In Korea, the period of the Chosun Dynasty (AD. 1392-1910) was marked by increasingly rigid attitudes to relations between the sexes, and particularly the social role of women. While the roots of these attitudes may be traced to the preceding Koryo Dynasty, during the Chosun period women led virtually separate lives - staying at home rearing children and barred from other activities.
Contact between the sexes was strictly controlled and according to the prevalent Neo-Confucian ideology: brothers and sisters could not even hang their clothing on the same hook.
In the words of the director, the intention of The Spinning Wheel is to examine "the formation of Korean women's character at present by casting a reflection on their life, that has been confused by successive suffering and repression."
The film, the Korea title of which translates as A History of Brutality To Women. O Spinning Wheel, O Spinning Wheel, charts the trials and tribulations of a scholar's daughter, sold through economic necessity into a wealthy family as a bride for an elder son. The would-be groom dies before the wedding, but according to custom, she is in effect already married and is forced to live with her strict 'in-laws', where she is effectively an unpaid menial, forbidden communication with men and restricted in her relationships with women - the first in a long series of degradations.