How, then, can one dare to seek the office of magistrate? No matter how virtuous he is, the official duty of a magistrate cannot be successfully discharged unless he is endowed with personal dignity; he may be eager to do a good job, but without intelligence he will be unable to accomplish his job in the way that he wants.
When the magistrate fails to discharge his duty, it is the people who bear the dire consequences; they will suffer and die on the streets. Then people and ghosts alike will complain and reproach; the effect will be catastrophic and follow him down to his posterity. Taking all these dangers into consideration, how can one covet the office of magistrate? It has become customary in our time for a military man to pay a visit to officials in charge of personnel administration [ chongwan ] and beg for the office of magistrate.
Thus he is unashamed to do this. He who seeks the position, lacking any sense of shame, never questions his qualifications for the job he desires, and the one who grants his request does not inquire about his qualifications; this is decidedly wrong. The officials who work in the Office of Special Counselors [Hongmun'gwan] or in the Royal Secretariat [Sungjongwon] often solicit the office of local magistrate under the pretext that they desire to serve their parents.
Their request is granted on the basis of the principle of filial piety, and this practice has become such a part of our social customs that everyone takes it for granted.
Admonitions on Governing the People : Manual for All Administrators
However, this type of practice never existed in the time of the Yu, Xia, Yin, and Zhou dynasties. An official who is too poor to provide enough food for his parents certainly deserves our sympathy. However, the act of serving in public office in order to aid a private person is questionable. As a public servant charged with the welfare of the people, is it appropriate for him to seek a magistracy simply to serve his own family?
It goes against reason that he who is a subject of the king would seek an opportunity to serve his parents at the expense of the people; it also goes against reason that the king would allow his subject to exploit the people in order to serve his own parents. If an individual is confident of his talent and ability to govern the people, submitting a petition to request a job is reasonable.
However, it is absurd for an individual to make such a request on the basis of his desire to discharge a filial duty he is prevented from achieving because of his impoverished condition. In the olden days, every so often officials who were already well liked and trusted by the people sought the office of local magistrate when they were invited to deliver royal lectures.
In these cases the royal court granted their request without any concern about their qualifications, and the people of the district were happy about their appointment as well. Taking advantage of this old precedent, people in the present try to solicit the office of magistrate despite their lack of talent and virtue.
Furthermore, it is shameful for those who are neither poor nor lacking in resources to use their parents as an excuse to gain the post of a magistrate. Their examples should not be followed. T'oegye in his reply to a letter of Yi Kangi said, "It is natural that one should worry about the lack of good food to serve his parents. However, people today draw unjust stipends, and use serving their parents as an excuse.
This is like borrowing food from the public cemetery in order to serve their parents.
Is it honorable for a man of little talent with a substantial fortune to use serving his parents as an excuse to gain the position of magistrate? If he had a talent for governing the people, there would be no problem even if he recommended himself for that position. In the Later Han dynasty Geng Chun requested that he be allowed to be in charge of a district, vowing that he would do his best to produce some results in governing the district.
The king laughed and said, "You try to recommend yourself by pledging to accomplish an outstanding job. Desirous to prove himself, Li Baozhen of the Tang dynasty made a similar request that he be allowed to govern a prefecture. Thus he was first appointed prefect of Luzhou and later was reappointed and transferred to Huaizhou.
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During the eight years of his service the people enjoyed peace. Since the payment of the magistrate's salary is planned on a monthly basis, and the amount of his monthly salary is based on his daily expenditures, drawing an advance on his salary is spending money that is not supposed to be spent; spending money that is not to be spent is a sign of greed and exploitation.
If the magistrate happens to be reassigned before he even arrives at his post, how can he, who is still in Seoul, spend money belonging to the district to which he has been assigned before he has even done any work there? Therefore, he who is newly appointed must restrain himself from reckless spending and spend only what is necessary.
Nowadays, when the newly appointed magistrate pays a visit to the king in order to report his departure, the special director of the Great Hall of the Royal Palace aegye; also called taejon pyolgam and the messenger of the Royal Secretariat wonye; also called Sungjongwon saryong usually extort money from him. This old practice of extorting money from the appointee is called "walking around in the royal court" [ kwolnae haengha ]. This sort of bribe money amounts to several hundred taels at the most and 50 to 60 taels at the least. When the money offered by appointees who belong to the privileged officials [ umgwan ], military officials, and those who are from families of little importance is not sufficient, these runners and messengers in the court often ridicule them to their faces or even pull them by the sleeves, which is really humiliating.
Long ago the former king [Chongjo] strictly prohibited this kind of practice, and as a result, the Royal Secretariat set a limit on the exact amount of money to be collected from appointees so that it could be neither raised nor reduced in the future. Be the first to write a review. Skip to main content. Email to friends Share on Facebook - opens in a new window or tab Share on Twitter - opens in a new window or tab Share on Pinterest - opens in a new window or tab.
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