2. Unified Silla - Centralized Control of Land

Population increase required the transition from a tribal alliance to a central state. This unification took place in 668 A.D. and led to the development of a sophisticated administration with ministries for functional fields and hierarchical offices for provinces, kuns, and hyons. This weakened the tribal chiefs and strengthened the state and its bureaucrats who were selected not according to qualification as in China, but according to the bone-rank system. They did not prove to be very efficient.

The effect on the land was the nationalization of control over land instead of group control, and, in time, a continuous transition to private control by the king's followers and bureaucrats. They became wealthy and powerful and exploited the peasants. Actually, when the king allotted land to his followers, this only meant the right to manage the land and collect the tax, but often the king could not control encroachments by the aristocracy against the peasants. The system collapsed when, in exceptional cases, full private control was granted, i.e., tax and land rights. This was granted for merit and, in the case of newly cultivated land, to the cultivator. These exceptions opened the door to illegal actions, and the aristocrats brought more and more land under their control thus reducing the revenue of the state. The peasants were oppressed and lived in misery so that, at the end of the Silla period, in 918, many left the land, and production came to a standstill.