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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

For Whom the Line is Drawn: Korean Indigenous Conceptions of Boundary in the 19th Century and Changes in the Colonial Period

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2020, v.60 no.4, pp.294-319
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2020.60.4.294

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Abstract

Modern law treats land as real estate, subject to rights of ownership. Land must be immobile and clearly partitioned. Pieces of land are described on cadastral maps, with a link to a unique and permanent location. Yet, before the advent of modern law, how did people recognize each piece of land? The Joseon dynasty made numerous maps and conducted various land surveys. However, there was no sense that land should be divided by drawing lines on paper. Beyond a mere object of ownership, land was considered a basis for feeding the people. Hence, conceptions of land existed in by-play with human activity. Boundaries could not be drawn without consideration of local conditions such as the current status of cultivation. This paper will demonstrate Korean indigenous senses of boundary in the 19th century. The Gwangmu Land Register will be compared with land registers and cadastral maps from the Japanese colonial period to reveal key characteristics of late Joseon conceptions of land demarcation. I will show how boundaries shifted between humans and land, among plots, and within Korean society. Moreover, I highlight how new types of land demarcations in turn separated humans from their environment and reconceived land as immovable (real) estate.

keywords
conceptions of land senses of boundary buffer zone Gwangmu Land Register land survey cadastral map Jigsawmap

Korea Journal