Gonjang (곤장 or 棍杖) is the Korean word for corporal punishment administered to the buttocks (spanking). The word is particularly used in refering to a paddling on a prisoner's buttocks and sometimes, thighs, while the delinquent is positioned lying face down on a bench, on a horizontal cross structure, or on the ground.
Strictly speaking, the word "gonjang" refers to a paddle used in ancient Korea for "gonjang-hyung," the punishment of paddling the buttocks. However, by confusion of meaning, the frame that bonds the prisoner is also called gonjang.
Coporal punishment using gonjang
In ancient Korea, there were the following types of judicial spanking punishment:
- 태형 (笞刑, taehyung): hitting a prisoner's buttocks 10-50 times with a thin (about 0.6 cm) stick.
- 장형 (杖刑, janghyung): hitting a prisoner's buttocks 60-100 times with a stick a little thicker.
- 곤장형 (棍杖刑, gonjanghyung) or 곤형 (棍刑, gonhyung): hitting a prisoner's buttocks with a gonjang paddle. There were several types of paddle used for gonjanghyung:
- 소곤 (小棍, sogon): little paddle
- 중곤 (中棍, joonggon): middle sized paddle
- 대곤 (大棍, daegon): big paddle
- 중곤 (重棍, joonggon): heavy paddle
- 치도곤 (治盜棍, chidogon): the biggest paddle, used for punishing robbery and soldiers.
- Also, there was a torturing paddle called 신장 (sinjang).
The length, width, and thickness of each paddle was prescribed by law. The size of sogon, the smallest paddle, was 153 cm * 12 cm * 1.2 cm. Chidogon, the biggest paddle, was 173 cm * 16 cm * 3 cm.
Although it was strictly stipulated how the execution of taehyung, janghyung, and gonjang punishment was to be carried out, local officials often ignored the regulations and used gonjang to execute the taehyung and janghyung.
The spankee's wrists and ankles, and sometimes, waist were often bound to the bench or cross with rope. But if a prisoner's status was low, he or she was punished face down on the ground without a bench. In many cases, the punishment was administered outdoors and in public or semi-public. Most of the punishments were executed in the yard of the government office and some punishments were carried out on the street as an official punishment. Sometimes two paddles seem to have been used by two spankers, one standing on each side of the spankee.
The punishment was administered on the bare buttocks — or in the case of women, on their wet underwear, called 물볼기(moolbolgi, water ass). But women who committed serious crimes, including adultery, were hit on their exposed buttocks. Also, some local officials often abused punishment to expose the hips of women who did not commit serious crimes.
Various historic places in South Korea that are open for tourism and visitors today have a gonjang crosses on display. Visitors can lie on them and take photos and videos for amusement.
Depiction in modern media
Gonjang punishment often appears in Korean and Chinese historical dramas and movies. Due to regulations against nudity, on film, prisoners are mostly punished in their clothes.
- The Korean film 방자전(Bangjajeon) has a scene of gonjang punishment of a female prisoner. According to historical records, moolbolgi executed the sentence in only wet T-pants-type underwear, but in the film, it was shown as spraying water on an underskirt. (about 01:39:00)
- The Korean drama 김수로(Kim Su-ro) shows gonjang punishment. Against the historical facts, it is shown as a female prisoner getting punished on a wet underskirt, not underwear. (ep 17)
- The Korean drama 기황후(Empress Ki) depicts China's gonjang. Unlike the historical fact that all prisoners were punished on their bare skin, it is shown as being punished dressed, and the frame shown was of the same form as that of Korea. (ep 26)
- There is a scene in which the heroine was falsely accused and punished by gonjang for the Chinese adult movie 滿清十大酷刑(A Chinese Torture Chamber Story) At this time, as is the historical fact of China, she is punished with her bare buttocks exposed, on the floor.
And the Japanese spanking artist Eingyeo shows gonjang punishment in his illustrations.
Similar punishments in other countries
China and Korea shared a similar system of law, so there was a similar punishment in China (see Chi Zhang). Unlike Korea, in China, prisoners were mainly beaten using a straight frame or by being layed down on the floor, and officials often restrained prisoners by hand rather than tying them up. Also, in China, everyone who got punished with gonjang was punished on their bare buttocks, regardless of gender.
Ancient Japan also had similar punishments. In Japan, prisoners were beaten on their backs after their upper garments were taken off, or were beaten on their buttocks with a bamboo implement while lying naked on the ground.
- Gonjang punishment to female prisoner depicted in chinese film 'A Chinese Torture Chamber Story'. It shows heroine being punished by gonjang, in nude buttocks, on the floor. (M/F)