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Korean folktales as protest literature

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By Mark Peterson

Last time I wrote about the Heungbujeon ― the story of Heungbu, also called the story of Heungbu and Nolbu. My point was that the story was written at a point when younger sons (like Heungbu) were being disinherited and the eldest son (like Nolbu) were taking control of all the property of the parents' generation. I presented my thesis that the story is really a form of protest literature, giving voice to the disenfranchised and pointing out that the newly emerging changes in inheritance practice were unfair to the sons who were not the eldest. This is one of the themes of my "frog outside the well" analysis of the greatly misunderstood Confucianization of Korea.

Today, I'd like to extend that discussion to other literature that I think is also protest literature. There are three great so-called pansori stories in Korean culture. The story of Heungbu is one; the other two are the story of Chunhyang and the story of Sim Cheong. Collectively, they are not only the best-known pre-modern stories, originating as pansori performances before they were committed to paper, but........

© The Korea Times