Using the Court: Litigation, Networks, and the Local Community in Early Modern Korea

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 4:30 PM
Room M101 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Jungwon Kim, Columbia University
Using the Court: Litigations, Networks, and the Local Community in Early Modern Korea

This paper examines s the spatial and legal territory of litigation practice in the local society of early modern Korea by analyzing court cases filed by two eighteenth-century families over an attempted rape. Although people in local society understood the legal procedure of litigation and fully employed it to resolve various disputes, many parties initially chose informal or private ways of airing and resolving their grievances, rather than going directly to the local court. People’s decisions as to whether or not to use the court thus complicate both our conventional understanding of power relations in early modern Korea and the boundary between the legal and semi-legal realms in local society. By probing into the meaning and the detailed procedure of litigation at the court, this paper not only illuminates people’s social dilemma as to the most effective way to resolve their conflicts by engaging the power and authority of community, but also sheds light on the impulses of individual actors in the legal terrain when attempting to achieve their goals.