The Vanished Women of Korea: The Anonymity of Texts and the Historicity of Subjects

JaHyun Kim Haboush

in Servants of the Dynasty

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780520254435
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520941519 | DOI:
The Vanished Women of Korea: The Anonymity of Texts and the Historicity of Subjects

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Although they remain faceless, there were, at any given moment until the nineteenth century, at least 500 women in service at court during Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910). These women are often seen in the dual perspectives of the metonymic and the metaphoric: as representation and signifier of the monarchy. At the Chosŏn court, palace women not only actively participated in the daily and ritual life of the court; they also produced objects, some of which reflect the individual hand of their creator. Still, these women are conceived of and presented collectively and anonymously. This chapter brings these women into focus and recovers their identities as historical subjects. It first looks at the material objects that they produced, locating those objects in their cultural and historical context in order to decode their meanings through a system of signification. It then considers two categories of writing: a memoir, The Record of the Event of 1613, and inner palace registries (palgi), accounts of the objects produced that were consumed daily and on special occasions at court.

Keywords: Chosǒn Korea; palace women; Chosǒn court; material objects; signification; memoir; inner palace registries; historical subjects

Chapter.  8770 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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