[KS] Korean Commons?

Morriss, Peter pete.morriss at nuigalway.ie
Sat Sep 1 08:08:47 EDT 2012

Commons still exist in England (I lived on one for a while) and Ireland (I live near at least two).

It might help to get a definition sorted before trying to draw the intercultural comparisons.  In my neck of the academic world, it is a value neutral term (unlike John Eperjesi's account below) to refer to any resource that is not privately owned (and not state-owned, either) and which more than one person (or all people) can draw on for their own benefit.  Hence the hill behind my house is not privately owned, and everybody living in a designated area has the right to graze their (individually owned) sheep on it; the lake in front of my house is not owned, and everybody has the right to take a boat on it and take fish for their own use (at certain times of the year).  The hill and the lake are both commons.  The lake is really only a partial commons, as the control on the times one can fish is, I think, regulated by an organ of the state, rather than directly by the people who have the right, as it would be if it was a 'pure' commons.

Is (or was) there any similar form of land ownership in Korea?  I would guess (though I do not know) that John might be on surer ground with the thought that mountains were commons in this sense, though the idea of drawing on a mountain for one's spiritual benefit might be extending the concept beyond its traditional English legal use.

It's a fascinating question.

All the best,

Pete Morriss

From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws [koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] on behalf of John Eperjesi [john.eperjesi at gmail.com]
Sent: 01 September 2012 01:34
To: Korean Studies Discussion List
Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Commons?

The commons refers to the shared communal spaces that existed in England before the enclosure acts that founded capitalism, and was defended in the "Charter of the Forests" that accompanied the Magna Carta:

"The Charter specifically states that "Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill, fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit, ditch, or arable in cultivated land outside coverts, provided that no injury is thereby given to any neighbour."

"In essence, the commons means everything that belongs to all of us, and the many ways we work together to use these assets to build a better society. This encompasses fresh air and clean water, public spaces and public services, the Internet and the airwaves, our legal system, scientific knowledge, biodiversity, language, artistic traditions, fashion styles, cuisines and much more. Taken together, it represents a vast inheritance bequeathed equally to every human—and one that, if used wisely, will provide for future generations."

from: http://www.thenation.com/article/163670/struggle-commons#

On Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 7:50 AM, James C Schopf <jcschopf at hotmail.com<mailto:jcschopf at hotmail.com>> wrote:
I took 'commons' to mean resources owned in common or shared among community members, as in the system of feudal commons in Europe.  The Zhou Dynasty well-field system designated a central plot of land in the village as commons.  This system was upheld as a model by Confucian scholars like Mencius, and some neo-Confucian scholars like Zhang Zai in the Song Dynasty.  I'm not an expert in Korean neo-Confucianism, but it wouldn't surprise me if some Korean neo-confucian scholars in the Chosun Dynasty didn't also advocate establishment of a well field system.

> Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2012 16:25:30 -0400
> From: gkl1 at columbia.edu<mailto:gkl1 at columbia.edu>
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws<mailto:koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Commons?

> Looking at my desk dictionary, "commons" appears to be a social and/or
> political term referring to the non-aristocratic social class and
> political institutions related to to it. In British public schools and
> colleges it is the term for what in the U.S. would be call a dining
> hall. I'm not sure how that would fit in with the Paektu taegan.
> On the other hand, a definition applying to anatomical matters for the
> word "common" reads as follows: "denoting a trunk from which two or
> more arteries, veins, or nerves are given off," as in "the common
> carotid arteries." THAT would appear to be an extremely apt description
> of the Paektu taegan. But to use that in the plural for a single
> organic system, might be problematic since nothing is more singular
> than the taegan.
> Gari Ledyard
> Quoting John Eperjesi <john.eperjesi at gmail.com<mailto:john.eperjesi at gmail.com>>:
> > Hi folks,
> >
> > Is there a Korean concept that is equivalent to "commons?"
> >
> > I am interested in thinking about mountains and the Baekdu-daegan as a
> > commons. From the perspective of "San-shin" or Korean mountain worship, it
> > would appear that mountains are a kind of spiritual commons.
> >
> > Would it be wrong to use the concept of the commons, which has a very
> > specific history in England, to read Korean practices? The struggle for
> > the commons has become a global rhetoric that addresses many different
> > geographical and historical situations.
> >
> > Any help on this would be much appreciated.
> >
> > Thanks,
> > John
> >

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