2.3 Koryo Dynasty - Temporary Private Control of Land
The new Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392) tried to reestablish order
by reducing the tax paid by peasants to 1/3 of the harvest.
As in former times, the king's loyal followers received land
(actually, land tax) grants, which led to the emergence of
wealthy families, whose wealth was based on the controlled
land, and, later, on moneylending as well. As a precautionary
measure, the king concentrated all aristocrats in the capital.
They became dependent on the king because only he could grant
land, basis of their wealth. Thus, the preservation of the
dynasty was in their interest. In theory, all land belonged
to the king, but the administrative control was in the hands
of the aristocrats who increased their estates by appropriating
public lands, thereby undermining the basis of the state,
the ownership of all land, and the right to divide income
from the land according to its needs.
The fourth king therefore implemented a land reform and
redistributed the land according to rank and grade. But he
was not successful . Because of the small group of aristocrats,
in practice, offices became hereditary. In addition, the fact
that land was granted according to rank and status often allowed
a retired official to retain the land he held because of his
rank, now because of his status. Consequently, large estates
were under the permanent control of officials, which made
them independent from the state. Loss of office had no immediate
effect, and that had consequences for loyalty. Aristocrats
used their independence from the state to illegally oppress
the peasants, who again left the land, and the end of the
dynasty just as its beginning was marked by reforms to reduce
the peasants' hardships.