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Acta Koreana is published semi-annually on June 15 and December 15 by Academia Koreana, Keimyung University.
Volume Vol. 19 No. 2
Pages pp. 59~86 (all 28 pages)
Publication Date DECEMBER, 2016
Keyword early marriage, eugenic marriage, eugenics, population, civilization, national power
Abstract This study examines the discourses on early marriage that peaked from the late Chosŏn through the colonial era in Korea. It specifically addresses the definition of chohon as a harmful Korean tradition, beginning with the criticism of chohon as a practice that supposedly led to the downfall of the state in the late Chosŏn. Chohon was identified as the cause of women’s adultery and husband murders, and it was defined as a pernicious tradition that compromised the security of the state. However, behind the chohon discourse, a certain type of politics was in play. By analyzing the definition of chohon as a vice, this study confirms that the modern politics of population was involved.
According to these discourses, chohon was criticized as a major threat to the security of the society and state, the discourse against it challenged the existing notions of marriage and the family; and repositioned the happy family and the sweet home as the basic unit for the development of the state. The family was believed to be the vital aspect of a modern state, which was therefore used to manage the population. The state and the family were in a complex relationship as the quality of the population was managed to develop a strong nation. The belief that a high-quality population improves national competitiveness and wealth situated chohon as harmful to the nation. In Korea, chohon discourses were deeply related to Western modernity.
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