This study examined the operation status of Samgunmun in the first half of the 19th century. It is to explore the background of the operation status of Hunryeondogam, Keumwiyoung and Yeoyoungcheong that formed the foundation of central military base since 18th century, to understand the inability of the Joseon government to defend against the foreign invasions. The 1st half of 19th century was the period when the country was in turmoil studded with the financial and political problems. Several public offices were severely incapable of managing the national finance due to corruption of the officials and inefficiency of tax collection system, and were barely limping along. It was also same with Samgunmun that had independent finance and budget.
First of all, Hunryeondogam was the core military base of the central military system, and the wage payment had emerged as a major problem particularly at Hunryeondogam during this period. While by borrowing budget from other public offices and exchanged it with grains or by coinage, they tried to manage the finance, but they couldn't solve the fundamental problems. In the end, the wage had been left as a chronic problem throughout the 19th century.
The organization of the foot soldiers, which formed the foundation of Hunryeondogam forces, was also a problem. Since actions should be taken to increase the military fund when the public services and various sundry services by the soldiers had increased in the first half of the 19th century, the foot soldiers organized in the rank were inevitably diverted to public areas due to poor financial status. Since routine missions for the defense of the capital city and palace could be served by a small number of foot soldiers, many of them were diverted to other areas of service. Such diversion had continued throughout the 1st half of the 19th century. While it wasn't a big problem during the peace time, it became a critical issue when those soldiers joined and integrated into a regular force in the event of emergency.
In the mean time, the officials in charge had conducted a series of policies, recognizing that they are essential forces to keep the main function of Hunryeondogam. Such policy actions include the increase in military forces in small scale, financial support from other public offices and enforcement of examination system for the military officers. While they were not groundbreaking measures, they were noticeable compared to the other public military offices that did not take any measures even when the military preparedness was disoriented. We can see clearly that the responsible officials at that time recognized Hunryeondogam as the minimal institution for maintaining their military force.
On the other hand, Hyanggun(veterans), serving in turns, formed Keumwiyoung and Yeoyoungcheong, different from Hunryeondogam. Foot soldiers were allocated to these veterans. If serving in turns stopped, calico paid by foot soldiers and that paid by veterans could be utilized as surplus finance. Accordingly, persons in authority tried to fill up the financial deficit with textiles which was paid as a kind of tax instead of military service, which became a routine while financial aggravation continued. As such, surplus finance generated by this system had been used for various purposes, it was used as a means of finance of Hojo in particular. Due to this, Keumwiyoung and Yeoyoungcheong actually served as financial public office that supplemented the finance of Hojo while leaving standing army during normal times at the minimum level.
That is, the deterioration of national economy resulted in the lack of budget at Hojo and persons in authority made Keumwiyoung and Yeoyoungcheong military bases into financial public offices to supplement this. Military mission of the two weakened military bases was handed over to Hunryeondogam, which caused the closure of Hunryeondogam which didn't have enough finance. These served as a vicious circle in many areas, accumulating several problems in the first half of the 19th century, so that the central military institution remained unavoidably helpless in the defense of the nation when the foreign powers invaded Korea in the second half of 19th century.