This episode of the Korea Now podcast features an interview that Jed Lea-Henry conducted with Donald Baker. They speak about the history of Korean Confucianism, the rise of Confucianism and the ‘privatization’ of Buddhism in the Chosŏn dynasty, what differentiates Korean from Chinese Confucianism, the metaphysical debates between the Toegye and Yulgok factions and how this division defined the course of Korean Confucianism, the emergence of Tasan Chŏng Yagyong and the new reading of Confucianism that he introduced, the Social, political, ethical, and hierarchical structures involved, the transformation of Confucianism in modern-day Korea, and how it has lost most of its metaphysical underpinnings.
Donald Baker is a Professor in Korean History and Civilization at the University of British Columbia. He received his Ph.D. in Korean history from the University of Washington and has taught at UBC since 1987. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Korean history and thought (religion, philosophy, and pre-modern science). In addition, he teaches a graduate seminar on the reproduction of historical trauma, in which he leads graduate students in an examination of traumatic events in Asia in the 20th century.
He was a co-editor of the Sourcebook of Korean Civilization and editor of Critical Readings on Korean Christianity. He is also the author of Chosŏn hugi yugyo wa ch’ǒnjugyo ŭi taerip (The Confucian confrontation with Catholicism in the latter half of the Joseon dynasty) and Korean Spirituality (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). In 2008, he was awarded the Tasan prize for his research on Tasan Chŏng Yagyong, a writer and philosopher in Korea in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2013 he was asked by the National Institute of Korean History to serve as the chairperson of the International Advisory Committee for the English Translation of the Annals of the Chosŏn Dynasty.
*Pertinent to this podcast Don is also the author of the forthcoming book: How to be Moral: Tasan Chŏng Yagyong’s reading of the Zhongyong.