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The Cases of “Women Murderers of Husband” and Politics of Representation in Colonial Korea

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2011, (102), pp.79-114
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Hong, Yang-Hee 1

1한양대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In colonial Korea, husband killing had been made into a crime "unique" to the colonial Korean society. Those women who killed their husbands were depicted as a victim of the evil marriage custom and Sobu(tender girl wives) on the one hand, and Dokbu, erotic femme fatal, on the other hand. These seemingly contradicting image were not separate and distinct. They rather constituted the two sides of the same coin. Discourses such as “a young wife who committed atrocious crimes”, and “atrocious crimes done by tender girl wives” magnified to the full point "barbarity" and "tragic nature" stemmed from the Korean unique practice of early marriage. This development is closely related to the way in which the modern understanding of marriage and family was produced and consumed by the enlightened intellectuals of Korea. In this regard, the efforts to enlighten the Korean practice of marriage represented an attempt to construct “modernity" in colonial Korea. The tendency to make “early marriage” into a devil practice was a case in point to demonstrate the mechanism in which the “modernity” was put into action. That also reflects the process in which the discourse and reality of the colonial modernity transformed customs and practices not suitable for western civilization as "evil practices." With such efforts, colonies were made into an object of "barbarity". After all, it wasn't that the early marriage in the colonial Korea caused the cruel crime of husband killing. But that the crime of husband murder made the early marriage into an evil practice. The husband killing was a symbol of the discourse /which made the early marriage evil. The early marriage was not much of the cause of the spouse killing as its effect. It is also a good case to show how the gaze of modernity disciplined every day life of the people in colonial Korea.

Citation status

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This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.