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

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nical professions and to remove the stigma attached to technical knowledge. Yu
was determined to elevate the respect for both military knowledge and skills
undoubtedly because he was firmly aware of the national disasters suffered dur-
ing the Japanese and Manchu invasions in the last century, but he left out any
serious discussion of military technology, such as firearms, gunpOWder, and ship-
building (let alone pure science), from his section of the curriculum for the edu-
cation of the new governing class. Instead he raised those issues only in his
chapters on military defense.
The school curriculum for his morally aware, well-rounded candidate for office
was to be based on the ancient prescription for a well-rounded education, which
included archery, mathematics, and law. This approach represented an impor-
tant correction to the denigration of the military and technical skills that had
occurred by what Yu regarded as a distortion of classical wisdom by a misun-
derstanding generated within a Korean society ironically devoted to Confucian
wisdom. He was not, however, able or willing to place technical knowledge on
a par with moral or classical knowledge and risk a revolution in traditional Con-
fucian priorities.


From Inherited to Functional Status and Age

There is no question that the ancient Chinese model of education and recruit-
ment that Yu admired contained egalitarian implications because the search for
talent was not to be restricted by artificial restraints of birth or inherited status.
Yet nowhere in his work did he ever say that his objective was the creation of a
totally egalitarian society. Rather, he professed a desire to expand opportunity
beyond the limits imposed on his own society by the respect for inherited sta-
tus. This did not mean, however, that he opposed status categorically; on the
contrary, he supported status but believed that the basis of status had to be con-
verted primarily from inherited position to moral behavior, and within the soci-
ety of the morally enlightened, to age.
Yu chose to discuss the implications of this problem by a device he used fre-
quently, a dialogue between himself and an unidentified antagonist who func-
tioned as a foil for Yu's subtler points of argument. In one section the antagonist
attempted to refute Yu's argument for expanded opportunity because it would
be destructive of the social order. He appealed to higher authority to justify his
case in defense of the yangban by arguing that Chu Hsi himself had believed
that the scholars represented a class of men who were entitled to elevation above
the common herd, and hence should be separated from them. Since the yang-
ban also regarded themselves as the class of scholars, the argument was tanta-
mount to a defense of existing hereditary yangban privilege.
Chu Hsi's crucial statement was his remark on the community compact system

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