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

(Darren Dugan) #1

This point is illustrated by his use of quotas to restrict the numbers of stu-
dents in the specialist schools. His quotas for language schools included 70 in
the capital and 65 in certain key districts, and I IO in the schools of medicine,
astronomy, geography, law, and mathematics combined, or a grand total of 245.
Only 25 new students were to be admitted after the triennial selection exami-
nation, about roo slots fewer than what the existing law code called for.57 These
limiting quotas illustrate his belief that the number of technical experts had to
be confined to the demand for them by the state. By no means was society to
be allowed to pursue knowledge on its own and transform society by an unreg-
ulated pursuit of nonmoral knowledge. Technical knowledge was useful to the
state, but it could not become the dominant goal of education.
It is only because of the contrast between Yu's limited admiration for tech-
nology and the current state of disdain for technical expertise and its practitioners
that he appears more enlightened and liberal. He was chagrined by the current
lack of care in selecting technical students and the lack of salaries for their sup-
port, and he also deplored the lack of incentives for young men to choose tech-
nical professions; the most they could hope for was a small number of sinecures
(ch ea). Since the only motive for choosing a technical career in his own time
was to escape personal labor service, the government had to recruit specialist
trainees from the provinces against their will. "Even though the numbers r of
such students] is large, none of them has any talent and they are of no use."
Because of the shortage of jobs or posts, too many trained technicians had to
go without posts and fend for themselves to earn a living.
The government could not allow technicians to be held in such low esteem
because it still had a need for them. The best solution was to reduce the num-
ber of students in the specialist schools, establish regular salaries, reduce the
quotas of those selected in entrance examinations, and create enough regular
bureaucratic positions to employ all the graduates. These measures would be
preferable to the current forced recruitment of unwilling candidates and ran-
dom filling of quotas. In addition, anyone who so desired should be allowed to
take the specialist recruitment examinations instead of restricting them to stu-
dents registered in the specialist schools.sR
Technology and Technical Schools: Medicine, Astronomy, Foreign Languages.
Yu insisted that royal doctors be chosen from the ablest medical specialists in
the kingdom and that men skilled in medical practice and acupuncture in the
provinces be recruited and examined by local officials, appointed to regular posts,
given special land grants, and exempted from military cloth support taxes. He
deplored the current state of medical care in Korea because the post of medical
doctor in the rural districts, called medical student Uiisaeng). was filled with
men of base or servile status. These medical students were required to supply
medicine on their own as part of their tribute obligation, and they were frequently
treated by the local magistrates as if they were errand boys or official slaves,
constantly in fear of the usual beatings. They were so harassed by nonmedical
duties that they had no time to study or perfect their medical practice.

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