Snakes or ladders? Measuring the intergenerational performance of chosņn's munkwa exam candidates

Robin Wooyeong NA, Javier CHA*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This interdisciplinary study measures the changes in intergenerational exam performance using a model of directed centrality values. Our test case explores the approximately 14,600 higher civil examination degree holders in the Munkwa database (Munkwa pangmok 文科榜目), in particular the underutilized records of each candidate's agnatic and affinal relations. Despite some imperfections in the data set, our provisional findings statistically demonstrate that the devastating Imjin War may have indeed been the watershed event responsible for the emergence of a new social order in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Korea. The network model, data structure, and the Python code developed for this study can be applied to other kinship and genealogical data from the Chosŏn dynasty 朝鮮 (1392-1910) and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-176
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Journal of Korean History
Issue number1
Early online date28 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Seoul National University Big Data Institute’s 2019 Grant for the Promotion of Data Science (0660-20190012). We would like to express our gratitude to Lee Jaeok [MR: Yi Chaeok] of the Academy of Korean Studies for making his Munkwa database available for other researchers and Choi Donghyeok [MR: Ch’oe Tonghyŏk] at KAIST for preprocessing the data set.

Special thanks go to Malcolm Thompson and Allison Van Deventer for copyediting several versions of this article manuscript and the two anonymous reviewers and John S. Lee for their helpful comments.

The Python code and the data sets used in this study are available at:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Center for Korean History,Korea University. All rights reserved.


  • Kinship data
  • Munkwa
  • Network centrality
  • Quantitative history


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