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Old inheritance document

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By Mark Peterson

Some years ago, in my study of Korean history and culture, I came upon a document that was revealing on many levels. It was a 1688 will or inheritance document of the Buan Kim family. In the preamble to the document it states they are going to change their procedure of giving property to the next generation.

In the West, inheritance documents are called "wills" or the intention of the property-owning parent generation in giving their property to the next generation. In Korea there is a kind of "will" that is called a "heoyeo mungi," which is translated as a "documentation of a gift" or a special allocation of property while the owner is alive. But most divisions of property occur after the parents die and is determined by the next generation, not the parent generation.

Such documents are called "dongsaeng hwahoe mungi" or literally "a document of the peacefully assembled siblings." The purpose of the document is like that of the "will" in the West, but it is the siblings who decided which piece of property and which slave would go to which of the siblings. It's interesting that the title includes the idea of "peacefully assembly" to make the decisions.........

© The Korea Times