The Korean philosophy

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We know that philosophy is the way to name a thought, a belief, or a way of acting. In Asia, mainly in the East side, the difference with the Western philosophy or others is completely evident. 

Korean philosophy is a branch of Eastern philosophy that reflects the worldview and lifestyle of Koreans, which has been influenced by various currents of thought throughout history, such as Shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Likewise, it has also developed its own original characteristics and contributions. 

One of the distinctive features of Korean philosophy is the integration of the emotional content of shamanism, the unpredictable (that which escapes the scientific possibilities), and some aspects of neo-Confucianism. Shamanism is a form of popular religion that believes in the existence of spirits and supernatural forces that can be contacted by shamans, the mediators between the human and spiritual worlds. Korean shamanism is based on the idea that everything has a soul and that the destiny of people depends on their relationship with spirits. Shamanism also expresses the feeling of han, a complex emotion that combines sadness, resentment, pain, and hope.

Old pictures of Korean life during the XIX century and beginning of the XX century] Picture taken from Momentosdelpasado.

Neo-Confucianism is a school of thought that emerged in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279) and that spread throughout East Asia. It is based on the teachings of Confucius and his followers, but it also incorporates elements of Taoism (the Yin & Yang) and Buddhism (the Nirvana, a spiritual state of peace and freedom that is achieved by overcoming the dukkha, an inner suffering).

Neo-Confucianism emphasizes the importance of morality, education, loyalty, social order, and the cultivation of the human being. In addition, it was adopted as the official ideology of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) in Korea, and it had a great influence on the cultural, political, and intellectual development of the country.

[Old pictures of Korean life during the XIX century and begging of the XX century] picture taken from: Momentosdelpasado.

Korean philosophy has also adapted to the historical and social changes that the country has experienced, such as the Mongol invasion, the Japanese occupation, the Korean War, and the division between North and South Korea. For this reason, this philosophy has sought to respond to the challenges and crises that the Korean people have faced, as well as to dialogue with other philosophical traditions, both Eastern and Western. Some of the central themes of Korean philosophy are national identity, democracy, human rights, peace, development, and globalization.

[Old picture of Korea during the Japanese occupation 1910-1945] Picture taken from: Momentosdelpasado.

Today, the legacy of Confucianism continues to be a fundamental part of Korean society, forming the moral system, lifestyle, and social relations between adults and young people, and even surviving the modernization of the legal system.

We can say that Korean philosophy is based on religious and moral ideals that were the adaptation of various forms of coexistence between the dynasty of the Three Kingdoms (Goryeo, Baekje, and Silla). Without a doubt, this expresses the reason for most of their beliefs and interests. 

Written by: Seline Suriel Núñez 

Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero



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