History of Korea

Ⅵ. Social Changes and Population Growth during the Latter Period of Joseon


Following the two major wars of the Japanese and the Manchu invasion(Byeongja Horan), the politics and society of Joseon underwent significant changes. Factional strife deepened and as one single faction began to monopolize power, political abuses increased. This resulted in the emergence of Silhak, the School of Practical Learning, which advocated social reforms during the latter period of Joseon. Also, with the development of civilian commerce, greater importance was placed on economic power, which led to the crumbling of the social status system. The doctrines and cultures centered on the general populace also emerged. The government, for its part, exerted efforts to reinvigorate the society and the economy that had undergone many hardships. The government also strived to stabilize the livelihood of the peasants by revamping the political, military and tax systems. The government engaged in the‘ policy of impartiality’, known as tangpyeongchaek, to resolve confrontations among the differing factions, but to no avail. Rather, Sedo politics, a unique, abnormal style of politics, where the power was manipulated by members of the queen’s family, unfolded during this period, which led to the tumbling of the political hierarchy and widespread corruption. This resulted in further political disturbances, and the exploitation and tyrannic acts against the peasants worsened. The peasant rose in defiance and the state experienced further chaos nationwide.