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The Korean Clog (namaksin)

An Import from the Netherlands

It is hard to believe but it's a true story: the traditional Korean wooden clog came from the Netherlands to Korea in the 17th century.

In 1653, a Dutch trading vessel on its way to Japan was shipwrecked off the Korean coast. The 36 survivors were arrested and were not allowed to leave the country which at this time was completely isolated. The Dutch were brought to Seoul, later to different cities. A Dutchman shipwrecked long years before acted initially as their interpreter.

The castaways, among them Hendrik Hamel, a bookkeeper of the Dutch East India Company, sold their ship's goods, including traditional Dutch wooden clogs. Their form was adapted and quickly became traditional footwear used mainly in the rainy season. In this time of the year between June and September were you waded ankle-deep in the mud of the streets the clogs kept the feet dry and were worn by Koreans of all ages and social positions well into the 20th century. Unlike the Japanese geta sandals, namaksin are carved out of one single block of wood.

After thirteen years in Korea, Hamel and seven of his crewmates managed to escape in a boat to Japan. Before returning to his home country he wrote an account of his time in Korea which was published in 1668. For over two hundred years this book was the only source of information about the "Land of the Morning Calm".


Site of exhibition: Case "Men" in the Korea Collection, basement