The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 35)

Yulgok initially was not interested in pursuing a public official career rather than a scholarly life. However, under the pressure of his father and two older brothers, Yulgok was often forced to the more civil-service examinations (altogether nine including his early literacy-composition exam), finishing among top candidates. His official career began in 1559 when he was twenty-three years old. After that, his scholarly and official life was a busy one. But a chronic illness, especially since his late thirties, made him to retire a few times. Nonetheless, he served many top-ranking government positions including minister of home affairs (1581), minister of justice (1582), minister of civil affairs (1582), and minister of defence (1583). The king reappointed Yulgok as minister of civil affairs in the winter of 1583, but he became very ill in the spring of 1584 and died at age forty-eight.

As a distinguished Neo-Confucian politician in Korea, he wrote extensively, producing many important political writings of high quality. Among those presented to the king include the following: Tongho mum dap (Tongho Questions and Answers), a famous political memorial consisting of of critical eleven articles of political reform; Manon pons a (Ten Thousand Character Memorial), another political memorial about the practical way of Confucian learning, self-cultivation, an government administration; Simuyukcho key (Six Article Memorial of Current Affairs), a systematic work containing six specific and urgent reform proposals; Hakkyo mobom (Model for Academy), an educational treatise on the goals and methods of the education of youth; Kyonggyon ilgi (A Diary of Lectures Before the Throne), a critical record of crucial historical and political events of Korea; and Kyongmong yokyol (Essential Instructions of Kyongmong), systematic guide of learning.

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