Sweeping Reforms Hit Korea at the End of Ninteenth Century – Land, Vol. 2, Part 4


As we start the second volume of Kyeongni Park’s Land (박경리의《토지》), the first story arc, I want to go back to the appendices again and take a look at appendix two where they have the family trees and try to untangle some of that now that we have some grounding in the actual story and have some idea of who everyone is. This will clarify their relationships. I made this translation of the family trees listed in the second appendix:

Kyeongni Park's Land - Story Arc 1 Family Trees Pg 1

Page 2 of the family trees

Kyeongni Park's Land - Story Arc 1 Family Trees Pg 2

I will also post these in pdf form on my study guide page for the Literati Corner. Note that the squares are for male characters, ovals/circles for female, and the hexagons for characters I don’t know the sex of.

From the last appendix, which covers historical points in the book at this stage, we have six main points to discuss:

동학 농민 운동 (Donghak nongmin undong) The Donghak Peasant Movement of 1894, which was an armed peasant rebellion led by the followers of the Donghak faith, which was a syncretistic belief system using elements of Christianity and Korean shamanism. I already covered this in the first post of this series.

공사노비제폐지 (Kongsa nobije pyeoji) The Universal Abolition of Slavery by the Kabo Reforms of 1894, issued in response to the Donghak Peasant Movement. It abolished both public and private slaves and abolished the social classes defined by lineage.

갑오개혁 (Kabo kaehyeok) The Kabo Reforms themselves, which included far more than just reform of the slavery system. This reform is considered the Korean equivalent of the Meiji Restoration in Japan, which is much better known in the West. It progressed in three phases under heavy Japanese influence, and other reforms included revamping the currency and taxation system, moving to the Western solar calendar, the creation of a postal system and a school system, the reorganization of geographical administrative districts, the reorganization of the military and courts, the abolition of the social classes, and a resolution to discard traditional dress including the topknot (cutting the hair and wearing Western clothes).  They also raised the age for marriage and finally allowed widows to remarry.

Part of the purpose of Land is to take the reader through these reforms along with the generations of families the author presents. This story arc focuses on the early days of these social reforms.

을미사변 (乙未事變Eulmi sabyeon) The Eulmi (Year of the Wooden Goat on the sexagenary cycle) Incident. This event occurred in 1895 (also knowns as Gojong 32, according to the reign year reckoning), and it refers to Japanese Minister Miura Goro’s murder of Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, which strengthened Japanese influence over Korea with a coup d’etat.

1902년의 콜레라유행 The 1902 Cholera Epidemic occurred in mid-July that year and was believed to be brought by boat, so the Joseon government imposed a quarantine on boats in 1899. Gojong employed doctors from other countries to enact this national program for epidemic prevention, which included help from Japan, England, the US, and Germany.

을사보호조약 (乙巳勒約Eulsa boho joyak) The Eulsa (Year of the Wooden Serpent on the sexagenary cycle) Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty. This treaty made Korea a protectorate of Japan so it was no longer independent, and it was the spoils of Japan winning the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Korea came under Japanese occupation once this treaty was implemented, though the actual annexation of Korea took place in 1910.

Since we have some sexagenary cycle year names here, which are common in Korean historical works and fiction, I prepared a handout for reference of some select tables I found on Wikipedia since they are good for understanding the characters/words that form these names to decipher what phase/animal year they represent. I’ll also post this on my Literati Corner Study Guide page in pdf form.

The first part of the year name is the phase:

Heavenly Stems Table - Four Languages

The second part of the year name is the animal:

Earthly Branches Table - Four Languages

One of the things I like about this table that I also want to do more of with my language teaching is synchronize this type of information across the three languages. Right now all of them are treated as separate fields, reinventing the wheel for each. Vietnamese is included here since it also fell under strong Chinese cultural influence in its history, so it’s great to see it all in one place, and with Wikipedia, you never know when it might disappear or be altered, so I froze it like this since it’s a good resource.

Next time we’ll start our look at this volume of the story.

Part four of a nine part series.

About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization from 2007 to 2018 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her gothic horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and earned the 2018 Story Monsters Approved Seal in the Tween Category.
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