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

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behavior of individual recommendees were exposed to public view and the selec-
tion procedures were open to all. The examinations, on the other hand, were "dark
and secret" because the names of the examination candidates were obscured from
the view of the examiners to maintain objectivity in grading. Furthermore, while
the recommendation system was based on long-term evaluation of individual
behavior both in the village and on the job as an official, the examination sys-
tem reduced evaluation to the grading of tests. Examiners, as opposed to rec-
ommendors, did not have to know the people they were evaluating and the
candidates only had to pass the tests; they had no need or intention of cultivat-
ing themselves.
Just as the examination system was responsible for stimulating private inter-
est, so did the recommendation system permit the fulfillment of the public good
because the mode of its operation could have no other consequence: "The sys-
tem of recommendation is based on consulting the open and public opinion [kong-
gong-ji-ron] of the local community and investigating the true facts ofthe daily
good and bad deeds of the people. Recommendations are made openly in the
light of day when everyone is assembled .... "127
Yu believed that in ancient China the main goal ofthe sage rulers had been the
moral training of the populace by means of education; the recruitment of offi-
cials was but an adjunct to this, made easier because of the success achieved in
the moral transformation of society. In later times, however, the examination sys-
tem placed priority on skills necessary to the recruitment process instead of fun-
damental moral training, and as a result success was not achieved on either count.
Yu argued that in ancient times the sages began education in both self-rectifica-
tion and the governance of others (sugi ch'iin-ji-do) by instructing children in
how to clean and sweep their rooms, entertain guests, show filial respect for their
parents and elders. be loyal and true, treat friends cordially, and observe rites and
music. In the education of the individual there was a proper order and sequence,
the essence of which was "to begin with the cultivation of the individual self and
then proceed to the transformation of the world" (from the Great Learning). The
dogma that every person had the capacity to become a sage was based on the
presupposition that all men would receive continuous moral training throughout
their lives. "It is not what we speak of in recent times when we talk about skill
in composition and poetry, passing the examinations, or gaining the benefit of
an official's salary." 12~
Yu also believed that the administration of written examinations could easily
become desultory. He objected to the routine and peremptory way the two types
of special examinations called the chOngsi and alsong presided over by the Korean
king in person were conducted. One might presume that Yu would have admired
the king's concern over the selection of able men for office, but instead he
remarked that "In the cJzongsi and alsong examinations the king also orders the
presiding official to light the candles and set a time limit for the examination.
What they are examined on is no more than a matching test, and in the twin-
kling of an eye they decide who is to be chosen and who abandoned. That's the

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