National Geographic : 1950 Jun
(0 Nattonal ueograplll Society 797 aeltacnlrone I Hlorace Isristol Women Reel Shimmering Threads from the Silken Chambers of Insects Korea, like China, has raised silkworms for centuries. Japanese learned the sericulture art from Koreans. During the Japanese occupation the Korean industry was stimulated to maintain Japan's dominance in the world silk market. Much of Korea's silk is the product of home industry, though some power-driven filatures have been built for reeling silk. Growing silkworms feed on fresh mulberry leaves. Some Korean mulberry trees grow wild, but most are hand-planted. Groves cover hillsides unsuitable to rice cultivation. Voracious eaters, silkworm larvae mature in about six weeks. They develop two glands containing a clear, viscous fluid. This material, when ejected through orifices on the worm's lower lip, dries into a continuous twin filament immediately upon exposure. In such fashion the larva spins its cocoon upon entering the pupal stage of its transformation into an adult moth. Silkworms shrink rapidly as they spin the filaments about their bodies. Completed cocoons, such as those seen in the basket, are about one and one-half inches long, whereas the larvae may measure three inches. The raw cocoon is exposed to steam or hot air to destroy the living pupa. After drying it is scalded to permit unreeling. A single cocoon may yield 400 to 1,000 yards of filament. Single strands are so delicate that customarily several cocoons are unwound together. Some 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons are required to produce a pound of silk. The number of silk crops produced in a year depends upon climate. In some countries production is almost continuous. Korea grows three crops-in spring, summer, and autumn. The earliest of these gives the best yield. Many of Korea's gaily colored festival costumes, wedding clothes, and women's blouses are silk. Everyday dress is cotton. White, traditionally the color of mourning, predominates. Numerous ancient customs survive in this Land of Morning Calm. Many are the outgrowth of the people's belief in animism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.