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Economic Stagnation and Crisis in Korea during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Australian Economic History Review

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In contrast to rapid economic growth in the twentieth century, Korea suffered a long economic decline in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the failure accelerating from 1850 to 1890. According to 36 different harvest records, rice productivity continuously declined from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries due to deforestation and increase in natural disasters. Contraction of rural markets after the interruption of trade with Japan also contributed to the decrease in rice production. The third reason for the nineteenth‐century crisis was the dissolution of the government‐led grain storage and redistribution system. Finally, the ultimate culprit for the crisis could be found in Confucianism with which the Joseon Dynasty was unable to properly understand and respond to the crisis.