Friday, July 26, 2019

Heroic female historians in old Korea

I'm just now watching an entertaining Korean mini-series on Netflix, Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung.  It is not exactly easy to follow, but not hopelessly obscure, either.

Goo Hae-Ryung is a young noblewoman sometime in the early modern period (at a guess). She loves literature, Korean, Chinese and European.  She may also be Maehwa, the author of the latest fad in Korean romance novels. Or maybe it's the young prince second in line to the throne who is Maewha.
The Korean state at this time works like the Chinese system.  Applicants for government jobs study classic literature and write exams based on that material.  The highly-educated office holders look down on the material written in Korean alphabets, on Korean novels, and on the people who read them.  Goo Hae-Ryung is a promoter of popular literature.  Lots of teenage girls are crazy for romances and when they hear that Maehwa is going to sign copies of his/her most recent book they practically riot.
The royal councillors decide to repress this "movement" by recruiting female historians OR forbidding the recruiting of female historians.  The King, who has been the target of bureaucratic criticism, takes the opportunity to open history offices to young women...Of course the male historians resist...

I am liking this series for its cinematography and the humorous depiction of character.  The music's good, too, which you might expect at a time when South Korea is strutting on the world music stage.

If you by chance run into me in person, I'll tell you both my Korean bureacrats' story and my Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) story.


  1. You might also like “Mr. Sunshine” - later period, but much of the same mindset.