Has A Korean Monk Found the World’s Oldest Newspaper?

This newspaper appears to be in remarkably good shape for allegedly being so old.  Even if it is a fake the history of the first newspaper printed during the Joseon dynasty is pretty interesting:

A newspaper piece on Nov. 23 of 1577, in the lunar calendar, discovered by monk Ji Bong of Yonghwa Temple in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang. Possibly part of the oldest newspaper ever printed, the piece contains records on the weather and the constellation. [KIM JUNG-SEOK]

What is possibly the oldest newspaper ever printed has been discovered by a monk of Yonghwa Temple in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang. Scholars have yet to verify the authenticity of the newspaper, which is recorded to have been printed in 1577, 83 years ahead of Leipziger Zeitung, the world’s first newspaper, which was printed in 1660 in Germany.“I found it at an auction website that sells old documents and books this month,” said monk Ji Bong on Tuesday. “It was up on the website from January but no one seemed interested. I have been interested in old books and bibliographies for 20 years, so I bought it.”

Ji Bong did not specify how much he paid for it or who he bought it from.

The newspaper is in eight pieces and not all are intact. The dates printed on them are: Nov. 6, 15, 19, 23 and 24, all in 1577, in the lunar year calendar system.

The pieces contain articles about Queen Inseong’s welfare and the fact that the regular discussion of state affairs among the king and the ministers were not held on Nov. 6; that hundreds of cows died of infectious disease on Nov. 15; some records of the weather and the constellation on Nov. 23; and the welfare of ministers, including one by the name of Lee Jung-hyeong, on Nov. 24.

The existence of the oldest newspaper is mentioned in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty are the records of the dynasty (1392-1910) from 1392 to 1863, completed in 1,893 chapters in 888 books. Thought to be the longest continual records of a single dynasty in the world, the annals have been registered at the Unesco Memory of the World since 1997.

In the annals for Nov. 28, 1577, in the lunar calendar, King Seonjo (1552-1608) is recorded to have rebuked his ministers for printing newspapers without the king’s permission. Seonjo is recorded to have shut down the publication, rounded up some 30 people who took part in it and sentenced them to a severe punishment.

Historians have said the king was against the publication of a newspaper at the time because he was afraid that state secrets may be leaked to ordinary citizens or foreign powers.

“The publication of the newspaper at the time was a big deal to the royal court,” Ji Bong said. “They say the people who published the newspaper disappeared one morning and the people who possessed any copies had to destroy or hide them.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.



I am a US military veteran that has served all over the world to include in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. I have been blogging about Korea, Northeast Asia, and the US military for over 10 years.


  1. Well, I hate to be a party-pooper, but the link to the Joseon Annals is strong circumstantial evidence that it’s a fake. I would be more willing to believe it if the fragments were not dated to the exact year, and almost the exact same day of the Annals reference. The fact that Ji Bong thinks it is genuine because the document seems to mirror what historians have said is probably a case of confirmation bias.

    As to the paper looking as good as it does in the photo, this is not necessarily evidence against it. I’ve seen photos of books (paper, not parchment) from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and some of them are in as good shape or better.

  2. Not to sound racist but I’ve noticed Asian guys “finding stuff” a lot just to either one-up a nearby country, call something theirs, or just claim a claim. Not sinking my teeth into this until it’s actually verified.

  3. Obviously a fake newspaper…

    …as it says nothing bad about Trump.

  4. The reporter intentionally glossed over the part about Russia’s interference in the coronation of King Seonjo. Looking forward to the Politifact or Snopes review. They are gonna tear this one up.

  5. Time to check the cesium-137 content of the ink.

    That will nicely date it to pre/post atomic age.

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