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19th Century's Ginseng Industry run by Kaesung merchants and its characteristics

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2009, (94), pp.123-176
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Yang Jeong Pil 1

1국사편찬위원회

Accredited

ABSTRACT

According to a document written in 1710, people in Kyungsang province knew how to cultivate ginseng. We can find out records on Red ginseng written in 1707. Though they knew how to cultivate ginseng and make Red ginseng, they were not able to manufacture Red ginseng for one century because they did not have enough capital to manufacture Red ginseng in the 18th century. In the early 19th century, however, Kaesong merchants started to manufacture Red ginsneg in large scale and export them to China. Kaesong merchants had successfully transformed their commerce capitals into ginseng capitals. In other words, Kaesong merchants made a big advance in cultivating ginseng and making red ginseng in the mid-19th century. This thesis examines the methods of cultivating ginseng and making red ginseng including ginseng capitals in the late 19th century. To run ginseng-fields, ginseng-field owners invested big capitals and employed many workers. According to the documents of the late 19th century, ginseng industry was operated by a mixture of capital and labor. In the 19th century, the export quantity of red ginseng was laid down by Choson dynasty. And as only interpreter-officials were legally allowed to export red ginseng to China, Kaesong merchants participated in manufacturing red ginseng and exporting them to China via black market. Although until 1900 Kaesung merchants had rights to only own ginseng-fields, they actually manufactured and exported red ginseng to China. Most of the ginseng-field owners rented other people's lands to use as ginseng-fields, because the lands that had been used for ginseng-fields could not be used for ginseng cultivation for more than 10 years. Since ginseng was a very highly priced farm product, the custom of the leased land differed from the normal leased land. The rent costs for ginseng-field were three times higher than normal farms and were paid in advance. Also, the term of a contract was finished when ginseng-field owners cropped ginseng. Though ginseng-field owners were leaseholders, they had big power over the landowners. The leaseholders could cancel the contract of the leased land if the leased land turned out to have some trouble for cultivating ginseng. But landowners could not cancel the contract even in cases they were not paid the rent. In spite that ginseng-fields were leased lands, ginseng-fields were authorized as a real right. So ginseng-fields were traded freely and very frequently.

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