'Chance of a lifetime': American fur traders in 1900s Korea
By Robert Neff
In the early 1900s, the northern part of the Korean peninsula was the domain of the majestic tigers, sleek leopards, insatiable wolves and unpredictable giant boars. They prowled the darkness and lonely places preying upon the weak and unwary. They also attracted the attention of foreign hunters who came to Korea to hunt them as souvenirs to display in their trophy rooms. There was even a Russian family (Yankovsky) that established a famous hunting lodge on the east coast.
But this region was also blessed with great numbers of fur-bearing animals. They, too, attracted foreign hunters who came not so much for the sport but rather the profit.
Korea was no stranger to the fur industry. Some of the earlier trade reports list tiger, leopard and bear pelts exported from Wonsan ― most likely to Japan. Sable and otter pelts were especially prized and were readily purchased by Chinese merchants. In 1897, a pair of Korean fur dealers claimed they exported $30,000 worth of furs annually to China.
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