A Korean Confucian Encounter with the Modern World: Yi Hang-No and the West

A Korean Confucian Encounter with the Modern World: Yi Hang-No and the West

A Korean Confucian Encounter with the Modern World: Yi Hang-No and the West

A Korean Confucian Encounter with the Modern World: Yi Hang-No and the West

Excerpt

From the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Christianity and Western culture began to filter in, Korea was progressively drawn into the modern world. The opening of Korea in 1876 to Japan only formally marked the entrance of this isolated nation into the modern world. The contact of Korea with the modern West changed its social, economic, and political structure, but more profoundly, it changed its traditional cultural pattern and intellectual perspectives.

A society's cultural system includes symbolic forms of human experience and meaning such as language, beliefs, rituals, aesthetic perceptions, and values. At the core of this cultural system is religion, in its broad sense, which provides symbolic conceptions of ultimate reality and of a person's relation to it. Religion in this broad sense anchors a society, offering its members a stable world view and "the patterned normative order." Through this normative order, which contains values, norms, and rules, we conceive what a good society is, what it expects of us, and how we should conduct ourselves in relations with others. A society's normative order, then, largely serves as a pattern for ideal human conduct and societal order. This is particularly the case in a stable, traditional or less complex society. Thus, the understanding of culture is necessary for the understanding of the basic and persistent features in human society. Culture is much more stable and resistant to change than are a society's economic and political forces. Consequently, a fundamental alteration of a society is rare, because it requires extensive changes in its shared cultural orientation. In turn, these social changes will have religious implications.

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