As a result of the report, Pak Yn (Jan Janse Weltevree), a southern barbarian who had (previously) been shipwrecked here (in Korea), was sent down (from Seoul). He wrote out his questions and their answers in Korean, and these were then reported with urgency to the Court in a separate document.

Pak Yn met first with (only) three of the cast away barbarians. He looked at them carefully for a long time, and then said, "It's as if they are my own brothers!" Then he talked with them, and they cried sadly for a long time. Pak Yn cried too.

The next day, Pak Yn summoned (all of) the barbarians in groups and had each of them tell him the names of the places where they had lived. All of them lived in the southern barbarian lands. But among them there was a boy, just turned thirteen, named Nnes Kobulsin (Denijs Govertszen), who alone had lived close to the place where Pak Yn had lived in the Western country. When Yn asked about his own family, the boy replied, "The house where they lived has been torn down, and the old foundations are completely covered with grass," adding that his younger uncle had died and only a few relatives were left. At this, Yn was even more unable to overcome his sorrow and grief.

Yn asked further, "Why is the style of all of your clothes different from what it used to be?"

They replied, "Months and years have gone by since you left long ago, and clothing styles, along with everything else, are no longer what they once were."

Yn also asked what kind of goods they had been carrying and where had they been heading. They said, "We had taken on a number of goods including sugar, pepper, and putchuk, and were going to Towan (Taiwan) Island to trade them for deer skins, which we were going to sell in northern China. From there we were going to Japan to trade the putchuk for Japanese products. But while at sea we came suddenly upon a horrible gale and ended up wrecked here. It has already been five years since we left home. Day and night we pray to our Heavenly Lord that we may return to our own land. If by your grace our lives are spared and we are sent to Japan, which is a port of call for many of our country's merchant ships, we would from there be able to return home alive."

Yn said, "The only market city in Japan that is open (to foreigners) is Nagasaki, but the trade there is different than it was in former days. Foreign merchantmen are not permitted to land there, but only to conduct trade aboard ship. It has come to the point that even Japanese who travel to or from other countries are always killed. How much more would this be the case for you, who are foreigners! The best thing for you is to join with me, go back up to the capital city and be assigned to the (Military Training) Commission (hullyn togam). As gunners you would have food and clothing to spare, and you would be personally secure and have no problems."

From the time that the castaway barbarians heard these words, they gave up all hope of returning to their homeland and had great confidence in the encouraging remarks about working with Yn.

The barbarians speak their given names first and their surnames last. Their writing goes horizontally from left to right, with the letter forms similar to our alphabet. But it was all irregular and slanted, and we could not come to any understanding of it.

As to their persons, the eyes are blue and the nose is prominent. The skin is white in the young ones, yellowish white among the adults. The hair is either red or blond. When trimmed, some is left to hang to the eyelids and in back to the shoulders. Some of them are completely shaved, while others shave their beards but leave a moustache. They are between eight and nine ch'k tall (159-179cm, 5'3"-5'11"). In showing respect to others they remove their hats and their shoes and touch the ground with both hands, kneeling for a long time with their heads lowered. As for head wear, their hats are of thickly woven wool.

Haendlk Yamsin (Hendrik Yanse), who they say is their leader, was the ship's navigator. He is expert in making observations of the skies and of solar (altitudes), and he understands the compass.

Pak Yn, at the head (of the castaways), took them to the mainland, where they were divided into groups and safely escorted to the Honam (Chlla province) army and navy bases to which they had been assigned. Their military weapons, large, medium, and small cannons and other items, were all deposited in the armory of this district.


Link to the newspaper article reporting for the first time about the document.

The text of that Newspaper article is:


A record was discovered about the arrival of the 'Hamel' people, who, in the Joseon period, during the reign of King Hyojong, went back to their country The Netherlands, reporting for the first time about Korea to the western world.

On the 8th (May 1999) a document was found in academic circles, written by Lee Ik Tae, who was in service with the governor of Jeju in the period 1694 - 1696. It says: "In the fourth year of King Hyojong, 1653, 7th month 24th day, 64 people were found, among them Hendrik Yamse. 26 people died and 2 were ill. Only 36 people lived.

In this document, the place where the boat was wrecked is described as "Dae Ya Su Yeon Byeon" This is interpreted as possibly being in the area nowadays known as North Jeju district, Hangyeong county, Gosan village, Hanjangdong community. Because among the local inhabitants, this place is also known as "Daemul" and as "Kunmul", both meaning "big water" and that suits the above description.

This all proves that the arrival place is not in South Jeju district, Andeok county, at a place called "dragon's head" near the Sanbang mountain. Untill now people guessed this was the arrival place, from "Hamel's journal", written by Hamel. But the ancient record upsets this theory completely.

The head administrator of the Gosan middle school, mr. Ko Dong-hee, has done research of the local history for a long time and he points out that both on the map "Jeju Sam Eup Chong" and on the "Deung Go map", south of Gosan the name (in Sino-Korean) "Dae Ya Su Po" exists. He believes that the ancient record now gives adequate support for the new findings.

See also Jan Boonstra: in search of traces

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