Reading “Korea and her neighbors” – 7, Yangban (privileged ruling class)

 

For among the curses of Korea is the existence of this privileged class of yang-bans or nobles, who must not work for their own living, though it is no disgrace to be supported by their relations, and who often live on the clandestine industry of their wives in sewing and laundry work.A yang-ban carries nothing for himself, not even his pipe. Yang-ban students do not even carry their books from their studies to the classroom. Custom insist that when a member of this class travels he shall take with him as many attendants as he can muster. He is supported on his led horse, and supreme help- lessness is the conventional requirement. His servants browbeat and bully the people and take their fowls and eggs without payment, which explains the meaning of the notice at Pa-ka Mi.i There is no doubt that the people, /. e. the vast mass of the unprivileged, on whose shoulders rests the burden of taxation, are hard pressed by the yang-bans, who not only use their labor without paying for it, but make merciless exactions under the name of loans.As soon as it is rumored or known that a merchant or peasant has laid up a certain amount of cash, a yang-ban or official seeks a loan.Practically it is a levy, for if it is refused the man is either thrown into prison on a false charge and whipped every morning until he or his relations pay the sum demanded, or he is seized and practically imprisoned on low diet in the yaug-baii’s house until the money is forthcoming. It is the best of the nobles who disguise their exactions under the name of loans, but the lender never sees principal or interest. It is a very common thing for a noble, when he buys a house or field, to dispense with paying for it, and no mandarin will enforce payment. At Paik-kui Mi, where I paid off my boatmen, the yang-ban’s servants were impressing all the boats for the purpose of taking roofing tiles to Seoul without payment. Kim begged me to give him some trifle to take down the river, with a few cash as payment, and a line to say that the boat was in my employment, service with a foreigner being a protection from such an exaction.

Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country (Kindle position No.1596-1611). New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co..

You can read the book online or get PDF and Kindle book from here.

In these three broad streets the moving crowd of men in white robes and black dress hats seldom flags. They seem destitute of any object. Many of them are of the yang-ban or noble class, to whom a rigid etiquette forbids any but official or tutorial occupation, and many of whom exist by hanging on to their more fortunate relatives. Young men of the middle class imitate their nonchalance and swinging gait.

Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country (Kindle position No.732-735). New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co..

 

Korean its methods of punishment, its brutal flagellations by yameii runners, its beating of criminals to death, their howls of anguish penetrating the rooms of the adjacent English mission, and Korean too are the bribery and corruption which make it and nearly every yame?i sinks of iniquity.

Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country (Kindle position No.530-532). New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co..

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