Nature as Unity between Humanity and Environment in Korean Travel Literature from the late Goryeo to Joseon Dynasties


  • Young-Sook Lee


How did traditional Korean travellers appreciate nature when they were travelling? This is the central question posed by this paper. While literature and travel have long been recognised as intimately intertwined in the creation of a place’s meaning at personal and societal levels, it is only recently that the subject of travel and literature has been given more focused attention. With studies suggesting that there are certain relationships between literature and places, and that these particular relationships are used by the tourism industry, one is still left to wonder how pre-tourism industry-era travellers made sense of nature when visiting places. Also, one cannot fail to see the Eurocentric nature of research into literature and travel, at least in English language publications to date. With East Asia becoming the fastest growing outbound tourist-generating region on the globe, East Asian experience-based research on the subject of travel and literature may be a rewarding and timely investment. Researchers are aware of the long tradition of travel literature in East Asia, and acknowledge the tradition of travelogues in China dating back to the twelfth century. This article researches twenty-six pieces of Korean travel literature written between 1485 and 1859, and addresses the current lack of East Asian experience-based work on travel and literature. These dates represent the period spanning from the time of the oldest remaining literature in Korea and the time before its opening to the Western world. Studying this travel literature furthers our understanding of traditional East Asian travellers and the way they made the places they visited meaningful.