Skip to 0 minutes and 17 seconds More Tips for Korean Philosophy Korean philosophy is an almost uncharted territory that has not yet been explored. I hope that this course has given you a compass and map to explore this hidden field. In the meantime, we have covered several themes, but they are actually just the tip of the iceberg. If you are curious, I would like to give you some tips to help you explore the world of Korean philosophy.
Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds First: Korean Concepts in Own Terms The first tip is, “Consider the Korean concepts in their own terms.” Korean concepts may not mean the same as their English or Chinese translation. Let’s look at the word, “Jeong,” 정 情. Though I’ve been using emotion to mean “Jeong”, many learners of Korean say that the word “Jeong” cannot be translated into western languages. They sense that “Jeong” is not equal to “Emotion.” They describe “Jeong” as “warmth of heart”, “connectedness”, and “The attitude (mindset) that makes the stranger feel at home.” As the word “Jeong” comes from Chinese, you may think it has the same meaning as Chinese. However, the use of “Jeong 情 is very different from “Qing 情 in Chinese.
Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds This is a truism not only in the present of Korea but also in the past. If you look for “情” in Korean old literature, which is written in Hanmun, you will find how often Korean thinkers discussed the concept of “Jeong” and how importantly it was treated, unlike Chinese literature, as we’ve seen through the Four-Seven Debate. In modern times, a Korean snack company gained great success by putting the word “Jeong” on their signature pies. Because of “Jeong”, the snack meant a lot more to Koreans than just a pie. However, the word “Jeong” seems to not fascinate Chinese people that much. In this case, the Korean matrix operated in an almost reverse way.
Skip to 3 minutes and 20 seconds When that snack was exported to China, the marketers in China removed the name of “Jeong” from the pie and instead used “Ren”, which means “benevolence”, a key Confucian ideal.
Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds Second: Hanmun (漢文) and Hangeul(한글) in Continuity The second tip is, “Consider both Hanmun and Hangeul literature and understand the continuity between them.” Among the philosophically meaningful Korean concepts, there are indigenous concepts without Hanmun as well as Pan-Asian concepts with Hanmun. For example, “Jeong,” “Gi,” and “Jayeon” etc. have corresponding Chinese, “Qing 情,” “Qi 氣,” and “Ziran 自然”; “Uri,” “Mom,” “Maeum” are indigenous terms, with no corresponding Chinese. In the development of Korean philosophy, indigenous and imported words have been interacting with each other and weaving the way of Korean philosophy. In other words, Korean thinkers tried to express their worldview using both native and foreign concepts, and as a result, became able to produce more and more sophisticated discussions.
Skip to 5 minutes and 1 second The foreign concepts, transformed through the reflection of Korean thinkers, are employed to develop the worldview along with indigenous terms. For example, the context in which “Jeong” is used in Korean is closely related to the worldview embedded in the expression of “Uri,” a unique self-perception. On the contrary, it can be said that “Uri” provides clues as to why Koreans were so fascinated by the imported word “Jeong,” which was not so philosophically important in China. Recognizing yourself as “Uri” easily breaks the line between you and others and makes you effortlessly sympathetic to others. This worldview permeates Korea language.
Skip to 6 minutes and 6 seconds Third: Perennial Questions The third tip is, “Imagine how to link Korean philosophy with perennial questions.”
Skip to 6 minutes and 19 seconds Philosophers are concerned about perennial questions, such as: Who am I? Where do I come from and where do I go? Is what I believe really true? They are perennial in the sense that they are questions which thinkers will ask time and time again. Korean philosophy has not fully answered the questions that have been raised in the history of Western philosophy, but it has many intriguing sources that may offer new perspectives to these perennial questions.
More Tips for Korean Philosophy
In the meantime, we have covered several themes, but they are actually just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are curious, I would like to give you some tips to help you explore the world of Korean philosophy.
The first tip is, “Consider the Korean concepts in their own terms.”
The second tip is, “Consider both Hanmun and Hangeul literature and understand the continuity between them.”
The third tip is, “Imagine how to link Korean philosophy with perennial questions.”
Do you feel like you’ve gained a grasp on Korean philosophy? How do you think you can apply this new knowledge?
© Sungkyunkwan University