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    “Hoo~, another day is over.”

    After stretching his arms, Hyang tidied up the papers in his office and stepped outside.

    Hyang got on the horse that the eunuch had brought for him and waved to the cavalrymen and eunuchs waiting in front.

    “Let’s go back.”

    “Yes! Let’s go!”

    ***

    “Hmm… It’s quiet and peaceful.”

    Hyang, who was now free to look around thanks to his horse knowing the way, muttered as he looked at the surrounding scenery.

    As Hyang said, the journey from Area 51 back to Gyeongbokgung Palace was peaceful.

    ***

    After the Malbok incident, there had been several more cases of geukjeong (striking a bell or gong to appeal for justice). However, at the suggestion of the ministers, who pointed out that it could be a safety issue if such incidents occurred while Sejong was away, a new office was created to receive petitions.

    The creation of this new office had the biggest impact on the Law Prohibiting Commoners from Accusing Local Officials.

    The Law Prohibiting Commoners from Accusing Local Officials, which stated that “commoners cannot accuse the local officials who govern them,” had been the subject of numerous petitions calling for its abolition.

    “Even if the corrupt officials do something wrong, we cannot report it, so please abolish the law!”

    Petitions with similar content continued to be submitted, but Sejong never accepted them.

    “The sages said that the military and the people are one! The local officials are those who have gone out to carry out my will! Just as it is not right for a child to criticize his parents, it is also not right to criticize them!”

    Sejong rejected each petition with these words.

    The reason Sejong was so strongly opposed to it was because he saw allowing citizens to accuse local officials as a weakening of the royal authority.

    The vast majority of those who could write such petitions were the local literati.

    The biggest reason why these local literati wrote petitions was to weaken the power of the local officials and protect their own interests.

    Thus, the Buminkosogeumjibeop, which had been maintained by Sejong’s strong will, was gradually losing its effectiveness as the reforms progressed.

    At least the Office of Monopoly[1] of the Ministry of Taxation, which was deployed at least at the military unit level, was a major institution that checked the local officials in addition to its assigned tasks.

    The Household Register and Land Register that were placed in the local government offices had to be copied and kept at the Office of Monopoly.

    In addition, inspectors regularly went down to check if the contents of the Hojeokdaejang and Tojidaejang held by the two institutions were the same.

    Another reason was that the power of the local literati had greatly declined due to the Giyu Rebellion that took place the previous year.

    Finally, in the year Gyeongsul, Sejong officially abolished the Law Prohibiting Commoners from Accusing Local Officials.

    “It is the duty of the king to listen to the appeals of the people, and it is only natural to do so. However, those who falsely accuse local officials for their own gain will be punished for the crime of deceiving the king.”

    Sejong, who posted proclamations throughout Joseon, established an independent department in the government office where each provincial governor stayed to receive petitions.

    The task of this department was to transcribe the petition in two parts as soon as it was received, send one part to the governor and the other to Hanseong.

    In addition, a receipt with a date was always issued to the petitioner.

    The governor who received the petition reviewed the contents of the petition and made a fair judgment, and reported the result to the petitioner and Hanseong.

    If the petitioner could not accept the result, he could go directly to Hanseong to appeal.

    At this time, the first thing those who received the appeal in Hanseong checked was the receipt that the appellant brought.

    With the date and petition number recorded on the receipt, the officials of the reception office checked the reports that came up from the local area.

    If there was any omission in this process, it was a serious crime that could cost the governor his life.

    If everything was in order, the appellant’s appeal was immediately sent to Sejong and the ministers.

    Then, the answer was given after coordinating the opinions of Sejong and the ministers.

    At this point, the appellant accepted the result regardless of the outcome.

    It was the king’s judgment.

    It was only natural that Hyang’s influence was felt in this whole process.

    By introducing the double-check process, which was the most basic in the 21st century, the possibility of fraud was greatly reduced.

    Of course, when Hyang first proposed the idea, the ministers opposed it, saying that it would increase the workload of the officials.

    However, Sejong accepted Hyang’s opinion as it was.

    “The officials may say it is difficult, but it is right to do so because it will reduce the injustice of the people.”

    Thanks to this, the number of people who filed complaints or appealed to the court decreased, and Hyang’s commute to and from work became quieter.

    ***

    It was quiet on the streets of Hanseong because it was late at night.

    Looking at the quiet street, Hyang turned his head and spoke to the eunuch who was following him.

    “It’s too quiet. Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone came out and blocked our way?”

    At Hyang’s words, the eunuch spoke his mind without realizing it.

    “That must never happen! Oh!”

    The eunuch, who realized his mistake, looked at Hyang with a terrified expression. Hyang burst out laughing at his reaction.

    “Haha! That’s right! Such a thing must never happen! I was just joking! Sorry!”

    As Hyang laughed it off, not only the eunuch in question, but also the other eunuchs and the soldiers of the Royal Guard who were guarding him let out a small sigh of relief.

    ***

    Hyang, who had thus returned safely to Gyeongbokgung Palace, immediately went to Sejong and reported his return.

    After a brief conversation with Sejong, Hyang went to Queen Soheon and repeated the same thing.

    Having thus concluded the day in accordance with etiquette, Hyang headed for the Eastern Palace with the eunuchs.

    Walking towards the Eastern Palace, Hyang saw a young official standing around at the entrance of the palace and focused his eyes. Soon, after confirming the identity of the official, Hyang tilted his head.

    “Hmm? Isn’t that Anpyeong?”

    Anpyeong, who had been standing around at the entrance of the Eastern Palace, approached and bowed his head as soon as Hyang recognized him.

    “I greet Your Highness.”

    “What are you doing here at this late hour? Are you working overtime?”

    “That is not the case.”

    “Then you are leaving work. Why are you here?”

    At Hyang’s question, Anpyeong looked around for a moment and then spoke quietly.

    “I have something I would like to ask Your Majesty.”

    “Hmm?”

    Hyang looked at Anpyeong closely, unable to understand his words. Seeing Anpyeong’s serious face, Hyang soon began to walk.

    “Let me hear what it is.”

    Hyang and Anpyeong entered Hyang’s study and sat down facing each other across the desk.

    “Bring us some tea,” Hyang said to the eunuch.

    “Yes, Your Highness.”

    After a while, the eunuch brought teacups and Hyang spoke first.

    “So, what is it?”

    As Hyang spoke first, Anpyeong sighed deeply.

    “Hoo~.”

    “What is it? Just tell me.”

    At Hyang’s urging, Anpyeong opened his mouth cautiously.

    “I don’t think it’s proper for a scholar to criticize his superiors without reason, but…”

    As Anpyeong continued to hesitate, Hyang pointed out the problem first.

    “Is it about Magistrate Park Yeon?”

    “Yes.”

    “Hmm…”

    Hyang’s face also became serious at Anpyeong’s answer.

    Since Anpyeong was involved, Hyang had also heard various rumors about Park Yeon.

    According to the rumors, Sejong’s trust in Park Yeon was considerable.

    In addition, he was so capable that he was scheduled to be promoted from a 5th-rank magistrate to a 4th-rank junior councilor soon.

    “What’s the problem with Magistrate Park? Is there a problem with his character?”

    After hesitating for a moment, Anpyeong finally opened his mouth.

    “He has a narrow perspective.”

    “A narrow perspective? Explain it in more detail.”

    “Yes. That is…”

    Anpyeong told Hyang about Park Yeon’s “narrow perspective”.

    To summarize Anpyeong’s story, Park Yeon looked down on all music other than Aak.

    No, he didn’t just look down on them; he ignored them as if they had no value.

    At that time, Joseon music was divided into the Left and Right Music Bureaus. The Left Music Bureau was Aak, and the Right Music Bureau was Hyangak and Dangak.

    Aak, which Park Yeon claimed was “the only music,” was originally the music of ancient China.

    This Aak was brought in from Song during the reign of King Yejong of Goryeo and was used for royal events.

    So Park Yeon went through the classical Chinese sources to create reference materials, and based on those materials, he created Aak instruments and Aak scores.

    Park Yeon’s goal was to return to the original Aak as described in the Chinese classics, that is, the Aak played in the Zhou Dynasty.

    “Hmm…”

    Hyang listened to Anpyeong’s explanation and pondered with a serious face.

    ‘So… in simple terms, they’re fighting over whether it’s bibimbap or tteokbokki, but originally it was bibimbap that could only be eaten in a restaurant, so it’s like saying that neither bibimbap nor tteokbokki is tangsuyuk?’

    Hyang, who had sorted out the situation in his own way, became even more worried.

    ‘But come to think of it… this doesn’t make sense… According to my memories of studying Korean history in middle and high school, Park Yeon’s achievements were to organize Aak and lay the foundation for Joseon’s unique music. Is this also my influence?’

    Hyang, who was becoming more and more worried about the story that was so different from what he had learned, raised his head and looked out the window to cool his head.

    As Hyang looked around, he saw the roof of Geunjeongjeon and fixed his gaze on it.

    After a while, a smile began to spread across Hyang’s face.

    ‘That old man is there!’

    Hyang, whose face had become much warmer, turned to Anpyeong.

    “Park Yeon’s narrow perspective will soon be broadened.”

    At Anpyeong’s question, Hyang shook his head.

    “No, I’m not good at music. Someone much better than me will come forward.”

    “Someone better than Your Highness…”

    Anpyeong’s face brightened as he pondered Hyang’s answer.

    “That’s right! There’s Father!”

    As Anpyeong’s face brightened, Hyang continued.

    “So, go back and do your best.”

    “Yes!”

    As Anpyeong, whose face had brightened, turned to leave, Hyang muttered to himself, looking at Geunjeongjeon.

    “I’m just… a cheater, but the fact that that old man is literally out of bounds is scary.”

    ***

    ‘Let’s perfectly restore the Aak described in the Zhou dynasty’

    Park Yeon, who set this goal and worked hard, reported the results to Sejong.

    “This is truly wonderful! It seems that your hard work has paid off!”

    At Sejong’s praise, Park Yeon bowed his head and replied.

    “I am overwhelmed by your praise.”

    “So, what’s next?”

    “Yes. I suggest that we use only Aak for all royal and Confucian ceremonies and sacrifices.”

    “Use only Aak? You mean we shouldn’t use Hyangak and Dangak?”

    At Sejong’s question, Park Yeon made a puzzled expression and asked back.

    “Isn’t that obvious? Although it has not been fully restored yet, the Aak of the Zhou Dynasty has been restored, so why would we use inferior things like Hyangak or Dangak…”

    “Your thinking is wrong.”

    Sejong cut off Park Yeon’s words with a stern expression.

    “Aak is originally not the sacred music of our country, but that of China. The Chinese people would be used to hearing it, so it would be natural to play Aak at sacrifices. However, our people always listen to Hyangak while they are alive, so wouldn’t it be strange for them to hear Aak when they die?”

    Sejong paused for a moment and looked around at Park Yeon and the ministers before continuing.

    “Officer  Park Yeon wants to correct the music of the court, but doing it right is not easy. Even the ‘New Book of Music and Lü’ (written by Cai Yuanzheng of the Song Dynasty) is just a formality. Although our music cannot be said to be perfect, we do not necessarily have to be ashamed of it. Can we say that Chinese music is correct?”

    The ministers nodded at Sejong’s words.

    This was because if Chinese music books like the New Book of Music and Lü were properly written, there would have been no need for Park Yeon to do the restoration work.

    After that, Park Yeon continued to be rejected by Sejong and had to reorganize the music.

    In another sense, he too was beginning to be divided in his principles.

    1. Jeonmaecheong Office of Monopoly (전매청) was a government agency during Korea’s Joseon dynasty that held legal monopolies over specific goods and services.[]
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