The State, Society, and Agent in Late Chosŏn Korea: Thinking through a Korean literature Controversy)

Part of the 2018 One Asia Forum Talk Series. Event will be conducted in 한국어 (Korean)

Abstract: In Korean academia, recently there has been considerable debates as to how to make sense of the political implications of poems of Eon Jin Yi’s (1740-1766, a member of hereditary class of minor officials) and the extent to which Korean vernacular literature had been circulated in Late Chosŏn Korea. Controversy reigns as to whether Eon Jin Yi was radical enough to challenge the rigidly hierarchical social system of Chosŏn Korea in which he suffered from its contradictions and whether there was nationwide circulation of Korean novels. Currently, historically grounded social scientists as well as literary scholars and historians joined in a freewheeling discussion of these issues. Accordingly, these debates serve as a bridge across the gap between multiple disciplines. In this talk, Kim does not seek to adjudicate these debates. Instead, he examines some long-cherished assumptions in the writing of Korean history and literature. In particular, he reconsiders the applicability of the idea of “antagonistic” politics and modernization theory to Korean history through reading some key texts of Korean literature more closely. By so doing, he suggests a new way in which the state and society interacted one another in Late Chosŏn Korea and various social agents negotiated their ways through appropriation of existing social norms and values.

About the speaker: Youngmin Kim is Professor of Political Science at Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea. He holds Ph. D. from Harvard University in the intellectual history of East Asia. His major research areas include: East Asian intellectual history and political thought, with specializations in late imperial Chinese intellectual history, Korean intellectual history, and Neo-Confucianism. Before Kim joined Seoul National University he taught East Asian thought and culture at Bryn Mawr College.

His publication includes Women and Confucianism in Chosŏn Korea (State University of New York Press, 2011, editor and contributor); “Chosŏn Confucianism,” Oxford Handbook of Confucianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming); “Politics of Historical Vision,” European Journal of Political Theory (May, 2017); “Political Unity in Neo-Confucianism,” Philosophy East & West (April, 2012); and “Luo Qinshun (1465-1547) and His Intellectual Context,” Toung Pao (LXXXIX, 2003). Recently, he has published A History of Chinese Political Thought (Cambridge: Polity, 2018).