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.