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Joseon Dynasty Law and Kim Jae-moon
   
 
   
 

 

Kim Jae-moon is a professor who specialized in traditional law, who graduated DongGuk University (DGU) Ph.D in 1984. He is well-known as an expert in Korean traditional law. Let us hear his story and the story of Josen law.

 When the Post met him on May 6 on DGU campus, he was neatly dressed and wore glasses which made him easy to find. Before talking with him he seemed like other professors except for the thick book which he brought with him.

 Professor Kim instructs at the Gyeongju campus of DGU and also participates in several historical TV programs. Two years ago Gyeongju campus stopped registrating students so he is now lecturing junior and senior years students only.

 When the Post asked him to introduce himself, he briefly introduced his academic history. He studied nobi law, which deals with male and female servants, for a graduate paper and the Law of Reality for his PH.D dissertation. The graduate paper discussed whether servants are people or possessions. Through the history of servants emancipation, he researched what ideology changed servants' social position. For his Ph.D paper, he specifically studied mortgages.

 The following is the interview with professor Kim Jae-moon.

The Post: Is there any common feature between modern law and Joseon law?

Kim: Democracy. In the Joseon Dynasty kings had power but the king feared and respected the people. For example, when a typhoon occurred or if there was a drought, the king regarded this as a personal disaster. The sky was the absolute being. It did not discriminate people according to their social position. More specifically, Gyeonggukdaejeon, which was one of the most important code of laws in Joseon, stipulates equality, nature rights of men and civil liberties. The people were most important to the king and he had to respect and took care of them. So when people were starving the king was also worried that they may dying of hunger.

 The Post: Joseon law seems more democratic does not it?

Kim: In some sense it is. As I said before the kings worried as much as the people did about making a living and he really respected the value of the people. But now some national leaders really do not.

 The Post: What made you study Joseon law?

Kim: My tutor said I should go to Gyeongju and study really hard at least 10 years in the one field (Joseon law). There is a famous Chinese proverb "Talent will show itself." At first I did not believe him because there are many prestigious universities including the Seoul National University (SNU) and many capable students. I originally thought I could not fulfill my dream at Gyeongju but I trusted him and continued my study in Korean traditional law.

 The Post: Are there any students you still remember?

Kim: Yes. If you go to my Internet web site (www.dongguk.ac.kr/~kim) I have PowerPoint material developed by students from my classes. The students made group projects and I was deeply impressed by them and their work.

 The Post: You were also the vice-president at the Gyeongju campus. How was the job?

Kim: Actually I heard the news one year before I was nominated as a vice-president of the university. At first I was not sure of myself but I did it for almost 10 months. After 10 months I gave the position to another guy who did a better job.

 The Post: What was the most impressive moment in your life?

Kim: While I was publishing free books about the traditional law in Joseon Dynasty, I was recommended as an examiner for the Seoul National University's law professors' test three times. When I was studying law that was a momentous time for me. My tutor also said that being selected as an examiner of SNU law professors' test made him proud of me more than when I was nominated as a vice-president. (Laugh) My only daughter who has been abroad for more than 15 years, did not know DGU before she read the news that one of the DGU's professors became the examiner of SNU's law professors' test. She said she also felt proud of me.

 DGU had a difficult year in 2007 with dishonorable scandal and the law school failure. However, Kim said to DGU students to always look on the bright side.

You Sun-hee  sunheeyou@dongguk.edu

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