Beekeeping Custom of Korea

Beekeeping Custom of Korea

Image: Urimizokkiri

From olden times Korea created and developed the custom of beekeeping. In primitive and ancient times Korean ancestors developed the custom—they brought honeycombs to their neighbourhood and observed the bees' way of life to learn how to control them.

There is a story. One day when Pak So, commander of the Northwest Military Corps of Koryo (918-1392), was engaged in a war against foreign invaders, he appealed to people in his castle to gather beehives kept in houses. Then at midnight he ordered his soldiers to put them in the bushes on the route of the enemy's attack. The next day the enemy troops kicked and trampled the beehives in their rush for attack.

Suddenly they were seriously stung by the bees that flushed out of the hives, and, screaming in pain, they took flight. Taking advantage of the turmoil, the Koryo soldiers in the castle mowed down the enemy by showering arrows.

Some days later Pak ordered his soldiers to fill hives with gunpowder and put them in the bushes. The next day the enemy gathered all the hives and piled them in one place thinking that they kept bees. The moment they set fire to the hives, the gunpowder exploded, felling numbers of troops. Roars of laughter burst among the Koryo soldiers in the castle, and the enemy gave up and retreated.

According to Sinjungdonggukyojisungram published in 1530, 26 counties in Kangwon Province and 13 of 22 counties in Hamgyong Province produced honey and 21 counties in the Kwandong region were special honey producers. This shows that the beekeeping was widely introduced from long ago.

In modern times the beekeeping has been undertaken actively since an improved variety of beekeeping was introduced. The beekeeping custom consists of the following things: Experience and traditional knowledge about types and way of life of bees, knowledge and usages to choose suitable time and place for beekeeping, production of beekeeping tools and techniques for their use, methods of setting up separate homes of bees and merging them, harvesting and processing honey. The time of harvesting is different from region to region, and southern areas have longer periods.

The beekeeping custom remains almost intact. Heads of families engaged in bee-farming teach their children and relatives all contents of beekeeping custom since their childhood so as to convey the custom. Now beekeeping is widely undertaken at bee yards of cooperative farms and agrostock farms. Bee yards employ ancestors' experience in and custom of beekeeping while introducing modern scientific technology and methods of management, thus producing a large quantity of honey and honey products.

There came into being proverbs connected with beekeeping like It was just a hive of excitement and Bees have honey in their mouths and stings in their tails. People do not get honey alone from beekeeping. It is a working life to develop character of diligence and delicacy, and it is also a pleasant life to understand the freshness of nature from the bees' way of life.

(Uriminzokkiri - March 15, 2021)

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