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The Tension Between Necessity and Ethics: The Development of Confucian Political Thought of Chosŏn Korea

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The nineteenth century was a period through which nations in East Asia experienced a great transformation in the wake of the encroachment of Western powers. China, Korea and Japan displayed different abilities in meeting these challenges. Focusing on the case of Korea, I examine why Korea failed to adapt quickly by tracing the history of Confucian political thought of Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910). The Confusion political thought of Chosŏn was preoccupied with ethics, reinforcing and reinforced by the hierarchical and stable society. Taking the concepts of ‘political ethics’ versus ‘political necessity’ as my framework, I review this 500 year period leading up to the failure of Korea in dealing with the western challenges.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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