[KS] RE: Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 21, Issue 3
dclark at trinity.edu
Thu Mar 3 20:34:11 EST 2005
Responding to your question to the list, I can tell you that I remember well in the 1950s, that older women in the market in Seoul, older women in the countryside wherever we drove out of town, and on occasion our own cook when she was working around the yard in her little home at the end of our compound (not "on duty") would walk around in the condition you describe. This was a summertime thing that had to do with comfort. I do not remember young women doing this ever, or women of childbearing age except when nursing, when there was a fairly matter-of-fact swinging around of the baby on the back to the front to feed, without embarrassment or apology. When feeding was done, they covered up again.
I will also claim that this was not particularly exciting to me as a teenager. Some kind of dissonance between fantasy and reality, I think. The average halmoni's breasts are better remembered or imagined, than seen.
Later, in the Peace Corps in the late 1960s the same thing, but on much rarer occasions in our village area near Kumsan.
Somehow it seems counterintuitive to me that any educated or upper class women of any age would have done this. I can't recall any one other than poor or country women, or servants, dressing in that manner. So it may be consistent with nonagenarian aunties' experience, since they were of a social class that would not have dressed or comported themselves as common servant-class women.
Nor do I remember any great shame or shock on the part of missionaries, including my parents, who simply treated this sight as part of the local landscape, made no remark or took no obvious notice. On the rare occasion when it came up in conversation, usually when somebody was describing a street or market scene, it always had to do with feeding children.
On the other hand, the innate prudery of the missionaries who worked with women (male missionaries would not have had any proper occasion to make any observation about this one way or the other, certainly not in public and certainly not in the company of women of any kind or sort), would undoubtedly have made an issue of this in the proper setting as they taught modesty, chastity, cleanliness, etc. informed by their own upbringings.
Anyway, that's what I remember about it.
I hope you're having a terrific time in Japan.
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Sent: Thu 3/3/2005 11:11 AM
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Subject: Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 21, Issue 3
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<<------------ KoreanStudies mailing list DIGEST ------------>>
1. Question on colonial photography (Pai hyungil)
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 19:40:21 +0900 (JST)
From: Pai hyungil <hyungpai at yahoo.co.jp>
Subject: [KS] Question on colonial photography
To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Message-ID: <20050303104021.50487.qmail at web3008.mail.bbt.yahoo.co.jp>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-2022-jp
In my recent research on photography in the early colonial
era, I have come across quite a few images of Korean
women, such as haenyo (diving women) and country women
with exposed breasts. Torii Ryuzo took such photographs in
the 1910's and they were included in the history of Korean
photographic albums in the 1990's. Today, I also found an
illustrated journal dating to 1911, of a Korean market
scene in full color with a main figure of a woman walking
down the road carrying a water jar with exposed breasts.
A while back when I showed these photographs to my aunties
in their 90's (who were kids in the Taisho era), they
denied that they ever saw such women walk around like
that. Of course, they were raised as urban educated
yangban women so they may have missed something.
Was this part of the male photographers' fascination with
the exotic/erotic female ? I know there are many such
photographs over the decades in National Geographic and
probably the aesthetic goes back to Gauguin and beyond.
However, in Korea's case, is this state of undress such
village life (the cropped top is so short, they hang out
accidently), or wet nurses advertising their services? Are
their missionary accounts of women's clothing in the
nineteenth century? And if it was wide-spread, did the
custom die down with the Westernization and
Hyung Il Pai
Japan Foundation Fellow
National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, Tokyo
Let's Celebrate Together!
End of Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 21, Issue 3
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