Social hierarchy materialized: Korean vernacular houses as a medium to transfer Confucian ideology

Kyung Wook Seo, Seong Lyong Ryoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Buildings reveal the social values of a society through their forms and configuration. During the Choseon dynasty, Confucianism was the national ideology and basis for governing principles. Consequently, houses for the ruling class were built to conform to the principle of separating domains for men, women, servants, and ancestors. This hierarchical social system persisted for hundreds of years, but from the 19th century, various social movements gradually delegitimized many inequalities between sexes and classes. Mysteriously, even after this series of radical political and social changes, vernacular houses still adhered to the same hierarchical spatial order until the mid-20th century. This paper analyzes the houses built from the 15th century to the mid-20th century to show how Confucian principles were translated into the design to control social interactions. The paper concludes with a discussion of how Confucianism has been passed on through the medium of housing until today and how they have influenced people's perception of different gender roles in contemporary Korean society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number902
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the author.


  • Confucianism
  • Gender roles
  • Korean vernacular house
  • Social hierarchy
  • Spatial segregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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