[Hallyupedia] Bossam (보쌈)

윤지현 / 인턴 차민경 / 2021-05-08 11:42:28
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by Yun Ji Hyun / Cha Min Kyung

[ENG] A customary remarriage procedure where a widow is kidnapped

Bossam refers to the traditional Korean custom of forcing people to be wrapped inside a sack and make them get married. While the concept of bossam is applicable to both men and women, during the Joseon Dynasty in ancient Korea, when this marriage custom was prevalent, bossam usually applied to widows who were unable to officially remarry due to social restrictions.


The word "bossam" is most commonly used in modern Korean society as a popular steamed pork belly dish that you wrap in cabbage leaves, food that wraps boiled pork in cabbage leaves. Although the pork belly dish and the ancient custom do share a similarity of wrapping something, the use of the two words are completely different.


▲ This photo provided by the Gangwon Province shows the popular steamed pork belly dish in Korea. (Yonhap)


▲ The custom of "bossam" in the Joseon Era
Originally, the "bossam" custom was an act of avoiding a greater misfortune with a smaller sacrifice made by noblemen during the Joseon Dynasty. When a maiden from a noble family saw two husbands in her fortune, she was forced to sleep with another man, who was taken through bossam. Then, the maiden would now believe that her fate of being a virgin was ruined.

However, during the mid to late Joseon period, the meaning of bossam changed. The previous bossam, which meant secretly bringing another man, had been transformed into secretly bringing a widow.

The custom of secretly wrapping a widow spread within the irrational environment of the Joseon society, which forced widows to be devoted to their dead husband and prevent them from remarrying someone. The Joseon Dynasty was oriented around Confucianism and formed a patriarchal society, thus women's freedom was largely suppressed at the time. For example, men could remarry if their wives died or even if they were alive, however women were not allowed to remarry, even if they were widowed.  


▲ This photo provided by MBN shows a scene of Princess Soo-kyung, a widow who has agreed to be taken away through bossam. (Yonhap)


The tradition of bossam was often carried out under mutual agreement. Parents of widows planned ahead because they were worried about their children, and widows who already found another man to be her lover, secretly promised bossam for their marriage. Due to bossam, they could avoid social criticism by making look like they had no choice but to marry each other.

While the custom of bossam has not been officially recognized nationally or socially, it has become an open secret custom.

However, there were times where widows went through bossam without a mutual agreement, exposing them to sexual crimes.

▲ Recent Issue: TV drama "Bossam: Steal the Fate"

▲ This photo provided by MBN shows the drama poster for "Bossam: Steal the Fate." (Yonhap)


"Bossam: Steal the Fate," is a recent Korean drama that deals with the concept of 'bossam', which started airing on Korean TV channel, MBN.

This drama is a historical drama about Ba-woo, who conducts 'bossam' for money, mistakenly takes Princess Soo-kyung, who is a widow and the daughter-in-law of Ba-woo's enemy. Actor Jung Il-woo will play the role of Ba-woo and actress Kwon Yuri, a member of girl group Girl's Generation, plays Princess Soo-kyung.

▲ This photo provided by MBN shows (left) actor Jung Il-woo and (right) actress Kwon Yuri. (Yonhap)


The drama is set in the mid-Joseon Period, and depicts marriage through bossam as a common practice. The fact that the main character performs bossam as his main job also gives the audience an idea of the atmosphere at that time.

In the drama, there is a scene where a widow is beautifully groomed and waiting for the man to bossam her, which is a good example of showing bossam take place under mutual agreement.

The drama got off to a good start with their first episode, receiving positive responses from viewers.



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