[KS] Choson Dynasty Sexuality

J.Scott Burgeson jsburgeson at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 2 22:10:09 EST 2008

--- Frank Hoffmann <hoffmann at koreaweb.ws> wrote:

> You may want to 
> note that these images are much less 
> sophisticated than, for example, Japanese erotic 
> images, which is why I call them pornographic -- 
> there is little to no sub-text, other than in 
> Japanese art of the same period. 

I agree with Frank Hoffmann to a point but also
believe he overstates his case in some places.
Comparing Korean and Japanese spring pictures
(ch'unhwa/shunga) is really like comparing apples and
oranges. Unlike Korean-style ch'unhwa which were
hand-made and therefore one-offs, Japanese-style
shunga were mass-produced using a mechanized process,
so I am puzzled why Frank would suggest that ch'unhwa
are more strictly pornographic than Japanese shunga:
Surely mass-production would introduce more of a
profit-motive which in turn is what would be more
classically associated with pornographic production?
Obviously Japanese shunga are more sophisticated in
the sense of there being more diversity within the
genre, and this diversity can be explained by the more
developed urban culture in Japan during the Edo
period, including a much larger merchant class -- and
market -- compared to Korea at the time. But I believe
that some Korean ch'unhwa artists like Shin Yun-bok
overcame the "Manchu-Chinese" influence and expressed
a uniquely Korean sensibility and style. While
Japanese ch'unhwa are often proto-postmodern, if you
will, in the sense that signs are often free-floating
and detached from real-world referents (a reflection
of the new mercantilist urban culture of the time?),
Korean ch'unhwa are more naturalistic, understated and
focused either on describing local customs or
situating human couplings harmoniously within the
larger natural order: Not necessarily less
sosphisticated than Japanese shunga -- just different.

--Scott Bug

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