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Park Mun-ho’s Yeo-Sohak (Sohak for Women), Contents and Meaning

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2021, (143), pp.79-124
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History
  • Received : August 23, 2021
  • Accepted : September 13, 2021
  • Published : September 30, 2021

LEEJUNGMIN 1

1서울여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Yeo-sohak was written by a person named Park Mun-ho, who was a Confucian scholar and lived in the Chungcheong-do region. Critical of the reality in which females were never granted adequate access to education, he created this book for them to have proper guidance. His intentions, however, were never to promote a modern ideal for women, but to facilitate restoration of a more traditional one. Yeo-Sohak, while featuring aspects similar to those presented in other female educational materials authored by either traditional Confucian scholars or modern idealists, turned out to be quite different from them as well. Like other materials of the time, Park placed an emphasis on concepts such as different social roles for different genders, the value of female labor, and the virtue of obedience. He also promoted not only Chinese but Korean cases as well, albeit to a lesser degree compared to others. But at the same time he also deviated from the mold by allocating a substantial amount of efforts to the task of meticulously categorizing female ritual protocols, and even proposing the establishment of a Holy Women’s Shrine, a space reserved for memorials to commemorate honorable women. We can see what Park Mun-ho wished to say from the “Old Stories” chapter of Yeo-Sohak, as well as an addendum attached to the end of Yeo-Sohak entitled “Seong’nyeo-myo Doseol”(A blueprint for the Inside of the Holy Women’s Shrine), as they both contain a lot of Yeol’nyeo (females who fiercely protected and preserved their own dignity and chastity, even by death) and Hyo’nyeo (pious daughters) cases. Regarding the former, Park took interest in particular Yeol’nyeo figures who willingly gave their lives to safeguard their own righteousness or the honor of their husbands, in the face of insurmountable odds, crises of a paramount nature, and formidable enemies. This was probably because Park, who was witnessing his own country’s sovereignty being stripped away by the Japanese, identified the females’ ultimate choice to give up their lives as the ultimate way to save the country in distress, just as other modern scholars did as well. Meanwhile, regarding the Hyo’nyeo cases, the pious daughters, Park highlighted many cases: daughters who would literally die for their parents, or daughters who invited mysterious and auspicious phenomena with their own pious actions, probably to encourage others to engage in such actions as well. Then he also highlighted other types of pious daughters, who for example refused to marry a man to instead care for their own parents, or even after getting married still remained pretty much devoted to their past maiden lives serving their own parents instead of the parents of their husbands. In the process, he let us know there have been two types of females in Joseon: who perfectly fit the traditional criteria for a female in Joseon, and who actually did not fit that model but remained pious nonetheless.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

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