≡ Menu

Korea Through Western Eyes 

Yes, I know, it is a shameless plug but……what can I say?  It has been no easy matter in getting this book out (the other one seems to have been a lot easier in comparison) and there are many people I owe thanks – many of them are Marmot’s Hole readers – and this is as good as place as any for me to express my appreciation.  I would also like to thank my co-author Cheong Sung-hwa for his great patience (he needed it) and his attention to detail – especially when it came to the footnotes.  There were times that I am sure we each harbored murderous thoughts for one another but he taught me a great deal and for this I am indeed thankful.

Hope some of you purchase it but remember – I cry easily. 

Suggestion to the Marmot – there should be another category – “shameless plugs.”

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Congratulations Robert.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    Congratulations on finally birthing the baby!

  • belair716

    Congratulations!

    I actually found out this website last December by reading a newspaper article on Mr. Koehler’s book, “Seoul”. Since then, I commented a couple of times here, which means that I do not know anyone here.

    (However,) as a reader, it’s good to see that another book [by another author] has been published.

    I hope to hear similar good news from other writers ~

    Congratulations again ~

  • Richardx

    congrats.
    I am curious. On the cover, why are they dressed like that?
    They almost look like they are wearing a burqua/chador.
    1920′s?

  • seouldout

    It ain’t a shameless plug if it’s well deserved. Congratulations on your book’s publication. I’ve always enjoyed your writings.

    I am curious. On the cover, why are they dressed like that? They almost look like they are wearing a burqua/chador.

    Women and glass should stay inside. They both easily break.

    I’m intrigued how some cultures, such as Korea, are able to rapidly adapt whilst others, say many Muslim states, stay so stubbornly fixed. Or sadly even become more inflexible, such a Malaysia.

    Were the religious underpinnings not as strong? Was the tangible economic success a determining factor? Are Koreans and Taiwanese more materialistic?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Dammit Neff. If you only had made this announcement before Christmas I would have bought 50 copies to give to friends, family, co-workers, gf-prospects, business associates, kids on the street…

    Your loss buddy!.. ;)

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Oh, one question… if this gets to be on sale in Amazon, will people be able to preview a few pages before they buy? Whenever I click that it always says “Ask Publisher.”

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    seoulout,

    To answer your question (and perhaps Neff or anyone else can care to add) women during Chosun Dynasty times, when they came out in the daytime, had to coverup. During night, they could come out in regular dress… so the nights had this odd scene of a bunch of women out all carrying lanterns, laughing, giggling, riding the swing, going about their business. They were not able to act normally during the day due to the strict adherence to Neo-Confucianism. Well, that’s at least in the capital city Seoul. Not sure how strictly enforced that was in other parts of the country.

    Koreans of the later Chosun Dynasty were not particularly religious. Neo-Confucianism was the state philosophy and “religion” per se, but Neo-Conf didn’t have concepts of afterlife, soul, etc. Just lots and lots of rules and regulations to keep the population under control and the king in power. The ladies covering up and acting very proper during the daytime was one of those rules. The legacy of a non-religious Neo-Confucianist society can be seen in the rather large percentage of “non-religious” Koreans of today, which about 40-50% of the country does not profess any religion (although this group might be nominal Christians, Buddists or Shamanists or a combination of two or all three).

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    … oh, and another legacy of Neo-Confucianism is a pretty freaking effective non-religious “Great Leader” and “Dear Leader” cult up north.

    Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism (I separate the two because there are significant differences) has had good and bad influences on all three of the major East Asian countries (China, Japan and Korea)… but it was pretty much the main system that these nations had to get people to work hard and obey authority so when applied properly and judiciously can result in good things, like a relatively law biding society and the mechanisims to organize that society to modernize a nation.

  • CactusMcHarris

    Robert,

    Congrats – I promise to buy the first copy that gets delivered to Kamloops.

  • Sonagi

    To answer your question (and perhaps Neff or anyone else can care to add) women during Chosun Dynasty times, when they came out in the daytime, had to coverup.

    I believe that restriction applied only to yangban women. Servant and enslaved women worked outside and did not cover up. Prior to the 20th Century, the poor in most countries owned only one set of clothes. A poor woman who did happen to have an extra skirt and wore it over her head probably would have been mocked for putting on airs. If the color and cleanliness of the skirt didn’t give away her social class, her hands would.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    I believe you are right Sonagi.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Seouldout (#5) asked:

    “I’m intrigued how some cultures, such as Korea, are able to rapidly adapt whilst others, say many Muslim states, stay so stubbornly fixed. Or sadly even become more inflexible, such a Malaysia. ”

    I ask myself the same question. I think that the answer lies in the religious basis — Islam being a prophetic religion claiming to have the literal revelation from Allah, Confucianism being a wisdom religion claiming to know the will of heaven. Superficially, those two positions might map onto one another, but substantively, they are quite different.

    There’s also the vast difference between the role models offered by Confucius the teacher and Muhammad the lawgiver, ruler, military leader, and founder of a new religion.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Jeff:

    Judaism and Christianity both are also prophetic religions, and yet is was in the lands imbued with the Judeo-Christian ethos that the spirit of progress and constant change and adaptation emerged and flourished. So?

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Congratulations, Robert (N)! i’ll get one from SS…

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Jeff:

    PS. re snorkeling: I found a place with a little microbrew and good grub. When do you want to dive?

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    WangKon936 #8:

    Koreans of the later Chosun Dynasty were not particularly religious. Neo-Confucianism was the state philosophy and “religion” per se, but Neo-Conf didn’t have concepts of afterlife, soul, etc.

    Curious it is, then, that all those Neo-Confucian gentleman spent so very much of their time conducting and attending jesa and other such similar ceremonies, in which the spirit of the departed was invited to attend the altar at the beginning and then dismissed at the ending… Gosh, why would they have put so much time, money and energy into those activities if they didn’t believe in a spiritual afterlife? Why did they hold ceremonies for non-human spirits of Heaven, waters, mountains, grain and such when they weren’t ‘religious’, didn’t have belief in any supernatural beings? Boy, that sure was all a waste, eh?

    I know that the Catholic Church eventually judged that Neo-Confucianism is not a ‘religion’ in competition with itself, and that many Western scholars and commentators subsequently agreed that it’s just a secular civic and social philosophy. But i have long disagreed, and now teach my students that it was indeed worthy of being termed a religion for those who lived it, and still is today for the very few who do so — i used to know some men here who really did — tho the great majority of what remains of Confucianism today is not religion, its customs and practices are not ‘really religious’, yes.

  • Sonagi

    RE: Confucianism in Korea versus Islam

    In The Confucian Transformation of Korea, Martina Deutchler writes that the adoption of Confucianism as the state ideology and the persecution of Buddhism were not warmly embraced by the people. During the first hundred years of state Confucianism, the government passed law after law to force Koreans to give up longstanding customs that were in conflict with the ideology. Buddhism managed to survive state persecution, and I wonder how much Confucian thinking filtered down to the illiterate masses preoccupied with meeting basic needs.

    For centuries, Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia were not orthodox in their practices. Ordinary women wore form-fitting, v-neck kebaya blouses and did not wear headscarves. The trend towards Arabic-influenced Islamic practices seems to be a political demonstration of Malay/Muslim identity in two multi-ethnic, multi-religious states.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    sanshinseon,

    Let’s just say that I believe that ancestor worship is a vestige of East Asian culture that predates Neo-Confucianism and it was naturally adopted by the powers that be because it helped keep the population under control and the aristocrats “accountable” to the “system.” Kind of like Christianity and the Divine Right of Kings.

    However, I believe that it does not make Neo-Confucianism inherently a “religious” system. I believe it is inherently a secular system that grafts on religion when it needs to but but can survive without it.

  • seouldout

    Wankon,

    That would be Ricardx’s question you answered.

    Sonagi, thanks for correcting wankon. He learns so much about Korea, Eastern Europe, Mongols, Scandinavia, etc. from the hole.

  • seouldout
  • seouldout

    The trend towards Arabic-influenced Islamic practices seems to be a political demonstration of Malay/Muslim identity in two multi-ethnic, multi-religious states.

    Courtesy of our petrol pals the Saudi Wahhabists, in the form of scholarships, new air-conned comfy concrete mosques, and subsidies to mullahs. Saudi soft power at work throughout the Islamic world.

  • Robin Hedge

    Congrats Mr Neff. And nice posts.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Sperwer (#14), I think that all prophetic religions have a tendency toward fundamentalism due to their assumption that God has revealed truth that human beings could not reach on their own through reasoning, but this tendency can be modified by other factors.

    Western Civilization is a synthesis of Jerusalem and Athens and has a critical, self-questioning tendency counter to its fundamentalistic tendency. This critical ability had room to develop because of the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal that has a textual basis in the distinction that Jesus made between religion and state. The secular realm thus had a degree of legitimacy that it lacks in, e.g., Islam.

    There are thus formal and substantive distinctions between Christian and Islamic civilizations that can account for the difference that you’ve noted.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Sperwer (#16), a microbrewery sounds good to me. I’ve also learned of one. Let’s email and discuss this or else everybody will want to horn in.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    Another difference between Christianity and Islam, missed by a great many people who attempted to use the Bible as a tool to gain power, is that Christians are to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    This is to be a battle fought “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    Islam, on the other hand, requires its adherents to lie to unbelievers (al taqiyyah), to kill those who refuse to submit, and especially those who try to change to another religion. The Quran (Koran, or however one chooses to transliterate the name) states that there are only two countries: the Nation of Islam and the Nation of War. _They_ think we are at war, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

    The Bible states that Jesus paid, once for all, our penalty for sin. Our salvation is not based on our merit: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. ”

    Islam not only denies that Christ died on the cross but states that when their Jesus returns he will kick off a worldwide “pogram” where the trees point out the Jews hiding behind them so a Muslim can kill them. And Islam is a totally works-based religion where each gains merit based entirely upon their own actions (and those of their parents).

    Each of us has many choices to make and “religion” is a deeply personal one. Be sure you’re ready to defend yours.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Setnaffa, are you sure that the Qur’an states this:

    “The Quran (Koran, or however one chooses to transliterate the name) states that there are only two countries: the Nation of Islam and the Nation of War. They think we are at war, regardless of what anyone else thinks.”

    This division of the world into the Dar al Islam (Realm of Islam) and the Dar al Harb (Realm of War) is a feature of Islam, but I’m not sure that the Qur’an states the point explicitly.

    What sura and verse are you referring to?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    setnaffa,

    I think another major difference between Christianity and Islam is that Christianity went to the Reformation, which essentially took away religious interpretation from a universal institution (i.e. the Catholic Church) and placed it upon individuals. So… any ole crackpot or sage can come up with his own doctrine and interpretation from the reading of the Bible. Welcome Mormonism, welcome Unification Church, so on and so forth.

    Islam never went through a Reformation of this magnitude. It’s major schism is one of succession, not doctrine (more similar to the Christian schism of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy). So, religious interpretation can come from a Mullah, a Imama, etc. but it cannot come from an individual (unless the individual declares himself to be a mullah and is recognized as such by other mullahs). The ultimate result of this is, in my opinion, are people who can’t individually go against religious instruction and counter it with their own interpretation, which makes said religion harder to become secularized, IMHO.

  • Pingback: ROK Drop Weekly Linklets – January 10, 2010 | ROK Drop

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    seoulout,

    If you reread the first line in my # 8, you’ll see that I asked for alternative voices because my knowledge of the society of Korea during that period of time is not that great. I welcome correction and acknowledged Sonagi on her point. I like to learn and I like to contribute. That’s why I’m here.

    I’m also sorry to confused that you’d actually ask a question about a how and why on Korea before you make summary judgments about Korea/Koreans. Again, sorry. I got excited there.

  • Wedge

    Religion, schmeligion. I’m buying this book when I see it next and Robert had better sign it.

  • Pingback: SeoulPodcast #84: Snowpia | SeoulPodcast