Korean Society depicted in its Folklore - Goryeo and Joseon period

by Lee, Yong Ik
Fall 2006


1. Introduction
2. Korean Society Depicted in its Folklore - Goryeo Period
2.1 Historical Background
2.2 Social Portrayls in Goryeo Kayo
2.3 Social Portrayals in Samguk Yusa
3. Korean Society Depicted in its Folklore - Joseon Period
3.1 Historical Background
3.2 Social Portrayals in Folktales
3.3 Social Portrayals in Pansori
4. Conclusion
5. Glossary
6. Reference

1. Introduction

While older Korean dynasties such as Silla, Goguryeo and Baekje are frequently referred to as the mysterious kingdoms by the modern people because of the apparent lack of written records of the time, the dynasties of Goryeo and Joseon are somewhat more familiar to the Korean people of today as the history of these dynasties are relatively better documented than those of older kingdoms. Modern historians have to derive most of the facts about the Three Kingdoms period from sources that have been written long after the existence of the entities in question, as primary sources of the era are extremely hard to come by. In contrast, records of Goryeo and Joseon are significantly more abundant and in better condition than those of older entities, resulting in the general awareness of the public about the rough history of the two kingdoms.
Numerous factors may have contributed to the comparative longevity of historical documents of Goryeo and Joseon, such as improved printing and storing techniques, increased national emphasis on culture and literature, influences from Confucian teachings and, most likely, workings of time. Also, more ways to record have came into being as times passed - such as the development of I-du characters and Hangul - which in essence have aided the documentation process. Moreover, although all historical dynasties of Korean peninsula have suffered from frequent raids by foreign invaders, many of the documents of later kingdoms were stored in Buddhist temples or on islands - making it possible to safeguard those archives from harm. Consequently, the royal records of Goryeo and Joseon were mostly left intact and were passed on to the descendents - resulting in quite accurate account of historically important events. However, although the stately affairs were recorded, smaller, regional incidents were often ignored. Royal records usually focused on the political and diplomatic events, and even though they did sometimes focus on personal lives of some peculiar monarchs, they were not enough to portray the general lives of typical Goryeo or Joseon countrymen. Also, much of the population in those years was illiterate, and thus it was unlikely for non-officials to leave lasting records.
Hence, regardless of the satisfying quality of Goryeo and Joseon's official records, it is quite difficult to discern the actual image of society from those writings. One who wishes to study the lives of common people during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasty would do much better if he looked at other sources. Thus, the sources that are not formally written come in handy in this subject and many of those 'intangible' sources can be found in the Goryeo and Joseon people's folklore.
Folklore, by definition, is the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. (OED) It can range from fairy tales - which are often told to the children - to songs and paintings, usually regarded as forms of traditional art. Some forms of folklore have religious bases under them, while others are more secular, pertaining more to the mundane. It comes in such variety that some forms - such as riddles, cultural stereotypes and holiday customs - are rarely regarded as being kinds of folklore although some of them even survive into modern times. Usually, folklore represents the characteristics of specific groups of people that had been formulated over a long period of time and thus give somewhat exaggerated but often accurate depictions of the lives of the common people.
It should be noted before this research progresses further that folktales are, somewhat understandably, universal. In other words, similar forms of folklore seems to appear in many parts of the world, although the details may vary. For example, there is the ever-popular Dragon Slayer type folktale, where the hero overpowers a great monster to retrieve something or someone, be it a treasure box or a princess. This kind of story almost always ends in happy ending, which could be the reason for its widespread popularity. While this type of folklore has took a form of a valiant knight rescuing a tragic princess, in Korea it had appeared as a story named The Centipede Market introducing a kind daughter and a toad. The basic storyline is that, when a giant centipede appears and attacks the market village, endangering the good daughter, the toad, who had once been helped by her, sacrifices himself in order to rescue her. This might sound familiar to the tale of Frog Prince in that some ugly amphibian creature returns a favor of a beauty. Thus, folklore is not the creation of a single culture - on the contrary, it is influenced by a variety of cultures, mixing various elements from all around the world. As Goryeo and Joseon definitely had contacts with outside world - Byuklando, a famous port of Goryeo Era had been buzzing with merchants from the Arab world - it would be also interesting to look at how foreign influences played part in shaping their folklore and, in effect, the society of the time.
Consequently, I have decided that in order to reconstruct what the society of Goryeo and Joseon had respectively looked like, gathering and analyzing the folklore would be the best method. During the course of this paper, I would examine a number of folktales and try to decide what aspects of culture we can pick out from those sources. Also, whenever I am able to determine the roundabout date of some folktales, I would make comparisons with the official documents of the era, thereby trying to comprehend what internal/external events had affected the lives of Pyongmin, or the commoners.

2. Korean Society Depicted in its Folklore - Goryeo period (c.918-1392)

1) Historical Background

The era of Goryeo dynasty had been anything but peaceful. Emerging from the ashes of a millennium of established order, the following government got off to a rather fragile start, failing to effectively eradicate the power of the warlords that dominated the era before. This had a lasting effect on Goryeo, which did not produce as many absolute rulers as the other dynasties, and thus had comparatively stronger aristocrats influencing all aspects of policy. At first civil officers and even some eunuchs enjoyed privileges, only to be ousted by discontent military officers who then also gained power in government. Thus, except for occasional monarchs such as Kings Gwangjong and Gongminwang, much of the rule of Goryeo had taken place outside of the king's hands, which invariably led to cultures more focused on the lives of aristocracy.
Its foreign troubles were also as complicated as its internal affairs. Right after the foundation of Goryeo, Balhae, a country formed by the former people of Goguryeo, collapsed, which meant that the barrier that could protect the new born Goryeo from northern foreign invaders disappeared, leaving the country vulnerable. As a result, Goryeo suffered from constant invasions from the Khitan and the Jurchen during the earlier phase of their history. The country was able to drive both of the invaders out, but they had nevertheless left a deep, lasting impact on Goryeo.
However, these invaders were not the ones that had left the longest-lasting damage to Goryeo. Beginning in 1231, the Mongols have raided the peninsula in six major invasions, finally forcing the Goryeo government to surrender in 1259. Since then, Goryeo was immensely influenced by the ways of Mongols, which can be seen in countless sources of the time. For instance, all Goryeo kings during the rule of the Mongols have the letter chung (means loyalty) in front of their titles to symbolize their loyalty to the Mongol empire, starting with King Chungryolwang. Moreover, everyday way of life of Goryeo people had also been influenced, as the Goryeo people of the time followed Mongol traditions, Mongol traditional clothes becoming a kind of a trend instead of Hanboks. The kings of the time are said to have had their hair in queue, which is also a Mongol tradition.
In regard to religion, Goryeo had been a devout Buddhist state, exemplified in the renowned Tripitaka Koreana - the Buddhist scriptures carved on approximately 80,000 wooden blocks in order to drive the Mongols away with faith. The founder of Goryeo - Wang Gun - had been personally supported by some factions of Buddhism, which later had resulted in Wang Gun and his successors to endorse Buddhism. There is even an account in Goryeosa that Chungsunwang had decided to hold a nation-wide Buddhist festival, lighting 1,080,000 lamps and feeding just as many Buddhist monks. Thus, until the advent of Neo-Confucianism in the later stages of Goryeo, Buddhism remained as the dominant belief throughout the society.
It should be taken into account that, throughout most of the history of Goryeo, the common people had usually been discontent with both their status and their government. As enumerated above, Goryeo had been riddled with domestic and foreign problems, rarely leaving peaceful eras for people to safely support their living. Moreover, although the distinction between classes was manifest, there had been a weak sense of social order. Coups were quite frequent in Goryeo, and the nobles almost incessantly fought for authority, resulting in repeated changes of power-holding faction. Stability had been rare during the Goryeo era, its insecurity reaching its peak during the period of Military Rule when the leaders of the aristocrats shifted every once in a while. Following the example of these ruling classes, the commoners often rebelled, often seeking social elevation. The Revolt of Manjuk (1198), which featured a failed attempt of a group of servants of high-ranking officials to assassinate their masters, typifies this.
All of the facts mentioned above have affected the Goryeo society in some ways. The two types of Goryeo folklore that this paper will deal with - Goryeo Kayo and stories in Samguk Yusa - are rich with evidence that support these facts. A closer look on them should provide more insight into the image of Goryeo's society.

2) Social Portrayals in Goryeo Kayo

Literally, Goryeo Kayo means Goryeo songs. This is an apt title, as Goryeo Kayos were indeed songs as kinds of popular music among the people of the time. Before Goryeo Kayo appeared, most songs were composed by and for the aristocrats, most of them praising loyalty and other virtues, regarding the worldly subjects such as love as themes too base to compose a song on. Thus, among the non-aristocrats, some people began to compose songs that were more focused on mundane subjects, sometimes going as far as suggest such taboo topics as adultery in those songs. Understandably, the identities of most of these Goryeo Kayo authors are unknown, and the songs were orally transmitted; only later in the Joseon period were they recorded using Hangul. The following example should give some ideas about what Goryeo Kayos might talk about:

The Dumpling Shop

While I was going to the dumpling shop to get some dumplings
An Arabian merchant grabbed my hand and pulled me in.
If the word ever gets around outside the shop's wall,
I would blame it on that little jester.
I will go again and sleep in that place.
Never have I seen any place as obscene as that place!

Clearly, this song is talking about an affair between a Goryeo woman and an Arabian merchant. What is striking about this song is that the speaker of this song is a woman, not a man, and that she speaks quite freely of her desires. Here we see a clear distinction of Goryeo culture from Joseon culture: in Joseon, Neo-Confucianism had gripped the entire nation, enforcing the principle of men over women on all people. In the minds of Joseon people, not only was it out of bounds to talk about anything as vulgar as adultery, but it was also quite unthinkable that this should come from a woman. This might have been because Joseon had been a secluded country, barring itself from most other nations and refusing to trade.
Goryeo society, however, had much more liberal view on sexuality and trade. Port cities such as Byuklando flourished with tourists from as far as Arab countries (as shown in the song above), as well as the Mongols who were residing in Goryeo at the time of their rule. It might be due to this cultural diversity that could have had been found in Goryeo that Goryeo society had been more sexually equal than that of Joseon. Even in the royal families, wives of kings frequently fought each other for power; this might serve as an example as to how liberated women had been. Also, some Goryeo Kayos talk about nature and its beauty. For example, the following song is Chung San Pyol Gok (Song of the Green Mountains), written by Jung Cheol:

Song of the Green Mountains

Live, let us live
In the green mountain let us live.
Eating wild grapes and wild rocamboles
In the green mountain let us live
Yali yali yalanshung yalalri yala.(meaningless refrain)

The song quite obviously talks about nature and desire for freedom. If Jung Cheol had been a Joseon poet, he would not have written something like this and would have concentrated on how beautiful the loyalty to the king was. Compared to the writers of the Joseon Era, the writers of Goryeo had been much more diverse in choosing their themes. This maybe also attributed to the reason described above, but it might also be due to the influence of Buddhism, which praises nature in any way.
An alternative explanation of the above song exists. Jung Cheol lived during the era of what is commonly called as Mongolian Oppression, when Mongols took control over the peninsula. During the era, Mongols hoarded immense amount of logs from Goryeo, as Goryeo's mountainous geographical features coupled with it being a peninsula were ideal for turning Goryeo into the base of Mongols in invading Japan. With the accumulated logs, the Mongols forced artisans of Goryeo to make ships to attack Japan because, skilled horseback riders they may be, they were almost complete novices in the field of shipbuilding. As a result, many of the initially "green mountains" turned barren, while the woods were dragged off to the shipbuilding ports to the south. Most of these logs would eventually end up at the bottom of the Korea Strait, however, because of the devastating failure of the Mongol invasions of Japan.
Consequently, it is quite obvious that these Goryeo Kayos enjoyed more artistic freedom than the lore before or after them. Multiple factors - Goryeo's inclination toward trade, weak sense of social order, religion, and so on - that had been characteristic of Goryeo society have affected these works, defining the works from the works of other cultures or time.

3) Social Portrayals in Samguk Yusa

Samguk Yusa (the Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms) is, as its name implies, actually not a book about folktales that has settings in Goryeo era. Instead, the book is a collection of legends and folktales of the Three Kingdoms period, intended to preserve them for future generations. The book is mainly compiled by a Buddhist monk named Iryeon - who had been quite nationalistic and sought to better Goryeo through his writings. It was compiled at the end of 13th century, a century before its much more fact-oriented counterpart - Samguk Sagi - was published. As it was written by a Buddhist monk, this book is heavily in favor of Buddhism, and the major part of the book consists of stories of Buddhist principles. Hence, it varies much from its counterpart Samguk Sagi written by Kim Bu Sik, who tried to be as objective as possible (although highly biased towards Goryeo and its founders) in his writings. Consequently, the work contains many stories that does not appear in Samguk Sagi. For example, the story of Bak Hyeokgeose (the founder of Silla) does not appear in Samguk Sagi, although it appears in Samguk Yusa.
When they climbed to a height and looked southward they saw an eerie lightning-like emanation by the Na Well under Mount Yang, while nearby a white horse kneeled and bowed. When they reached the spot they found a red egg; the horse neighed and flew up to heaven when it saw men approaching. When the people cracked the egg open, they discovered within a beautiful infant boy with a radiant visage. Amazed by their discovery, they bathed the infant in the East Spring, then he emitted light. Birds and beasts danced for joy, heaven and earth shook, and the sun and moon became bright. They named the child King Hyeokgose (which translates to "Bright"), and titled him kosurhan, or king.
As we can see from the excerpt of Samguk Yusa about Bak Hyeokgeose, the king of Silla is described as a descendant of a horse. Kim Bu Sik came from a very noble family of the time, and strongly upheld the 'Silla Originality' phenomenon, which states that only Sillaof the Three Kingdoms have the legitimacy to succeed Goryeo, not Silla or Goguryeo. As Kim Bu Sik must have had been highly inclined toward the Silla dynasty (his last name, Kim, suggests that he is a descendent of the Silla royal family), describing its founder as a descendant of equestrian beast must have had been unacceptable. Thus, the story that had been quite famous in those times were included in Iryeon's writings while it had been left out in 'impartial' writings of Kim Bu Sik. This obviously points out the corruption that Goryeo government was going through in those times, as even the highest official - Kim was a Munha Sijung, one of the highest ranked officials of Mun Gwa (governing office) - sought to bend history towards his will. In fact, Goryeo dynasty suffered from constant corruption after the coup of Mu Gwan's, or army officials, which led these inexperienced soldiers to take up the important offices. After the rule of Mu Gwans came the Mongols, grinding the society of Goryeo in to the ground.
As we can see from both Goryeo Kayo and Samguk Yusa, distrust of government was widespread among the Goryeo countrymen, and the government did deserve this distrust.

3. Korean Society Depicted in its Folklore -Joseon Period (c.1392-1910)

1) Historical Background

Although the cause of transition from Goryeo to Joseon was internal, the resulting state that came from it was significantly different from the former country. This is mainly because the founding fathers of Joseon wanted to create legitimacy for their dynasty, as without it their dynasty could not be accepted domestically or internationally(the approval of Chinese government had been especially important). Korean people have traditionally valued loyalty to their states, and thus the new nation had to provide good enough reasons for its people to devote their loyalty to it. Moreover, an illegitimate government was sure to bring inquiries and interferences from mainland China, as it has always done whenever it had the chance. Although coups were frequent in the history of Korean peninsula, the governments that did not have the approval of Chinese dynasty did not last long, as world opinion as well as Korean people's acceptance focused almost solely on China's support. Thus, in order to criticize Goryeo's way as being quite wrong and thus to totally differentiate the new Yi dynasty from the former Wang dynasty, leaders of Joseon set out to make drastic changes to the nation.
First and foremost, there was an important shift of the system of beliefs. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Goryeo had traditionally endorsed Buddhism, as its founder Wang Gun had been much helped by the warlords who had supported Buddhism and as he himself had been a devout Buddhist. Although the rulers of late Goryeo such as Gongminwang strove to decrease the influence of Buddhism in the country because of its long-standing corruption, Buddhism nevertheless had a deep part in both the Goryeo royal house and the common people.
The founders of Joseon had changed all this. Claiming that Buddhism was nothing but "a corrupt religion(Lee, Bang Won - later King Taejo)," the early Joseon government drove away most of the Buddhist temples that had been close to the cities into the mountains, thereby significantly reducing their influence on people. Furthermore, the social class of Buddhist monks was lowered, in addition to former Buddhist temple sites being nationalized and its riches taken, which resulted in Buddhism and its followers reduced to an economic status as low as that of beggars. The series of actions taken against Buddhism after the foundation of Joseon is called "Soong Yoo Uk Bul" in Korean, which roughly translates into "worshipping Confucianism and oppressing Buddhism" in English.
As the term "Soong Yoo Uk Bul" so obviously states, Neo-Confucianism began to replace Buddhism as the country's foremost belief system. The philosophy had been imported into Goryeo by the scholars who had studied from Ming before coming back into the country and becoming government officials. The late years of Goryeo dynasty can somewhat exaggeratingly described as struggle for power between the former government officials of Buddhist beliefs and newer officials educated in Neo-Confucians beliefs. Lee Sung Kye, the first king of Joseon, had been the main proponent of Neo-Confucianism, while Choi Young, who had been defeated by Lee Sung Kye after the famous Wihwado Hoegun (withdrawal of Wihwado), had supported the other.
Another notable change in society had been the fall of status of the merchant class. In Joseon, the 'privilege' of one's jobs was according to a strict rule, which had been dubbed as Sa Nong Gong Sang. Sa stands for the aristocrats, nong for the farmers, gong for the engineers, while sang stood for the merchants. Because the order that these words were written represents the actual order of the class, this means that merchants were regarded as the bottom class of commoners, just above the Chunmins, or the lowly people. Joseon society viewed most materialistic pursuits as being vulgar, and thus merchants - who had thrived during the trade-booming Goryeo era - were often made fun of in various folktales.
The Seven Years' War, called Im Jin Wae Ran in Korean, had seared dramatic impacts on Joseon. The war had almost totally devastated the peninsula, as well as the lives of those who had inhabited it. Countless lives had been lost, as in some records the corpses were said to be piled up 'as high as the walls of the fortress.' Most of the arable lands were destroyed, reduced to approximately 10 percent of the lands before the war. The war had spawned both misery and heroes among people, creating grievous tales and exciting stories. Admiral Yi Sunsin is one of those heroes, who is still admired in Korea.
The invention of Hangul had also played some part in Joseon's culture. King Sejong, whose motive had been as much ambitious as it had been moral, devised a new script for Korean people, proclaiming that this act had been solely intended to educate the commoners, although strengthening the royal authority by breaking away from the nobles who upheld Chinese way had also been a reason. Nevertheless, the new script did raise the literacy rate among the common people, especially among the women. This meant that literature could now reach much wider audience than before, whereas in Goryeo period only a selected few who knew the Chinese characters could read at all. As Hangul gradually got popularity among the people, novels and poems written only in Hangul started to come out, becoming the first precedent of something similar to best sellers in Korean history. These stories were aimed at readers who were mostly commoners, and thus focused more on the interests of these people than those of aristocrats.
Also, contrary to that of Goryeo, the social order of Joseon society had been rigid, which meant that movement between the classes was rarely possible. The national examinations that had been held since Goryeo was still held in Joseon, but it was very hard for a commoner to become an aristocrat, as the competition was very high. Furthermore, whereas lowly people of Goryeo frequently dreamed of raising their social status through active ways such as coups, people of Joseon rarely had such ideas, as loyalty was one of the most important values of Neo-Confucianism. Thus, although Joseon had its share of rebellions by dissatisfied military generals, it had much less revolts by the humble, at least until before The Seven Years' War.
There are much more written records of Joseon folklore than that of Goryeo, as Hangul had greatly increased the means to store these writings. Much of the folk are assimilated into popular novels of the era, while some others are also incorporated into Pansori - a type of musical that is usually told by a single performer. Hence, as there are more data available, the study of folklore of Joseon should be easier than the previous study.

2) Social Portrayals in Folktales

There are some folktales that, in Korea, remain popular to this day, such as Tokkijeon (Tale of a Rabbit), Chunhyangjeon (Tale of Chunhyang), and Simchungjeon (Tale of Simchung). All of these stories had been popular tales during the Joseon period, so popular that numerous different versions exist for each story. For example, there are as many as 62 different versions of Tokkijeon, of which every version has at least some difference to others. Some of them come from the Pansori version of the story, while others come from different regions all around the nation. As there is no evidence that which one is the 'original' one, all versions of the story has to be studied separately, taking into the backgrounds of the formations of those versions.
Let us look at Tokkijeon as an example. The origins of Tokkijeon can be traced to as far as India, where it started as a Buddhist tale. From there it traveled through China, before landing in Korea. Because of lack of formally written record and regional differences, many different versions of Tokkijeon exists, although most are based on a same storyline. The king of the seas gets sick, and the doctor claims that the only medicine for his disease is the liver of a rabbit, which lives up in the mountains, out of the water. A turtle bravely volunteers for the quest, finding a rabbit and deceiving it with promises of wealth, luring it into the Underwater Palace. Once the rabbit is captured, the rabbit realizes the trickery and struggle to save its life, claiming that it is able to attach and detach its liver at will, and that at the time the liver is up in the mountains, not in its belly. The rabbit successfully tricks the king, is escorted out of the water and, after mocking the turtle for its stupidity, runs away.
Most of the versions follow this storyline, but the details of these versions differ greatly from each other. Specifically, the outcome of the stories - what becomes of the turtle after the incident - is where the most discrepancies occur. One of them describes the turtle killing itself by banging its head on a stone, thinking that it has done a disservice to the king that he should be loyal to. Another portrays a somewhat kinder rabbit, offering its excrements as an effective medicine for the king's disease. Another focuses on not the turtle but the rabbit, and what he encounters as he journeys back to his home. Yet another story differs from the very beginning, ridiculing both the king and the turtle by making the king an inefficient wimp and letting the rabbit take the turtle's wife.
All of these versions have plausible reasons for being the way they are. The first one - about the suicidal turtle - had been the most nationally accepted one, because it endorses extreme loyalty to the king - one of the main ideas of Neo-Confucianism. The stories of 'kinder' rabbit and of ridiculing the authorities were mainly enjoyed among the lowly people, which were intended to satirize the established authorities. Obviously, these people wanted to feel better by feeding the nobles the excrements and taking away their wives. The third version - which recounts the travels of the rabbit - was the version used by the standing storytellers of the era, who thus needed many additional colorful events in their stories in order to make their stories more interesting. There had been numerous storytellers of this kind who gained their living by telling stories in the middle of a crowded place like a marketplace, thus gathering people who would be willing to throw in some money. These storytellers would later evolve into performers of Pansori, which comes next.

3) Social Portrayals in Pansori

'Pansori' is a type of traditional Korean folklore that combines singing with dramatic storytelling. There are usually two people participating in a pansori performance - a singer (sorikkun) and a drummer (gosu). While the drummer provides a central beat to base the singing on, the singer sings or chants the narrative to the audience, frequently using motion in order to add interest to the story. The drummer sometimes chimes in some exclamatory remarks in order to liven up the atmosphere, but the central part of a typical pansori performance is the singer.
The forerunners of pansori had been those storytellers of the marketplace that had been mentioned in the chapter before. After the destructive Seven Years' War, the culture of the common people began to evolve separate from that of the aristocrats, aided by the widespread use of Hangul, which had been dubbed as 'the low language' at the time, that began to pervade the literary scenes. As more and more story became known to the public, the form of storytelling became popular among the people. When this storytelling merged with songs of the lowly people, pansori was born. At first pansori had been only enjoyed by the common people, but later in Joseon era pansori became also popular among the nobility, thus gaining nationwide fame. 12 Ahkjangs, or stories, had existed, of which only 5 remain today, three of which we have mentioned in the section before - Chunhyangga, Simcheongga, Heungbuga, Jeokbyeokga, and Sugungga.
Let us examine a typical pansori script, although many were done without prompt. The following is a part of Chunhyangga.

...And Chunhyang sits alone, passing days by tears
Let us look at Chunhyang's appearance
Rumpled up hair, ghost-like countenance,
On the cold floor of a silent cell
The only thing she thinks about is her darling
Oh, how she misses him, how she misses her husband!

It is obvious that the script should be performed with much emotion and action, as narration alone will not do it justice. However, aside from the style, from here we see a sharp contrast between the role of women in Goryeo and in Joseon. As we can see from the 'The Dumpling Shop,' the speaker - a Goryeo female - freely speaks of an affair she have had with an Arabian, even claiming that she wishes to sleep with him again. However, in the above portion of Chunhyangga, Chunhyang is described as waiting for her one and only husband although she is at the brink of death. Clearly, the 'acceptable' view of women in the eras differs greatly.
In a sense Pansori is like a Goryeo Kayo in that it often praises the ways of commoners and satirizes the nobles. However, Pansori includes a visual dimension to the performance, making it easier for audience to experience the art with more enthusiasm. Also, it often tells a story, while Goryeo Kayo focused on rhymes and rhythms. Because the singer usually orchestrates masterful skill of enrapturing the audience, the audience is not only able to listen to the performance but also participate in the fun.

4. Conclusion

Folklore rarely exists in tangible forms; on the contrary, they are often very hard to recognize at all, as they are so pervasive throughout the society. However, because they are the form of culture that is closest to the people, they best represent the actual appearances of the society of the time. As the official records of both Goryeo and Joseon are largely insufficient for studying about how the society of commoners in those times actually looked like, examining the folklore is the perhaps the best way to start.
Through the seemingly meaningless and vulgar stories, we can find how women were treated in each era, how scribers were biased in their supposedly 'objective' writings, how each story were distorted to meet the audiences needs, and how perception of Goryeo and Joseon on international trade had been significantly different from each other. This is indeed only a tip of the iceberg, and further research will prove very effective in unveiling the history covered in dust and myths. As it can be quite safely assumed that there exists almost infinite variations of folklore, the amount of knowledge that we can gain from those sources would also be quite limitless.

5. Glossary

Baekje : A historical kingdom in the southwest of the Korean Peninsula. Lasted from 18 BCE to 660 CE. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Bak Hyeokgeose (69 BCE ~ 4 CE, r. 57 BCE ~ 4 CE) : The founding monarch of Silla
Balhae : An ancient kingdom occupying parts of Manchuria, Primorsky Krai, and the northern part of the Korean peninsula.
Byuklando : An island off the coast of Yesung River. Was a major trading city during the Goryeo Era.
Choi Young (1316 CE ~ 1388 CE): General of the Late Goryeo Era. Tried to defend the dynasty against the rebelling Lee Sung Kye’s army, but failed and was executed.
Chungryolwang (1236 CE ~ 1308 CE) : The 25th king of Goryeo.
Chungsunwang (1275 CE ~ 1325 CE): The 26th king of Goryeo, son of Chungryolwang.
Goguryeo : A historical kingdom encompassing northern part of the Korean Peninsula and most of the Manchuria. Lasted from 2nd century BCE to 668 CE. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Gongminwang (1351 CE ∼ 1374 CE): The 31st king of Goryeo. He ended the Mongolian rule of Goryeo.
Goryeo : A historical dynasty in the Korean Peninsula. Lasted from 935 CE to 1392 CE.
Goryeosa : The historical accounts of Goryeo, compiled by persons such as Kim Jong Seo (1390~1453) and Jung In Ji (1396~1478) under the orders of King Sejong. Completed in 1451, it consists of 139 books covering most of the historical events of Goryeo that had existed in record.
Gwangjong (949 CE ∼ 975 CE) : The 4th King of Goryeo. 4th son of Wang Gun.
Hanbok : Korean traditional garments.
Hangul : The native alphabet of the Korean language and the official script of both North Korea and South Korea. Invented by team of scholars working under orders of King Sejong, it was first published in 1446 in a document titled Hunmin Jeongeum.
I-du : Ancient system of writing Chinese characters during the Silla Era.
Iryeon (1206 CE ~ 1289 CE) : A Buddhist monk and Enlightened National Preceptor during the Goryeo Dynasty. Compiler of Samguk Yusa.
Joseon : A historical dynasty in the Korean Peninsula. Lasted from 1392 CE to 1910 CE.
Jung Cheol (1536 CE ~ 1593 CE) : A government official and a greatly renowned poet during the Goryeo dynasty.
Kim Bu Sik (1075 CE ~ 1151 CE) : A government official during the Goryeo dynasty. Author of Samguk Sagi.
King Sejong (1397 CE ~ 1450 CE) : Also known as Sejong the Great of Joseon. 4th king of Joseon dynasty. Best remembered for creating the native Korean alphabet Hangul.
Lee Sung Kye (1335 CE ~ 1408 CE) : Founder of the Joseon dynasty, also known as Taejo of Joseon.
OED : Oxford Dictionary of English, published in 2005.
Silla : A historical kingdom in the southeast of the Korean Peninsula. Lasted from 57 BCE to 935 CE. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
The Seven Years' War (1592 CE ~ 1598 CE) : Also called The Japanese Invasions of Korea, or Im Jin Wae Ran. These invasions were masterminded by kampaku Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had claims over Ming Dynasty China. In addition to both countries suffering heavy losses, the war had almost grazed the soils of Joseon to the ground.
Wang Gun (877 CE ~ 943 CE) : Founder of the Goryeo dynasty, also known as Taejo of Goryeo.
Yi Sunsin (1545 CE ~ 1598 CE) : A Korean naval leader noted for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598) during the Joseon Dynasty. Also known for his innovation of the Turtle ships.

6. Reference

Lee, Peter H. A History of Korean Literature. Cambridge : University Press, 2003.
Kim, Kichung. An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P’ansori. East Gate, 1996.
Il Yon. Samguk Yusa, translated and edited by Ha, Tae-Hung and Mintz, Grafton K. Seoul : Yonsei University Press, 1972.
Lee, Hye Sun. Literary History of Early Goryeo Period (고려 전기 한문학사). Seoul : Ewha Woman’s University Press, 2004. This book is in Korean.
Kim, Ha Myong. Literary History of Joseon of 18th Century (조선 문학사 : 18세기 문학). Hankuk Munhwasa, 1996. This book is in Korean.
Kim, Ha Myong. Literary History of Joseon of 17th Century (조선 문학사 : 17세기 문학). Hankuk Munhwasa, 1995. This book is in Korean.
Il Yon (= Iryeon). Samguk Yusa (삼국유사, The Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms), translated and edited by Kim, Won Jung. Eulyu Munhwasa, 2002. This book is in Korean.
Kim, Kwang Eon. Folk Games (민속놀이). Daewonsa, 2001. This book is in Korean.
Park, Young Kyu. Royal Records of Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조실록). Deulnyuk, 1996. This book is in Korean.
Park, Young Kyu. Royal Records of Goryeo Dynasty (고려왕조실록). Deulnyuk, 1996. This book is in Korean.
Article “Folklore” from Wikipedia
Article “Korean Mythology” from Wikipedia
Park, Hee Byung. Revised History of Joseon Novels (증보조선소설사). Hangilsa, 1997. This book is in Korean.
Series. Korean Ancient Culture Research Institute (고대민족문화연구소), 1993. All books are in Korean. Volume 6: Tokkijeon (Tale of a rabbit) In, Kwon Hwan
Volume 8: Minsokkeuk (Traditional Plays) Jeon, Kyung Wuk
Volume 12: Chnhyangjeon (Tale of Chunhyang) Seol, Sung Kyong
Volume 13: Simchungjeon (Tale of Simchung) Jung, Ha Young

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