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“Another Type of Females” who lived through the Confucian culture of the late Joseon period –Analysis of the ‘Remarried Females(改嫁)’ cases, and their Meaning-

LEEJUNGMIN 1

1서울여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Examined in this article are the “remarried females,” who in academic studies were often sidelined by the so-called Yeol’nyeo figures, as they led lives that did not necessarily align with the Confucian atmosphere of the Joseon society. According to previous practices, and sometimes due to social needs, these females either chose to remarry someone or were involuntarily pulled into an unwanted remarriage. In either case, the state’s policy of encouraging female chastity and the Confucian Joseon society’s negative view of them made their lives very difficult. Examination of females who decided to get remarried, both widows and married ones, reveals certain characteristics such as the fact that not only widows but also married ones all chose to remarry, and that many of the remarried females were from the commoner class and below. It is also revealed that while there were indeed remarriages based on mutual consent, there were also many unilaterial, forcible cases in which the females were literally kidnapped(“Bossam”) and coerced to get remarried. This seems like the poor widowers’ brutal, barbaric response to the increasing number of females who were hesitant to get married again. To make matters worse, some people in the society even regarded remarriages as another form of adultery, further complicating the remarried females’ lives. Even when a female got properly remarried they were unfairly treated by their contemporaries, and even females who got remarried after they were abandoned by their husbands were vulnerable to arbitrary lawsuits filed by their ex-husbands. In the meantime, the state only promoted female fidelity and the chastity of Yeol’nyeo figures. The kings ignored some governmental officials’ plead for issuing a state-wide permission for female remarriages, while neither doing anything to ban female remarriages, nor putting an end to violent coersions of the males. Females who refused to be pulled into an unwanted marriage were left alone to risk their lives.

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.