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Imagined connections in early modern Korea, 1500-1894 - representations of northern elite Miryang Pak lineages in genealogies

Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies
Publication Date
  • Chosŏn
  • Status
  • Descent
  • Genealogy
  • 밀양박
  • Economics


In early modern Korea, families across status boundaries desired appealing self-representations in genealogies, an increasingly popular medium for expressing status consciousness. The genealogies of the families that were neither aristocrat (yangban) nor commoner and yet commanded considerable cultural and economic capital have received little attention. Critiquing the genealogies of prominent northern families can shed more light on the question of whether the regional elite of P"yŏngan and Hamgyŏng provinces belonged to the aristocracy. Analyzing how the north"s elite Miryang Pak lineages explained their origins, this study argues that they invented traditions wherein they were scions of the capital-southern aristocracy. Northern Miryang Pak genealogies share some characteristics in common. Above all, even the families producing prestigious civil examination degree holders generally had an undistinguished pedigree. Also, the descent group genealogies published in Seoul or the south did not record northern lines. Moreover, the northern Miryang Pak"s genealogical claims were full of contradictions that ultimately did not help them win acceptance as social equals by the Seoul-southern aristocracy. While analyzing the northern elite"s imagined connections, this study raises questions about their significance in periodizing Korea"s social history.

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