' (Adams, 1982) Local agencies helped the magistrate, remedied public mores, and also inspected the conduct of the "Hyangni" and served as power base for the local "yangbans. "Yangbans" were dispatched to the province from the capital. Yangbans -- constituted of the class of advantaged / privileged civil and military servicemen. Yangins constituted of middle-level bureaucrats, peasants and merchants, whose children were allowed to sit the exam for governance service. "Chungins" -- were technical personnel and professional specialists composed of the side children of 'Yangbans"
Leonid (2011) points out that 'The literati composed of the dominant social class in Choson Korea. Most of them were the "Yangbans" the members of the two orders of officialdom who served as civil or military officials.' Since it was this yangbans who directed the government, economy and culture of Choson Korea, it may be designated a Yangban society as opposed to the aristocratic society of Koryo.
Cummings, (1997) points out on Korea as a fractured, shattered, country in the twentieth century's history. 'In 1910 Korea lost its centuries -- old independence, and it remained exploited colony of Japan until 1945. Then came national divisions, political turmoil, a devastating war, and the death and dislocation of millions, all of which left Korea still divided and in desperate poverty. Its recovery and spectacular growth over the next generation, is one of this century's most remarkable achievements.' (Cummings, 1997)
'Confucian Yi society believed in class inequality and the discrepancy between superior and inferior, this could be the supported by the existence of "the ruled and the rulers'. (Shin et al., 2003) According to them therefore there can only be two classes: the rulers and the ruled. This Confucian concept of the ruler and the ruled affected the nature of Yi foreign policy. In fact the Western concept of equality, freedom and equality as well as individual rights, was not accepted in Confucianism and because this differing concepts there was a hindrance of cooperation between Korea and Western nations.
'Due to the differential views, with Western Nations emphasizing on the rules of international laws, and Confucianism resting on the rule of proper conduct, Korea found itself alienated from trading with other countries. This is because it had no regard or concern with international law.' (Edward, 1982) The natural order of the day was that inequality existed among nations due to their differential policies, cultural beliefs and social norms. A case in study is Korea due to it Confucianism, while on the other hand China labeled itself as a land of sages and virtue beside considering itself superior nation. In fact Ming rulers viewed the rest of the world that is all non- Chinese people as uncivilized people and really needing China's virtuous guidance.
Adrian (2002) argues that 'there existed improper treatment between nations with China treating neighboring states as tributary kingdoms.' This was experienced amongst other nations with differing policies, beliefs, cultures and social norm. This resulted to wars and trade was affected not to mention failure to have standard international rules.
China and Korea gradually started exporting Confucianism and Chinese culture something that has resulted into the Ming dynasty dominating East Asia by philosophy and example rather than by armed forces as the Mongols had done.
As the 19th century was coming to the end Japan grip over Korea loosened and Then Korea's economy was on its knees with an extreme impoverishment of peasantry. The growth of population out spaced the availability of land which accelerated and made worse the already ill-defined...
Productive activities were affected due to poor property rights in the period of Yi Dynasty and this only made situation worse by contributing to economic stasis in the late Yi Dynasty.
Many foreigner travelers and visitors in to the country carried the sad stories of income inequality, inefficient property rights and incompetent resource management. .
During this period of economic predicament money, the dynasty was characterized with an underdeveloped markets and international trade were severely affected not to mention underdeveloped with a highly distorted distribution of land holdings for the average farm household and high rate of tenancy.
Hesung (1959) argues that 'the economic stasis of this traditional society was as a result of the failure for Korea to develop a modern commerce. The economy of the Yi Dynasty was based on community self sufficiency with little use of markets and money as late as the second half of the 19th Century and this resulted into undeveloped modern commerce. The economy was strictly under the control of the government and thus government supervised domestic trade and foreign trade was viewed as a danger to the economy. Foreign trade was thus hampered as a result. Even after signing a treaty with Japan in 1876, which opened a great opportunity with Japan, the Korean government was barely interested in encouraging foreign trade and modernizing the economy. The economic decline could be attributed to the mismanagement of common resources which resulted into poor management of water control and a decline in rice production, the main stay of Korea economy. Mismanagement also resulted to failure to protect forests, and build effective water reservoirs, and illegal farming in water reservoirs. Clearly these are failures relating to property rights and common resource management by the state and thus this led to for economic decline in the late Yi Dynasty.
Kimura (1986) points to the fact that farming was affected buy ill defined property rights, there was uncontrolled deforestation contributing to incidence of flooding. The flooding in turn led to the destruction of water reservoirs. Farmers responded to it by building waterways to divert water from rivers, but only resulted to disputes between many conflicting groups. In other word ill defined property rights to forests led to the predictable consequences of the 'tragedy of the commons,' and the government failure to solve disputes especially concerning water ways discouraging private efforts to improve irrigation.
Equally important to the economic growth is the individual rights especially o oneself labor and which was lacking in the Yi Dynasty. According to foreigner observers it is this that also adversely affected the economy of this traditional Korea. 'By having no right to his own labor a slave had little interest to work hard and accumulate wealth. Even in a society where slavery was not practiced its members because the products of their own labor were not protected because they were no laws protecting such rights or and even if they existed they were not effectively enforced.' (Hesung 1959) There were a situation of the massive underprivileged to shoulder the burden of taxation and were hard pressed by the Yang bans, who not only used their labor without paying for it, but made merciless exactions under the name of loans.
The early happenings of the period between 1392 and 1910 shaped Korea domestic and international trade as well as its international policies. The practice of Confucianism was the greatest attribute and its policies affected Korea's economy and its relation with other countries. The invasion by other countries especially Japan also contributed to Korea shielding itself from interacting with other countries leading to seclusion that was detrimental to its economy, domestic and international trade and relation with other countries.
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Carter J. Eckert, Kibalk Lee (2009) Korea Old and New, A history, Lehokak: Publishers for Korea Institute, Harvard pp 107-131.
Cumings Bruce. (1997). Korea Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W.W. Norton.
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