HARVARD EAST ASIAN MONOGRAPHS
Cover: Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea, from Harvard University PressCover: Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea in PAPERBACK

Harvard East Asian Monographs 159

Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea

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PAPERBACK

$17.50 • £13.95 • €15.80

ISBN 9780674687714

Publication: December 1991

Short

408 pages

6 x 9 inches

1 map, 13 tables

Harvard University Asia Center > Harvard East Asian Monographs

World

James B. Palais theorizes in his important book on Korea that the remarkable longevity of the Yi dynasty (1392–1910) was related to the difficulties the country experienced in adapting to the modern world. He suggests that the aristocratic and hierarchical social system, which was the source of stability of the dynasty, was also the cause of its weakness.

The period from 1864 to 1873 was one in which the monarchy attempted to increase and expand central power at the expense of the powerful aristocracy. But the effort failed, and 1874 saw a rebirth of bureaucratic and aristocratic dominance. What this meant when Korea was &ldqou;opened” two years later to the outside world was that the country was poorly suited to the attainment of modern national objectives—the aggrandizement of state wealth and power—in competition with other nations. Thus any sense of national purpose was subverted, and the leadership could not generate the unified support needed for either modernization or domestic harmony. The consequences for the twentieth-century world have been portentous.