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Short Introduction to Korean Falconry

Author: Chang-Yong Choi

Year of Publication: 2012

Source: PROCEEDINGS OF THE 7th SYMPOSIUM ON ASIAN RAPTORS Raptor Migration and Conservation in Asia 13-16 Ja

Publisher: Editors: Chang-Yong CHOI, Hyun-Young NAM, Gi-Chang BING, Hee-Young CHAE.

Place of Publication: Republic of Korea

Volume: -

Pages: 43-44

Language: In English and Korean

The earliest evidence of the falconry in Korea may date back to 3 AD when the King Yuri of the Goguryeo Dynasty was fascinated with falconry (Ahn Jeong-bok. 1778. Dongsa Gangmok: Historical essay of Korea), and there are several records on many kings’ falconry in several literatures such as the Samguk-Sagi (Kim Bu-sik. 1145. History of Three Kingdoms) and the Samguk-Yusa (Ilyeon. 1281. Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). Particularly, the wall painting in the Jangcheon No. 1 Tomb (a 5th century AD tomb of the Goguryeo Dynasty at Jilin Province in NE China) represents the first visual evidence of Korean falconry. Nearly for last 2,000 years, commoners have used Northern Goshawks for falconry in winter; therefore, the Korean traditional falconry has been developed mainly in northern parts of Korea where goshawks breed and where winter lasts longer. On the other hand, Peregrine Falcons called Songgol were more important raptors for year-round falconry in royal families of the Goryeo (918-1392 AD) and Joseon (1392-1910 AD) Dynasties. Governments of these two dynasties established royal offices named Eungbang or Songgolbang which trained raptors and managed their foods (mostly pigeons) for falconry. The offices also encouraged commoners to raise domestic pigeons for a substitute tax to the office as well as foods for breeders themselves. When the number of falcons was not sufficient in the office, people who trapped rare raptors (i.e. Gyr Falcons, Saker Falcons, and even Peregrines) were often granted fortunes or even official positions in governmental agencies. King Sejong (1397-1450) dispatched special envoys in 1444 to Hamgyeong and Pyeongan Provinces in northern Korea to know why the number of trapped falcons was gradually declining. As negative effects and burdens of the Royal falconry increased, the royal agency Eungbang was eventually closed down in the early 18th century while private falconry has continued as winter sports and hunting techniques. According to a report in the early 1930s, a total of 1740 raptors including Northern Goshawks, Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards, and Peregrine Falcons was raised for falconry; about 85% of them were captive in the current territory of North Korea. However, because of the division of the Korean Peninsula, the Korean War, and the rapid economic growth, the tradition of Korean Falconry was nearly discontinued since 1960-1970s. The Korean falconry was nominated as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010, and two master falconers currently try to continue the tradition.

Chang-Yong Choi

East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Secretariat,

Songdo, Incheon 406-840, Republic of Korea


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