Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions

Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions

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Seventeenth-century Korea was a country in crisisa€”successive invasions by Hideyoshi and the Manchus had rocked the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), which already was weakened by maladministration, internecine bureaucratic factionalism, unfair taxation, concentration of wealth, military problems, and other ills. Yu Hyongwon (1622a€“1673, pen name, Pana€™gye), a recluse scholar, responded to this time of chaos and uncertainty by writing his modestly titled Pana€™gye surok (The Jottings of Pana€™gye), a virtual encyclopedia of Confucian statecraft, designed to support his plan for a revived and reformed Korean system of government. Although Yu was ignored in his own time by all but a few admirers and disciples, his ideas became prominent by the mid-eighteenth century as discussions were underway to solve problems in taxation, military service, and commercial activity. Yu has been viewed by Korean and Japanese scholars as a forerunner of modernization, but in Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions James B. Palais challenges this view, demonstrating that Yu was instead an outstanding example of the premodern tradition. Palais uses Yu Hyongwona€™s mammoth, pivotal text to examine the development and shape of the major institutions of Choson dynasty Korea. He has included a thorough treatment of the many Chinese classical and historical texts that Yu used as well as the available Korean primary sources and Korean and Japanese secondary scholarship. Palais traces the history of each of Yua€™s subjects from the beginning of the dynasty and pursues developments through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He stresses both the classical and historical roots of Yua€™s reform ideas and analyzes the nature and degree of proto-capitalistic changes, such as the use of metallic currency, the introduction of wage labor into the agrarian economy, the development of unregulated commercial activity, and the appearance of industries with more differentiation of labor.bly dissipated any good will the king had earned from the yangban class by passing over the household tax. ... Thus, a portion of the tax relief provided to the peasant of good status by the service tax cut was taken away by the surcharge on land. ... way, it did not deal directly with the problem of administrative corruption and inefficiency in the registration of commoners of good status for military taxes.

Title:Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions
Author:James B. Palais
Publisher:University of Washington Press - 2015-06-15


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