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Nam Center for Korean Studies Colloquium Series: The Legacy of Disadvantaged Origins: Blocked Social Mobility of Descendants of Nobis in Late Joseon (Korea)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
12:00 AM
Room 1636 School of Social Work Building

Using individual-level data of adult males from household registers (hojeok) compiled every three years from 1765 to 1894 in a village in Jeju Island (Korea), we examine multigenerational effects of social origins on attainment of social status. By linking individuals and families across household registers over time, we identify social status of adult males recorded in 1864 to 1894 registers and social status of their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers. During the 19th century, there were significant changes in social status system in Joseon (Korea), represented by the abolition of the (public) nobi (slave) system in 1801 and the rapid increase of the highest status group. In this study, we are particularly interested in the extent to which descendants of nobis reached the highest status in comparison to descendants whose great grandfathers occupied higher status groups, net of father’s and grandfather’s social status. Our findings show that despite the significant upgrade of social status system, upward mobility for descendants of nobi ancestors to reach the highest status position was considerably blocked, suggesting the lingering effects of ancestors even after holding father’s and grandfather’s social status constant.

Hyunjoon Park is Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Sociology and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in social stratification, education, and family in comparative and historical perspectives, focusing on Korea and other Asian countries. He is the author of Re-Evaluating Education in Japan and Korea: Demystifying Stereotypes (2013, Routledge).

Kuentae Kim is Associate Professor of Department of Korean History at Seoul National University. His research focuses on agriculture and historical demography of Joseon Dynasty. He has published numerous papers including “Family Succession through Adoption in the Chosun Dynasty” (The History of the Family, 2010) and “Tracking Individuals and Households: Longitudinal Features of Danseong Household Register Data” (The History of the Family, 2013)

Cosponsored by the U-M Departments of History and Sociology.

This program is also made possible in part by a Title VI grant from the US Department of Education.
Professors Hyunjoon Park and Kuentae Kim