Making waste one’s own: transformations in production by resting paper, or hyuji, in Chosŏn Korea

Jung Lee

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1 Scopus citations


This article discusses how paper artisans in Chosŏn Korea transformed the once government-controlled paper production into their own prosperous trade, by focusing on their techniques for recycling paper. They called the paper they made that was not in use ‘resting paper’, and referred to its reuse, which they facilitated, as a process of ‘returning’. These recycling techniques were unique even among its East Asian neighbours and induced new rules about paper production, including the careful accounting of ‘resting paper’ by government officials. This essay thus helps illuminate two things thus far less noted in the Chosŏn transformation of production: First, the prominent role of techniques in Chosŏn’s productive revolutions (not best characterized as either ‘industrial’ nor ‘industrious’) before the twentieth century; and second, the constant negotiations that these recycling artisans had made with the Chosŏn court and its officials. The essay uses the robust recycled paper products still remaining in museums, and new kinds of documents about ‘resting paper’ and its constant transformers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-204
Number of pages19
JournalHistory and Technology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Chosŏn Korea
  • Confucian record-keeping bureaucracy
  • Papermaking
  • artisans
  • production techniques
  • recycling


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