Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions. Yu Hyongwon and the Late Choson Dynasty - James B. Palais

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land distribution system and maintaining low rates of taxation on scholars. It
had also established schools for instruction in "rites and righteousness" (i.e.,
the proper moral principles), and used the local villages as the starting point for
the recruiting of able men for office. The result was that all the worthwhile men
in the country were chosen for office, and proper (as opposed to false or empty)
customs were maintained throughout society.
During the Sui and T'ang dynasties, however, literary talent was favored over
mastery of correct moral principles, and the wrong men were selected for office
while the good men were "destroyed and abandoned." Since government was
thus left in a state of confusion, and immoral and amoral men dominated gov-
ernment posts, China was overrun by barbarians.^125
His survey of historical literature had revealed that the ancient system of edu-
cation and recruitment had been undermined by several notable developments after
the decline and fall of the Chou dynasty: the replacement of feudalism by central
bureaucracy and the debilities of impersonal and routinized action by bureaucrats:
the loss of the local village as the beginning point of personal observation and
recommendation, the decline of the official school system, the development of
hereditary aristocracy and the preference for pedigree and inherited status as the
basis for recruitment, and the adoption of the examination system from the Sui
dynasty on with its adverse effects on the content and purpose of study.
In a way Korea in the seventeenth century resembled aspects of the early T'ang
dynasty when aristocratic families adapted to the new requirement that they pass
examinations to hold high office. The yangban of Choson had done virtually the
same thing. Yu concluded, therefore, that two institutional reforms were
absolutely necessary for Korea: eliminating hereditary aristocracy and abolish-
ing the examination system. He hoped that these reforms would result in redi-
recting the ruling class (and some commoners as well) toward a truly moral
Following the lead of his Sung mentors, Yu expressed his admiration for the
recommendation system because it presupposed public or mass participation
(chunggong) in the evaluation of individuals, particularly at the village level,
inhibiting the ability of aspirants to office to pursue their private ambitions. In
ancient times recommendors were held responsible for assessing the true facts
(sil) of the recommendees' behavior and accomplishments, while the examina-
tion system tested only falsities (wi) or the artificial and superficial aspects of
human quality as expressed by literary accomplishment.
Because recommendors were held responsible for their recommendations and
made liable to punishment for the misdeeds of their proteges, they had to be
cautious before recommending anyone. Following the Rites o{Chou, Yu asserted
that punishment of rccommendors for faulty judgment and dismissal of bad rec-
ommendees for vainglorious pursuit of private interest in office was a proper
use of guilt and shame as a deterrent to future wrongdoing - "a system where
by punishing one you give warning to a hundred people."126
Under the recommendation system things were "clear and bright," that is, the

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