Confucian Traditions and Western-Style Learning in Early Modern Korean Education

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Depart­ment of His­to­ry will present a lec­ture titled “Strange Bed­fel­lows? Con­fu­cian Tra­di­tions, West­ern-Style Learn­ing, and the Evo­lu­tion of Ear­ly Mod­ern Kore­an Edu­ca­tion, 1895‒1910” by Pro­fes­sor Leighanne Yuh of Korea Uni­ver­si­ty on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 15, 2017. The talk will take place in the His­to­ry Depart­ment Sem­i­nar Room, Saka­ma­ki Hall A201, begin­ning at 12:30 p.m.

A com­par­i­son of text­books from 1895 and 1906 shows a shift from a state-cen­tered nar­ra­tive and a focus on the recruit­ment of “men of tal­ent” to a focus on patri­o­tism and civ­il duty for the preser­va­tion of nation­al inde­pen­dence. Exist­ing schol­ar­ship, Yuh says, has inter­pret­ed the text­books and cor­re­spond­ing edu­ca­tion pro­grams only in ways that pro­mote nation­al­ist agen­das adher­ing to a lin­ear mod­el of progress and fol­low­ing a tra­jec­to­ry begin­ning with the Con­fu­cian tra­di­tion and arriv­ing at West­ern enlight­en­ment values. 

Yuh’s study shows that the Con­fu­cian frame­work still oper­at­ed as a bul­wark and dis­cur­sive sys­tem to help state offi­cials and intel­lec­tu­als absorb “West­ern” ideas, but also reveals how these pat­terns of inte­gra­tion played out in the realm of education. 

The cat­e­go­riza­tions of “Con­fu­cian­ism” and “West­ern learn­ing” fit neat­ly into the slo­gan “East­ern Ways, West­ern Machines,” which was pop­u­lar at the time in Korea, Chi­na, and Japan. Yuh’s inves­ti­ga­tion prob­lema­tizes the stark divi­sion between West­ern and Con­fu­cian sys­tems and explores the amal­ga­ma­tion of dif­fer­ent influences. 

Yuh con­cludes that from a broad­ly defined Con­fu­cian frame­work there emerged a par­tic­u­lar form of civ­il moral­i­ty that allowed intel­lec­tu­als and gov­ern­ment bureau­crats to dis­cuss nation­al­ism, cit­i­zen­ship, the pub­lic sphere, and oth­er issues thought to be ger­mane to a mod­ern nation-state. Through the trans­for­ma­tion of edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, the dis­cours­es them­selves evolved from those exclu­sive­ly devot­ed to the pro­duc­tion of com­pe­tent bureau­crats to those that spoke to the broad­er pub­lic and engaged with this new civ­il morality.

Leighanne Yuh is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Kore­an His­to­ry at Korea Uni­ver­si­ty and asso­ciate edi­tor of The Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Kore­an His­to­ry, pub­lished by the Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies at Korea Uni­ver­si­ty. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Los Ange­les in 2008 after com­plet­ing her dis­ser­ta­tion titled, “Edu­ca­tion and the Strug­gle for Pow­er in Korea, 1876‒1910.” Yuh earned her B.A. in Japan­ese his­to­ry and eco­nom­ics from Welles­ley Col­lege and an M.A. in Kore­an His­to­ry from Colum­bia University. 

A recep­tion for stu­dents and fac­ul­ty will fol­low the talk. For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact the Depart­ment of His­to­ry at (808) 956‑8486.