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Empire of the Sea


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English Title :  
Empire of the Sea
Korean Title :  
바다의 제국
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Subtitles Available :  
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Director :  
Yang Hong-sun, Choi Soo-yeong
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55min * 4eps



In the 7th century B.C., the Eastern and the Western world first met on a desert road called ‘Silk Road’. In the 8th century, when the sea route was open, trade between two worlds headed out for a totally new beginning. The sea route became a main channel of cultural exchange as well as product exchange encompassing technologies, social systems and even human resources and provideda foundation of ‘modern world’. Before the modern world, the Western civilization was inferior to the East in every way. But by the sea route, the West started to exchange things with the East, outran the East, and finally dominated the world. What happened on the sea where the two worlds met, and how the Western countries have become rich nations? The documentary Empire of the Seawill look into the secrets behind the questions.

<Episode 1. The Sea of Desires : Spices>
The Age of Exploration is considered to the starting point of humanity’s modern history. But it is not the result of the West’s advanced civilization and pioneering spirit. It is driven by the lack of pepper (spices) and religious motivations. Contrary to common belief, the Western civilization is inferior to its Eastern counterpart before the modern era. It is China and India that account for over 70% of the global economy in the early 18th century. Europe, however, leverages its naval power, which is more advanced than Asia’s, and makes use of the sea to participate in the global economic network led by Arab and Asia powers. The East and West’s divergent attitudes toward the sea lead to a series of developments that later change the course of world history.

<Episode 2. Big bang of the Wealth : Sugar>
Britain sees the sea not as a mere passageway but as a network and grows rich through triangular trade. British sugar plantations signal the birth of a new mode of production called ‘capitalism.’

<Episode 3. The Reversed Fortunes : Cotton>
In the early 17th century, the British East India Company imports the Indian cotton textile calico after being pushed out of the spice trade by the Dutch. The import of inexpensive, high-quality cotton is met with resistance so fierce from the British wool industry that the Calico Acts was enacted to ban its import. Nevertheless, the popularity of cotton in Europe does not wane. Britain’s efforts to produce cotton domestically lead to the invention of the spinning mule and then to the mechanized factory production of yarn, key developments in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. Britain’s ample coal reserves and the invention of the steam engine enable Britain to replace India as the world’s largest cotton exporter.

<Episode 4. The Reversal : Tea and Opium>
The discovery of silver in the Americas spurs trade between Europe and China, and Chinoiserie, or the emulation of all things Chinese, sweeps Europe. With the dramatic rise in European tea consumption, Europe’s trade imbalance with China grows to serious proportions. China is accepting nothing but silver from Europe. The British East Company, suffering from the lack of silver to pay for Chinese tea, turns to poppy. Britain resolves the trade imbalance with China through the opium trade. However, in the face of the Qing governments’ tough sanctions, Britain wages what comes to be called the Opium Wars, which is a turning point in the exchanges between Western and Eastern civilization that began with the Age of Exploration.




B.C. 7世紀、<シルクロード>と呼ばれた<砂漠の道>を通じて東洋と西洋は初めて繋がった。AD 8世紀、「海の道」が開かれ東西洋の交流は新しい局面を迎えることになる。以来、この海の道は単なる商品交流を超えて技術と制度、人々が行き交う文明交流の主要通路になり<近代世界>形成の決定的な土台を提供した。近代以前まで西洋は東洋に比べるとすべての面で遅れた文明であった。しかし西洋はこの「海の道」を通じて東洋と交流し、遂に東洋を超え、とうとう世界を支配するようになった。東西洋が繋がったその海では何が起こり、西洋の国々はどうやって富国になることができただろうか? その秘訣に迫る。