In this article, how the Village associations(Donggyae/洞契) operated in the latter half period of the 19th century, is examined. It seems that they came to serve as autonomous entities inside natural villages, and considering the fact that they had once served under the leadership of Sajok figures as a device of ruling local communities, it can be said that they departed from their previous status quite considerably. In order to corroborate that, the case that is surveyed in this article is the Eoseo-ri/語西里 Village association, which existed in the Jangheung-gun/長興郡 region's Yongsan-myeon/蓉山面 area, inside the Jeonra Nam-do/全羅南道 province. The Donggyae Suji-bu(洞契收支簿/Account book for the Village association), which shows us the activities and operations of the association in question in chronological order, is dominantly consulted in this survey.
The Eoseo-ri Village association was reconvened(重修) in 1838, to respond to the government's 'collective' collection of taxes. It was also organized within the range of one natural village, Eoseo-ri. Yet the Eoseo-ri Village association was not a mere interest group just organized to address only the tax situation ('應稅組織'). It had its own principles, regarding regulations and operations concerning village affairs, and it was in charge of managing the properties and assets that belonged to the entire village(洞有財産‧洞有器物). It also supported the general interest(福利) of the villagers. It played a central role in the village's own autonomous ruling of itself.
Analysis of the expenditure of the Eoseo-ri Village association in late 19th century shows that, although devising a response to the government's tax collection still remained as one of the association's prominent functions, since the 1880s spendings for community events or for acquiring certain things for the village started to increase. We can see that the Village association started its activities under the objective of responding unitedly to exterior pressures(taxation), yet in the process it also managed to reinforce its inner bonding as a community. And at the same time, although Eoseo-ri was a Yangban village and the Eoseo-ri village association accordingly emphasized the necessity and merits of maintaining a Confucian social order right from the beginning, primary day-to-day operations of the association in late 19th century started to reflect the weakened status of Yangban-based social order, which was of stratification. Large number of villagers participated in commercial profit- making('殖利') activities, utilizing properties under the association's ownership(契錢). They even shared the right of loaning the association's assets to someone, and also shared the responsibility of managing them. This shows us that the Village association was being openly operated, unbounded by traditional barriers of social statuses or blood relationships, and that the association was maintained upon the joint responsibility taken by the majority of the village residents.
These characteristics featured by the Eoseo-ri Village association in late 19th century, such as ① the fact that the association only concerned an individual natural village, ② that it maintained functions of addressing taxation problems, and ③ the fact that from its operations we can see the apparent weakening of the authorities' ruling which had been imposed upon the villagers through social order, are indicators that Village associations in this time were not the Village associations of the 18th century, which served as the Sajok leaders' device of social ruling. The range covered by the village associations was reduced to that of an individual village, the primary living space of the peasantry population, and that enabled the associations to interact with the villagers' lives more closely and more comprehensively. Also the Eoseo-ri Village association enabled the villagers to unite, and together in a collective fashion resolve many problems which not only included tax problems but also other pressures imposed upon the village itself. Such experiences ultimately united them even more. Although Eoseo-ri was a village inhabited by dominant Yangban house members, the Village association was operated unbounded by the restraints such as family names or social statuses. A large number of villagers participated openly in association's affairs, and the association itself was actually weakening such restraints. We can see that the most representative trait of the Sajok-controlled Village associations, the influence and control they had over the low-class villagers, were literally vanishing.
As mentioned before, in late 19th century, Village associations departed from its previous function of serving the Sajok leaders in local regions as a local ruling body or an entity enforcing social order, and instead became local communities deeply connected with the people's lives, on the village level. It was not like the previous Village associations were dissolved or lost any historical relevance coming into the late 19th century. They only reestablished themselves as autonomous ruling entities, on the village level.