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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 20(1); 2011 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2011;20(1): 83-118.
1910-20년대 개성상인의 백삼(白蔘) 상품화와 판매 확대 활동
양정필
White Ginseng Commercialization and Sales Expansion Activities of Gaesung Merchants in the 1910s and 1920s
Jeongpil Yang
National Institute of Korean History, 2-6 Joongang-Dong, Gwacheon-Si, Kyunggi-Do, Korea, 427-010. yangjp@mest.go.kr
ABSTRACT
Ginseng has always been the typical export item in Korean history. Until the 18th century, exporting ginseng was wild ginseng from the mountains. Since the 19th century, exporting ginseng became red ginseng, which was red due to steaming and drying process. Red ginseng was produced by Gaesung merchants, so that these merchants were able to gain the control of the output. Gaesung merchants of the 19th century exported red ginseng to China and made huge economic success. However, when the Korean Empire and Japanese colonical government established red ginseng monopoly, it essentially blocked Gaesung traders from manufacturing and exporting any further of its prized commodity. Then, the traders turned to sun-dried white ginseng as a substitute to red ginseng. As a result, white ginseng production dramatically increased after 1914, which in turn made Gaesung merchants newly aware of the commercial value of white ginseng, which was previously ignored. The traders made good use of the traditional medicine herb market, which opened annually, to promote the expansion of white ginseng sales. Moreover, the merchants also adopted modern marketing techniques, as they founded companies to handle solely white ginseng sales, refreshed packaging to raise commodity values, and made an effort in advertising and mail order sales. Due to such endeavors, demand for white ginseng grew exponentially both in domestic and foreign markets, which generated steady growth of white ginseng prices despite the rapid increase of its supply. This phenomenon naturally brought about the rich economic accomplishments of Gaesung merchants. Through the white ginseng sales activities of Gaesung merchants in post-1910s era, two facts can be newly uncovered. First, the mass consumption of white ginseng today in Korean society took a full-scale step after the 1910s. Second, it was a widely-held view that during the Japanese rule, majority of Korean traditional merchants were economically ruined, while a small minority collaborated with the colonical government to obtain economic success. However, Gaesung merchants in 1910s successfully commercialized white ginseng not with the aid of the Japanese but with their own efforts alone. Such fact reveals that there were other types of traditional merchants during the Japanese colonial period who cannot be explained with the common theory.
Key Words: Gaesung merchants, white ginseng commercialization, traditional medicine herb market, modern marketing of white ginseng, dramatic increase of white ginseng sales
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