Crossroads Research

Lecture Series: Drift and Rumor: Unraveling the Tale of a Murdered Ryukyu Prince in Early Modern Korea and the Hidden Facts Behind the Rumor, by Jeanhyoung Soh

June 29, 2023, 15:00 CET. Hybrid: In person at KU Leuven, Erasmushuis, LETT 5.15 and online via Zoom.

From the 17th to the early 20th century, a famous rumor circulated among Koreans that they had killed a Ryukyu prince on Jeju Island in the 17th century. At the time, the Ryukyu Kingdom was colonized by the Satsuma Domain, and the Ryukyu Prince was on his way to Japan to rescue the Ryukyu King and his country’s most precious treasures: a stone that provided an endless supply of alcohol and a veil that covered everything in the world. Unfortunately, the Prince of Ryukyu was caught in a storm and drifted to Jeju Island, where he was allegedly killed by a Jeju Island official who coveted the treasure.

For 300 years, many Koreans believed in this rumor, including some famous scholars who wrote memorials to mourn the death of Prince Ryukyu. According to the rumor, diplomatic relations between Joseon and the Ryukyu Kingdom were severed after the prince’s death, and the Jeju Islanders who ended up stranded in the Ryukyu hid their origins. However, in reality, none of these claims were true.

The aim of this talk is to explain why a fake tale circulated in Joseon for 300 years and how it was believed to be true. I will delve into what actually happened on Jeju Island, which was closed off to the outside world. Additionally, I will examine early modern Korean thinking about relations with China, Japan, and Ryukyu by unraveling the rumor surrounding the death of the Ryukyu Prince.

Jeanhyoung Soh is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Humanities at Seoul National University, specializing in premodern East Asian history, intellectual history of the Joseon period, and political thoughts in East Asia. She has been focusing on the political language and rhetoric of the 18th and 19th centuries as an intellectual historian. Her research interests include the Jesuit translations of Coimbra texts in China, the translation of Western political texts in Asia, and the reception of Western knowledge by Korean intellectuals and their reconstructed worldview.

To register for the talk, please send us an e-mail.

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