Heathen Korean family and Christian Korean family

Gendering Modernity: Korean Women Seen through the Early Missionary Gaze (1880s–1910s)

Heathen Korean family and Christian Korean family

A heathen Korean family (left) and a Christian Korean family (right) belonging to the Kangyung Church. Source: Korea Mission (Methodist Episcopal Church periodical), 1910.

Missionary publications often juxtapose images of “before” and “after” Christianization to create a contrasting effect of personal transformation on their readers and patrons at home concerning their missionary activities in exotic lands. Frames such as heathens versus Christian, premodern versus modern, or uncivilized versus civilized were commonly employed, as seen in the example of Kyŏngsŏn Lee. These two images, published in a periodical called Korea Mission by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1910, juxtapose two Korean families, highlighting their different social, cultural, and economic conditions, as well as drawing implicit connections with their religious convictions, a typical example of religious Orientalism. It does not, however, seem that the “conversion” of the family was fundamental in terms of the place of women within domestic life, as the family remained predominantly patriarchal, and women continued to be consigned to a primarily domestic role.