The Standard of Living in the Choson Dynasty Korea in the 17th to the 19th Centuries

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Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University
Seoul Journal of Economics, Vol.20 No.3, pp. 297-332
Standard of livingAcreage per capitaChoson (Korea)
With the aid of official statistics published by the Kingdoms

administration, and newly available indices of output, acreage,

wages, population, and the price level, constructed from various

other sources, this study establishes almost for the first time

the long-term trends in the standard of living in the late Chosoˇ n,

from the 17th to the 19th centuries. We then put the Korean

trends to a larger picture of East Asia, including China and

Japan. We investigate the tilled acreage per capita and the land

productivity which together determine the agricultural product

per capita, hence the per capita rural income. Alongside, we

examine the long-term trends in real wages of rural and urban

laborers. The comparative look at the three East Asian countries

showed that Korea had the lowest and deteriorating living

standards in the 17-19th centuries. This may be explained by

poor irrigation system, natural disasters caused by deforestation,

and the shortage of fertilizers.
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College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학)Institute of Economics Research (경제연구소)Seoul Journal of Economics (SJE)Seoul Journal of Economics vol.20(3) (Fall 2007)
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