Seoul District Court Supports Women Artists'' Freedom of Expression
Seoul District Court Supports Women Artists'' Freedom of Expression
  • reported by Dong Kim Sung-hye
  • 승인 2003.06.23 00:00
  • 수정 2013-07-12 16:27
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October 2000, 16 civic groups including the Citizens Alliance for Culture Reform and Korea Womens Association United launched the emergency committee regarding the Abang Palace case and re-started the exhibition.
October 2000, 16 civic groups including the Citizens' Alliance for Culture Reform and Korea Women's Association United launched the emergency committee regarding the 'Abang Palace' case and re-started the exhibition.
The courts sided feminist artists in the legal battle between the artists and the Jeonju Yi clan regarding the avant-garde cultural event in Jongmyo Park. (translator's note: Jongmyo Park houses the ancestral shrines of the royal Yi family of the Chosun dynasty) Known as the 'Abang Palace' case, the court clash between feminism and Confucianism went through a lengthy three-year trial to herald a paradigm shift in feminist culture. The 'Abang Palace' case began in September 2000. Under the auspices of Seoul Metropolitan City and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, feminist artists prepared to hold a feminist art festival entitled 'The Abang Palace Jongmyo Project,' but came up against violent obstruction by the Jeonju Yi clan (translator's note: descendents of the Royal Yi family). The Yi clan claimed that they "could not allow some avant-garde culture event to desecrate the solemn national symbol of Jongmyo."

Eight members of the feminist artist group 'Ibgim' who had planned the art event filed a lawsuit against the Yi clan, claiming 40 million Won in damages. But the feminist lost the first round to the confucianists when Judge Lee Young-han of the Seoul District Court dismissed the case on September 17, 2002 saying, "The damage claim would hold if the Yi clan had taken illegal action, but there is insufficient evidence to that effect."

Nine months later on June 3 this year, the feminists won the second trial at Court 455 of the Seoul District Court, where part of the court decision of the first trial was overruled. The "insufficient evidence of illegal action by the Yi clan" that the judge sited during the first trial was shot down when a video tape of the Yi clan's rampage was accepted as court evidence and screened before a panel of four judges during the second trial. The Yi clan had insisted that none of its members had gone to the event and had denied any knowledge of illegal acts, but the video tape proved that the clan had organized its members to "crash" the event.

Feminist photographer Park Young-sook comments, "The court case shows the patriarchal and male-chauvinist nature of the Korean cultural environment, where a purely cultural event can be turned into a social controversy. The court decision was only too right, and it will be like a breath of fresh air as it has set a good, albeit belated, precedent in moving towards a mature society."

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