Confucian tradition is often described as producing a “collectivist” mentality, as lacking the resources necessary for developing a sense of individual autonomy, and thus as averse to the voicing of dissent in defiance of political authority and independent of bonds of personal loyalty. Given that Joseon Korea defined itself as Confucian state, literati culture of that period should be expected to disdain expressions of dissent. The well-known history of intense intellectual debates among Joseon literati runs counter to this expectation. Two arguments can serve to resolve this seeming contradiction: either that these disputes should be seen as pure power struggle; or that they revolved around orthodoxy and thus in fact attest to the Confucian abhorrence of dissenting opinions. While acknowledging the explanatory power of both arguments, this paper sets out to test a third option that the above-mentioned assumptions about Confucian attitudes towards dissent are incomplete. Based on non-fictional texts most of which were part of a philosophical (or otherwise intellectual) controversy, it provides a sample of the ways in which Joseon literati talked about dissent, dispute, and discord. Attention is directed not to the points of contention themselves, but rather to the ways in which the fact of dissent is verbalized, narrated, and evaluated, with an emphasis on statements about the legitimacy of maintaining and defending personal convictions that run counter to group consensus. It is demonstrated that Joseon literati culture allowed for strong statements of moral and intellectual autonomy in disregard of status, power, and prestige.
This paper examines how Joseon literati understood wen 文 and how different perspectives on the wen were reflected in their literary writings especially in fu 賦 works. In Korea, from the fifteenth century onward, the elite class was divided into two groups: the Hungu 勳舊 faction and the Sarim 士林 faction. The former focused on literary craft while the latter focused on incorporating Confucian thoughts in their literary works. I argue that factional differences in terms of understanding the wen reflected the different social statuses of Joseon intellectuals. Scholars from the Hungu faction and capital-based candidates became highly confident in their literary skills. In contrast, Sarim scholars and provincial scholars strategically chose neo-Confucianism as the central ideology of their literary works. To prove this, I compare the three “Gwaneodae bu” 觀魚臺賦 written by Korean fu writers of late Goryeo to early Joseon. The focus is on their adoption of the features of dafu 大賦, or grand fu forms. I analyze how their different views of literature influenced them in writing their fu works in different styles.
This paper explores aspects of state symbols, group identity, and communal memory that existed in Joseon Korea during the Imjin War (East Asian War) of 1592-1598. Although there have been many studies on the Imjin War by Korean and international scholars on the topics of diplomatic exchanges and military engagements during the conflict, they are comparatively few studies in English language scholarship concerning the war’s impact on social integrity and group consciousness. The Godae illok written by a yangban Righteous Army member, Jeong Gyeong-un, documents his personal activities throughout the war, his interactions with members of the Ming Chinese forces, and views on a Joseon society besieged by the Japanese. Some scholars are quick to claim that this invasion became the new foundation of social and group consciousness in Joseon. However, a reading and analysis of passages in Jeong’s diary would indicate that social consciousness based on the pre-Imjin War period was the foundation of group thought during the war, as many men went into battle with the aspiration of attaining lucrative positions in a government founded on ideals and philosophies predating the invasion.
The Joseon Guan Yu cult was a staple of informal and popular Korean histories written in the first half of the twentieth century. In these highly critical and often mocking accounts, the cult comes to signify an irrational refusal of the modern typical of the perceived Joseon failure to cope with the realities of global imperialism. The Guan Yu cult, however, was more than this. Qing military officers deployed to Seoul from 1882 to 1885 presented plaques to Joseon Guan Yu temples which, through the lens of the Guan Yu faith, located the legitimacy of the Joseon state in its submission of tribute to the Qing court. King Gojong composed ritual and stele texts that shared the Qing officers’ faith in Guan Yu but interpreted his divine interventions in Joseon affairs not as the product of Joseon loyalty to Qing but rather of the inherent legitimacy of the Joseon state and throne. The seriousness with which the Joseon throne took the Guan Yu cult is apparent in the controversy at court in 1893 concerning the punishment of an official who publicly condemned lavish state support for the cult. The facile dismissals of colonial-period histories obscure the fact that the cult was one arena wherein Joseon and Qing understandings of Joseon state legitimacy and the nature of the Joseon-Qing relationship clashed at time when the two states were engaged in an often tense process of redefining their relations in a rapidly changing geopolitical environment.
The Oppert Incident, in which a German adventurer and French priest helped lead an expedition to steal the bones of King Gojong’s grandfather to hold hostage to force the Korean government to open the country to trade and cease the persecution of Catholics, is well-known. What is not as well-known is the fact that an American citizen, Frederick Jenkins, played a key role in providing the financial support and weapons necessary for the expedition to take place, and that after its failure, he was tried by the American consul of Shanghai in an unsuccessful attempt to punish him, in part because of the damage he had done to future Korea-US relations. However, there is little in English on the Oppert Incident in general or the role Jenkins played within it. This paper will therefore examine Frederick Jenkins’ role in the expedition and why he participated in it. In so doing, this paper will shed light on our understanding of the early relationship between the United States government, American citizens, and Korea, revealing that the comparative weakness of American diplomatic officials prevented them from restraining the problematic behavior of US citizens such as Jenkins.
Bak Gyeongni’s novel, Land, represents the communal life of Korea in detail, and vividly describes the public sentiment of the community. In this novel, Korean’s distinctive emotions such as jeong and han are dealt with. If jeong is represented as a kind of affection common to the members of the community, han comes from incompleteness of human lives, who are doomed to die. Korean people believe the idea of gwonseonjing-ak that virtue will be rewarded with blessings in the end. Koreans have belief in it, although things look wicked in this world, because they understand that the true meaning of gwonseonjingak is that good is valuable in itself and evil fails of its own accord. At last, Korean people are never indifferent to the currents of history as seen in the Righteous Army movement in late nineteenth century when the country reached a crisis. Koreans are ready to respond to the history and willingly sacrifice themselves for the sake of the country.
This article investigates the Chongryon (a pro-North Korean organisation in Japan) English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks published for Japanese-speaking ethnic Koreans between 1968 and 1974 by using critical discourse analysis (CDA). The Chongryon established Korean ethnic schools, known as Joseonhakgyo, in Japan using educational grants from North Korea. The study’s findings show that a significant proportion of the textbooks were influenced by North Korean ideology. The textbooks encouraged students to identify themselves as North Koreans, to perceive North Korea as their homeland, to admire Kim Il Sung as their real leader, and to live harmoniously as a unified single community in Japan. The textbooks promoted the belief that South Koreans “suffering” under the US occupation could be liberated by Kim Il Sung, who was described as a saviour for all Koreans. Such findings demonstrate that Joseonhakgyo EFL education was employed as a tool to lead Chongryon students to follow North Korea’s rule and Chongryon ideology. This implies that today’s Chongryon community has had a complex history with North Korea, and demonstrates the scope of change that has occurred within the organisation’s education and social system.