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Introduction to Korean Philosophy

Get to grips with Korean philosophy as you dive into Korean history and culture with Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea.

2,253 enrolled on this course

Introduction to Korean Philosophy
  • Duration4 weeks
  • Weekly study2 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $59Find out more

Discover the key philosophical ideas in the intellectual history of Korea

Despite the growing interest in Korean culture, there are few courses which explore the fascinating topic of Korean philosophy.

On this course, you’ll be introduced to concepts in Korean philosophy through an exploration of the Korean language, culture and perspective.

The Korean cultural, social, and political environment has informed and transformed the intellectual assets of China and the West. You’ll explore the creative tensions that Koreans have experienced, and broaden your worldview as you discover a new philosophical approach.

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 seconds What do you think of when I say the word “philosophy”? Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, or Kant or Wittegenstein? You may be more familiar with Western Philosophers. Now, what if I say “Korean philosophy”? What comes to mind then? These days, Korean culture is flourishing all over the world, with its music, TV shows, and movies. However, very few people would be able to tell you the philosophy that’s behind Korean culture. If you take your first step into Korean philosophy with me, you’ll find that it is a deep and complex field, comprised of fascinating themes like an integration of reason-emotion binaries, breaking down the creation of speech into its fundamentals, and a unique worldview on the relationships between people.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds Hi, my name is Park So Jeong, from the Korean philosophy department of Sungkyunkwan University in Korea. If you have joined this course, it is likely that you have developed an interest in Korean culture and are looking to extend and deepen your learning. This course will give you a chance to do so.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 seconds In this introductory course, we will discuss and examine: “What is Korean philosophy?” “How did it develop?” and “What are its characteristics?” As Korean philosophy has always been evolving, we will try to find the underlying thread which connects it from the past to the present. Through this course, not only will you be able to have a clearer grasp on what makes up Korean culture, but you may learn a new way of thinking in viewing the world. Let’s explore Korean philosophy together!


  • Week 1

    What is Korean Philosophy?

    • Is there such a thing as Korean Philosophy?

      Before we delve into Korean philosophy proper, let’s first think about what makes up a philosophy.

    • Western vs East Asian Philosophy

      The landscape of philosophy became increasingly global since the early 20th century, with non-Western thought gaining greater recognition over time. Let’s take a look at the differences between East Asian and Western philosophy.

    • Chinese vs Korean Philosophy within the East Asian Sphere

      For Korean philosophy to be truly Korean, it must be distinct from the philosophy of her neighbour, China. Let’s explore what elements of Korean philosophy make it unique.

    • Conclusion

      Let’s wrap up what we’ve learnt this week.

  • Week 2

    How does Innovation occur at Cultural Boundaries?

    • Innovating on your Influences

      Cultural innovation occurs best when there is a conflict of cultures between two cultural groups. Let’s take a look at the ways external influences can manifest in incredible innovations.

    • Adapting from your Influences: Sungkyun, an Educational Ideal

      Here, we’ll look at a great example of Adaptive Innovation in Sungkyun, and how pre-modern Koreans absorbed an external influence to create something authentically Korean.

    • Disrupting Status Quo: Hangeul, the Korean Alphabet

      Here we’ll look at an example of Disruptive Innovation in Hangeul, and how existing concepts in East Asian thinking were applied in a novel way to a written language.

    • Conclusion

      Let’s wrap up what we’ve learnt this week.

  • Week 3

    What are the Core Debates of Korean Philosophy?

    • Reconciling Reason and Emotion

      Though reason and emotion are often considered two separate concepts in Western thought, Korean philosophy sees things quite differently. Let’s explore how this dichotomy is reconciled.

    • The Four-Seven Debate in Korean Philosophy

      An incredibly important debate in Korean Philosophy, the Four-Seven Debate sparked intense debate on the reconciliation between our everyday feelings and the moral emotions that dictated our morality.

    • The Two Giants of Korean Philosophy

      Two thinkers, Toegye and Yulgok, rose to become the figureheads of Korean philosophy through the growth of the Four-Seven Debate. Let’s explore how they affected the course of Korean philosophy to come.

    • The Horak Debate in Korean Philosophy

      The Horak Debate was a fiery debate originating from the Yulgok school of thought, covering a wide range of topics. Let’s take a closer look.

    • Conclusion

      Let’s wrap up what we’ve learnt this week.

  • Week 4

    How do you think through Korean Philosophy?

    • Korean Philosophy’s Unique Perspective on the World

      Korean philosophy contains a worldview that’s distinct from those from other cultures. Let’s connect the concepts discussed so far to the central worldview of Korean philosophy.

    • Chunking Yourself and the World Differently

      The unique worldview of Korean philosophy is inherent in the language, especially in the Korean word for ‘we’: “Uri”. Let’s see how the language establishes a dynamic relationship between the self and the world outside of it.

    • Moving Forwards

      Now that we’ve learnt the basics about Korean philosophy, here are some ideas on how to further explore this exciting field.

    • Conclusion

      Let’s wrap up what we’ve learnt through the course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the field of Korean philosophy and its development through its continued innovation.
  • Compare Korean philosophy with both Chinese philosophy as well as Western philosophy.
  • Discuss the key ideas in Korean philosophical debates, such as the concepts of moral emotions and everyday feelings.
  • Reflect on the perennial questions with a new worldview through concepts in Korean philosophy.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in philosophy or Korean culture.

It will be of particular interest to teachers and students of Korean studies.

Who will you learn with?

I am a professor of Korean philosophy at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, Korea. I am interested in teaching Korean philosophy in a comparative perspective, and sharing this knowledge to non-Koreans.

Who developed the course?

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)

Sungkyunkwan University, founded in 1398 as the highest national educational institute in the early years of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, has fostered leaders of Korean society for over 600 years.

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