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Korea’s Possible Contribution to the Printing Technology in Europe: A Historical Survey
Academy of Korean Studies
Keywords: Basel Paper Mill, Chikchi, Jikji, Central Asia, China, Europe, Gutenberg, Korea, metal types, Pope John XXII, Silk Road
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to examine Korea’s possible contribution to the development of metal type printing technology in Europe with a focus on its presumed influence on the printing technology of Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468), a German regarded as the ‘inventor’ of this technology in the West. To this end, this research discusses textual evidence and historical circumstances to discern Korea’s contribution to this printing technology. Historically, few records indicate Korea’s direct contact with Europe. However, scholars more recently began arguing for Korea’s possible influence on Gutenberg’s metal type technology. Textual evidence and historical circumstances strongly suggest that Europeans were in direct contact with Koreans in the mid-fourteenth century and, therefore, Korea’s contribution to Gutenberg’s invention of the metal type printing press. Recent scholarship also proved through experiments that Gutenberg’s printing technology was the same as Korea’s. As a prerequisite for printing, paper was also transmitted to Europe from the East, and already circulated in Europe before the time of Gutenberg. Premodern Korea was well known to the Chinese for their high-quality paper production. However, these issues still remain for future research.