Traditional Korean House

Traditional Korean House

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Traditional Korean house, 12 century CE, reconstitution, National museum (Copenhagen, Denmark). Made with Memento Beta (now ReMake) from AutoDesk.

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A short history of a traditional Korean food: Kimchi

South-Korea has a very broad and interesting kitchen which is known worldwide. Some argue that the d i versity of the kitchen and the focus on vegetables makes it one of the healthiest kitchens in the world. The South-Korean kitchen as we know it today has evolved through centuries of change within the country. One of the most standing out aspects of the South-Korean kitchen is the huge amount of side dishes which are served during a meal. To give some understanding of how South-Korea developed such a rich food culture we will look at the history of one of the most famous side-dishes in South-Korea’s: Kimchi.

Kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetable that is served with almost every traditional meal in South-Korea. The most famous kind of Kimchi is made from Chinese cabbage but there are a lot of other vegetables which are used to make kimchi as well. This side dish is perfect to give an understanding of how South-Korean foods developed over the centuries since the existence of kimchi is traceable all the way back to the first people that started using agriculture to sustain their selves.

When the first Koreans started using agriculture they had huge problems with the weather in Korea since the winters where very cold. It was important to save food for the winter and the most popular way to preserve food was using salt on different kind of foods. Over the centuries Koreans mastered the art of preservation using salt. During the period of the Three Kingdoms (57 B.C.E — 668 C.E.) other kingdoms noticed the way the Koreans preserved their food and this is where we find the first writings about the skills of the Koreans in preserving food. The original kimchi was made from radishes since this was a local product.

The first writing about Kimchi specifically comes from the Koryeo Period (918–1392). During this time a lot of trade was going on with other kingdoms and new vegetables found their way to Korea, including Chinese cabbage. During this period the way kimchi was prepared changed a lot. A lot of different kind of vegetables where used to prepare the dish and spices and garlic made their way into the recipe.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910) the recipe of kimchi got even more diverse. Different vegetables and spices where used to prepare the dish. A lot of the influences during this time came from the Japanese. During the Joseon Dynasty the Japanese tried to concur Korea multiple times. It is argued that the attempts to concur Korea are the direct reason for some ingredients to find their way into Korea. Others say that it is not a direct consequence but it was the trade between the countries that made it possible. Either way a lot of Japanese food traditions and ingredients made it to the Korean kitchen and the other way around. Perhaps the Japanese product with the most impact on kimchi was soy sauce. The soy sauce gave the Koreans another way to preserve their food.

For a long time, Korea has been a very isolated country and they did not have much ties with Chinese and other surrounding countries except for Japan. Still it was during the Joseon Dynasty that chili peppers and sweet potato where introduced in Korea. The Japanese where very involved in the world at that time, compared to their neighbours, and it is widely believed they are responsible for introducing chilli peppers and sweet potatoes to Korea. Others argue that the chilli pepper and sweet potato find their way to Korea through trade with the Chinese.

The introduction of the chilli pepper changed the recipe for kimchi radically once again. The different kind of kimchi’s started growing rapidly and for most of these kimchi’s chilli is used to make it spicy. The most famous kimchi made from Chinese cabbage got invented roughly 200 years ago. Around this time there where around 100 different kinds of kimchi. In the last 200 years the number of different kinds of kimchi rose to over 200. It can be said that there is a direct link between the trade with other countries, and therefore an increase in ingredients, and the number of different kinds of kimchi.

The history of this delicious side dish shows us that Korean foods origin from a time wherein survival was the priority. The basic need for food in the winter was a reason for people to start fermenting their food. Over many centuries the dish adapted to changing situations and got enriched by different kind of ingredients which were unknown to the Koreans that lived before them. It is interesting to see how kimchi found its origin within the geographical area we now call Korea but got influenced hugely by the outside world over time. The most famous kind of kimchi we now today uses Chinese cabbage and chili peppers as main ingredients. Still the art of fermenting food is a tradition that Koreans have been using for centuries since the first Koreans started using agriculture to sustain.

14. Cape Dutch architecture - South Africa

A typical Cape Dutch house.

Cape Dutch architecture describes the unique building style found primarily in the Western Cape of South Africa. These Cape Dutch style homes were built to resemble the Dutch style townhomes of Amsterdam and are characterized by intricate rounded gables over the entrance and on the sides. Another unique feature of this architectural style is that the home has 1 principal area and 2 perpendicular wings, which create a sort of 3-sided garden or patio area in the back. Typically, Cape Dutch homes are finished in whitewash and have thatched roofs.


The most common layout of the Chinese house is known as the siheyuan (四合院), which typically includes a detached house with four buildings surrounding the four sides of the courtyard. Each building is given a distinct name, such as zhengfang (正房) for the one sitting furthest to the north dongxiangfang (東廂房) and xixiangfang (西廂房), respectively, for those to the east and west and daofang (倒房) for the outermost building situated next to the street. Whenever people wanted to expand the size of their house, the standard measurement unit of siheyuan was added. Since mainland China is very large with very diverse climates, it would be impossible to have the same style of house for the entire country. The aforementioned mentioned layout, however—either the detached siheyuan or the Beijing-style siheyuan—was the basis for all Chinese houses. In southern China, the size of the house is smaller than in the northern region. Every building in the house is connected from corner to corner, forming the closed siheyuan layout. The houses in the northeastern region featured an open siheyuan style that places buildings at the front and back with fences on both sides. Both Chinese siheyuan and hanok have a similar formation, with the courtyard being surrounded by buildings.

There are diverse house layouts in every region of Japan. Generally, however, most of the houses are linear in shape with a wider width than a hanok. This is because Japanese houses have different room layouts compared to those of Korean houses. The main characteristic of the Japanese house is the integrated interior space composed of four to six rooms in the double-row form of a 田 shape with an attached kitchen, all under one roof. One similarity between a Japanese house and a hanok is the connected interior flooring and space. Every room of a hanok is connected by a toenmaru or maru, while rooms of Japanese houses are connected and divided with sliding doors.

Another common factor of Japanese houses and hanok is that the interior living space is used without shoes. This is because people in both countries traditionally have a lifestyle in which it is normal to have direct contact between the body and the floor of the interior living space. Therefore, both hanok and Japanese houses are known to always have clean, raised floors. This lifestyle in which shoes are not worn in the home has served to strengthen the connection among the spaces of such houses: a size expansion of the linear layout of hanok led to the bent “L” shape and “U” shape using connections such as toenmaru, while Japanese houses achieved the spatial connection without toenmaru by attaching rooms directly. Another difference can be found in the height of each style of house’s floor level: Japanese houses have a lower floor level than hanok because Japanese houses do not use ondol systems.

Traditional South Korean architecture meets innovation in a renovated hanok house

An 18th-century mortar stone filled with greenery takes centre stage in the courtyard. The back wall features horizontal black lines, an update of a traditional Korean motif. Photography: Yoon Suk Sim

What hutongs are to China, hanoks are to Korea. These clusters of traditional low-rise family houses have evolved over centuries, tailor-made to the cultural and climatic needs of their particular territory. In recent decades, though, they have been rapidly disappearing to make way for modern developments.

Among Seoul&rsquos urban mix of scales and styles, few hanoks remain intact after the city experienced &ndash like many of its Asian counterparts &ndash a century of wars and rapid urbanisation. As a result, a historic wooden hanok house is an extremely rare property to own, and the old, upscale neighbourhood of Bukchon is one of the few examples of hanok clusters still around.

Savvy locals know that when the opportunity comes up to buy a hanok &ndash or land within a hanok cluster &ndash it&rsquos a once-in-a-lifetime project. So when Seoul-based designer Teo Yang was approached by a client with a plan to rebuild a hanok in Bukchon as a modern home, he understood the importance of working with such precious architectural heritage.

An Artek pendant lamp and chairs in the dining room, where a &lsquomoon&rsquo window offers a view of Downtown Seoul. Photography: Yoon Suk Sim

&lsquoEven though Korea has lost much of its heritage over time, the studio&rsquos goal is to find innovation and space based on our tradition,&rsquo he says. &lsquoAnd hanoks are a key source of inspiration, where we can bridge present and past, especially in a country where forward-thinking and cutting-edge development is celebrated. I believe preservation and further study of hanok houses are crucial to keep our original local spirit alive.&rsquo

The project involved reconstructing a hanok that once sat on the site but was demolished in the early 2000s. The client, a businessman, property developer and keen art collector, spotted the plot in Bukchon and jumped at the opportunity. His aim was to use the land to build his own contemporary home, while maintaining the old structure&rsquos footprint and traditional Joseon dynasty style. &lsquoThe client wanted to enjoy the tradition, but made it clear that he did not want to live in an 18th-century house,&rsquo says Yang.

A desk area in the basement lounge. Photography: Yoon Suk Sim

&lsquoWe had to create a space where tradition and present coexist. So we generated a very distinctive design for the two different floors, creating a traditional atmosphere for the upper floor, and a more Western, modern atmosphere for the lounge downstairs.&rsquo

The central courtyard is one of the most prominent areas of the house. As is traditional, the space is an extension of the ground floor, blending indoors and out. Here, Yang gave history a modern twist, steering clear of the customary heavily decorated courtyard doors and opting for clean, floor-to-ceiling glass openings, highlighting the visual connections between the interior and the outdoors.

Case Real transforms a disappearing tenement house into an Aesop store in Japan

This transparency brings in natural light, and also encourages self-reflection, says Yang. &lsquoConfucius believes that the house is a reflection of its owner. By looking at one&rsquos house, one gets the chance to think about one&rsquos own behaviour and by having full-height transparent glass windows, the house allows its dweller to look at it from all angles.&rsquo

A reading room was added off the courtyard, as a nod to the historical &lsquomen&rsquos quarter&rsquo, a part of the house where Joseon dynasty nobility would retire to study, write poetry and relax. The remaining rooms surrounding the courtyard on the ground floor include a study, a master bedroom, an open-plan kitchen and dining area, a bathroom, a living room and the entrance foyer. The basement contains a media lounge, a wine cellar, a walk-in wardrobe and a garage.

Expert artisans were employed to carry out the house&rsquos intricate woodworking &ndash and everything, from treating and drying the timber to the final, meticulous sizecutting and joinery work, was done by hand.

The main entrance hall. Photography: Yoon Suk Sim

The architect also favoured more traditional finishes and detailing where possible, such as using handmade black and patterned tiles when constructing the garden walls, leatherwork for the door handles, and flower motif-decorated doors, all produced by specialist carpenters.

The owner&rsquos personal art collection, ranging from historical Korean earthenware dating from 5AD to a painting by Julian Opie, is carefully framed in various parts of the house. The crown jewel, a series of abstract Dansaekhwa paintings from the 1970s, is located on the lower level, where celebrated minimalist Korean artist Lee Ufan&rsquos painting From Line also hangs.

Offering a balanced blend of Korean history and modern comforts, this hanok&rsquos rebirth is a rare treat &ndash and part of a growing trend among Seoul&rsquos culture-savvy crowd. Yet, simply owning a hanok is not enough to truly bring this architectural legacy back to life, cautions Yang. &lsquoIt is important to know and study the originality of the hanok and respect its roots before renovation starts,&rsquo he says. An approach he has followed to the letter in his Bukchon masterpiece. §

As originally featured in the October 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*235)

The reading room, where a munijado screen adorned with calligraphy based on Confucius&rsquo noble values stands behind a pair of Finn Juhl &lsquoReading&rsquo chairs

The main living room, with artworks by Teo Yang, Kibong Rhee and Julian Opie, and furniture by Teo Yang and Pierre Jeanneret

10 Korean customs to know before you visit Korea

Korean culture has survived for 5,000 years, despite the best efforts by hostile neighbors to stomp it out. If you know and respect Korean culture you will get much more out of your time in Korea.

1. Kimchi is culture

Kimchi is sliced cabbage, fermented with red chili sauce and anchovy paste. It is pungent, spicy, and sour. Koreans love it and eat it with every meal — usually on the side -– though they also use it as an ingredient in countless other dishes.

Kimchi is symbolic of Korean culture: it’s strong, distinctive, and defiant. Some foreigners can’t stomach it, but if you can, you will earn the locals’ heartfelt respect. It’s definitely one of the top food experiences you need to have in South Korea.

2. Shoes off

When entering a Korean home, you must remove your shoes. To do any less is a sign of great disrespect.

Koreans have a special relationship with their floor, on which they sit and often sleep. A dirty floor is intolerable in a Korean home, and they view Westerners as backward savages for remaining shod in our living rooms.

3. Soju

Korea is a drinking culture, and their national booze is soju, a clear, vodka-like drink.

Soju is drunk out of shot glasses, and like all liquor in Korea, it’s always served with food. Koreans drink in boisterous groups, regularly clinking glasses, while shouting geonbae! (cheers) and one shot-uh!

At night, you will see men coming out of norae bang (karaoke rooms) and staggering through the streets, laughing, singing and arguing. Just be sure to avoid the puddles of reddish-vomit often left behind, which are also known as kimchi flowers.

Koreans have strict drinking etiquette: never pour your own drink, and when pouring for someone older than you, put one hand to your heart or your pouring arm as a sign of respect.

4. Rice

Like the Japanese, the Koreans eat rice with almost every meal. It’s so ingrained in their culture that one of their most common greetings is Bap meogeosseoyo?, or ‘Have you eaten rice?’

Unlike the Japanese, Koreans usually eat their rice with a spoon, and they never raise the rice bowl off of the table towards their mouths.

Also, chopsticks must never be left sticking out of the rice bowl, as this resembles the way rice is offered to the dead.

5. Do not smile

Koreans are a warm and generous people, but you would never know it from the sourpusses they paste on in public.

Sometimes, the chaotic streets of the peninsula resemble a sea of scowls, with everyone literally putting their most stern faces forward. This is NOT true of the children however, who will invariably grin and laugh while shouting “Hello! Hello!”

6. Beware of elbows

Korea is a crowded country. It’s a cluster of stony mountains with only a few valleys and plains on which to build.

The result is a lot of people in small spaces, and folks will not think twice about pushing and jostling in order to get onto a bus, into an elevator, or to those perfect onions at the market.

Don’t even bother with “excuse me,” and beware of the older women, known as ajumma. They’re deadly.

7. Protests

South Koreans fought hard to achieve the democratic society they now enjoy, and are among the top in the world when it comes to exercising their right to protest.

Dissent is alive and well. Koreans protest with frequency and they protest with fervor –- on all sides of the political spectrum.

Protesters employ a variety of methods, from the violent (angry students regularly attack riot police with huge metal rods), to the absurd (cutting off fingers, throwing animal dung, covering themselves in bees).

8. Hiking

As Korea is mountainous, it should come as no surprise that hiking is the national pastime.

Even the most crowded of cities have mountains that offer a relative haven from the kinetic madness of the streets below.

Koreans are at their best on the mountain. They smile and greet you and will often insist on sharing their food and drink. Make sure to stop at a mountain hut restaurant for pajeon (fritter) and dong dong ju (rice wine).

9. Bow-wow

Yes, some Koreans do eat dog meat, despite some sporadic attempts by the government to shut down the(dog meat soup) restaurants, in order to improve the country’s “international image.”

Dog meat is mainly consumed during the summer and by men, who claim that it does wonders for stamina.

10. Nationalism

Koreans are an extremely proud people, and sometimes this pride transforms into white-hot nationalism.

You see this nationalism displayed at sporting events, where thousands of Korean fans cheer their national teams on in unison, banging on drums and waving massive flags.

This nationalism especially comes to a boil whenever Japan is mentioned, as Japan has invaded them several times, and occupied Korea as a colony for almost the first half of the 20th century, decimating the country’s resources and conscripting thousands of their women as sex slaves.

Finally, please remember the two following things:
  • To a Korean, there is no such thing as The Sea of Japan. The body of water between Korea and Japan is known only as the East Sea.
  • Also, Koreans fervently believe that Dokdo — the disputed islets between Korea and Japan (known in Japan as Takeshima) -– belong only to Korea.

It would be most unwise to attempt to disagree with either of these points, as Koreans don’t consider them up for debate.

The Traditional Family

Though Koreans thought blood relationships natural and ideal starting points for good relationships outside the family, they never assumed that happy family life emerged spontaneously. Harmony and smooth flow of affection were seen as the result of proper patriarchal regulation of women and children. The family should be run as a "benevolent monarchy," the eldest male as household head. Sons remained home after they married, while daughters went to live with their husbands'families.

Although historically younger sons and their wives eventually split from their extended families after a few years of marriage, they lived nearby, socially dependent on their grandfathers, fathers and elder brothers. Eldest sons succeeded to the family leadership and inherited the bulk of the wealth. They did not leave their extended families because they were responsible for their aged parents. When their parents died, eldest sons adhered to complex mourning restrictions for one to three years, and conducted annual memorial ceremonies for their parents and other members of their family line. As long as there were sons to take over family leadership when their fathers died, families were maintained indefinitely.

Young children in Korea were (and are) indulged toilet training was relaxed, and discipline began much later than in American families.Koreans felt there was no point disciplining children before they were old enough to reason. By the time a child reached six or seven,however, training began in earnest: parents began the strict separation of girls and boys, in accordance with Confucian ethics, and they trained children to use the respectful voice to those older or more socially prominent.

By the time he reached seven a boy knew that he must use the respectful mode of speech to his older brother, and he knew that failure to do so would result in swift and certain punishment. Boys from most families were taught to read and write the native Korean alphabet (Han'gul), and in many families, to read and write classical Chinese as well. Girls,however, were considered "outsiders who will leave the family," and the majority were not taught to read or write even the Korean alphabet. A girl by seven usually knew her position in the family was inferior to her brothers' because when she married she left the family.

Under the old family system parents arranged marriages without the consent of their children, either female or male. Since daughters left their parents to live with their husbands' families, marriage was often traumatic for them. New wives, of course, tried to please their husbands, but more important, they had to please their mothers-in-law.The mother-in-law directed the new wife in her housework and had the power to send the bride back home in disgrace if the bride seriously displeased her. Sometimes this adjustment was hard for the bride. A humorous Korean proverb says that a new bride must be "three years deaf, three years dumb, and three years blind." The bride should not be upset by scolding, better not to hear at all. She should not lose her temper and say things she might regret later, better not to talk at all. Since she should not criticize anything in her new house, she would be better off blind. Most daughters-in-law adjusted to their new lives because most mothers-in-law were glad to have a good daughter-in-law to help with the housework. Once the daughter-in-law had a son, her place in the family was secure.

The Confucian ideal of strict separation of males and females led to division of labor into inside and outside work. Men labored outside,taking care of major field crops, while women worked inside doing housework, spinning, weaving and cooking. Poor women had no choice but to work in the fields, at least occasionally, but the more elite a family, the more unlikely its women would be seen outside the house compound. Traditional Koreans glorified the modest gentry woman who died in a burning house rather than leave her seclusion.** Queen Inhyon, a model of feminine modesty for two centuries, sequestered herself to her private rooms after being wrongfully dethroned.

Although this division of labor was a matter of principle for the elite, ordinary people found it a matter of practical survival. For farming households, the inside-outside division worked well women could stay home with their children while working. But where this division of labor undermined economic survival, other divisions were adopted—despite the loss of family status in deviating from theConfucian ideal. For example, in fishing villages on islands off the south coast of Korea, male and female roles were regularly reversed. In these nonagricultural areas, women provided family income by diving for seaweed, shellfish and other edibles. In other parts of Korea women sometimes earned a living as shamans, religious specialists who tended to the spiritual welfare of their clients by performing ceremonies for them.*** In either case, when females provided most of the family income, male and female roles could be reversed with men at home and women running the family.

The sleeping rooms

Jjimjilbang, which are open 24-hours, actually double as Korea's best budget accommodations: for a few thousand won more than the standard entrance fee, you can opt to spend the night in the sleeping room. At simpler spots, the sleeping room might just be a wide room with some thin plastic mattresses (and yes, they are thin) and squishy plastic blocks ('pillows') on the floor.

At more sophisticated places, the sleeping rooms resemble capsule hotels, with two levels of cubbyholes, which offer a little privacy. Some have separate rooms for women and snorers (regardless, earplugs are a good idea). Some also have blankets to loan or rent, though the rooms are usually heated – traditional under-floor ondol style – such that they're not necessary.

There are also usually big common rooms where people congregate to watch TV, sit in massage chairs, snack and generally hang out. These areas are mixed and non-naked, so make sure you wear the pajamas provided. Some of the fancier jjimjilbang, such as Dragon Hill Spa in Seoul, also have outdoor swimming areas, hot tubs and entertainment zones like arcades to keep sauna-goers busy, sometimes throughout the night.


Families were very different among the three historical periods of the Shilla (57 B.C.E.&ndashC.E. 935), Koryo (C.E. 918&ndash1392), and Chosun (C.E. 1392&ndash1910) Dynasties because of their religious orientation.

Buddhism was introduced in Korea during the Early Kingdoms (C.E. 372) and was adopted as the state religion for a millennium. With its emphasis on rejecting worldly values and concerns, including the family, Buddhism delivered a message contrary to that of Confucianism. But Buddhism's influence was limited to the sphere of individual self-enlightenment and discipline, and it appealed principally to the ruling class because the majority of people, who lived at a subsistence level, had few material possessions to renounce. As a result, relatively few people were affected by the self-abnegation and antifamilial monasticism that Buddhism taught (Han 1981 Park and Cho 1995a). The religion's influence declined further during the late Koryo Dynasty (918&ndash1392) when Buddhist groups in Korea became corrupt. They constructed extravagant temples, and followers of the religion observed only superficial rituals (Lee 1973 Hong 1980).

When the Chosun Dynasty succeeded the Koryo in 1392, it adopted Confucianism as the familial and state philosophy, suppressing Buddhism. The term Confucianism is used to refer to the popular value system of China, Korea, and Japan. This system is derived from the synthesis of the traditional cultural values espoused by Confucius and his followers and subsequently influenced by elements of Taoism, Legalism, Mohism, Buddhism, and, in the case of Korea and Japan, Shamanism (Park and Cho 1995a). Confucianism declares the family the fundamental unit of society, responsible for the economic functions of production and consumption, as well as education and socialization, guided by moral and ethical principles (Lee 1990 Park and Cho 1995a). In its teachings, Confucianism has traditionally deified ancestors, institutionalized ancestor worship, and delegated the duties of ritual master to the head of the male lineage, that is, to the father and husband. Confucianism is a familial religion (Lee 1990). As Confucianism took hold, the ideal of male superiority within the patrilineal family became more prominent in the late Chosun dynasty than it had been during the early Chosun dynasty (1392&ndash1650) (Park and Cho 1995a).

Values and functions of the family. The family is the basic component of social life in Korea, and its perpetuation has been of paramount importance under patriarchal Confucianism. In a Confucian patriarchal family, the family as an entity takes precedence over its individual members, and the family group is inseparably identified with the clan. The most important function of family members is to maintain and preserve the household within the traditional Confucian system (Lee 1960). Society became organized around two principles: that males shall dominate females and that elders shall dominate the young (Kim 1993). Growing old in Korea had advantages for both women and men, for age was respected. According to this perspective, women were often self-assertive and highly valued, as the family finance managers, decisionmakers in family matters, and educators of children (Brandt 1971 Osgood 1951).

Traditionally, the ideal family type in Korea was a patrilocal stem family. The stem family typically consists of two families in successive generation, a father and mother living in the same household with married oldest son, his wife, and their children. The eldest son generally inherited the family estates. The other sons were expected to live in separate residences after their marriages (Cho and Shin 1996). The central familial relationship was not that between husband and wife, but rather between parent and child, especially between father and son. At the same time, the relationships among family members were part of a hierarchy. These relationships were characterized by benevolence, authority, and obedience. Authority rested with the (male) head of the household, and differences in status existed among the other family members (Park and Cho 1995a).

Marital roles and women's roles. During the Shilla and Koryo period, among commoners, couples entered freely into marriage with their chosen partners (Choi 1971). This changed, however, during the Chosun dynasty strict rules were imposed on the selection of partners, and all marriages were arranged. Naehun (Instruction for Women), compiled by the mother of King Seongjong in 1475, was the most important and influential textbook used to teach proper Confucian roles to girls and married women. The book emphasized the basics of womanly behavior such as chastity, and it prepared girls for their future functions as moral guardians of the domestic sphere and providers for the physical needs of their families. The book also elaborated on a married woman's role, including being a self-sacrificing daughter-in-law, an obedient and dutiful wife, and a wise and caring mother (Kim 1993 Deuchler 1983).

Based on Confucian values, families observed strict gender differentiation in married life. Traditional Korean women's responsibility was restricted to the domestic sphere. As an inside master, the woman established her own authority and became a financial manager, symbolized by the right to carry the family keys to the storage areas for rice and other foods (Kim 1992 Lee 1990). Also, husbands and wives strictly observed a hierarchical relationship. A wife would sacrifice herself completely to serve her husband and family in an exemplary manner. In accordance with the rule of three obediences, a woman was required to obey her father, husband, and son, in that order. Under this system of severe discrimination, women of the Chosun Dynasty were confined to the home. Nevertheless, the position of women, at least those with children, was not hopeless. Just as women occupied a subordinate position in relation to men, children were subordinate to their parents and were required to revere their mothers as well as their fathers (Choi 1982a Park and Cho 1995a).

Traditionally, Korean society considered divorce and remarriage deviant and problematic family events. Only the husband had the right to divorce his wife if he did so, she had to be expelled from her family-in-law according to the traditional marital code that held the husband's authority and absolute power to govern his wife. A husband could legally divorce his wife when she committed the following seven faults (chilchul) being disobedient to one's parents-in-law not giving birth to a son committing adultery expressing jealousy of the concubine contracting a serious illness and being garrulous or thievish.

Three exceptions (sambulgeo), however, prohibited a husband from expelling a wife who committed the above faults: The husband was not allowed to divorce his wife if she spent more than a three-year mourning period for her parents-in-law if she had no place to return after the divorce or if she married in poverty and contributed to the wealth and the social position of the family. The woman was forced to serve the husband's family after her husband died. Thus, people blamed remarried women for denigrating the reputation of their kin as well as themselves. Although a husband could not divorce under these circumstances, he could make an alternative arrangement. If, for example, a wife bore no son, it was common for the couple to adopt one or for the husband to keep a concubine.

It was customary for a man seeking remarriage to select a spinster from a lower-class family, because women who had been married before were socially unacceptable. Also, according to the patriarchal norm, Korean women were socialized to break their relationships with birth families and be thoroughly absorbed into families-in-law, and to assimilate their traditions. This meant that a woman whose first marriage was to a previously married man occupied a very humble position. These women were likely to want their own children to insure marital stability and secure their own position in the family.

Parent-child relationships. One of the most important doctrines of Confucianism was the requirement that children be dutiful to their parents. Filial piety has been the highest moral principle of the parent-child relationship and has greatly influenced the Korean family system. It guided the socialization of children enforced the moral rule that adult children should obey and serve their elderly parents and to repay them for their work as parents by looking after them for the rest of their lives (Chung and Yoo 2000). Thus, the stem family began to be considered an ideal type.

But what constituted filial behavior changed from the Shilla to the Chosun Dynasty. In Samganghangsil, the most important expression of filial TABLE 2

Traditional concepts of filial piety of Shilla, Koryo, and Chosun
[Frequencies, percent]
Category of filial piety Shilla Koryo Chosun
SOURCE: H. Chung and K. Yoo. (2000). Filial Piety and the New Generation in Korea.
Support and material services 3 (75) 5 (8.1) 55 (8.1)
Nursing 1 (25) 8 (12.9) 279 (41.2)
Self-sacrifice 0 (0) 11 (17.7) 136 (20.1)
Funeral services and worship 0 (0) 38 (61.3) 207 (30.6)
Total cases(percent) 4 (100) 62 (100) 677 (100)

piety during the Shilla Dynasty was supporting the material needs of elderly parents. In contrast, in the Koryo and Chosun periods, filial piety was best demonstrated in formal and ritual services, such as funeral services and worship in the Koryo and nursing in the Chosun period (see Table 2). In particular, nothing was as important as worshiping of the spirits of one's ancestors as well as one's parents in the period of Chosun (Chung and Yoo 2000).

Traditional Korean House - History

Like all agricultural societies, Korean life has always centered on tightly knit families. Large families have been prized and over many centuries families intermarried within the regions of Korea to form large clans. Family names reflect this. A dozen family names predominate, especially Kim, Park, Lee, Kang, and Cho. But Kims from the city of Pusan in the south are not the Kims from Seoul and all the Kims know exactly which group they belong to. Custom forbids people marrying within their own clan, no matter how distant the cousin might be. In order to know who is who, families and clan keep detailed genealogical records that might go back many hundreds of years. Even in today's westernized Korea many people can still recite the glorious history of their clans and take pride in them.

Already male centered, Korean society became highly patriarchal when the Confucian system was imported from China and made the official state belief system in about 1390 A.D. Order and authority are the hallmarks of Confucian thought. Fathers are responsible for their families and must be both obeyed and revered by everyone. Even ancestral fathers are honored. The custom is called filiopiety and even today elements of it remain among Koreans. Traditionally, older people are accorded honor. For instance, at dinner the eldest person sits first and eats and drinks before anyone else can begin. Anyone older must always be addressed with honorifics, even among acquaintances. No one would think of calling an older person by their first name, much less a grandfather or grandmother. Bowing to them is the really traditional way of greeting. Hard work, obedience to family, protection of the family, and proper decorum among family members are very much Korean values, even in the modern world.

Women and Village Life:

Today, women are in every occupation, from government officials to business persons and professors. In traditional Korean society, women had set roles. They were expected to stay at home, to raise their children, keep house and prepare meals. In farming villages they also worked in the fields. When women married they came to live in their husbands' houses, but always kept their own family names. Once in their husbands' homes, they became part of the extended families. Not only were they to obey the eldest males in the family and their husbands, but to take commands from the eldest woman. As in many traditional societies, the oldest women within the household, a grandmother, for instance, had great power over the rest of the women and children. And, more than one son would think twice about disregarding the wishes of a powerful grandmother.

The idea of cooperation based on a system of authority worked in the old villages. Villagers often banded together to help one another in times of need and for important events. If a member might need help in a harvest or perhaps house repairs all the rest would gather to help. When a village needed a new well or a bridge, for example, everyone pitched in to build them. For important occasions such as funerals, weddings, or major birthday party (usually when a man reached the age of 60), villagers often pooled their moneys to make a grand party. That sense of solidarity with one's neighbors and even one's nation still flows through Korean life today.

Watch the video: Παραδοσιακό σπίτι και αυλή


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