Organized Panel Session
How is hierarchy created and maintained in international politics? This paper examines the role of legitimacy in the formation of domestic political order, drawing on historical insights from Chosŏn Korea’s relations with Ming China (1368-1644) which is widely considered to have been the “model tributary relationship.” Specifically, I explore a series of decisions made by Chosŏn’s founding fathers vis-à-vis Ming in the late 14th and 15th centuries, including Yi Sŏng-gye’s (r. 1392-1398) tremendous efforts to secure Ming recognition. I argue that in the two-level dual authority situation that existed between Chosŏn kings and Ming emperors, the latter tended to enjoy a higher level of hierarchy, under the condition that political rivals in the realm of Chosŏn’s domestic politics challenged the former’s kingship. Three sets of case studies demonstrate that it was due to the instrumental value of the Ming emperors’ symbolic recognition in the eyes of Chosŏn’ ruling elites that Ming’s international authority was not only enduring but fluctuated at different times, depending on Chosŏn kings’ need for greater legitimacy, especially at times of regime vulnerability, in the process of domestic order-building.