'Sillok' Seeks Wider Audience

    April 20, 1999 19:48

    The Chosun Sillok, often called the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty in English, is the official record of 500 years of the Chosun court, and the longest single historical record in history. Its translation from Chinese into the Korean language has been considered one of the greatest achievements of Korea's history community, since liberation from Japan. Hundreds of volumes in length, it was never an easy reference tool until 1995 when Seoul Systems issued the completed Sillok in CD rom form, complete with functions for topical and other handy references.

    This CD rom has brought about a renaissance in popular interest and understanding of Chosun history and culture, not to mention the ease with which scholars are now able to conduct research. "It almost makes me angry to think of the years I spent digging through the pages [of the Sillok] by hand," says Lee Seong-mu, of the Academy of Korean Studies. The ease with which the Sillok can now be approached has encouraged a boom in popular books and television programs about subjects of all varieties relating to Chosun. Television specials with titles like "The Elephant That Came to Chosun," or "Emperor Kojong Had An Intelligence Service" have been possible, because non-specialists in the broadcasting industry have been able to access such information easily.

    Recently, however, Seoul Systems has been faced with financial troubles. Four years and W5 billion invested in the Sillok CD, combined with the insistence of the organizations that oversaw the translation of the Sillok into Korean over the past 26 years, forced Seoul Systems to price the CD at W6 million. But the astronomical price brought with it a rush to issue pirated versions of the product.

    Some of the most prestigious university libraries in Korea began buying the pirated versions, and in one particularly interesting case a national university professor is even know to have sold copies while traveling overseas. The whole situation has forced Seoul System to offer a new version of the original CD at the "popular price" of W500,000. Aided by increased sales of the Sillok, Seoul Systems hopes to offer access to the Sillok via the internet and to be able to commence work on a CD version of the Samguk Sagi, a history of the three kingdoms period, in May of this year.

    (Kim Tae-ik, tikim@chosun.com)

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