Representing Slavery: Class and Status in Late Choson Korea


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Studies


This project examines Korea’s uneasy relationship with the institution of slavery and its cultural and intellectual legacies. Slavery, until its abolition in 1894, was an integral part of Korean society for more than a millennium, yet its history has been condemned, denied, and effaced. But Korean slavery was slavery. Tracing the ways in which slavery was represented first by the slave-owning neo-Confucian elites in the late Choson period (17th - 19th c.), and later by twentieth-century historians, this project explores the correlation between the institution of slavery and elite/national identity construction. This project not only speaks to the distinction of social power, but also addresses one of the central issues in Korea’s engagement with its contested past.