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Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« on: February 20, 2021, 08:34:17 am »
One thing that would really help foreigners in Korea, especially ones wanting to fit in long term and prosper without running into the same cultural-difference problems over and over, would be to study Confucianism.

The best way to do this is by simply reading the original source material—the 2500 year old Confucian Classics—competent translations of the Analects, Book of Mencius, Doctrine of the Mean, and The Great Learning. In particular Mencius is quite important to the Neo-Confucianism that King Sejeong implemented (Yulgok, who came later, was probably the greatest Korean Confucian scholar).

Reading Mencius is eerie, a thousands of years old text exactly describing the behavior and values of modern Koreans. What we see in Korea is the Confucian value of education, the perfectibility of oneself and children thru work, sincerity, tranquility, social harmony subordinating the individual’s selfish interests, the five relations and social hierarchy, shame is a virtue, etc. It’s all right there in the ancient texts.

The core concept is that thru 礼 (li; ritual), a natural process takes place which brings about 仁 (ren; benevolence). Ritual is not just going to ancestors graves, but daily linguistic rituals of 요 conjugation, bowing, and more. Koreans themselves don’t really study the classics in great detail, and rarely talk about this stuff. They just practice the rites, and intuitively “get it” as it’s so deeply part of their culture and upbringing.

I don’t see how a person can ever truly understand Korea without understanding Ruism. And being as how we’re living in the most Confucian place on the planet, it’s a great opportunity to study this moral philosophy in real life. Studying Korean language is great, but it's very one dimensional without understanding what's culturally happening around you.


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2021, 10:46:38 am »
I wouldn't blanket all foreigners to go through the trouble of actually studying Confucianism. Yes, many folks take interest in these things, but with a day being only 24hrs long, I've got to be selective with my time and I'm not going to
study something unless I can apply it in a practical way to my life.

I know enough about Confucianism to know that in 2021 it's become an archaic and impractical cultural obstacle. I'm really not going to devote my time just so I can explain why I dislike something in greater detail.


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2021, 07:52:37 pm »
Blaming everything in Korea on confucianism is dumb yet everyone does it for their first few years of living in Korea.

Korea has been a poor and isolated agricultural country for most of its history, and this explains a lot about its culture. Famine and natural disaster have always been a part of living in Eastern Asia, and it's maybe why Koreans (and the Chinese and Japanese) are obsessive about food and taking care of people in their social group.

 South Korea really only started to get out of its isolationist agricultural roots after the 1988 Olympics. You can't change an entire culture in 30 years.


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2021, 08:35:14 am »
And right on time, we have a bunch of hostile posts from people who are ignorant on the topic.

You could simply not respond to the thread and remain ignorant in silence.

Who is the ignorant one? You, methinks. You claim to represent all East Asians with your b/s arguments. I told you of my experiences in China and Taiwan where they are NOT what you claim. I only experienced rudeness in Korea, not any other country that I have lived in, in Asia. Taiwan, China and the Philippines, they are polite and OFTEN come up to you and offer assistance  or just a friendly word.

I hike a lot in Taiwan and without fail every time someone will ask me, where are you from, where do you live in Taiwan, how long have you been here, where are you from, where do you teach and so on. From encounters like this I have made many new friends even been invited to their house for a meal upon the first meeting. Just awesome to live like this. They always end off by saying 'Welcome to Taiwan'. Never had that experience in Korea, in fact this was the feeling I got after 6 and a half years there aside from a few people, 'Welcome to Korea, now go back'.

So if you think it's weird for people to be friendly to strangers, better not come to Taiwan or the Philippines, you will be horrified at how warm people can be without being weird about it.
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2021, 11:52:49 am »
One thing that would really help foreigners in Korea, especially ones wanting to fit in long term and prosper without running into the same cultural-difference problems over and over, would be to study Confucianism.

The best way to do this is by simply reading the original source material—the 2500 year old Confucian Classics—competent translations of the Analects, Book of Mencius, Doctrine of the Mean, and The Great Learning. In particular Mencius is quite important to the Neo-Confucianism that King Sejeong implemented (Yulgok, who came later, was probably the greatest Korean Confucian scholar).

Reading Mencius is eerie, a thousands of years old text exactly describing the behavior and values of modern Koreans. What we see in Korea is the Confucian value of education, the perfectibility of oneself and children thru work, sincerity, tranquility, social harmony subordinating the individual’s selfish interests, the five relations and social hierarchy, shame is a virtue, etc. It’s all right there in the ancient texts.

The core concept is that thru 礼 (li; ritual), a natural process takes place which brings about 仁 (ren; benevolence). Ritual is not just going to ancestors graves, but daily linguistic rituals of 요 conjugation, bowing, and more. Koreans themselves don’t really study the classics in great detail, and rarely talk about this stuff. They just practice the rites, and intuitively “get it” as it’s so deeply part of their culture and upbringing.

I don’t see how a person can ever truly understand Korea without understanding Ruism. And being as how we’re living in the most Confucian place on the planet, it’s a great opportunity to study this moral philosophy in real life. Studying Korean language is great, but it's very one dimensional without understanding what's culturally happening around you.

Confucianism is a philosophy for peasants and serfs. It has ceased to
be relevant in a modern, industrialized democracy.  Therefore reading these
"sacred texts" would be a fantastically boring waste of time.


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2021, 07:54:15 am »
similarly, the best way to understand north korea is to simply read "on the juche idea" !
more gg more skill


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2021, 08:15:00 am »
Just got back from break and I'm glad to see we're already going strong with another banger


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2021, 08:28:31 am »
To stick to the topic...

The “stealth” imbedding of Confucianism within K-dramas is quite amusing to me. Of course it’s not stealth at all, it’s right there front and center in every show. But because Westerners don’t know about Confucianism, they aren’t aware this is what they are consuming.

Take your average girl in the West who’s obsessed with these shows. She likely has quite liberal Western views. But now she’s witnessing something very different from her home culture, and finds that ‘mysterious something’ attractive. The punchline is that she is binging on East Asian conservatism. Turns out that the social rites can be made quite sexy and attractive, along with prioritizing your family, respecting elders, studying hard, improving your looks, etc...but it’s really the resultant ren (empathy, kindness, benevolence) which hits the heart and is the hook of every episode.

I just find it funny that the Western cultural evangelicals have never said “OMG, Korea is exporting Confucianism!,” when obviously they are (knowingly or not). This is far more effective than Confucius Institutes—if one doesn’t know the philosophy, as Westerners do not, they logically can not know it is imbedded in the media they are consuming.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2021, 11:18:41 am by Kyndo »


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2021, 09:05:51 am »
that's because the confucius institutes are funded by china and, as you soooooo astutely pointed out, korea is more confucian than china. perhaps more obvious is the fact that confucius institutes have little to do with confucianism. after all, china really puts the "soft" in "soft power"

anyway i'd love for you to explain the dynamic between korean feminism and confucianism to me:)
more gg more skill


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2021, 09:29:13 am »
Take your average girl in the West who’s obsessed with these shows. She likely has quite liberal Western views. But now she’s witnessing something very different from her home culture, and finds that ‘mysterious something’ attractive. The punchline is that she is binging on East Asian conservatism. Turns out that the social rites can be made quite sexy and attractive, along with prioritizing your family, respecting elders, studying hard, improving your looks, etc...but it’s really the resultant ren (empathy, kindness, benevolence) which hits the heart and is the hook of every episode.
Everything you said pretty much applies to a Jane Austen novel. They're liked because it's new and different and idealized. Just like a lot of other entertainment.


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2021, 09:39:13 am »
Everything you said pretty much applies to a Jane Austen novel. They're liked because it's new and different and idealized. Just like a lot of other entertainment.

Jane Austin novels are new?


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2021, 09:58:21 am »
Jane Austen novels are liked?


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2021, 10:06:16 am »
I know people who made bank re-writing Jane Austen novels as parodies, that's how popular they are.

And that's how Pride and Prejudice and Zombies became such a hit (which was hilarious, btw -- the movie was a crapshoot, though).
« Last Edit: February 22, 2021, 10:50:51 am by Chinguetti »


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2021, 10:38:11 am »
It's no coincidence Bridgerton is set in the same period as Austen's novels


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2021, 12:50:37 pm »
Jane Austin novels are new?
The world they are in is new to the reader.


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2021, 12:56:50 pm »
The world they are in is new to the reader.

Parts of it are sure, but Austen's popularity is probably also based on the universality and timeless nature of the message - woman wants to snag a rich, handsome husband


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2021, 12:59:19 pm »
Parts of it are sure, but Austen's popularity is probably also based on the universality and timeless nature of the message - woman wants to snag a rich, handsome husband

Emma is in fact about a woman who does NOT want to snag a rich, handsome husband.


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2021, 01:03:19 pm »
Probably why it's not as popular  :laugh:


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Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2021, 01:04:22 pm »
Such a shame as Emma is my favorite book by Austen, much more original and interesting than Pride and Prejudice.


Re: Confucianism; How to Understand Korean Culture
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2021, 06:39:49 pm »
Everything you said pretty much applies to a Jane Austen novel.

Since I spend my time reading the classics, which have influenced the behavior of billions of people across thousands of years, I don’t even know this “Jane Austin” of which you all speak. It’s all about opportunity cost.