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restricted access Implicit Political and Economic Liberties in the Thought of Tasan Chŏng Yagyong
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Implicit Political and Economic Liberties in the Thought of Tasan Chŏng Yagyong Yi Jongwoo Two types of implicit liberty were the foremost features of the philosophy produced by Tasan Chŏng Yagyong (1762–1836), a Confucian scholar of the Chosŏn dynasty in Korea. The first was political liberty, which enabled people to select and dismiss their ruler. Tasan’s notion of political liberty included a stern admonition to rulers and local officials, stipulating that if they collected unfair taxes from the people, the people had the right to take necessary actions to survive. The second was economic liberty, which enabled people to relocate to another village for financial reasons in the hamlet- field system. Under the well-field system, rulers distributed their farmland among the people equally for their personal use, and therefore they were not tenant farmers. Economic liberty was implicit and advocated that the people lead lives that were consistent with Confucian moral principles. Keywords: political liberty, economic liberty, the people, ruler, hamlet-field system, well-field system Introduction Tasan defined liberty as an individual’s freedom to choose without interference from others. In his works, political liberty at the grassroots level implied that people could choose their ruler, while economic liberty implied that they could choose prosperous villages, meaning freedom of Korean Studies © 2018 by University of Hawai‘i Press. All rights reserved. movement. This paper explores these types of liberty in Tasan’s works. Thus far, most scholars have argued that peoples’ election of rulers is similar to modern democracy (Cho, 1976; B.J. Ahn, 1999). In particular, Han (2002) claimedthatconsensusinacommunityinTasan’s“Tangnon”(TheRootsofRoyal Authority), is similar to Locke’s modern democracy. Other scholars have argued that Tasan does not represent modern democracy (Baker, 2013; Lee, 2013). Therefore, I occasionally refer to JohnLocke as “thefather of modern democracy.” However, I believe Tasan’s notions of implicit political and economic liberties differ from Locke’s concepts of modern democracy. My primary focus is on Tasan’s notions of implicit political and economic liberties.Impliciteconomiclibertyisevidentinthehamlet-fieldandwell-field systems, which most scholars refer to as Tasan’s reformist land system. In contrast, Shin (1983) argued for the perspective on Tasan as a feudal system. However, others have disputed his position, claiming that its emphasis on equality among the people made it a modern system (Y.H. Yi, 1991; J.C. Yi, 2012). This paper investigates how Tasan’s land systems imply economic liberty, and it compares ideas of implicit political and economic liberties to Tasan’s ultimate goal of promoting Confucian practices. Political Liberty Political liberty of the people in Tasan’s works implies that, in ancient times, people chose their community chiefs. In “Wonmok” (An Inquiry on Roots of the Ruler) (2002), Tasan stated that there were no social classes in the ancient world, and that human beings chose a chief to resolve conflicts in the community. Subsequently, an individual could forcibly seize power and appoint a provincial governor or feudal lord to collect taxes from the people, thereby securing personal profits. These taxes were paid to the ruler, but the ruler’s provincial governor often levied heavy, unfair taxes to improve his wealth and social status. During this period, the people initially maintained peace by selecting feudal lords who chose chiefs and rulers who served their people. “Wonmok” (2002) was a reformist work produced during this period, to which the “Tang non” added the radical concept that the people could not only choose, but also remove chiefs who had not performed their duties. Tasan particularly emphasized that rulers were not divinely appointed; the people indirectly elected them. He stated: Where do the ruler[s] come from, anyway? Do they fall from the sky like rain? Or do [they] surge from the ground like spring water? Here is what I think. Five families constituted a small neighbor[hood] community and chose one of their Korean Studies 2018 members as the community chief; those five communities then formed a hamlet and chose one of the community chiefs as the hamlet chief; and a few hamlets constituted a township and chose a head; and a few townships constituted a county and chose a head...


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