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Art&CultureHistory
Charles Chaillé-Long: In the Footprints of Kublai Khan, Part Two
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승인 2009.11.12  13:46:53
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Locals of Komundo, an island not dissimilar to that of Soando where Charles Chaille-Long departed for Jeju, pose to have their picture taken, circa 1886, approximately the same time Charles was there. Photo courtesy Robert Neff

It was in the dead of night when Charles Chaillé-Long and his expedition arrived at the small island of Soando. In the darkness, he and his Korean interpreter, Kim, made their way to a nearby village guided by the sound of barking dogs.

The villagers were all asleep and, “after some difficulty,” Charles Chaillé-Long managed to wake them. He later wrote that they “gathered from all quarters of the town and stared at us with amazement and fear depicted in their faces.”

Only after the villagers had carefully examined their passports and ascertained that Kim was truly Korean, did they accept Chaillé-Long as a friend or at the very least a guest. The village chief then advised Chaillé-Long to move his sampan to a more secure harbor and promised to visit him in the morning. Chaillé-Long and Kim returned to the boat to wait.

The following morning, true to his word, the chief and his escort made their way to the expedition’s camp where they were received with “marked consideration.” Naturally, part of this “marked consideration” was drinking alcohol. When questioned why he had come to the island, Chaillé-Long informed the chief that he desired to hire a Korean boat in order to travel to Quelpaert (Jeju Island). The chief insisted that he only had one boat available and promptly pointed to “a miserable looking craft which was moored near by and which was then serving as a pig-pen!”

Chaillé-Long was devastated by this turn of events. Although crossing the stormy expanse of water was dangerous and foolhardy, he was willing to take the chance, but was handicapped by his Japanese sailors. Bad blood existed between the Koreans and the Japanese ever since the Imjin War – “the horrors of which [were] still fresh in the minds of the Coreans.” He was convinced that the Koreans on Jeju would be even more hostile to the Japanese than the mainlanders because “of the incursions made by Japanese fishermen upon the fishing reserves of the people along the coast.”

Fortunately for Chaillé-Long, the more wine the chief consumed the greater his munificence became. Suddenly he announced to the American that he had a native of Jeju Island who he would command to act as the expedition’s pilot.

Yang Man-tuk, “a tall brigandish looking fellow, apparently 6o years of age” was introduced. It is not clear why or how Yang came to be on Soando, but he was eager to return home, even if it meant that he had to act as pilot for a Westerner and a boat full of Japanese. For the rest of the day all the preparations that were humanly possible were made but, they lacked one thing – a fair sea and a good wind.

The following morning, September 27, Chaillé-Long watched the Japanese sailors catch fish in the harbor and then, tired of the inactivity, went ashore to photograph the Koreans and their village. It was rather a daring move on his part considering just a few months prior in Seoul a large disturbance, known as the Baby Riot, had occurred. The Baby Riot broke out partially because superstitious Koreans were told by Chinese agents that Westerners were kidnapping small Korean children and using their eyes and organs for medicines and to develop film. Fortunately for Chaillé-Long the Koreans on Soando were not as superstitious as those in Seoul.

That evening Yang suddenly pointed south towards Jeju and announced that in the morning the winds would be ideal for them to depart. Yang’s attitude was inimitable and the expedition immediately sailed to a small uninhabited island about ten miles away from Soando where they spent the night.

It was about dawn when a fair wind arose and Bravo Mari began her final leg of the dangerous journey. In the far distance the outline of Jeju could be seen through the morning mist, but as time passed the sea grew worse and the small boat “shot along upon the rough billows rather than sailed.” The wind had grown so strong that the waves were like mountains and Chaillé-Long realized they were in great danger. He quietly began to reflect upon the probabilities of reaching Jeju alive while his servants, Kim and Chung, prayed noisily to their gods for deliverance. Yang, however, “sat in the prow serving as ballast as well as pilot, grimly smoking his pipe” and issued orders to the Japanese crew. At one point their situation became so dire that Yang actually abandoned his pipe in order to ensure that the little boat was not swamped.

At about one o’clock in the afternoon, half drowned from the seas which had washed over them since morning, they arrived at a small port on Jeju Island. “We passed from the dangers of the sea,” reflected Chaillé-Long, “to enter upon another phase of peril which menaced us from the land, for the grim, black rock walls of the port fairly swarmed with human beings attracted by our approach.” Recalling the stories of Hamel in chains, he wondered if they would be allowed to land, and if so, would they again be permitted to leave?
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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