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Bosom Friend or Joint Manager: A Relationship between a Husband and a Wife in the 17th Century Korean Fictions

By Jong Cheol Kim, Professor, Seoul National University/Korea Colloquium Series

Monday, May 05, 2008
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

지기(知己) 혹은 공동 경영자: 17세기 한국 소설에 그려진 부부

In the late 17th century, Korean fictions such as Sassi namjŏng ki, Ch’angsŏn kamǔi rok and So Hyŏnsŏng rok began to describe conflicts between members of family as a matter of primary concern for the first time. These works depicted struggles between a husband and a wife, a wife and a concubine, and the first and the second son for the succession to the head of family and the right of family management that accompanied with power, money and honor.

Today, we conventionally see mistresses of the pre-modern period as being dependent on their husbands; however, in these fictions, we witness that they are independent and active in home life. For example Sa Chŏngok, the heroine in Sassi namjŏng ki, acted as her husband Yu Yŏnsu’s mentor for everything (?? not clear).  In this period, upper class women became the major readership of fictions written in Korean, and male writers tried to communicate with upper class women via fiction depicting how to keep family together.

This talk will address two major questions: 1.Why did family become a matter of prime concern in the late 17th century? 2. What was the point of reference of writers demarking good or evil desires? Furthermore, writers’ emphasis on the mistress’s role in family and the ideal relationship between a husband and a wife that is suggested by writers will be discussed. And we will proceed to discuss the significance of faith, rather than love, between a husband and a wife.  

Jong Cheol Kim is a professor of Department of Korean Language Education at Seoul National University.  He received his Ph.D from Seoul National University. His research interests include Korean pre-modern fiction & pansori (Korean narrative song), family in the 17th Korean fiction, and Korean classical literature education for non-Koreans.
Professor Kim is a visiting scholar at Yale University’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures in 2007-2008.

Open to the Public

Cost : Free


Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies

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