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Conflict and Harmony in Korean Rural Communities Kwang Kyu Lee INTRODUCTION JXecent studies in anthropology have been interested in wider regional analyses of a province or subprovince in a large society or in highly developed countries. However, a microstudy of a rural community is a direct way to seize the essence of social structure in a total society. A rural community itself is a self-governing, independent unit of community life even though it depends on a nationwide economic and administrative system. There are many studies, from rural sociology and agricultural economics to anthropology, on social composition, social strata, social structure, and economic change in rural areas. Contemporary studies about change in the rural community in Korea are particularly active since the inception of the New Community Movement. There were important basic studies by sociologists and anthropologists in the 1960s, for example, Lee Man-Gap (1960), Kim T'aekkyu (1964), and Yang Hoesu (1967) studied family and kinship, social stratification, and economic conditions of rural areas in Korea. Lee Man-Gap, for instance, described the characteristics of a natural village in Korea as consisting of three elements: consanguinity, social class, and economic condition. The overall character of a village depends on the emphasis on one or two elements of the three, and the emphasis changes with 193 794Journal of Korean Studies the times (Lee Man-Gap 1960:8). These sociological studies have for the most part been dedicated to understanding statistical aspects of the rural community and are not adequate for understanding its basic social structure. Vincent Brandt pointed out two different principles in a rural community in his study of a fishing village on the west coast of the Korean peninsula: lineage ideology and an egalitarian community ethic. The first is the grouping of people by consanguineous ties and constitutes the vertical structure of the village human relationships. The second is the grouping of people by mutual help and voluntary association, forming the horizontal structure of village relationships (Brandt 1972:25). These two principles exist side by side, as Brandt pointed out, but not necessarily equally. In a lineage village, the lineage ideology is more emphasized than the egalitarian ethic, and in a commoner village , the egalitarian community ethic is predominant. However, there are many villages in Korea that are dominated by two lineage groups that compete with each other. The lineage ideology explains the solidarity of lineage members within a community, but does not explain the dynamic relationships ofcommunity life when there are two dominant lineage groups. Dieter Eikemeier of Tubingen University also suggests two different principles of village life, Dorfgenossenschaft and Dorfgemeine, in his study of fishing villages on the south coast of the Korean peninsula . Dorfgenossenschaft means the principle of mutual coexistence of individuals or families in a community; Dorfgemeine is the principle of communal profit for a village, such as repair of a road or use of a communal well (Eikemeier 1980:8). The two principles of rural community described by Eikemeier have gone a step further in the analysis of the commoner village, but they have retreated a step in the understanding of the lineage village. A typical natural village in rural Korea is a lineage or consanguineous village, but few villages in rural areas are occupied by only one lineage. Most have two or more lineage groups that compete with each other. Lee Man-Gap, who has done field work in six rural communities, concluded his research with the following: "Between two different lineage groups which are located in a same village or neighboring villages there has always been emotional rivalry. Such emotional opposition is found also among the affinal relatives which exchange their daughters. However, those emotional rivalries are latent under Lee: Conflict and Harmony in Rural Korea1 95 society so that it appears seldom as social phenomena" (Lee Man-Gap 1960:70). When one lineage group tends to dominate a community, other lineage groups, or a group of different families, emerge as a counter power. Two similar groups in a community compete with each other in every aspect of social life. The overt social structure of opposition and competition between the two groups functions to maintain harmony and balance in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 193-210
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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