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  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

    • 5722

    • October 08, 2010, 01:02:32 pm
    • Zhubei, Hsinchu County, Taiwan (not part of China)
    more
Confucianism in a nutshell
« on: May 24, 2012, 05:38:14 am »
We often see the words "Korea is the most Confucianist (spelling?) society in the world today. I tried to Google, Confuciansim in a nutshell and after spending a short while reading it my head was spinning and I was no further in my quest.  I guess I don't have a kind of philosophical brain, being an accountant and all,   ;D.

Could someone sum it up briefly for me please?

Thanks.
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • Andy84
  • Veteran

    • 112

    • April 13, 2012, 01:12:11 am
    • Dublin, Ireland
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2012, 06:43:25 am »
Sexist  ;D


Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2012, 07:18:59 am »
In a word - 'Pretending.'

Basically if the emporer says he is wearing clothes, even if he is not, everyone around him says 'yes, he is wearing clothes.'  If people around you are saying he is wearing clothes, even though he is not, you will say 'yes he is wearing clothes' so as to not disrupt group harmony / another person's face / feelings.



  • rahfh
  • Adventurer

    • 32

    • April 05, 2012, 02:57:17 pm
    • Uijeonbu, South Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2012, 09:43:24 am »
Ok, so I actually have done some reading on this and had a bit of a chat to my CT... And confusionism in theory and the practical SK confusionism as i see it differ.

Confusionism was created as a structure to give order to society. Every position in that society was given strict guidelines and a position in the hierarchy. So the position of King had a definition, it had rules for what the King could and could not do, and this was done from the top to the bottom, from King to peasant. The aim of this was to create complete order and harmony. You also where supposed to show the correct degree of respect for those above you in the hierarchy and expect that respect from those below you. The ultimate aim of any person in this confusionist society was to be the best at what you where, in other words to emulate as best as you could the perfect guideline for your position. One was supposed to pick another individual who exemplified these characteristics and make them the model to which you strived. A role model.

Now with globalization and the western influences that come with that it becomes very difficult to stay within the strict guidelines of this hierarchical structure. The west is all about the individual and self improvement. Be all that you can be, with enough hard work you can make it, basically if you want to be at the top, work hard enough and you can get there. The fact that SK is the 12th strongest economy in the world means to me that they cannot have stuck to this rigid hierarchy.

Ok, so i generalize and im sure break many other rules, but then thats exactly what SK confusionism is these days, an adaption, a bending of the rigid rules.

So original confusionism, all rules, rigid structure and hierarchy. SK confusionism, still there, but in the older generations and more passive guidelines than rigidly followed practice.

Does that even make sense?




Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2012, 11:09:32 am »
I found this to be a good introduction to Confucianism and how it applies to Korean culture: http://askakorean.blogspot.com/1998/02/confucianism-and-korea-series-index.html


Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2012, 11:33:30 am »
This is the ultra quick version given to me in EPIK orientation:

Man>woman.
Old>young.
Tests are awesome.


Seriously, read the ask a korean posts.


  • Bulgogi
  • Veteran

    • 92

    • December 07, 2011, 01:45:04 pm
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2012, 12:16:48 pm »
Ok, so I actually have done some reading on this and had a bit of a chat to my CT... And confusionism in theory and the practical SK confusionism as i see it differ.

Confusionism was created as a structure to give order to society. Every position in that society was given strict guidelines and a position in the hierarchy. So the position of King had a definition, it had rules for what the King could and could not do, and this was done from the top to the bottom, from King to peasant. The aim of this was to create complete order and harmony. You also where supposed to show the correct degree of respect for those above you in the hierarchy and expect that respect from those below you. The ultimate aim of any person in this confusionist society was to be the best at what you where, in other words to emulate as best as you could the perfect guideline for your position. One was supposed to pick another individual who exemplified these characteristics and make them the model to which you strived. A role model.

Now with globalization and the western influences that come with that it becomes very difficult to stay within the strict guidelines of this hierarchical structure. The west is all about the individual and self improvement. Be all that you can be, with enough hard work you can make it, basically if you want to be at the top, work hard enough and you can get there. The fact that SK is the 12th strongest economy in the world means to me that they cannot have stuck to this rigid hierarchy.Ok, so i generalize and im sure break many other rules, but then thats exactly what SK confusionism is these days, an adaption, a bending of the rigid rules.

So original confusionism, all rules, rigid structure and hierarchy. SK confusionism, still there, but in the older generations and more passive guidelines than rigidly followed practice.

Does that even make sense?

Look to South Korea's neighbor CHINA and JAPAN, and think...why do they too...have the 2nd and 3rd largest economy in the world?  (and soon to be 1st for China)  It's collectivism through Confucianism that brought them to where they were syncretized with capitalism from the West.


Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2012, 12:18:13 pm »
This is the ultra quick version given to me in EPIK orientation:

Man>woman.
Old>young.
Tests are awesome.


Seriously, read the ask a korean posts.

Sounds about right


  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

    • 5722

    • October 08, 2010, 01:02:32 pm
    • Zhubei, Hsinchu County, Taiwan (not part of China)
    more
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2012, 12:54:09 pm »
Thanks everyone for the comments and links.  Whew! hectic !!
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • schuettl
  • Adventurer

    • 40

    • October 27, 2010, 08:51:09 am
    • Wonju, Gangwon-do
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2012, 12:55:15 pm »
The way Confucianism works into my schema is that its all about respect, care, and loyalty. 

Example: The younger man shows the older man respect by using different language and not questioning his ideas and decisions.  The older man cares for the younger man by buying him food and taking the blame for the younger man's mistakes.  They build a relationship of loyalty to each other by trying to make up for each others' weaknesses, and standing as a team. 

Ideally, both groups have to do things they don't want to do, and both groups benefit in some ways and society is better for it.  I know it typically plays out as a lopsided relationship but I have come to understand it, accept it, and live it in many (but not all) ways because I understand that its about those 3 words - respect, care, and loyalty.


  • rahfh
  • Adventurer

    • 32

    • April 05, 2012, 02:57:17 pm
    • Uijeonbu, South Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2012, 01:02:40 pm »
Ok, so I actually have done some reading on this and had a bit of a chat to my CT... And confusionism in theory and the practical SK confusionism as i see it differ.

Confusionism was created as a structure to give order to society. Every position in that society was given strict guidelines and a position in the hierarchy. So the position of King had a definition, it had rules for what the King could and could not do, and this was done from the top to the bottom, from King to peasant. The aim of this was to create complete order and harmony. You also where supposed to show the correct degree of respect for those above you in the hierarchy and expect that respect from those below you. The ultimate aim of any person in this confusionist society was to be the best at what you where, in other words to emulate as best as you could the perfect guideline for your position. One was supposed to pick another individual who exemplified these characteristics and make them the model to which you strived. A role model.

Now with globalization and the western influences that come with that it becomes very difficult to stay within the strict guidelines of this hierarchical structure. The west is all about the individual and self improvement. Be all that you can be, with enough hard work you can make it, basically if you want to be at the top, work hard enough and you can get there. The fact that SK is the 12th strongest economy in the world means to me that they cannot have stuck to this rigid hierarchy.Ok, so i generalize and im sure break many other rules, but then thats exactly what SK confusionism is these days, an adaption, a bending of the rigid rules.

So original confusionism, all rules, rigid structure and hierarchy. SK confusionism, still there, but in the older generations and more passive guidelines than rigidly followed practice.

Does that even make sense?

Look to South Korea's neighbor CHINA and JAPAN, and think...why do they too...have the 2nd and 3rd largest economy in the world?  (and soon to be 1st for China)  It's collectivism through Confucianism that brought them to where they were syncretized with capitalism from the West.

Collectivism.. I'd forgotten that term.. Good one. I just wanted to point out the obvious difference in that China only opened their markets to the west with the economic reforms of the 80s, while both Japan and SK have had western (American) influence for about 50 years?

So not just about capitalism but that they are blending the capitalist (individual sentiment) with the collectivist (group sentiment) which is oh so NE Asia, all ying and yang.


  • Gansie
  • Veteran

    • 119

    • September 21, 2011, 08:01:42 am
    • Incheon, South Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2012, 01:45:29 pm »
Quote
The way Confucianism works into my schema is that its all about respect, care, and loyalty.

Example: The younger man shows the older man respect by using different language and not questioning his ideas and decisions.  The older man cares for the younger man by buying him food and taking the blame for the younger man's mistakes.  They build a relationship of loyalty to each other by trying to make up for each others' weaknesses, and standing as a team.

Ideally, both groups have to do things they don't want to do, and both groups benefit in some ways and society is better for it.  I know it typically plays out as a lopsided relationship but I have come to understand it, accept it, and live it in many (but not all) ways because I understand that its about those 3 words - respect, care, and loyalty.

Yes, ideally it is nice. But in reality I have found it to be too lopsided. Humans corrupt just too easily, I guess. And this is a system that doesn't allow for someone to challenge or question something. It can prevent/ slow down progress too much.

I don't think society is better for it. It will certainly run smoothly, but at what cost?

Personally, I would never feel at ease in such a society. I was raised in an extremely individualistic home (my parents are kinda way out there).




  • nickster13
  • Veteran

    • 118

    • August 30, 2011, 01:54:12 pm
    • Seoul, Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2012, 03:13:37 pm »
Exactly. At what cost? Its a well oiled business model, but people in these systems are typically unhappy and repressed. Look at the stress/ unhappiness/ repression in these countries, and Id like to think they are more important than the financial strength of your economy.
I know some Koreans who love foreigners and english simply because they know they can throw Confucian rules out the window and just be natural for whatever the situation calls for, not because of a set rule. For example if an ajumma steals your seat rudely, you could tell her that she was rude, or conversely if someone does you a favour out of their own goodwill, you can thank them with polite speech accordingly, not because they are older and thus deserve so. This keeps people accountable, which is why in my country, older people still have to operate with some sort of respect, and if someone younger is smarter than the older guy, he gets rewarded based on merit before age.


Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2012, 03:32:32 pm »
Ok, so I actually have done some reading on this and had a bit of a chat to my CT... And confusionism in theory and the practical SK confusionism as i see it differ.

Confusionism was created as a structure to give order to society. Every position in that society was given strict guidelines and a position in the hierarchy. So the position of King had a definition, it had rules for what the King could and could not do, and this was done from the top to the bottom, from King to peasant. The aim of this was to create complete order and harmony. You also where supposed to show the correct degree of respect for those above you in the hierarchy and expect that respect from those below you. The ultimate aim of any person in this confusionist society was to be the best at what you where, in other words to emulate as best as you could the perfect guideline for your position. One was supposed to pick another individual who exemplified these characteristics and make them the model to which you strived. A role model.

Now with globalization and the western influences that come with that it becomes very difficult to stay within the strict guidelines of this hierarchical structure. The west is all about the individual and self improvement. Be all that you can be, with enough hard work you can make it, basically if you want to be at the top, work hard enough and you can get there. The fact that SK is the 12th strongest economy in the world means to me that they cannot have stuck to this rigid hierarchy.Ok, so i generalize and im sure break many other rules, but then thats exactly what SK confusionism is these days, an adaption, a bending of the rigid rules.

So original confusionism, all rules, rigid structure and hierarchy. SK confusionism, still there, but in the older generations and more passive guidelines than rigidly followed practice.

Does that even make sense?

Look to South Korea's neighbor CHINA and JAPAN, and think...why do they too...have the 2nd and 3rd largest economy in the world?  (and soon to be 1st for China)  It's collectivism through Confucianism that brought them to where they were syncretized with capitalism from the West.

...except that Japan, China, and Taiwan are less strictly confucianist than Korea, not to mention Singapore or Hong Kong. Every country's situation is different and this is grossly oversimplifying things into some "Yay confucianism, yay Asia!" argument. It's much more complicated than that and there are many different ways to look at it.


  • schuettl
  • Adventurer

    • 40

    • October 27, 2010, 08:51:09 am
    • Wonju, Gangwon-do
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2012, 03:40:57 pm »
I'm definitely not trying to profess to any one that Confucianism is either good or bad... just trying to explain what it is in the best way I know how.  I found that once I understood Confucianism better I could function better socially in Korea.  I could better predict people's behavior, understand and relate better, and I could also understand how others saw me - if I wasn't living up to their expectations or if I was flattering them.  Whether one thinks it's good or not, it's certainly useful to know about so one can make conscious decisions about what's going on. 

I don't think anyone would argue that many Confucian style relationships in Korea aren't lopsided, but then again, there are a lot of Western relationships that are lopsided too.  Some people end up giving too much and some people end up taking too much anywhere.  Though you could argue if it's to a greater extent in Korea or not.  It comes down to, applying cultural ideas to personal, social relationships is complicated to explain.  It's like asking... why are people the way they are?  We all have a schema for how life works when it comes to dealing with others, but it's far too complicated to sit down and explain everything.

As for me, I'd say it's a little easier for me to flex myself into a more confucian mold because, unlike Gansie, I was raised in a pretty conservative household in a pretty conservative area.  I was the only one of my friends who was not really allowed to talk at dinner unless spoken to by my parents.  I am highly practiced in listening to long (hot air filled) speeches and looking incredibly sincere on the outside. 

My personal experience has been...
As a foreigner, Confucianism can be really tough to get used to at first because you have to take a lot of sh** and do a lot of things you don't want to do before people get that you're playing along.  Basically you have to pay your dues.  But then people who are on the same level as you start opening up to you and you realize they feel the same way you do.  You start to realize that even though someone higher than you has professed something and everyone has supported him, things don't actually play out that way and it may not be the true consensus.  I've always been the hard worker who makes up for the things others don't want to do, it's just that in Korea, it's a little more obvious exactly WHO you're going to have to make up for in extra work.  And then you get free food, booze, and noraebang... and it feels so good to pass that huge bill to adjusshi.  haha


Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2012, 03:51:02 pm »
My personal experience has been...
As a foreigner, Confucianism can be really tough to get used to at first because you have to take a lot of sh** and do a lot of things you don't want to do before people get that you're playing along.  Basically you have to pay your dues.  But then people who are on the same level as you start opening up to you and you realize they feel the same way you do.  You start to realize that even though someone higher than you has professed something and everyone has supported him, things don't actually play out that way and it may not be the true consensus.  I've always been the hard worker who makes up for the things others don't want to do, it's just that in Korea, it's a little more obvious exactly WHO you're going to have to make up for in extra work.  And then you get free food, booze, and noraebang... and it feels so good to pass that huge bill to adjusshi.  haha

That's all fine and good but Korea's perverted version of confucianism IMO has no respect for individual preferences and in some ways demonizes them. Take one example: I don't like booze. I'd like someone to give me one good reason why I should ram soju which I find disgusting down my throat and if I refuse to do so, I'm somehow not "sociable". As far as social handicaps go, if you can't socialize without alcohol, you either have no social skills or you're an alcoholic or both. Either would require psychiatric treatment. Another: if you order something different or are picky about your food they look at you like you're some sort of heathen. While I don't care, it makes me uncomfortable. Plus Koreans tend to be pretentious little snobs...somehow driving a bigger car or living in a bigger apartment makes you a better person even if you're upside down on the apartment and the repo man's out looking for your car. Live within your means people and do what YOU want. Life's too short to be swayed by what other people think.

I'm not even a foreigner and I consider confucianism a huge pile of crap. And Korea would be much better off if it were wiped off the social landscape.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2012, 03:56:42 pm by alberto.o »


  • ytuque
  • Veteran

    • 106

    • November 21, 2011, 06:55:14 pm
    • Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2012, 03:59:05 pm »
Saffer,

I found these essays by Horace Underwood very useful in understanding Korean culture.  BTW, he's the 4th generation of the American missionary family which founded Yonsei, and he spent most of his life and professional career in Korea.

http://blog.educationusa.or.kr/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/korean-culture-essays-hhunderwood.pdf


  • SpaceRook
  • Expert Waygook

    • 814

    • November 18, 2010, 11:54:36 am
    • South Korea
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2012, 07:18:31 pm »
...except that Japan, China, and Taiwan are less strictly confucianist than Korea, not to mention Singapore or Hong Kong. Every country's situation is different and this is grossly oversimplifying things into some "Yay confucianism, yay Asia!" argument. It's much more complicated than that and there are many different ways to look at it.

Definitely.  I've met many Chinese and Japanese people working in Korea.  Every single one of them says Korea is way more into the old mindset that their home countries.  I was once at a seminar about Korean culture with some Japanese and Chinese people.  The Japanese and Chinese guys couldn't believe what they were hearing.  All the rules about where to sit in the car, how to hold glasses, whether to pack a lot of luggage is traveling with a senior (hint: don't).....it was crazy to them. 


  • 5mori
  • Adventurer

    • 54

    • May 25, 2012, 09:21:38 am
    • Gunpo
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2012, 09:44:48 am »
Confucianism in a nutshell? A whipping boy for foreigners who are unhappy with life in Korea.  :) More seriously, it is reviled far more often than it is understood.  It seems to me that relatively few Koreans have any detailed knowledge of the Confucian - and neo-Confucian (very important!) - classics, so just how exactly does such a detailed system manage to keep perpetuating itself?

I would guess that foreigners who have lived in places like, say, SE Asia are much less likely to be intrigued with using Confucianism as an explanation for behavior.  Let's imagine the following scenario: a highly ineffectual boss makes dumb decisions, and in theory juniors could politely supply him with information that would steer him on the right track.  No one really does anything.  This scenario is just as likely in Korea as it is in Thailand.  In Korea, foreign observers seem inclined to blame "Confucianism".  In Thailand, blaming "Buddhism" is either more contorted or simply less popular (if I were feeling feisty, I might almost say 'less trendy').  To what extent does the label "Confucianism" explain very much in this situation?  You'll find similar behaviors in many parts of Asia, often done people who neither know nor care what "Confucianism" is. 

The Underwood essay was interesting.  He could have strengthened his 'older brother' 'younger brother' argument by pointing out that twins born TWO MINUTES APART are 'the older twin' and 'the younger twin' (I once read a class essay where this was used throughout, and it almost had me tearing my hair out).  By the way, it's interesting that Underwood only seems to use the word Confucianism a couple of times in the essay...


  • Peekay1982
  • Expert Waygook

    • 613

    • October 04, 2010, 09:12:28 am
    • 부산
Re: Confucianism in a nutshell
« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2012, 09:59:00 am »
Quote
The way Confucianism works into my schema is that its all about respect, care, and loyalty.

Example: The younger man shows the older man respect by using different language and not questioning his ideas and decisions.  The older man cares for the younger man by buying him food and taking the blame for the younger man's mistakes.  They build a relationship of loyalty to each other by trying to make up for each others' weaknesses, and standing as a team.

Ideally, both groups have to do things they don't want to do, and both groups benefit in some ways and society is better for it.  I know it typically plays out as a lopsided relationship but I have come to understand it, accept it, and live it in many (but not all) ways because I understand that its about those 3 words - respect, care, and loyalty.

Yes, ideally it is nice. But in reality I have found it to be too lopsided. Humans corrupt just too easily, I guess. And this is a system that doesn't allow for someone to challenge or question something. It can prevent/ slow down progress too much.

I don't think society is better for it. It will certainly run smoothly, but at what cost?

Personally, I would never feel at ease in such a society. I was raised in an extremely individualistic home (my parents are kinda way out there).

Innit. North Korea being the ultimate example of what happens when daddy - of the "daddy knows best" philosophy - is corrupt.