[KS] Korean Commons?

Don Baker ubcdbaker at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 1 17:57:07 EDT 2012

서민 means "commoners," not "commons"!  As for the idea that mountains constituted a "commons" in pre-modern Korea, I am skeptical. There were many lawsuits during the Chosŏn dynasty over burial sites on mountains, which suggests that at least parts of those mountains were seen as private property rather than common property. It is true that poor peasants sometimes abandoned life in lowland villages and became "slash and burn" agriculturalists [火田] in the mountains. However, it is unlikely that was seen as the lawful use of communal property.   

Don Baker ProfessorDepartment of Asian Studies University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2 don.baker at ubc.ca

Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2012 06:29:20 +0900
From: john.eperjesi at gmail.com
To: hoffmann at koreaweb.ws; koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Commons?

All your responses are very helpful, so thanks!  Especially the "well-field" concept.  That definitely points me in the right direction.
One point: in English usage, "to commons" could also function as a verb, not just as a noun.  It was the act of making something common or shared.  

Finally, I was told that "서민" is the Korean term roughly equivalent to commons.

Thanks again!John

On Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 8:24 PM, Frank Hoffmann <hoffmann at koreaweb.ws> wrote:

One more note:

The TWO definitions that John Eperjesi provided--again quoted below as

(A) and (B), well, we might want to be aware of the context here: I

suggest NOT to create any direct context between these two quotes,

these two definitions, at least not if you look at such a topic from a

historical point of view. Contemporary groups like e.g. the 'Pirates'

and others loosely associate to that centuries old concept, but they

completely redefine it at the same time. Those contemporary definitions

are also very problematic: "biodiversity," for example, used in below

quoted definition (B), obviously is a noun that describes a "state of

being" (of being diverse), thus it cannot belong or not belong to

anyone. Same as with any sort of other political movements (e.g.

Minjung movement in Korea in the 1980s) such associations with historic

concepts and events, however forced, provide new movements with an

additional "historical" legitimacy and emotional binding. That's about


Today, and since John did not mention that I do so here, "commons" is a

term that is mostly used by programmers and by the Internet community

that is involved with any sort of digital product or online texts and

arts creation. "Creative Commons" (CC) is a non-profit organization in

California that issues free copyright licenses (known as "Creative

Commons licenses"). Even as just a user you may have well seen these,

you may have been asked to confirm the your acceptance of the CC

license after you downloaded a free program. There are also lots of

artists using this licensing system now, and CC is also very popular in

Korea--but well, everywhere else also.

--> http://creativecommons.or.kr/

--> http://creativecommons.org/tag/korea  (2008)





> 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#


Frank Hoffmann


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