Korean Studies, vol. 39 (2015)


Korean Tea Bowls (Kōrai chawan) and Japanese Wabicha: A Story of Acculturation in Premodern Northeast Asia
Nam-lin Hur, 1

For more than two centuries from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, one particular item dominated the fashion of wabicha, a form of tea ceremony, in Japan: tea bowls obtained from Korea, commonly called Kōrai chawan (高麗茶碗), or Korean tea bowls. Korean tea bowls held the key to the evolving aesthetic of wabicha, which was highly refined by Sen no Rikyū (1522–1591) and inherited by other eminent tea masters in Tokugawa Japan. Despite their prominence in the world of wabicha, Korean tea bowls have not often been studied. This article traces the cultural trajectory of Korean tea bowls from the perspective of trade and piracy, border-crossing cultural flow, classification, and acculturation. It then explores the question of what made Korean tea bowls so popular in the world of Japanese wabicha by focusing on four factors: the culture of the upper-class samurai, tea, and Zen Buddhism; the exoticism of Korean tea bowls; commercialism and political power; and the household profession of tea masters. Korean tea bowls, which symbolized the beauty of wabicha, served as a catalyst for a move away from a Chinese-centered aesthetics of tea culture in medieval times and toward a Japan-centered aesthetics of tea culture from the mid-eighteenth century onward.

Debating Tumen Valley Jurchens during the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries
Adam Bohnet, 23

This article discusses developments among Jurchen tribes on Chosŏn Korea’s northeast frontier during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. By the sixteenth century, it is often argued, Chosŏn court officialdom had thoroughly internalized Sinocentric ideology, and this caused them to despise Jurchens as barbarian outsiders. By exploring court debates and poetry related to Jurchen uprisings in northern Hamgyŏng, however, this essay argues that Sinocentric ideology was only one factor in sixteenth-century Chosŏn views of the Jurchens. The long-established relationship of certain Jurchen groups with the Chosŏn court and the important role that Jurchens played in Chosŏn’s defense also influenced Chosŏn attitudes. Even Sinocentric ideology, whereby Jurchens were considered inferior barbarian outsiders, could be used rhetorically to call Chosŏn officials to treat their Jurchen inferiors with paternalistic concern.

The Expansion of Ideal Subjecthood in Chosŏn Korea: Remembering the Monk Yujŏng
Saeyoung Park, 45

This article emerges from an attempt to better understand the social instantiation of political norms in the Chosŏn period, or how state–society negotiations over ideal subjecthood engendered the early modern Korean polis. Following debates over subjecthood in post–Imjin War memorialization—over who could constitute a loyal subject—reveals how Chosŏn people imagined their duties to the state, and how the government conceived of its obligations to its people. Contestations over socially marginal and unexpected war heroes—like Buddhist monks—were ultimately arguments over political normativity and where the borders of the polis should fall. Analyzing the commemoration of the Buddhist monk Yujŏng, this study argues that Imjin War memorialization fueled a pluralistic, albeit limited, expansion of ideal subjecthood while reproducing state legitimacy. Such a sociopolitical liberalization in the late Chosŏn period undermines a deterministic view of premodern state power as a unilateral, top-down process.

The Transmission and Translation of Chinese Vernacular Narrative in Chosŏn Korea: Han’gŭl Translations and Gentry Women’s Literature
Emanuel Yi Pastreich, 75

During the Chosŏn period (1392–1897), especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gentry women created their own literary world independent of men wherein they wrote and read novels and diaries in han’gŭl as a part of their education and their entertainment. Reading and diligently copying those texts in the women’s quarters was not just a pale reflection of male discourse in literary Chinese, but a distinct practice with its own rules. The most interesting of the texts that these women read were the translations of Chinese vernacular novels. Those translations formed a critical literary genre that would have profound implications for Korean literary history because the translations included highly vernacular passages that are not to be found in Korean indigenous narrative. The Chinese vernacular narratives, through the act of translation, forced Korean narrative toward a true vernacular. These translated texts, about which few records survive, are closer to the Korean modern novel than any other premodern texts. It is critical that we consider them as a significant part of the evolution of Korean narrative.


Bruce E. Bechtol Jr., The Last Days of Kim Jong-il: The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era
reviewed by Balázs Szalontai, 106

Young-a Park, Unexpected Alliances: Independent Filmmakers, the State, and the Film Industry in Postauthoritarian South Korea
reviewed by Jiyeon Kang, 111

Valentina Marinescu, editor, The Global Impact of South Korean Popular Culture: Hallyu Unbound
reviewed by Sang Yee Cheon, 113

George Akita and Brandon Palmer, Japanese Colonial Legacy in Korea 1910–1945: A New Perspective
reviewed by Chizuko T. Allen, 115

Contributors, 120