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    With the arrival of April, the planned laws were promulgated.

    The first to be announced was about long-term interest:

    – Prohibiting interest on borrowed goods from exceeding the principal amount.

    – Capping monthly interest at no more than three percent of the principal.

    The announcement of this interest rate limitation law was met with significant backlash. However, the court pushed back, stating:

    – Even in the ‘Great Ming Law’, it is stated that monthly interest should not exceed three percent, and no matter how long the term, the total interest should not surpass the principal.

    Those opposed continued their resistance:

    “Joseon is Joseon, and Ming is Ming! That’s always been the court’s stance!”

    The court rebutted:

    “So you argue to follow the ‘The Great Ming Law’ when convenient, but now claim Joseon is different from Ming? Your argument holds no merit!”

    Having countered the opposition, the court began revising the ‘Six Codes of Governance’.

    [TL/N: Six Codes of Governance comprises all the laws, customs and decrees released since late Goryeo Dynasty to early Joseon dynasty.]

    * * *

    Not long after the promulgation of the ‘Interest Rate Limitation Law’, the court announced another new decree:

    – From this year, the civil service exams (literary exams) will be held annually, limited to the initial test and retest.

    – The initial test will be conducted on the first five days of May each year, and the retest a month and a half later, on June 20.

    – The exams will comprise of essay writing and arithmetic. Failing in either subject results in disqualification.

    – The military exams will be held annually on October 1.

    – In addition to the existing military skills test, Confucian classics and military studies will be added.

    – The military exam will continue for the next five years, after which it will be replaced by entrance exams for the Military Academy.

    “What is this Military Academy?”

    The term, unfamiliar to many, piqued the interest of those preparing for the military exam.


    – The Military Academy is an institution for training officers to lead Joseon’s land and naval forces.

    – Eligibility for application ranges from ages 15 to 20.

    The age restriction for the Military Academy, akin to a military college in the 21st century, made those over the age limit anxious.

    “We only have five years left! We must work tirelessly!”

    The struggle for entrance was as intense for military aspirants as it was for those preparing for the literary exams.

    * * *

    The ‘Interest Rate Limitation Law’ and the revision of the civil service exam system caused a stir among the local gentry.

    “It’s finally begun.”

    Those who had been closely observing the court’s reforms thought, ‘The time we anticipated has come.’

    “The good days are over.”

    “That’s right. Perhaps next, the court will focus on us, the local gentry.”

    “Starting with the loss of our tax exemptions.”


    Anticipating the court’s next move, the local gentry agonized over countermeasures but struggled to find a clear solution.

    “There’s no counter-argument against the court’s justifications.”

    While the local gentry were pondering their response, the court issued a new decree, which accelerated their division.

    * * *

    In mid-May, after the initial exams, the court disseminated King Sejong’s decree throughout Joseon.

    – It has been 11 years since I ascended the throne, and I have strived for the well-being of Joseon. However, I have keenly felt the shortage of talents.

    The ministers of the court, with their intelligence and experience, assist me well, but their number is too few.

    Since we have broadened the path to officialdom, it will take time for these newly recruited talents to gain experience.

    Thus, I intend to follow the saying ‘Start with following Kui’. Just as King Xiao of the State of Zhao was able to gather talents from all over by valuing his minister Kwak Wai, I plan to do the same.

    Many are already aware that Lim Soonwook, a scholar from Uiju, has received the rank of Chanwi and started his official career.


    King Sejong’s edict stirred the local gentry.

    “This is an opportunity! His Majesty is heading towards dictatorship! This is our chance to stop him!”

    “No, this is His Majesty’s trap! We must unite more than ever and resist His Majesty’s tyranny!”

    The local gentry were divided into two camps, each fiercely debating. However, more and more were inclined to follow Sejong’s edict, fueled by their own aspirations for advancement.

    Thus, from the bustling city of Hanyang to the remote villages in the Jirisan and Taebaeksan mountains, everyone from wealthy landlords draped in silk to impoverished scholars who studied day and night picked up their brushes.

    * * *

    Although Sejong had generously set a 100-day deadline, countless proposals flooded into the court in less than half that time.

    Seeing the proposals arriving by the cartload, the Chief Justice and Senior Secretaries appealed to Sejong about the overwhelming volume.

    “Hmm… I see. But reviewing these proposals is absolutely necessary…”

    The ministers interjected.

    “Your Majesty, with the ongoing education of the successful candidates of the retest, we are already short-handed. Perhaps it’s best to postpone this task and focus on other urgent matters…”

    Sejong pointed out a practical issue in response to the ministers’ suggestion.

    “If it’s overwhelming now, postponing it will only make it more difficult, won’t it?”

    “Yes, but…”

    The ministers trailed off, aware that the volume of incoming proposals was increasing. Reports from those handling the submissions indicated that some individuals had submitted multiple proposals. With the 100-day deadline – plus an additional two weeks considering Joseon’s poor transportation infrastructure – the final volume of submissions was expected to be astronomical.

    “The conclusion is we need to filter them as soon as they come in to make the task manageable…”

    As they sought a clear solution, Maeng Sa-seong offered a suggestion.

    “How about enlisting the staff from Hall of Worthies and the research institute?”

    “Hall of Worthies and the research institute?”

    Sejong stroked his beard, pondering Maeng Sa-seong’s proposal.

    During the ongoing reform, Hall of Worthies had established itself as a policy research institution directly under the king. Its scholars, like the officials of Hyang’s research institute, did not hold concurrent posts.

    As a result, the ‘Bestowed with Leisure to Read’, a practice of granting reading leave, which had emerged in the pre-Hyang history, did not occur.

    “Hmm… Hall of Worthies and the research institute…”

    Muttering to himself and contemplating, Sejong finally made a decision.

    “Good! Let’s do that! Chief State Councilor! Go and bring the Grand Scholar and the Crown Prince!”

    “Yes, Your Majesty…”

    * * *

    “…So, we are tasked with the initial review of these proposals.”

    “I see…”

    Hearing Hyang’s explanation, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji nodded with faces as if chewing on bitter pills.

    ‘We’re already so busy to the point of exhaustion!’

    ‘The ministers think we’re just idling around!’

    As Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji suppressed their internal complaints, Hyang continued speaking.

    “We all have a lot to do, but this task is essential for the future of the country. What are some of the tasks that we can postpone for now?”

    At Hyang’s question, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji sifted through the records to identify tasks that could be delayed without major consequences. They quickly identified a few and called in the responsible parties to explain the situation.

    “Alright! It’s going to be a headache, but let’s get it done quickly! I’ll join in as well.”

    “We’ll help too.”

    With the Crown Prince, Hyang himself, stepping in, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji had no choice but to participate, albeit reluctantly.

    Watching the carts full of proposals roll in, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji looked crestfallen.

    ‘I knew it! I had an uneasy feeling in my dream last night!’

    ‘I had a feeling! I wish I could go to Area 51! Envying Mr. Lee Cheon, who’s there!’

    * * *

    Evaluating the proposals from all over Joseon was an immensely draining task.

    “Phew~. The task itself is simple, but it’s very mentally exhausting.”

    Hyang sighed deeply, which Jeong-cho, Jeong Inji, and the officials of the research institute echoed with weary eyes.

    The process was straightforward:

    – First, record who the sender is.

    – Open the sealed envelope to check the contents.

    – Evaluate the content and categorize them as pass or fail.

    – Send the categorized proposals to the State Council.

    – The State Council prepares the passed proposals for King Sejong to review.

    The evaluation process, though simple, required significant mental effort.

    “So many heads, but so few brains… Many dreamers, but few thinkers… Does Joseon really lack such talent?”

    Hyang’s grumbling was met with nods from Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji, reflecting the abundance of impractical proposals.


    Hyang sighed deeply again and picked up the next envelope. He mechanically recorded the sender’s name, opened the seal, and reviewed the contents.

    “The problems in governing the nation arise from class discrimination and wealth disparity. To solve this, the state must nationalize all production facilities such as land, workshops, and merchant associations. Then, distribute food and materials differentially based on the number of family members?”

    ‘Isn’t this a radical idea ahead of its time?’

    While Hyang was shocked, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji showed interest.

    “Ho? An interesting concept, isn’t it?”


    Hyang pointed out the flaw in their response.

    “It might seem so at first glance… But if distribution is based only on family size, wouldn’t it lead to a situation where people neglect work and just focus on having more children?”

    “Ah… right.”

    Realizing the problem, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji nodded in agreement. Hyang then set aside the problematic proposal.


    Following that, a series of proposals advocating ‘collective production and equal distribution’ continued to surface.

    “Really… the concept of ‘collective production and equal distribution’ sounds good, but who will determine the varying amounts of labor?”


    “The criteria are too vague.”

    Having already dealt with numerous similar documents, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji nodded in agreement with Hyang’s frustration.

    Eventually, Hyang set a new standard.

    “From now on, let’s initially reject proposals that mention ‘collective production and equal distribution.'”



    “Pfft! Ha!”

    While Hyang, Jeong-cho, and Jeong Inji were seriously discussing, laughter suddenly erupted from one side.


    Surprised by the unexpected laughter, the trio’s gaze turned to where Lee Soon-ji was chuckling while reviewing the proposals.

    “Pfft! Fail!”

    Seeing this, Jeong Inji called out to Lee Soon-ji with a stern face.

    “Scholar Lee Soon-ji, what’s so funny?”

    At Jeong Inji’s question, Lee Soon-ji scratched his head and replied.

    “These proposals are just too absurd…”

    Jeong Inji criticized his reaction.

    “Those who wrote these proposals poured their lifelong beliefs into them. Aren’t you taking it too lightly?”

    Lee Soon-ji responded with a more serious expression.

    “While that may be true, there are just too many proposals filled with empty rhetoric, hoping for some improbable luck. I think it’s a waste of my time to take them all seriously.”

    Hearing Lee Soon-ji’s response, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji glanced at the documents in their hands.


    Much like Hyang’s assessment that they were mostly dreamers, there were too many proposals filled with appealing words but lacking substance, written in hopes of unlikely fortune.

    As Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji’s resolve waned, Lee Soon-ji added.

    “To minimize mental exhaustion, we shouldn’t take everything too seriously from the start.”

    Hyang agreed with this approach.

    “That’s a good idea. Let’s do that. We have a lot more to review, after all.”

    “Understood. That approach seems better.”

    With Hyang’s support, Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji stepped back.

    Following Hyang’s decision, everyone adjusted their evaluation approach.

    * * *

    “Huh? Why is this so heavy?”

    Hyang, picking up a thick envelope, expressed surprise at its unexpected weight.

    After mechanically recording the sender’s name, he opened the envelope to check its contents.


    As he tilted the envelope to retrieve the paper inside, something fell out.

    “What’s this? A knife?”

    A small dagger had dropped from the envelope.

    Carefully holding the dagger by its handle, Hyang drew it out. Seeing the freshly sharpened blade, he murmured in disbelief.

    “What in the world…”

    After examining the dagger, Hyang took out the paper from the envelope and unfolded it.

    “Deep in trouble, now a blood letter?”

    The sudden appearance of the dagger drew Jeong-cho, Jeong Inji, and Lee Soon-ji closer. Together, they read the contents of the blood letter.

    “The prosperity of the nation relies on its strong defense. The only way to ensure robust defense is through iron and blood?”

    ‘What is this, Bismarck?’

    After reviewing the disturbing content, Hyang, Jeong-cho, Jeong Inji, and Lee Soon-ji exchanged glances. After a prolonged silence, Jeong-cho made a decision.

    “If it were up to me, I would pass it. It’s brief and to the point, but it shows a clear conviction about national defense.”

    “I agree…”

    “Me too…”

    With Jeong-cho, Jeong Inji, and Lee Soon-ji also agreeing to pass it, Hyang silently added the blood letter to the pile of approved proposals.

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