[The interpretation of suicide by gender in late Joseon Dynasty: around cases of suicide in "Trial Document"].


This paper focuses on cases of suicide in "Trial Document (Simrirok)" which was published in Jeongjo's reign, and how to understand suicide cases in social context. Even though "Trial Document" is limited historical material to report for King, it is very useful to examine not only suicide case of those times but also the elite's recognition about suicide. Especially in this paper, the important point is not 'why and how did a suicide kill himself or herself' but 'how people did understand about suicide or a suicide'. In other words, the key point of this paper is 'discourse' of suicide. There are so multifarious suicide cases in "Trial Document" and the reasons of suicide are also multifarious. However, 'Trial Document' is worthy of note because it is the document which was recorded trial processes. In these processes, decision on 'suicide or murder' was the most essential point. So there were arguments on discerning whether a victim committed suicide or a murderer counterfeited a victim's suicide. The important thing was not only real evidence in these arguments. Belief, 'it is acceptable reason for suicide', was very important as a social context. One of the important criterions was 'gender' to Jeoseon's elite. In spite of cases' similarities, the interpretation was completely different by gender. Men's suicide was understood as 'a foolish act' by the elite because they thought that 'normal man' would not commit suicide. Moreover, there were particular women's suicide cases which could not happen to men. The reason of these suicides was 'chastity'. The cases were also 'interpreted' by the people alive. These interpretation was based on the value judgement. And another important criterion was class. The elite had given a prize to the women who suicided directly after their husbands' death. The elite themselves, however, did not suicide so much as the common people did. This contradiction shows that suicide is not a personal choice absolutely. This paper searches into the meaning of suicide in late Joseon society, and look into 'gender' as the most important criterion of judgement.

Cite this paper

@article{Jung2008TheIO, title={[The interpretation of suicide by gender in late Joseon Dynasty: around cases of suicide in "Trial Document"].}, author={Il-young Jung}, journal={Ŭi sahak}, year={2008}, volume={17 2}, pages={155-75} }