The Facets of Photographic Records on Korea in Modern Era
Since the opening of Joseon in 1876, the photographic records of the late Joseon Dynasty and the period of the Korean Empire exist more than expected, considering the technological level and the social situations at that time. Photographs related to Korea can be distributed in various forms, such as illustrations of books printed to introduce Korea to Western society, plates of graphic journalism like newspapers or magazines, vintage prints, photo-postcards, stereo-photographs, card-type photographs, and lantern slides.
There are still a great deal left in various archives of the Europe, America, Japan and Korea. According to related researchers, Korean-related photographs taken between 1863 and 1910, since Koreans were first photographed, were at least 3,000 to 4,000 cuts and the photo postcards issued was 25,000. It is said that most of them exist.
This paper categorizes two ways of producing and distributing photographic records related to Korea, which were early modern times. The subjects of the photographs are clearly Korea or Koreans, but most of the producers of these photographs were Westerners and Japanese, who were imperial servants of imperialism.
In the case of photography, there is a great possibility of distortion of the facts depending on the needs or perspectives of the producers. In order to correct the distortion, not only the contents of the photograph but also the intention of the producer, the production and the communication status should be grasped. This is because the problem of reading photograph records accurately and fairly in an age where there is no real experience is the cornerstone for understanding modern Korea correctly and broadly studying the Modern History of Korea.