Not only in Korea but throughout regions of East Asia in general, the most typical approach of academic research to the 18th century was to find a seed or precursor to the birth of modernity from this particular century. This was admitedly a very modern perspective, which almost suggested such seed or precursor as more than a possibility. Yet as everybody agrees, the modernity we talk about today - symbolized by both Capitalism and Democracy - is a product of a European and most specifically an English environment.
But certain “Civilized” aspects -at least universally agreed ones- could be found in plenty from the 18th century East Asia as well as Joseon in particular. Formation of the private sector, a space for personal and individual interests, a small-family system, equal distribution of wealth to both male and female heirs, stationary agricultural production, and a refined central administrative system, with a unique indigenous culture for its own people, were among such commonalities.
For example, the Joseon society in the 18th century established a notion saying the governance should be based upon the public’s wishes and interests (a notion which is usually labelled as “Minbon, 民本,” a policy of some sort). These kings considered the aristocratic Yangban Sa/Daebu figures as yet another part of the general public(民), and pursued many things including the centralization of administrative governance, fixation of the ‘taxation via money’ policy, vitalizing economic activities regardless of one’s social class, among other things. In the process, individuals in the general population continued to cultivate their own capabilities that would enable them to stay independent from the state and sometimes even fight against it. We can see that from all the revolts and social movements launched by people in the 19th century.
Also in 18th century Joseon, apparently there was a new perception of one’s identity and nature. Such atmosphere was formed and spreaded based upon the country’s animosity toward Qing, and encouraged people to find Joseon’s own color and culture, with a contemplation upon the very concept of Jung’hwa(中華) from a different angle.
According to certain personal journals created on a daily basis(日記), it seems like the Joseon families were primarily based upon married couples and their offsprings, of which the former showed husbands and wives with an equal saying in deliberations of familial issues, and essentially a dynamic of an equal partnership. This signals a level of gender equality.