Formation of Postcolonial Korea through Family, Medicine, and the War Talk Series
“Beyond the Victim Narrative: Women and Civil Disputes in Colonial Korea” Sungyun Lim, University of Colorado Boulder Tuesday, March 24, 2020
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
918 International Affairs Building
Co-sponsored by Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, Academy of Korean Studies; Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
How did the Japanese colonial rule influence the legal status of women in Korea? During the 1990s in Korea, in the height of the household-head system (hojuje) abolition movement, the claim that the patriarchal family system was a colonial legacy became the most powerful and effective criticism against the household-head system. Along with this claim, another claim that women’s legal rights in Korea were diminished under the Japanese colonial rule has increasingly came to be accepted by the public. In Rules of the House, Sungyun Lim challenges this simplistic notion of colonial diminishment of women’s legal rights, and examines the complex ways in which they were affected in the new family system under the colonial legal system. The book examines civil case records from the colonial period where many women actively participated in the civil courts to claim and protect their rights. The colonial policy to implement a strong boundary around the new legal unit of the household made Korean women unexpected beneficiaries, leading to many victories in disputes over inheritance and family property. Many women also successfully won disputes over adoption of heirs, divorce, and property. In this talk, Sungyun Lim will provide an overview of her book and also briefly introduce her new research in burial sites disputes.
The talk series will explore how material, cultural, ideological, and political changes that took place during Korea’s transitions from Japanese empire to U.S. military occupation to postwar Korea influenced and were influenced by people’s lives; how these changes constructed multiple identities from gender, family, and class; and how indigenous and modern elements were selected and used in constructing these new individual and collective identities in Korea during the first half of the 20th century. In doing so, the talk series will revisit the tensions, compromises, and conflicts of diverse identities in both the colonial and postcolonial contexts through the three scholars’ respective analyses of family civil law cases, medical practices, and Korea’s transwar society.
Sungyun Lim is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of Rules of the House: Family Law and Domestic Disputes in Colonial Korea (University of California Press, 2019), which examines the impact of the colonial legal system on women’s legal rights in family matters in Korea through close analysis of civil case records. Her research focus is on the history of family, law, and colonialism. She is currently working on the history of disputes over burial sites and forest-land in colonial Korea.