S-Space Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies (규장각한국학연구원) Korean Culture (한국문화) Korean Culture (한국문화) vol.81/84(2018)
決訟立案과 소송 현장, 그리고 노비의 삶
Litigation Court and Nobi(奴婢)’s lives in Chosŏn Dynasty’s Kyŏlsong iban(決訟立案)
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 규장각한국학연구원
- 한국문화, Vol.83, pp. 309-334
- This article focuses on the reality of the caste system in the Chosŏn dynasty period by examining two litigation cases at Kyurye Hyŏn(1707) and Andong Pu(1722).
The litigations processes were centered upon the (counter-)arguments made by plaintiffs and defendants, and the documentary evidences they produced respectively. Also, the officials in the charge of the lawsuits did their juridical judgements based upon the claims of those concerned and their evidential documents. For an example, Kim Pokryŏm, the plaintiff of the litigation at Andong Pu lost in the lawsuit filed by his nobi’s descendant because he neither presented himself at the court of lawsuit nor submitted to the court evidential documents supporting his arguments as he recountered. This example shows us that in the official court where private individuals legally struggled for their interests, the caste system did not work even if they differed from each other in their caste. It suggests to us that there was a space and time in which caste system did not work in the Chosŏn dynasty period. That is, it was not that the caste system always worked at any time and at any place contrary to our usual imaginations of the caste system in the Chosŏn dynasty period.
Also, Kyŏlsong iban exposes to our sight Nobi’s real lives greatly different from our established images. Chŏng Ŭng-chŏng(?-1653) and Chongbok(circa 1634) were nobis who lived their lives at Kurye, Chŏlla province and Andong, Kyŏngsang province respectively in the early and mid 17th century. They, inheriting farmland from their ancestors and purchasing land from others, attained economically the rank of small landlord and socially of nobi owners. Even though they remained subordinate to their individual owners in terms of their caste as nobis, they, based upon their own riches and other socio-economic potentials, lived their affluent ordinary lives in other fields than in their relations with their owners.
Then, the question arises to what extent the caste system and their caste as nobis wielded its power upon their other ordinary lives than their lives with their individual owners. The established literature concerned tend to explain nobi’s economic riches in terms of their rise of social status brought about against the historical background of the dissolution of rigid caste system as was argued to be in the late of Chosŏn dynasty. Given this, Chŏng Ŭng-chŏng’s and Chongbok’s lives draw our attention in that they lived their wealthy lives in the middle of Chosŏn dynasty not in the late of the dynasty. Their lives together with the litigations examined in the above put our established history writing on the caste system of Chosŏn dynasty into the question: Did the caste system wield its overall power upon all aspects of all the individuals’ lives in the Chosŏn dynasty period?