Chailbong Hahm - Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California
The history of modern Korean politics can be characterized as the history of the clash of alternative conceptions of modernity as articulated by various intellectuals, activists, and politicians in the wake of the fall of the Confucian Choson Dynasty in 1910. The five most influential conceptions were (, and still are): Pro-Chinese Confucian traditionalism, Pro-Japanese Modern Reformism, Pro-American Christian Reformism, Pro-Soviet Socialism/Communism, and Ethnic Nationalism. This presentation will delineate the historical and socio-political contexts in which the different conceptions of modern Koreanness were articulated and how they have been interacting with one another. The analysis will provide a discursive framework which will enable us to better understand the major issues in contemporary Korean politics, including the North-South relations, rise of Christianity in South Korea, clashes between Korea and Japan over history text-book writing, the conservative-progressive/generational divide within South Korea, and the increasingly controversial role of the U.S. in Korean affairs.