Comma

Old archives in pre-modern Korea: the documentation of peoples' lives

Comma (2008), 2008, (2), 175–181.

Abstract

The ‘old archives’ documenting the interaction of individuals with government survive in large numbers in Korea. Although suffering substantial losses in the past, more than a million such items dating mainly between 1392 and 1910 survive in Korean archives and libraries. Although they can be difficult to interpret, they are now being increasingly studied and they provide a valuable resource for the student of pre-modern Korea particularly in the areas of social and economic history. The majority of these private records relate to property, inheritance and the right to buy and sell privileges. Many deal with slavery which was widespread. In addition the records provide evidence of the sophisticated recordkeeping practices of the Joseon dynasty. The very existence of such systems contradicts the view promulgated during the Japanese colonial period of pre-modern Korea as a primitive, stagnant and irregular society, a view once used to justify that colonization process.

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Author details

Si, Kwisun