From the mid-17th to the mid-19th Century, millions of Korean men trained in the arts of war to prepare not for actual combat but to sit for the state military examination (mukwa). Despite this widespread interest, only for a small minority did passing the test lead to appointment as a military official. Why, then, did so many men aspire to the mukwa? Eugene Y. Park argues that the mukwa was a means by which the ruling elite could partially satisfy the status aspirations of marginalized regional elites, secondary status groups, commoners, and manumitted slaves. Unlike the civil examination (munkwa), assured successful examinees posts in the prestigious central bureaucracy, achievement in the mukwa did not increase political power or membership in the existing aristocracy. A wealth of empirical data and primary sources drives Park's study: a database of more than 32,000 military examination graduates, a range of new and underutilized documents, and products of popular culture, such as p'ansori storytelling and vernacular fiction. Drawing on this extensive evidence, Park provides a comprehensive socio-political history of the mukwa system.
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(236mm x 164mm x 26mm)
Harvard University, Asia Center
Publisher: Harvard University, Asia Center
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Author Biography - Eugene Y. Park
Eugene Y. Park is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.