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HOME > Hamel Pavilion > Hamel's view of Joseon > Laws of Joseon

Hamel 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 others.

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 toThe Journal of Hendrick Hamel

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 she died.

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 Yangban (nobleman).

If one complains about his/her governor and the government find that the governor is innocent, he/she is punished in the same way.

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 offense.

Those who kill a female slave should pay to her master three times the ransom.

Slaves killing their master are severely tortured until they die.

Masters can kill their slaves even if they commit minor errors.

Murderers are punished in the same way they commit their crimes after given the lash to their sole.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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