Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Women's Violence, Family, and Society in Late-Nineteenth-Century Korea

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Marriott Balcony A, Mezzanine Level

This study sheds light on how late-nineteenth-century Korean women and men understood Confucian notions such as chastity, filial piety, and family reputation and how they reacted to sexual defamation and dishonor, through a close reading of legal testimonies on women’s fights triggered by gossip and their subsequent deaths. In February 1897, neighboring women living in a remote village quarreled over who spread gossip about the lewd acts of Ms Pak’s daughter. Verbal assaults and insults quickly turned into violent fights, which led to Ms Mun’s suspicious death. Her death, however, provoked the brutal murder of the other woman Ms Pak, committed by Ms Mun’s family members including her husband and eleven-year-old son, who sought revenge for her death. Women’s gossip turned out to be a tragic catastrophe for the entire household.

Interestingly enough, the inquest record on this case provides us with a complex and contradictory picture of late-nineteenth-century commoner families and villagers. Confucian gender norms that regulated family and gender relations were still dominant in Korean society, which began to take the road to modernization. However, on the other hand, the recorded testimonies tell us more about the dynamics of challenges and negotiations attempted by the ruled class than about their submission. In this study, thus, I will focus on how the commoner people as active legal agents adopted, interpreted, and appropriated the prescribed Confucian norms by examining Confucian rhetoric and strategies employed by the defendant, plaintiff, and witnesses at the law court. 

Sohyeon Park

Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul-t'ukpyolsi, Republic of Korea

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4 - Women's Violence, Family, and Society in Late-Nineteenth-Century Korea



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