The Joseon wangjo sillok(Annals of the Joseon Dynasty) is a vast collection of annual records of state affairs and the activities of Joseon’s rulers spanning almost the entire history of the Joseon dynasty. It is listed in UNESCO's Memory of the World registry. The Odaesan History Archives Collection of the records survived many turbulent times until it found a home at the National Palace Museum of Korea.
The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty is a compilation of national records spanning the entirety of the Joseon Dynasty, consisting of records on national affairs and activities of the state post-reign. The Annals were not intended to be viewed or utilized in the respective day, and not even the king was allowed to view the contents. With the evaluation by future generations in mind, the neutral recording and safekeeping of the Annals was considered critical.
Thus, multiple copies of these important records such as the Annals were made and stored in various places as protection against war, fire, and natural disasters. Among them is a copy of the Annals stored at the Odaesan Mountain Historical Archives.
Odaesan Mountain Historical Archives was established after the imperial Japanese invasions of Korea (circa 1606) and operated until around 1910. Like other archives, Odaesan Mountain Historical Archives played an important role in enshrining and managing important documents such as the Annals, manuals, and royal genealogical records.
Fortunately, however, 74 volumes that were on loan at the time survived the earthquake. Of the 74 volumes, 27 volumes (20 volumes of the Annals of King Jungjong and 7 volumes of the Annals of King Seonjo) were transferred to Keijo Imperial University in 1932 after the national liberation of Korea, while the other 47 volumes (9 volumes of the Annals of King Seongjong, 30 volumes of the Annals of King Jungjong, and 8 volumes of the Annals of King Seonjo) remained at Tokyo Imperial University even after liberation.
The remaining 47 volumes at Tokyo Imperial University were returned after 93 years in July 2006. Thereafter, the Cultural Heritage Administration assigned the curation of the 74 volumes of the Odaesan Mountain Edition of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty to the National Palace Museum of Korea, where they’ve remained since July 25, 2016.
These annals are of a revised version with codes written in red and black ink indicting corrections and deletions. But why were draft copies stored in the archives rather than newly-revised versions?
The reason lies in the economic difficulties of the time. Republication of annals was being conducted not long after the Japanese invasions of Korea when printing types and even paper were in short supply. A great deal of materials was lost to war, and supplies were scarce. Therefore, it was probably difficult to discard copies of annals that were no different in content simply because the quality of paper was subpar.
The Odaesan Mountain Edition of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty was born at the end of the Japanese invasions of Korea and drifted around a foreign nation after the fall Korea. Although the Annals faced natural disaster in an earthquake, destroying much of history, 74 volumes survived these trials to end their long journey at the National Palace Museum of Korea.
NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM OF KOREA