‘WijongChoksa’ and the Opposition to Dress Reformation

The politics of Joseon dynasty was based on the public opinion (公論). In this case, public opinion meant an opinion that everybody agreed it was correct, so it was safe to say that it was a consensus (輿論). I Yi (李珥), a respected scholar, defined public opinion as follows. “what public sentiment agrees to is called public opinion, and where public opinion is, there are national policies (國是).” In other words, public opinion was national policy, and the foundation on which the nation built and maintained itself. Public sentiment was the will of Heaven, and the sovereign was granted legitimacy when he implemented national policies based on the public sentiment. Therefore, even a dictator could not reject public opinion.
As in principle, public opinion encompassed all public sentiments, it included the opinion of common people as well as that of bureaucrats and the noble class. However, in reality, the opinion of ordinary people was not reflected in the national policies. The public opinion of all the people was just a notion. And as there was a word “Each and every yusaeng (儒者) has public opinion,” the opinion of students of Confucianism was regarded as public opinion. Accordingly, even yusaeng who did not hold public office could participate in politics by forming the public opinion of those out of power (在野公論).
Even so, yusaeng could not intervene and express their opinion in every detail of the national policies. yusaeng thought that they had an obligation to express their opinion on the matters relating to the ‘nation’s fortunes’ and the ‘rise and fall of Confucianism.’ This perception was accepted widely, and in it, they found justification to form their own public opinion. Their public opinion had a symbolism in that it included the general view of a wider social base and it had a collective nature as many people participated in forming it. Thus, the public opinion of yusaeng was considered to be the people’s opinion (國論), and was perceived to reflect the nation’s basic energy (元氣).
The only way through which yusaeng of Joseon period could participate politics in the form of public opinion was sangso (上疏), or petition. The petitions yusaeng filed were generally called ‘yuso (儒疏).’ Yuso refered to the sangso, which yusaeng (including Saengwon and Jinsa who passed the minor civil service examination and yusaeng who did not hold public office) wrote in Sung Kyun Kwan (the highest educational institution of Confucianism) or Hyangchons (villages). Yuso, or the petition of yusaeng, had secondary or supplementary nature in the bureaucratic politics structure. However, if the political participation of yusaeng was guaranteed, yusaeng could be independent of the existing political establishment or bureaucrats, and to take a step further, it was possible for them to confront the bureaucracy and raise an opposition to unjust measures or policies. This possibility was first realized during the reign of Seonjo (宣祖). The public opinion of yusaeng brought down the regime controled by king’s maternal relatives before Seonjo. Seonjo who witnessed the power of yusaeng’s public opinion and did not have powerful maternal relatives, should find a new way of running politics. As a result of that exploration, he established a mutually secure relationship with Sarim (the collective political force of yusaeng) in and out of power. While Sarim’s public opinion guaranteed king’s authority, the king ruled based on the public opinion of sarim. In other words, as the sovereign ran politics based on the public opinion of Sarim, not depending on any particular power groups such as maternal relatives, the foundation for the public opinion-based politics was laid down. That meant yusaeng as well as bureaucrats acquired the status of a political player. With this, the basis for the politics of public opinion was truly established.
Yusaeng, who now had a way to form and express public opinion thanks to Sarim’s growth politically and socially, preferred to participate in politics by filing a collective sangso or petition with many yusaeng sign on it. Of course, they could express their individual opinion on a political issue by submitting a sangso individually. However, in order to show that their sangso was public opinion, it was more effective when many yusaeng participated in filing sangsoes. The more yusaeng signed on a sangso, the easier for them to present it as public opinion. Especially for those factions which are less powerful, it was all the more necessary to package their sangso as public opinion. It was this reason why most of sangosoes filed by Yeungnam namin yusaeng, or southerners of today’s Gyeongsang-do, who were sidelined after the coup where Injo became a king, were collective ones signed by hundreds or thousands and even 10,000 (萬人疏) yusaeng.
After submitting many collective sangsoes, yusaeng could establish specific procedures and frameworks to apply when they file the maninso. The reason why yusaeng went through systematic procedures in submitting a sangso was mainly to show that their sangso was public opinion of voluntary forming and not for their political interests. Therefore, though yusaeng were not free from guilt that they cooperate for their political aim, the procedures and frameworks could be evaluated as a success in securing their own formality and uniqueness.
For pure hyangyuso (鄕儒疏), or sangso drawn up by Hyangchon (village) yusaeng who did not have connections with the central political force, it was common that many Hyangchon yusaeng participate in signing. That is why yuso of the Yeungnam region took a lot more labor, time and money compared to hyangyuso of other regions. Hyangchon yusaeng of the Yeungman region boasted firm solidarity but did not have strong connection with the central political forces. For Namins of Yeungnam yusaeng as political force out of power to compete with Seoin and Noron or other political forces connected to them who are in central power, it was inevitable to gather many people.
If Hyangchon yusaeng had to draw up a sangso and they needed many people to sign on it, they first went to the elders to get approval. Then, they selected specific Seowon (educational institution) or Hyanggyo (educational institution and temple) and there appointed Jangeui (掌議) and Gongsawon (公事員) to take charge of drawing up a sangso, and Jetong (製通) and Satong (寫通) to write the notice to send to every related Seowon or Hyanggyo. On the notice, they included the reason why they drew up a sangso, the date and venue for forming public opinion, and the names of leaders for the specific sangso. And they also asked for support and voluntary participation using euphemism, but in rare cases they used extreme words and threats depending on the political situation and the nature of political forces.
Once the notice was written up, it was sent to everywhere including Sung Kyun Kwan. Mostly Hyanggyos and Seowons were the receiving place, and Hyanggyos and Seowons again copied the notice and sent it to other places. In the Yeungnam region, sometimes, Hyanggyos and Seowons circulated the notice and the last receiving place returned it to the gathering for sangso called Sohoe (疏會). When they received the notice, Hyanggyos and Seowons or other places appointed a yusaeng to do the clerical work, and another yusaeng called Hoeso yusaeng (會疏) to participate in the gathering for the sangso.
On the day of Sohoe, leader yusaeng for the sangso and Hoeso yusaeng from everywhere gathered, and they appointed the staff and discussed all the matters related to submitting the sangso. Generally, Sodu was elected through GwonJeom (圈點), a kind of vote, after candidates were selected with Gongsawon presided over the selection process. In an urgent situation, Sodu was appointed on the spot through recommendation. There was no special qualification to be a Sodu, so everyone could get the title, but generally an outstanding person in studies and characters among Yangban (the nobility) yusaeng, who enjoyed a good reputation among the Hyangchon (village) Sarim, was elected. However, sometimes Gwanhak yusaeng, or Confucian students who were studying in Sung Kyun Kwan or four other educational institutions in Seoul, was recommended to be Sodu to facilitate the reception of sangso by Seungjeong-won (royal secretariat) when interference by political factions was expected. Yusaeng who was recommended to be Sodu customarily turned down a couple of times and then accepted to assume the responsibility, unless he did not have the courage or did have a different opinion from the Sohoe gathering. Jae-gyo Lee, Sodu of this maninso was also elected through this process.
Once Sodu was elected, other staff members were appointed. The number of staff members was varied. Until the 16th century, Sodu also assumed the responsibility of Jeso (製疏) and he himself write the sangso, and besides Sodu, a few number of Sosaek (疏色) and Saso (寫疏) were appointed. This was because at the time, Hyangchon yusaeng could install a Socheong at Kyeongjaeso (京在所) or Banchon in Seoul, so they did not need any additional persons. However, as dynamics of political forces changed and needed to mobilize lots of people, the number of the staff in charge of various responsibilities increased. There were Gongsawon to preside over matters related to sangso, Jangeui and Sosaek to lead the discussion, and other various staff members such as Yusa(有司) and Josa (曺司) and Gwanhaeng (管行) and Jickil (直日) to manage other necessary matters. Especially for the sangsoes of Yeungnam yusaeng who were isolated politically and pursued sangsoes of many people’s participation, this characteristic was clear. Once every staff members were appointed, the Socheong was installed for the specific sangso drawing up and submitting. For Hyangchons (villages), Hyanggyo and Seowon were usually used as Socheong. However, it seems that there were quite a few times when Socheong was installed directly in from of the royal palace, and during the reign of Jeongjo, a royal command was issued to prohibit it. Sometimes, sangso of Hyangchon yusaeng was drawn up by Hyangchon yusaeng themselves with Jeso presiding over the process, but oftentimes, through a public contest or by asking an influential person to write it.
The selection of sango was made through the process of first the discussion among the staff and then the ritual held at Doksocheong (讀疏廳) with yusaeng present. At the ritual, a table with an incense on it was set in front of the folding screen, two yusaeng holding the selected sangso and a pole for wishing the sangso’s success stood by each side of the table, and in front of the table, Sodu stood and behind him the rest of yusaeng including Jangeui stood. During the ritual, Dokso (讀疏) read aloud the selected sangso in front of Sodu, placed it in the red wooden box with the list of names participating in the submission of sangso, locked the box and wrapped it in a red silk cloth. The wrapped box was stored in a separate place.
The list of names was continuously added by the Baeso (陪疏) yusaeng of every place. The name and signature should, in principle, be written by yusaeng themselves in order to show the fact that they were participating voluntarily. Because whether the writing was identical or not could be the ground for claiming that the list of names was fabricated or instigated. However, there were also many cases where the number of signers were predetermined during the signing process. Maninsoes, which appeared frequently after the king Jeongjo’s reign, were not an exception. Maninsoes of the Yeungnam region were attached by the list of names on which names were sorted by the last name, or the family, but there also were rare cases where names were arranged by the administrative district such as ju, gun, hyeon and so on.
Through the process like this, sangsoes were submitted to Seungjeong-won. If a sangso was submitted, the official on duty called Yipjikseungji received it and deliver it to the king. Yipjikseungji could not turn down a sangso. He had no choice but to accept it. If the king was not running state affairs, temporarily off to attend to other businesses such as the memorial service for ancestors (齋戒), Yipjikseungji stored sangsoes and later deliver them to the king. Even if Seungji found that the content of a sangso was unworthy, he should deliver the sangso to the king. It was customary for Seungji not to decide by his authority whether to deliver sangsoes to the king or not. That is because yusaeng, if their sangsoes were not delivered to the king, impeached Seungji for blocking their freedom of press, or even went on a rampage at Seungjeong-won.
As incidents like these occurred frequently, Yeongjo took measures in 1773 (49th year into Yeongjo’s reign) to have Hyangchon yusaeng submit their sangsoes first to Sung Kyun Kwan and have Jangeui of Sung Kyun Kwan review them. Only the sangsoes that have ‘geunsil (謹悉)’ signature of Jangeui on them were delivered to the king. So, whether a Yuso or sangso of yusaeng was public opinion or not was determined by Sung Kyun Kwan. Then, responding to this, Hyangchon yusaeng who found it more difficult to have their sangsoes accepted, demanded the geunsil approval by only showing the notice for a sangso and not showing the content of sangso. Especially for a ‘maninso,’ they claimed that the letter man (萬) in ‘mansa (萬事, every matter)’ or ‘manbang (萬邦, everywhere)’ meant the number 10,000 or everybody, so a maninso or a sangso of 10,000 persons or everybody was unquestionably the public opinion of everyone and did not need to get the ‘geunsil’ approval.
Because of this, Yeungnam yusaeng often submitted ‘maninsoes’ to express their opinion clearly, or show their strong support for or fierce opposition to certain policies. The ‘dress reformation-opposing maninso’ was also drawn up for this same reason and through the process described above. However, the dress reformation was cancelled before the maninso was submitted to Seungjeong-won.

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