Gungnyeo, the Ranks and Regiment of Women Serving Korean Royalty

Gungnyeo, the Ranks and Regiment of Women Serving Korean Royalty

The smooth running of Korean royal households depended upon the unseen hands of gungnyeo; the seamstresses, cooks, chambermaids, water- and firewood bearers and other servants.  Behind the scenes a disciplined regiment, defined by class and rank, functioned efficiently to ensure that the lives of royalty flowed seamlessly without ripples.  But even royal brides were not exempt from strict selection processes and training to become influential queens.

Queen Seondeok of Silla (Public Domain)

Queen Seondeok of Silla (Public Domain)

Topsy Turvey Traditional Roles

In the early history of Korea, women reigned as queens in their own right. Queen Seondeok, for example, reigned as Queen Regnant of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, from 632 to 647 AD and apparently wielded enough power to encourage a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in her kingdom.


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