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No sexism in Choson-era inheritances

Posted November. 08, 2000 11:45,   


How did the family of the nobility or ¡°yangban¡± during the Choson period (1392-1910) distribute property to its children? A finding expected to give an answer was discovered recently, drawing a keen attention from the related sectors.

An original copy of ¡°Punje-gi,¡± a record on asset distribution, contains precise contents about the distribution of property to children during the mid-Choson period. The rare copy recently was donated by the family council of Sinpyong Song, the clan of Song Sun (1493-1582), who was the originator of family affairs culture in the Honam region, now North and South Cholla provinces, to the Family Affairs Literature Hall in Tamyang-kun, South Cholla.

The document was written by Song Sun in the fifth year of King Sonjo¡¯s reign, 1572. It is 365 centimeters wide and 68.5 cm long, and it has 124 lines with 4,510 words. Featured in the document is a record that Song Sun, who had six sons and two daughters, gave 120 patches of rice paddy, his private school and slaves to his eldest daughter, and fields and paddy to his second daughter without discriminating between son and daughter in the inheritance distribution.

He also recorded the names of all slaves, numbering about 140, and distributed some of his assets to his three sons by his concubine. Noteworthy was the fact that he had four people, including one of his nephews, stand as witnesses for the asset distribution. In particular, some contents, including the names of places, in the document are recorded in ¡°idu,¡± an accompanying letter, along with Chinese letters, which are expected to be a great help for the research of idu and old geographical names.

¡°The document is a precious material showing how the property of a yangban family was distributed and the phases of those times,¡± Professor Emeritus Park Jun-Gyu of Chonnam National University, who is the chairman of the preparation committee for the opening of the home affairs literature hall, said. ¡°Similar documents have been found from time to time, but this kind of document with such vast and precise records is extremely rare.¡±