Visualizing the Korean Peninsula using ASTER DEM data

I am as much a skeptic of the digital humanities as I am a practitioner. In particular, I have a lot of reservations about applying advanced GIS methods on plain or spotty samples that are better served by manual plotting or choropleth maps. This is especially the case with data sets extracted from medieval and early modern sources.

Nonetheless, in my DH courses I need to expose students to all aspects of humanities computing, and that includes GIS. Continue reading

DHAsia @ Stanford

In April 2016, I will spend a week in Palo Alto as a DHAsia @ Stanford short-term resident. Many thanks to Tom Mullaney and Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford for organizing this program.

Here is the official DHAsia 2016 schedule. Continue reading

[Op-Ed] ActiveX, identity verification, and library access at Seoul National University

As a Koreanist, a perk of being based in Hong Kong is its proximity to South Korea. I hop on a plane at HKG and in about four hours, I would be on my way out of immigration and customs at ICN.

The Central Library of Seoul National University has been my go-to place for research. Since SNU is a public institution (for now), leaving a government-issued id (e.g., passport) allows me to access the stacks. Needless to say, I’m grateful for this.

This time, however, I tried to go one step further. I wanted to sign up for a general membership so that I am entitled to borrow a few books, recall checked-out items, and view M.A. and Ph.D. theses behind the library system’s soft paywall. Continue reading

[Quora] Korea after the Introduction of Han’gul


After the introduction of Hangul, were there any changes in terms of Korean trade, military conflicts, etc.?

Original Post in Quora [link]


King Sejong and a team of court academicians invented a phonetic script to standardize the Korean reading of literary Chinese. The respected way of reading Chinese characters in the fifteenth century was an ancestor of the modern Mandarin that was spoken in Nanjing.

The experience of Mongol rule shared between the Ming and Chosôn is important for understanding the invention and introduction of Hunmin chôngum (which was not originally called han’gul). Only a generation or two before the reign of King Sejong, many Korean and Chinese intellectuals served a highly cosmopolitan Yuan court in Daidu (modern-day Beijing) where guanhua (a fourteenth-century ancestor of modern Mandarin) was one among several languages spoken.

The promulgation of what later became han’gul was not about trade, war, or identity. But it did coincide with a time in Korean history when learned men stopped learning spoken languages other than their native tongue and increasingly relied on a status group of translators during diplomatic missions.

Guest Appearance in a RTHK radio program

Since moving to Hong Kong, I have been struck by the tremendous desire to consume anything Korean and learn about all aspects of Korean culture. Recently, a friend who attended my public lecture at the University of Hong Kong suggested that I appear in a popular late-night radio program on RTHK called Free as the Wind 講東講西. On December 2, I was interviewed by Mr. Shum Yat Fei and two other guests for about two hours. I spoke in English with occasional Mandarin mixed in. Many thanks to the audience who are generally used to listening to this segment in Cantonese. The production staff initially had a lot of concern but everything ended up running smoothly.

More information is available on the RTHK Facebook page: [link].

A podcast based on this segment is available online: [link].


With the host Mr. Shum and two other guests: Mr. Chan and Ms. Wong

How to: Local 3G SIM card for visitors of China (China Unicom in Shanghai)

I visit China regularly, about two to three times a year, and each stay lasts anywhere between a week and a month. When China was new to me still, I was more than satisfied exploring the country with an old bar phone that I borrowed from a local friend. However, as time went on and I developed dependence on Baidu (China’s Google), Ctrip (China’s Expedia), Dianping (China’s Yelp), and other domestic online services, I desperately wanted to enable cellular data on my mobile devices.

Continue reading