described the laws of Joseon in detail, taking examples
of several ways the government administer punishment.
The severest punishment is applied to plotting a rebellion
against the state.
If one plots a rebellion against the king or corrupt official
discipline (political offense), the rebels relatives in
blood and law are annihilated. Their houses and sites
are destroyed and nobody can build a house there. Their
properties and slaves are confiscated or distributed to
Unlike treason, in case of personal crimes, the family
of prisoners are not punished.
The followings are brief description of laws in social
customs in the Joseon Dynasty, according to¡ºThe Journal
of Hendrick Hamel¡».
¡Ü A wife killing her husband is buried up to her shoulder
in the middle of the road where many people pass over.
Any person passing by except Yangban (the nobility)
should saw her once by a wood saw put beside her until
¡Ü Towns or neighboring areas where murder case happens
are deprived of their right to have their own governors
for several years and governed by other governors or
¡Ü If one complains about his/her governor and the government
find that the governor is innocent, he/she is punished
in the same way.
¡Ü A husband killing his wife is not punished especially
if he can prove that he has a good reason to kill her
such as the wife committing adultery or other similar
¡Ü Those who kill a female slave should pay to her master
three times the ransom.
¡Ü Slaves killing their master are severely tortured until
¡Ü Masters can kill their slaves even if they commit minor
¡Ü Murderers are punished in the same way they commit
their crimes after given the lash to their sole.
¡Ü Although thefts are severely punished, still there
were many cases of thefts. Theft crimes are given the
lash to the sole of their foot until they die.
¡Ü Those who become intimate with married women or takes
married women away forcibly has to go around the whole
town, stripped naked or with thin underwear.
Their ears are connected with an arrow and their faces
are painted by lime.
¡Ü Those who fail to pay tax are given the lash to their
shins until they pay the tax. If they die, their relatives
should pay the tax on behalf of them. Thus, the king
of this country can always collect taxes.
¡Ü In general offenses are punished by flogging bottoms
or calf. No one thinks it is disgraceful. It is because
they are usually caused by just a minor word.
¡Ü General local governors cannot put a criminal to death
without the authority of direct superior officer, Gwanchalsa.
They can manage to deal with crimes related to a political
offense without reporting to the king.