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More on 1688 document

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12.02.2019

By Mark Peterson

Recently I wrote about the 1688 inheritance document of the Buan Kim family that marked the beginning of the end for female inheritance rights and property ownership rights. In the document the family says "Our family is different from other families." The document was written mostly in Chinese with some sections in "idu" ― the modified Chinese character format that captured Korean grammatical particles with Chinese characters.

This sentence hit me like a ton of bricks when I first read it. In the first place, the simplicity of the sentence ― that I could understand it easily ― struck me. And that it was not that the statement was unique to one family, because, although it looks like it is one family, it was really happening to many families, one after another. So, the point is not that one family was making a break with the past, but this one family was making the break together with virtually all other families. This was a statement, not in isolation, but as a part of a sea change in social practice in Korea. The whole of society was moving from equality in inheritance to primogeniture ― inheritance dominated by the eldest son.

The key sentence was written in simple Chinese. It said literally "our-family-different-from-other-family."........

© The Korea Times