Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Changes in informal society and slavery during the Chosun-Era in Korea

Kim, Heeho (2022) Changes in informal society and slavery during the Chosun-Era in Korea. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9 (1). ISSN 2662-9992

[img] Text (s41599-022-01370-7) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (795kB)
Identification Number: 10.1057/s41599-022-01370-7


While slavery was unconventional in Northeast Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it has been documented in Korea from the Three Kingdoms period (BC 57–AD 668). In 1731, a new slavery regulation was introduced in Korea that stipulated that a child was a slave only if its mother was a slave, regardless of the status of the child’s father. This led to a dramatic decrease in the number of slaves. In addition, slaves also deserted more frequently after 1731 because the ‘not-freed’, remaining slaves tried various ways to secure their freedom amid the ensuing societal instability. The easiest way for slaves in Korea to achieve freedom was to flee their owners since they were of native descent. Slave desertions and entry into the informal economy may be attributed to the exclusion of slaves from social institution. Slaves attempted to escape from their current status to the informal sectors of society, where they could manage a subsistence-level existence without being caught. This study explores government registries of household tallies in three counties of Korea’s Kyungsang province and data on slave transaction. We consider the role of slave desertion in order to examine a relationship between the 1731 regulation change, the institution of slavery, and society. We find that the evidence indicates that the 1731 regulation change led to more desertions, and the costs of monitoring slaves increased; slaves were replaced with daily-wage workers on farmlands. This study contributes to the literature by tracing the causality of slave desertions to informal society that led to the collapse of slavery in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Korea.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2022 12:33
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2024 02:42

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics