Filed Under Artwork

The Role of Women in Korean Literature

I created a three-dimensional pop-up artwork that illustrates the importance of women in late Chosŏn period (1600s–1800s) literature and writing. I was inspired by Ksenia Chizhova’s monograph, The Kinship Novels of Early Modern Korea (Columbia University Press, 2021), to show that writing in the Korean Peninsula were not always in Classical Chinese, nor were they written solely by elite males.

Today, the writing system used in Korea is hangul, or the Korean alphabet. It was created in 1443, but throughout the Chosŏn dynasty, classical Chinese was used by the yangban elite and royalty because of the close relationship to the Ming Dynasty, cultural affinity with previous Chinese dynasties, and Confucian ideals. The Korean alphabet, on the other hand, was used primarily for communication with the general public as well as among yangban women.

Among the literature written in Korean alphabet are the stories written by elite women discussed in The Kinship Novels of Early Modern Korea. They first appear in the late 17th century. Although written in the later Chosŏn period, the stories are set far off in ancient China. Although remote in the past, this setting provided the inspiration for the Chosŏn’s imagination of an ideal society. The value system of Chosŏn Korea was based on the respect of others, especially one’s social superiors, as well as morality surrounding relationships between ruler and servant, father and child, and wife and husband based on the teachings of Confucius. Kinship also played a huge role as it laid out the rules for how to behave and act with others depending on their family relationships. The lineage novels discussed in this book often revolve around these scenarios. Their authors used the stories to showcase the formulation of Chosŏn’s moral rules and how the social hierarchy is important for everyone to understand and follow.

Portrayed in my creation is a 3D pop-up   art that is composed of a crocheted yangban woman, a hand-bound book, created in the likeness of a traditional Korean book, filled with my take on Korean vernacular calligraphy, and pop up art that showcases the story of a particular kinship novel, “Brothers Hyon." The story is about how two brothers deal with their ideas of love, lust, and control. The crocheted female doll is a symbol for how in this society, females were subservient to their fathers, husbands, and sons, and were tasked with doing household chores. Thus the crochet, while not being a part of Chosŏn culture, represents women’s role in the society as housebound individuals. The book is handmade with vernacular Korean writing, signifying the stories the yangban women would write, while the pop-up pages are a summary of the story I chose to write in the book. Together, the art I made celebrates the talent and the ability of women. Although society placed them in a specific role, they still found ways to be creative and engage their curiosity.

Images

Doll and Book Doll: Yarn- multiple colors, Poly-fil fiber, 5mm safety eyes Book: faux leather tan book cover, ivory colored paper, linen thread, Kuretake Bimoji Fude pen, pva glue, unyong hanji paper- multiple colors Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, Detail Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, inside Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, pop-up Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, pop-up, 2 Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, pop-up 3 Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, pop-up, 4 Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio
Book, pop-up with heart Creator: Susanne Ramuco Elicerio

Metadata

Susanne Ramuco Elicerio, “The Role of Women in Korean Literature,” UCLA Korean History and Culture Digital Museum, accessed July 12, 2024, https://koreanhistory.humspace.ucla.edu/items/show/89.