The discovery of Korea
The first Europeans who knew about the existence of Korea were the Portuguese. Since 1543 they had a trade post on the island of Hirado, where they without doubt got to know that in northwestern direction passed the island of Tsushima, there was a nation that they called Couray. During his investigations in Portugal and on the Portuguese merchant fleet, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten got to know this from Dirck Gerritszoon Pomp, nicknamed "Dirck China." Pomp, a Hollander, also in the service of the Portuguese, went to sea in 1584 aboard the Portuguese vessel "Santa Cruz". The ship was richly laden with merchandise and had sailed by way of the trade-settlement in Goa, India, to Macao in China and from there to Japan. He arrived in Nagasaki in 1585, perhaps the first Hollander to set foot on Japanese soil. Dirck gave oral information to Jan van Linschoten. In his Reisgheschrift (travel notes), which were published in 1595, he writes the following:
In the Itinerario, which was published one year later, at page 37 we will find the following extract:
In 1610, one year after the Dutch received permission from the Japanese government to establish a factory on the island of Hirado, Jacques Specx, the chief of this factory, sent a ship with a cargo of pepper for Korea, to the Island of Tsushima.
"At our returne to the English house [te Hirado], I
found three or foure Flemmings there; one of them was in a Iapan
habit, and came from a place called Cushma [Tsushima], within sight
of Corea. I understand they sold Pepper and other Commodities there,
and I thinke haue some secret trade into Corea, or else are very
likely to haue " (The Voyage of Captain John Saris
to Japan, page 170),
"Pepper was sold there [Japan] for 15 and 16 tael per picol; these were partly sold in Japan, partly transported to Corea" (Gen, Miss. February 3, 1626).
Maybe there would have been a better market for tin:
"Nangasacki November 3, 1610. Tin is bought much in Corea, that's why [it] is much retained here, I have requested if it were possible if we could do some trade on Corea here from Japan; for this purpose I have sent on March lastly with 20 picol pepper to the island Tuxcijma being around 30 mijlen from here, who with those of Corea, which is still another 25 mijlen from there, trade and make their journey 3 to 4 times a year hither, however previously mentioned is because of the strict laws found to be impossible, that the Governor of previously mentioned island wouldn't consent, since it would do him damage, then will previously mentioned had not taken place, have further requested since a big profit can be made, so with silk work, leather, medicine and other things which can be brought there" (To Heeren XVII; unsigned but probably from Specx).
But also if Specx would have been capable of offering this metal,
would "the strict laws of the country" and the self-interest
of the Daimyo of Tsushima have prevented the desired trade.
Also a letter from the stadtholder, the prince Maurits, sent on December 18, 1610 from the remote The Hague to the 'most Almighty Emperor and King of Japan' didn't soften the Japanese. Maurits wrote the following:
In whatever beautiful words the request however was written, the prince got naught. For the VOC however it was difficult to swallow that the monopoly of the trade with Korea was in other hands than theirs, and they were keen to change that situation. In 1622 the VOC-ship de Hond, officially due to a navigation error, but maybe deliberately, sailed into Korean waters. Immediately the ship was attacked, by not less than 36 war-junks, who shelled de Hond with 'bassen, roers, boogen ende ontalrijcke hasegaijen' (cannons, firelocks, bows and numerous wooden lances).
In his report about the unwelcome reception the skipper advises the authorities in Batavia 'alle schippers te waarschouwen ende te belasten wel op haer hoede voor soodanighe resconters te wesen' (to warn all skippers to be well aware of these kind of encounters ).
".... at north to turn [to] Japan, the coast of Tartarien,
China as well to discover the country Corea and to understand what
profitable traffic about that can be obtained for the General Compagnie...."
(Instruction to Quast July 7, 1639).
But even before the mainland came into sight, his convoy was intercepted by units of the Korean war-fleet. After a short council of naval officers, Quast decides to return on his course and to give up further attempts to set foot on Korean soil. Sometimes ship in dire need would try to get some water on Chejudo but were chased away immediately.