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2 - Defying Claims of Incompetence

Women’s Lawsuits over Separate Property Rights in Colonial Korea

from Part I - Rights in Historical Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2021

Celeste L. Arrington
Affiliation:
George Washington University, Washington DC
Patricia Goedde
Affiliation:
Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul
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Summary

The legal incompetence of wives (cheo-ui muneungnyeok) and its inhibitions on women’s legal rights in Korea during the Japanese colonial rule (1910–45) were emphasized during the postcolonial period. As a result, the actual legal activities of women during the colonial period have been overlooked. This chapter examines women’s lawsuits at the High Court of Colonial Korea (Chōsen kōtō hōin) over separate property rights during the colonial period. I show that women actively struggled in the colonial legal system to have their rights over separate property acknowledged against their opponents’ claims that Korean custom categorically denied property rights to women. Surprisingly, women won many of these cases. I argue that the colonial household registration system, where the rights of household heads over family property were strengthened, inadvertently resulted in the protection of separate property rights, many of which were held by women.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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