Choson Women Status Term Paper

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[. . .] In the Choson dynasty, this rule was made as a result of the rule that prohibited women to remarry and in this situation; it would be difficult for a woman to live alone without any financial backing. Considering this matter and the welfare of women, the Choson dynasty made permitted women to control their inheritance. This, while on the other hand supported women after the death of her husband, but also pained women, as a woman, if widowed at a very early age would have to live alone all through her life.

As the years in the Choson dynasty passed, this rule of women inheriting from her father's property diminished as more and more portion of wealth and inheritance was preserved and held for the eldest son (Kim, 33). This, again discrimination, took strong roots in the later periods of the Choson dynasty where women were altogether excluded from the list of rightful inheritors.

Another discrimination against women in the Choson dynasty was the law of divorce. In the Choson dynasty, divorce was rare, and if id did takes place, it was often stereotyped and people often thought about it as a situation where in the man would kick his woman out of the house. However, under this law too, there were exceptions against the discrimination- the first one was that a woman could apply for divorce from her husband in case her husband has deserted her and has fled away with another woman and did not return. The second situation is one in which a woman is beaten up by her husband and applies for divorce. But in this case too, the discrimination is present as the divorce is only given with the consent of the husband, making the wife legally bonded in a divorce until the husband agrees to give divorce. However, what ever the case may be, one thing was clear, a woman cannot apply for divorce out of her own reason. On the other hand a husband has right to divorce his wife as per 'chil koh', that is the reasons for divorce. There were seven reasons under which the husband has a right to 'kick' his wife out of the house, which is divorce her. These seven reasons were defiance to the in-laws (mostly the parents of the husband), the failure to give a son, wastefulness, jealousy that put at risk the system of polygamy system, the occurrence of an ailment, and the last one is larceny. These were the reasons that were quite easy to prove once the husband wishes to get rid of her wife. However, the Choson law also bans divorce in three cases, called sampul koh. Under these set of three laws, a husband cannot 'kick' his wife out of the house in case the wife is poor and has no place else to go to, a husband cannot divorce his wife if the husband's parents have died for three years and the wife has obediently followed a three-year mourning period, and lastly a husband cannot divorce his wife in case when the husband was not financially well at the time of marrying his wife and his financial health has improved after marriage and is still improving. These laws, for and against the divorce, were not the reason, in true sense, for the surprisingly low divorce rates under the Choson dynasty. In fact it was the social stigma that prohibited the women from obtaining divorce and men for divorcing. Furthermore, it was a societal understanding the divorcing a woman would do no good to the society at large, because if such a situation prevailed, there would be too many divorced women in the society and this would prove to be a great social problem (Mattielli, 141).

Nevertheless, polygamy was a norm of the society and men were known in the Choson dynasty to keep concubines. There was no restriction on men to engage in sexual intimacies, unless the woman is married to someone else or is a virgin or a widow. The women in the concubines were the sole possession of the man. Under this situation, women were not allowed to express or even feel jealousy towards other women under her husband patronage.

Choson dynasty was on one count good towards women, that it provided free of charge a service to unmarried woman and helped them to find suitable men if they have reached the age of thirty. Nevertheless, this also speaks of the helplessness of women in the absence of a male figure in their family who would have had been responsible for their marriage. This generally happens when the father has died or the financial weaknesses did not permit marriage or hindered finding a proper suitor for the girl. In fact, under the Choson dynasty, being unmarried meant creating social problems in general so they did everything, from matchmaking to financial support so that the societal balance should not be disturbed, balancing the two poles, "heaven and earth" (Rutt and Kim, 225).

Nevertheless, what ever efforts were made, it was purely male oriented, from polygamy for men to monogamy for women, women were the suppressed class and history proves them to be a class subservient to the will of men.

References

Kendall, Laurel, and Mark Peterson, ed. (1983) Korean Women: View from the Inner Room. New Haven: East Rock Press, pg. 28-39.

Kim, Yung-Chung, ed. (1979) Women of Korea: A History from Ancient Times to 1945. Seoul: Ewha University Press, pg. 33.

Mattielli, Sandra, ed. (1977) Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and the Korean Woman Today. Seoul: Samhwa, pg. 145-190.

Park, Young-hai, ed., (1986) Women of the Yi Dynasty Seoul, Korea: Research Center for Asian Women, Sookmyung Women's University, pg. 4.

Rutt, Richard, and Chong-un Kim (1974) Virtuous Women:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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