Chong Yak-Yong

Chong Yak-Yong

 

(also Chong Tasan). Born Aug. 5,1762, in the village of Mahyong, Kwangju, Kyonggi-do (Kyonggi Province); died there Apr. 7,1836. Korean scholar and encyclopedist; representative of the sirhak p’a movement.

Born into a noble family, Chong Yak-yong entered government service in 1789. He proved to be a talented engineer and architect, and he introduced vaccination into Korea. He denounced the arbitrariness and venality of state officials. In 1801, charged with spreading Christianity, he was condemned to death; however, the sentence was commuted to 18 years in exile.

Chong Yak-yong devoted his years of banishment and his later life to scholarly and literary activities. In his works he criticized the principles of the prevailing Confucian ideology, assailed feudalism, and expressed profound sympathy for the oppressed people. Recognizing material force (ch’i) as the basis of the universe, he approached philosophical materialism. Chong Yak-yong regarded state authority as the result of a social contract; he declared absolute rule from above to be unjust and opposed class distinctions, royal privileges, and the despotic monarchy. His plan for land reform foreshadowed the eventual liquidation of landlord property rights.

Although Chong Yak-yong’s theories could not be realized under the conditions of feudalism, his ideas and contribution to learning were of enormous importance for the subsequent development of the antifeudal ideology and culture of the Korean people.

REFERENCE

Istoriia Korei, vol. 1. Moscow, 1974. (See name index.)

M. N. PAK

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