July 1, 2020
Journal Article: Finding Imjin War Captives and Returnees in Household Registers
HAN, Sangu. “Imjin waeran p’iroin gwa tohwanindŭr ŭi hŭnjŏk ŭl ch’ajasŏ – 17segi ch’o hojŏk ŭrobut’ŏ (Finding Imjin War Captives and Returnees in Household Registers of the Early Seventeenth Century).” Taedong munhwa yŏn’gu 110 (06.2020): 173-200.
Korean scholarship on the Imjin War estimates that approximately one hundred thousand Koreans were captured and taken to Japan during the six year conflict (1592-1598), and only a few of them returned to Chosŏn Korea. For the most part, we do not know who these captives and returnees were because, with the exception of a few upper class returnees, most did not leave their name to history. To rectify this, this study pays attention to the household registers of Korea, which contain not only members of the upper class but also the lower classes. I found 141 captives and 17 returnees within the registers compiled in the early seventeenth century in Sanŭm, Tansŏng, and Ulsan counties. My study illuminates the social characteristics of these captives: most were of lower social status, and their average age when captured was around 20-years-old. I analysed the features of the households of these returnees, and discovered that they did not have children in the household. It means that they married and settled just before compiling the household register of 1609. This study also suggests that most returnees received government support, such as exemptions from taxation, corvee labor, and low born status. These concessions helped them to start a family and to settle down in a specific district, things which the local government concerned wished to encourage.