The philosophies and customs that constitute the foundation of contemporary Korean culture mostly hail back to the Joseon period (1392-1910) in their origin. Joseon was a time when Confucianism served as the governing principle and conceptual framework of the nation, instilling the values of the Three Bonds and Five Relationships throughout the society. Confucianism stipulated that one must behave fittingly to one’s own social standing, and relied on a range of metrics to determine people’s way of life, such as age, social class, and gender.
Naturally, women were expected to take good care of the household and devote themselves to the well being of other family members. The labor they carried out in this process was, therefore, seen more as a natural fabric of life rather than actual work. Despite the irrationality and unfairness of these expectations, the women truly believed good work to be the enlivened form of virtue, and endeavored to shape their lives as such. Their housework was paid back in the form of the family’s wellness and happiness, and they persevered, quietly, for the success of their husbands and children. The women also contributed to household finances by finding ways to participate in economically productive activities, inscribing their presence into the community.
This exhibition is Coreana Cosmetics Museum’s twenty second special exhibition since its inauguration in 2003. The exhibition introduces the daily lives, economic activities, belongings, and records of Joseon women with the aim of exploring their work and life. We hope that the exhibition would be an opportunity for visitors to view Joseon women’s work and life from different perspectives in comparison with socially conceptualized ideas of women labor, and acquire a more in-depth understanding of Joseon women and their thoughts on work as part of life.
Supported by Coreana Cosmetics, Co., Ltd.