The Yi Dynasty
The Yi Dynasty, also called the Chosun Dynasty, is the last and longest-lived imperial dynasty of Korea. General 이성계 founded the Yi Dynasty when he overthrew the Koryo dynasty. It lasted until 1910 when Korea ceased to be an independent sovereign state after being annexed by Japan. During the Chosun Dynasty, Korea's class system was very defined and social mobility was defined. Primarily, one could theoretically go up through Chosun's education system, which was Confucian based. Commerce was controlled by the government, but as time went on, government loosened its grip over trading and commerce.
In 1392, General 이성계, or King 태조 as he was later known, became ruler of Korea. Confucian replaced Buddhism as the main ideological influence, and a rigidly structured, hierarchical social system evolved, dominating the kingdom for five centuries (Washam). These measures effectively undercut the societal influence of both Koryo's Buddhist hierarchy and the old aristocracy. This cleared the way for the new elite class that would dominate Korea for the next 500 years
Great landowners and a Confucianist scholar-gentry, known 양반, dominated agriculture, politics, and foreign policy. The 양반 was comprised of the literati, or educated, class. They monopolized civil and military posts in the new national bureaucracy. The primary way into the bureaucracy was to be successful in the civil service examinations. Since 양반 families were exempt from taxes and labor, they were able to fully devote their time to studying while those who were not born into 양반 families generally did not move up in the social structure due to the fact that they needed to work to survive and pay taxes. Thus, social mobility was difficult and extremely uncommon. However, theoretically and ideally, one could escape the... [continues]
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