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266. Reports from the Local Courts: A New Archival Window onto Local Communities in Eighteenth-Century Korea

Sat, March 18, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 4th Floor, Yorkville West

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


Historiography of the late Chosŏn Korea has drawn from various archives to retrieve socio-political, economic, cultural, and legal aspects of the local societies. Building on existing scholarship, the three papers of this panel discuss underused primary sources—extensive reports from local magistrates to higher officers in eighteenth-century Korea. Collectively categorized as “poch’ŏp,” these were public documents prepared by a local magistrate, who submitted them to a higher office either to make an official report or to seek advice on a complicated matter. Poch’ŏp also included other documents, such as magistrates’ announcements to local residents on issues such as taxation, rituals, and customs. Focusing on the correspondence between a magistrate and provincial governor, Sun Joo Kim examines the previously unknown administrative structure of P’yŏngyang and the negotiations with its residents over local government finance. Matthew Lauer, presenting a magistrate’s careful strategy for handling a case of violence against a slave in Namwŏn, investigates the fissure between slave protection in the law and its actual enforcement in local society. Finally, analyzing litigation cases filed at the local court in Sangju, Jungwon Kim’s paper concerns production and circulation of legal knowledge that critically shaped the functioning of local judicial administration and the choices people had in resolving their conflicts in the local community. Closely examining collected reports of three different regions, the panel will generate a vibrant discussion on how the reading of poch’ŏp sources can enrich our analysis of local history by disclosing shif ting power structures and social relations in eighteenth-century Korea.

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