A Study on Personal Diaries in the Joseon Period

조선시대 개인 일기의 현황과 특징

  • Lee, Jong-suk (Artistic Heritage Research Division, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)
  • 이종숙 (국립문화재연구소 미술문화재연구실)
  • Received : 2019.09.29
  • Accepted : 2019.11.11
  • Published : 2019.12.30


The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) left behind a wealth of documentary heritage, including collections of literary works, personal letters, and journals, as well as public documents such as Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty (Joseon Wangjo Sillok), Diaries of the Royal Secretariat (Seungjeongwon Ilgi), and State Protocols (Uigwe). Such heritage also includes personal diaries that have been highly regarded for their frank and vivid records of people's lives in the Joseon period. There have been great diaries published and intended for reading by the Korean public, including War Diaries (Nanjung Ilgi, 1592~1598) by Yi Sun-sin and Diaries of Jehol (Yeolha Ilgi, 1780) by Park Ji-won. Unfortunately, a great majority of these personal records remain unknown to the world. Such great records have not been given an opportunity to be documented properly, but are left outside public attention, abandoned to be damaged and destroyed. Few personal diaries of the Joseon period were written on good-quality paper. After the death of their authors, these diaries were left to be kept by their descendants; this explains why many of these records have been in poor condition, particularly when compared with the public records published by the government of Joseon, such as Sillok and Uigwe, even when these were lucky enough to be taken care of by the authors' descendants. Even after surviving a long time, many of these personal records remain in the form of manuscripts, written in semi-cursive and cursive scripts of Chinese characters, thus making it even more difficult for the people of the current generation -- most of whom have not been given an opportunity to learn Chinese characters at school -- to take care of their documentary heritage properly. Meanwhile, it is also true that, as the value of the public records published by the government of Joseon as historical materials has grown, they are used more often as content for TV dramas such as Daejanggeum. At the same time, there have been increasingly louder voices citing the need for the study, preservation, and management of the personal diaries from Joseon. Considering the situation, this study provides a general overview of the personal diaries of Joseon as recently surveyed by the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, as well as their characteristic features, subjects, and backgrounds. This study is expected to contribute to future research on the preservation and management of the personal diaries of Joseon.


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