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The Dynamics of Confucianism and Modernization in Korean History

From the publisher’s website:

This volume makes available for the first time in English a collection of the work of historian Yi Tae-Jin. Over the course of his career, he has done path-breaking research that covers virtually the entire Chosōn period (1392–1910) from the Koryō-Chosōn transition to the Kojong period and Korea’s takeover by Japan in 1910. One of the focal points of his scholarship has been to reinterpret Neo-Confucianism as a dynamic force in Korean history.

The first half of this volume is devoted to his seminal work on the historical factors behind the founding of the Chosōn dynasty. He has shown how the rise of Neo-Confucianism during the Koryō-Chosōn transition was tied to unprecedented advances in agriculture and medicine that led to a fundamental socio-economic transformation of Korea. A new social class emerged that became a leading force behind the new dynasty and adopted Neo-Confucianism as its ideology.

One of the underlying concerns of his scholarship has been to overcome the legacy of Japanese colonial scholarship on Korean historiography. His work refutes the notion of Korea as a “Hermit Kingdom” that was stagnant for centuries before its opening to the West. The second half of the volume includes some of his work on modernization efforts in the late Chosōn period, as well as some of his more direct critiques of the continuing influence of Japanese historiography in Korea.

Yi Tae-Jin (b. 1943) is Professor of Korean History at Seoul National University, where he has taught since 1973. He is the author of over one hundred articles and several books, including Han’guk sahoesa yôn’gu (Studies on the Social History of Korea, 1986) and Kojong sidae ûi chaejomyông (A Reinterpretation of the History of the King Kojong Period, 2000). He has also edited several volumes and compilations such as Han’guk pyônghap ûi pulbôpsông yôn’gu (Studies on the Illegality of the Japanese Annexation of Korea, 2003). At Seoul National University, he has been director of the Kyujanggak Archives and is currently director of the Institute of Korean Studies. He has served on the editorial board of journals such as Han’guksa siminkangjwa, has been president of the Chindan Hakhoe (Chindan  Society), the Yôksa Hakhoe (Korean Historical Association), and the Korean Association of Academic Societies, and has served on the Cultural Properties Committee of the Seoul City Government.

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