I finally managed to finish Rookie Historian. It was light from a sageuk point of view but I didn’t really understand the ending. Are they living with each other without getting married? In the Joseon period? And the King (crown prince) divorced his wife? In the Joseon period?

It was a nice watch though.


    I think, yes to all the above. You just have to go with it. 😉


      The writer rewrote history. It’s a more feminist version. Love it.


    That’s exactly what I said!


      Great minds think alike 😁


        Comment was deleted


      There are a few references to Joseon divorce in A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present by Michael J. Seth. Rowman & LIttlefield Publishers, Oct. 16, 2010. As expected, it privileged men. Women actually lost rights they had in previous eras: Google Book results: See p. 162 (men had seven grounds for divorce), 185 (although initially more free to mingle with the opposite sex than their Korean counterparts, Japanese women also lost their rights to divorce, participate in government, and own property).

      One resource for the wikipedia page about society in Joseon Dynasty is the chapter about divorce from Everyday Life in Joseon-Era Korea (2014, edited by Michael Shin and the Korean Historians Staff Organization). The chapter is called “Did People Divorce in the Joseon Period?” by Kwon Soon-Hyung. Looks like more than a few authors reference this chapter but the e-text isn’t accessible outside of university firewalls.

      From Did People Divorce in the Joseon Period?:

      Men could divorce their wives for seven “evil acts” (chilgeo)
      (1) not taking proper care of her in-laws
      (2) not bearing a son (because Y chromosomes aren’t a thing yet)
      (3) being promiscuous and giving birth to possibly another man’s child
      (4) being overly jealous of a husband’s concubines
      (5) having a serious illness that prevents her from bearing a son
      (6) engaging in gossip to the point of disrupting family life
      (7) stealing

      You don’t need a Ph. D. in makjang to know unhappy in-laws and husbands would find a way to dump a wife one way or another.

      There were three exceptions to divorce (sambulgeo) even if she committed one of the seven sins
      1) if she had no place to return to
      2) if she had observed the three-year mourning
      3) or if she got married before the husband’s family
      became wealthy.

      There was zero tolerance for adultery, being too sick, or unfilial towards your in-laws.

      That said, it divorce was actually rare and it really only happened for adultery and unfilial behavior towards in-laws. By the 1860’s, chilgeo were down to five, with jealousy and lack of sons no longer a legal reason for divorce. And the exceptions increased to four; couples with children could not divorce.

      Cont. in next comment …


      Comment 2/3

      Divorce was easier for the commoner class
      I’ll quote directly from the text:

      The difficulties of obtaining a divorce and the practice of sobak were mainly limited to the yangban class. It was easier for commoners to divorce, and they had two methods for doing so – sajeong paui and halgeub hyuseo. In sajeong paui, when a couple was clearly incompatible with each other, the husband and wife would sit down to discuss their inability to live together and reach an agreement on a divorce. Halgeub hyuseo involved a simple ritual in which one person would cut the lower edge of the other’s upper garment with a knife and give the piece of cloth to their spouse. These two methods were never used by the sadaebu.

      When could Joseon women initiate divorce? Very rarely:
      1. If the husband left the house and disappeared for 3 years
      2. If the husband committed “severe violations” such as beating the wife’s parents, grandparents or killing someone in her family
      3. If the husband committed adultery with her mother
      4. If the husband beat her—with proof of broken bones or worse (husbands could divorce because of abuse, regardless of their own injuries)

      Life for women after divorce
      1. Women lost custody of their children.
      2. Remarriage was allowed only during the early Joseon period—only after their ex-husbands married
      3. Remarriage was allowed during the reign of Seongjong (r. 1469-1494)


      Comment 3/3

      Sobak—emotional and physical separation
      Couples could use the sobak method to separate emotionally and maintain separate households or spaces (if wealthy enough). It’s pretty much what the Rookie Historian’s Crown Prince did to the poor princess, without shoving a concubine in her face.

      Sobak was dreadful for women too poor to share households or have a second home. Options if you couldn’t keep your own household:
      1. Go home to your parents’ house and be scorned as pathetic
      2. Seupcheop: Stand by the side of a road leading to shrine and get picked up by the first man who passes and stay with him for the rest of her life. This is so crazy I have to quote the concluding paragraph:

      During the Joseon era, there was a custom called seupcheop. If a woman who suffered from sobak stood on the road to a shrine early in the morning, the first man to find her had the duty to take her in and look after her. It did not matter if the man was married, single, a traveler, or a beggar; the woman had no say in the matter. She was required to follow the first man she met and share the rest of their lives together. The most common case was for older unmarried men and widowers to take these women as their spouses; if she were lucky, a woman would meet a nobleman or royal envoy returning to his hometown and would live as his favored concubine, changing her fortunes for the better. This custom was yet another example of how the lives of women in the Joseon period were completely controlled by men.