Sunday, April 26, 2020

Pandemic Influenza In Korea in 1918

A few weeks ago, when I was curious about the 1918 flu pandemic, I wondered what was available about Korea. As it turns out, Canadian medical missionary Frank Schofield wrote about the pandemic in early 1919. While most of the article is science related, the opening paragraph does give some information about how Korea was affected:


Pandemic Influenza In Korea With Special Reference To Its Etiology
Frank W. Schofield, D.V.Sc. And H. C. Cynn, M.B.
Seoul, Korea

The great influenza pandemic made its appearance in Korea during the month of September, 1918. There seems to be no doubt that the infection came from Europe, via Siberia. The disease spread from north to south along the line of the Southern Manchurian Railway. The first cases seen by us in Seoul, the capital, were during the latter part of September. Before the middle of October the epidemic was at its height. The insanitary conditions of oriental life greatly enhanced the spread of the infection. At present it is impossible to estimate either the number of cases or deaths, as accurate information has not been received from the Japanese authorities. From one quarter to one half of the population must have been affected. Most of the schools were closed, owing to the high incidence among the scholars and teachers. As elsewhere the serious nature of the outbreak was due to the frequent sequelae, bronchitis, bronchopneumonia and heart failure. The symptoms were those of ordinary influenza, but of a more exaggerated type. Headache, and pains and aches in the limbs, with a rapid rise of temperature to 104 or 105 were common Symptoms. The dropped temperature usually to slightly above normal within twenty-four hours if the case was uncomplicated. There was also frequent evidence of respiratory infection, which varied from a mild coryza to pneumonia in severity. In some cases there was vomiting and nausea, while in some very acute cases the patient became delirious at the climax of the infection. The symptoms in general corresponded with those reported from other countries.

With regard to transmission of the disease, everything would point to droplet infection as being of paramount importance. Numbers of mild carrier cases, a population of susceptible people, and a disease infecting the upper respiratory passages, causing a prolific secretion of infectious material, produce a combination which must result in a pandemic or widely spread epidemic.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

From Corea to Korea

I recently saw someone claim that Japan changed "Corea" to "Korea" and was prompted to dig up Kushibo's post from 2005 about this untrue assertion. His site is long gone but luckily he posted a link here once which made finding it on Wayback Machine easy enough. It can be found here.

Amid the aforementioned discussion someone asked when the shift in English from "Corea" to "Korea" occurred. This is an interesting question and one way to answer this is to look at the titles of books about Korea that were published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Luckily, Brother Anthony's website makes this easy enough to do. He has a number of posts on references to Korea in maps and books in the 16th and 17th centuries, 18th and early 19th centuries, and in the late 19th century. Looking through those the earliest book title with "Korea" in it was in 1848. The latter link has, at the bottom of the page, a list of books published about Korea between 1870 and 1910, and there we see a number of books with "Corea," but "Corea" disappears from book titles in 1895, at least on that list. The list at the bottom of this page, where Brother Anthony has posted links to his work on older works about Korea, includes more such books and journal articles; there we can find a language guide in 1902 and two later books by missionaries which use "Corea," but by that point the tide had turned. After 1895 the use of "Corea" in book titles became an exception to the rule of "Korea." This, of course, is 9 years before the occupation of Korea by Japan that began at the opening of the Russo-Japanese War, and can hardly be ascribed to them. Still, it would be interesting to look through diplomatic correspondence to see how the various Western Legations referred to Korea. At any rate, if 1848 was indeed the first use of "Korea" in English (in a book about Edward Belcher's 1845 voyage, which I mentioned here), then there was essentially a 50-year period during which "Corea" gradually gave way to "Korea."

"Group of Koreans," from Edward Belcher's 1848 book about his voyage.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

1963: Korea in the time of cholera

For my latest Korea Times article, I look at the reaction to the 1963 cholera epidemic in Korea. At that point there hadn't been an outbreak in 17 years, but luckily it involved a much less severe strain of the disease. One photo that didn't make it into the article: people lining up to get the vaccine, from the Korea Times, Sept. 25, 1963.

As well, this article is useful for a look at statistics related to Korea's cholera outbreaks since 1910. It's interesting that there were two massive outbreaks in the wake of the March First movement in 1919 and 1920, though I'd assume it was more related to the increase in travel and trade after World War I. Of course, that was also the year after the great flu pandemic of 1918.

I was also surprised to learn of the 2001 outbreak; I don't remember it at all, despite being here at the time. I should note, however, that I referred to the above-linked article despite some concerns, namely the author's quotation of a citation-free newspaper article (which also contained statistics that contradicted the author's own). That article portrays the US Military Government's reaction to the 1946 cholera outbreak in a manner so appalling as to raise doubts about its veracity. If you're going to write that US "Soldiers annihilated an entire village because the villagers had hidden a person with cholera in a wardrobe," you should probably cite a reliable source.