A Journey of Life Towards the Dream Land: Space and Identity for Women on Cheju Island

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: A Journey of Life Towards the Dream Land: Space and Identity for Women on Cheju Island
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Michael Pettid, Binghamton University (SUNY), United States (presenter)
Hyangsoon Yi, University of Georgia, United States (organizer, chair, presenter)
Hyesong Jeon, Konan University, Japan (presenter)
Noriko Ijichi, Osaka City University, Japan (presenter)
Jung-Eun Hong, Ritsumeikan University, Japan (discussant)


This panel investigates the complex relationship between space and identity for women on Cheju Island, Korea as it manifests itself in their real and imaginary lives. Women in Cheju have been far more restricted in their geographical movement compared with those on the peninsula. The Chosŏn government even banned Cheju women from leaving the island from 1629 to 1825. Ironically, however, women in Cheju have been relatively more exposed to outsiders due to the island’s trade relationships with other countries and to their constant contact with political exiles from the mainland. Thus, journey has an especially rich and poignant meaning for women in Cheju.
Michael Pettid examines various travel narratives from Koryŏ and Chosŏn that involve Cheju Island, focusing on the portrayals of female islanders in them. Hyangsoon Yi’s paper addresses the lives of kisaeng in Cheju in the premodern era. By analyzing historical records and folklore on Mandŏk and other native Cheju kisaeng women, Yi explores how their selfhood is tightly linked with their sedentary condition and their vision of movement. Jeon Hyesong presents on Pongnyŏgwan, a bhiksuni credited with the revival of Buddhism in Cheju in the early twentieth century. Pongnyŏgwan’s first trip to the mainland was aimed at her ordination, demonstrating the symbolic value of journey in achieving legitimacy for her monastic identity. Noriko Ijichi analyzes the migration of Cheju women to Japan in the modern period and discusses their sense of home as it is reflected in their life (hi)stories that she has extensively collected.