The Fall of the Yangban

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A group of literati known collectively as the yangban dominated society during the Chosôn dynasty (1392–1910). Like its meaning, “two orders,” yangban were divided into two classes, civil (munban) and military (muban). The yangban was expected to hold public office, follow the Confucian doctrine through study and self-cultivation, and help cultivate the moral standards of Chosôn society. As an elite class, the yangban enjoyed special privileges and actively sought to preserve the purity and exclusivity of their group, some of which include marrying only among themselves and living in separate quarters of Seoul. There was, however, internal hierarchy within the yangban group—for instance, the civil order being more prestigious than the military. (Korea old and new) Toward the end of the Chosôn dynasty, the grievances and protests of large numbers of discontented or "fallen" yangban would erode the core of yangban society.(bookrags)

Yangban wasn’t legally defined but was established through social custom, thus becoming a relatively subjective class. On the other hand, however, yangbans existed as a delimited class with a clear standard as well. (미야지마) The basic criteria of yangban consisted of: a clear line of descent documented through CHOKPO (a geaneology), a distinguished ancestor, a clear geographic area within which such status was recognized, close marriage ties with other persons of reputable lineage, and a special way of life (bookrags).

The yangban system was relatively free of corruption in the early Choson dynasty. However, the system collapsed during the latter part of the 19th century. As yangban were exempt from labor and military service, those claiming yangban statuses increased, andnd previously existing yangbans often received bribes and other illegal payments in exchange for positions in the Royal Courts and the Military. This was the beginning of erosion of local yangban authority. Moreover, corrupt yangbans also confiscated money from...
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