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Courtesans in Military Garrisons in Chosŏn Korea

History of Gender & Sexuality Group Colloquium Series by UCLA History Department

Courtesans in Military Garrisons in Chosŏn Korea

The Banquet for the Governor of P'yŏngan Province

Professor Hyun Suk Park, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures (ALC), UCLA

Thursday, March 7, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM (Pacific Time)

Bunche Hall, Rm 6275
History Department Conference Room

This talk focuses on the military garrisons in the northernmost part of Chosŏn, where courtesans were stationed beginning in the early Chosŏn period under the pretest that conscripted soldiers serving in the military without their families needed female government slaves to do mundane chores such as cooking, washing, and sewing. 

In this talk, Park presents readings of several diaries of military and literary officials appointed to the northern garrisons in the late Chosŏn period and examinations of their relationships with courtesans in the specific contexts, which shows that while courtesans in the garrisons were exposed to the most severe form of structural state violence, they also formed part of the local populations who had to collectively cope with the exploitive government, which expected all residents in the garrison towns to serve the needs of state defense in one way or another. Reading of the diaries shows further that some courtesans succeeded in cultivating multigenerational matrilineal families and contributing to their local communities of peasants and other enslaved people as part of the collective effort to survive the harsh state mobilization in spite of all kinds of violence. 

This talk is part of the UCLA History Department History of Gender & Sexuality Group colloquium series. Please register to attend by visiting the registration page or click Register below.  

Hyun Suk Park is Assistant Professor of Korean Literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures (ALC) at UCLA.  

Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies, Department of History

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