The first price runs for Korean rice help us develop a Smithian physiocratic model to explain the low, stable prices of the eighteenth century and the rising, volatile prices of the nineteenth. Ownership rights provided incentives, and productivity after 1600 exceeded subsistence to achieve rural commercialization. Infrastructure investment from the late seventeenth century promoted development and prosperity, but declining investment, dysfunctional institutions, bad weather, and a population crash pushed the economy towards subsistence in the nineteenth. Decline saw rice monoculture, inflation, and price volatility even before imperialism's impact. Parallels with China suggest an “East Asian” premodern agricultural model.