Rethinking “the Confucian Transformation” Thesis: Household Registration and Women Householders in the Late Chosŏn Period

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Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 201412:00PM - 2:00PM208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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It is widely accepted that a “Confucian transformation” occurred in the late Chosŏn period, rather than the first part of the dynasty. Even though we accept the argument that, by the late Chosŏn, Korea had undergone “Confucianization”, it is not immediately clear how, through what processes, and to what extent this transformation occurred. It is not enough to explain that the culture and ideas of the Yangban elite were diffused over time. In this presentation I would like to suggest that it is necessary to rethink the Confucian transformation in the late Chosŏn period in relation to the role of the government policies and people’s multilayered and unpredictable reactions to them. Focusing on the differences manifested in each social standing – of yangban, commoner, and low class– this presentation analyzes the household registration policy of the state, the composition of a household, the changes in the ways of the succession of householder, and the position of widows. Based on an analysis of household registries between 1678 and 1789, I argue that the process in which the Confucian order of society became the major aspect of postwar Chosŏn was neither linear nor obvious. Rather, it witnessed rifts and produced unevenness. Critical to my argument is a deeper understanding of the ways in which modern knowledge uses the imagined ‘family’, ‘women’, ‘Confucian practice’ of the Chosŏn period related to the modernist traditionalism and how the ‘state of Chosŏn’ did not become a major subject of historical research while ‘Confucianism’ in terms of tradition was emphasized.

JI YOUNG JUNG is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at Ewha Womans University, Korea. She received degrees in history from Sogang University, Korea (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.). Her areas of research expertise is gender history, with a focus on the construction of gender and marginal women -widows, concubines, remarried women, single women in late Chosŏn, Korea. Recently her research focuses on the process of knowledge construction and consumption in the modern Korea regarding “women in Chosŏn”. She is the co-author of Women and Confucianism in Chosŏn Korea (SUNY Press, 2011). Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen: Hidden Histories, Enduring Vitality (SUNY Press, 2011). She has also published widely on the gender studies, cultural history, and memory in East Asia.


Lisa Qiu


Ji Young Jung
Associate Professor, Department of Women’s Studies, Ewha Womans University, Korea


Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies

Centre for the Study of Korea

Asian Institute


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