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The Koryo Dynasty (918-1392) of Korea developed from the need of protecting kingdoms of Silla, Kokuryu and Paekche Koryo from internal conflicts and attacks from China and Japan. This dynasty based on a military structure was generally damaging to the citizens for the following reasons.
To begin with, although the system was run by qualified administrators, the ruling class used their ranks to acquire massive chunks of lands which were rented to tenants who through forced labour did farming not for their welfare but for the ruling class. These tenants were subjected to heavy taxation from land owners.
Koryo Rule in Korea
This type of rule was only aimed at enriching few members of the society and subjecting majority members to absolute poverty which is contrary to new dimension of governing.
This new orientation in governing stipulates that administrators as servants of citizens. Secondly the ruling class became hereditary thus positions in governing were not based on qualifications but on family relationships. Such kind of leadership promotes dictatorial tendencies characterized by oppression, misappropriation of state funds and general contempt among the masses (Kyotsu 184-198).
Lastly, the regime used religion to further its interests. Buddhism being the sole religion was considered supreme, resulting to social amenities like land being allocated to spiritual leaders. This does not concur with democratic governance that stipulates citizens are free to choose their own religion and that no religion be used to further interests of governing class.
Subsequently monks from Buddhists were entrenched to governance without due considerations of their qualifications. All these contempt led to a revolution from people ending koryo leadership in 1392 giving rise to Yi dynasty (Kyotsu 184-198).
In Korean culture, Yangban refers to two different social statuses: Mumban comprising of educated elites and Muban comprising of the married institution. Yangban were part of the traditional ruling class of dynastic Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. A major factor leading to formation of yangban was succession of Yi generals and settlements of disagreements through administration.
Yangban status was conferred to citizens who passed national civil exams (gwageo). Gwageo was to objectively assess competence in Confucian classics and history. Limited positions ensured that success was skewed towards relationship to ruling elites and not competence, giving remote chance to members of lower classes.
This elite possessed massive financial resources and adequate time contrary to members of lower classes who spent most of their time working for the upper classes. Upon passing, an individual was appointed to a government position, effectively accessing the status of yangban. Families that were unsuccessful in having a government official for three generations were relegated to a “commoner” status (William 329-335).
The greatest privileges to yangban members included being members of royal court and military departments whom were exempted from several laws. Corruption in the yangban system was checked by rivalries among factions aimed to demote any faction linked to it. It only emanated during the reign of King Sunjor from Eastern faction.
Yangban status was passed from one generation to the next through intermarriages of members from upper classes. Gwangmu reform of 1894 that occurred after Korean War ended the yangban status. The new administration wanted to reconcile warring factions by using administrators who were law conversant (Kyotsu 184-198).
In modern day Korea, yangban is based on educational status, family backgrounds and financial status. The practice of yangban exists in South Korea among the ruling elite whereas in North Korea yangban exists based on military and party alliances (Kyotsu 184-198).
Kyotsu, Hori. The economic and political effects of Mongol wars” in Medieval Japan. CA: Stanford university press, 1985. pp 184-198.
William, Wayne. Heavenly warriors. Harvard Council of East Asian Studies. UK: Cambridge, 1992. pp 329-335.