|Title||Between Morality and Crime: Filial Daughters and Vengeful Violence in Eighteenth-century Korea|
Vol. 21 No. 2
pp. 481~502 (all 22 pages)
Confucian, filial piety, married daughter, revenge, vengeful killing
Founded upon the Confucian moral principles of loyalty, filiality, and fidelity, the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) promoted these principles as a crucial means of maintaining the social and ethical order in society. In dealing with numerous incidents of filial crimes, however, the Chosŏn state had to strike a balance between morality and law, constantly debating the appropriate circumstances and degree of exoneration for filial avengers. From a legal perspective, vengeful crimes committed under the flag of virtue could not automatically be sanctioned, for this would generate further retaliation and eventually lead to chaos. In the case of a married daughter’s filial vengeance, in particular, judgment was even more complex because her devotion to her natal parents was expected to be subordinate to the higher virtue of marital fidelity under the intensifying Confucian model of patriarchy and patrilineality during the latter part of the dynasty. Centering on an eighteenth-century crime committed by a married woman to avenge her father’s death, this article reconsiders the complex nature of married women’s filial piety toward their natal parents, which complicated the orthodox boundaries of their natal relations as prescribed by the Confucian state. This article also explicates the cultural and legal underpinnings of filial vengeance in late Chosŏn society, as demonstrated by the verdicts for such acts of violence situated within one of the most contested cultural and legal realms in eighteenth-century Korea.