geroge foulk korea


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Samuel Hawley is a writer. His books are highly eclectic. He has written about 16th-century East Asian history, 19th-century Korean-American relations, Olympic sprinting and land speed racing and a circus elephant named Topsy who was electrocuted in 1903. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.


These are images from a 10-page photo spread for Inside the Hermit Kingdom that the publisher was unable to include in the book.

george foulk korea 1884
George Clayton Foulk in 1884; a portrait taken in Italy while he was en route to Korea with the returning Korean mission. (courtesy the Naval Historical Center, Washington DC)

korea foulk min yong-ik
Min Yong-ik, head of the 1883 Korean mission to the US and a man of influence and power in Korea. He helped arrange Foulk's southern journey.

george foulk american legation seoul 1884
One of Foulk's own photos, showing Korean staff at the American legation compound in Seoul engaged in archery practice. The young man leaning against the tree at center is Foulk's valet Suil, who accompanied him on both of his Korean journeys.

seoul from tongdaemun 1880s
A central avenue in Seoul leading west from Tongdaemun, the Great East Gate. Foulk, accompanied by his valet Chong Su-il ("Su-il") and a Korean official named Chon Yang-muk ("Muk"), would have left on his journey on a road such as this - a road that very quickly narrowed as he got out into the country.

foulk seoul city was namdaemun
Another of Foulk's own photographs, taken from a hill just south of Seoul's wall. Namdaemun, the city's Great South Gate, can be seen on the right. "I seem to be in a real wilderness," Foulk wrote soon after leaving the capital behind, "excite more curiosity than anywhere else I've been in Korea...Jove! Jove! This is hard travelling."

choson korea crowd
A curious crowd at the great bell in Seoul. During Foulk's southern journey intense curiosity about him resulted in several mob scenes and left him no privacy whenever he stopped. "I am worn out with the fuss and rudeness," he wrote in Chinju. "There is no W.C. here where I can go without being in plain sight of the mob and so I feel bad physically. I cannot possibly submit myself to such humiliation. It is too much." (Hugh Dinsmore Collection, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville)

korea choson dynasty sedan chair
A Korean official in an open sedan chair. The numerous carriers indicate his high rank. Foulk would have ridden in an open chair like this for most of his journey, borne by two pairs of carriers working in relays.

choson dynasty korea one wheel sedan chair
A Korean in general's garb atop a one-wheeled sedan chair. (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-72561)

korea choson palanquin
A closed palanquin such as Foulk used to travel incognito at the time of the December 1884 coup. This is an elaborate one employing four carriers rather than the more usual two.

korea palanquin 1880s
Another closed palanquin, this one a more utilitarian, two-carrier model. Foulk's was likely more like this.

george foulk inside the hermit kingdom