[KS] Was Ho Kyun a traitor?

Donald Baker dbaker at interchange.ubc.ca
Mon Feb 28 19:41:40 EST 2000

Hong Kiltong has really sparked quite
a discussion.  This is not my
field of expertise, but I remember
reading somewhere recently
that the charges against Ho Kyun
probably had little basis in fact.
His execution was more the result
of factional squabbling over
succession to the throne than
due to any revolutionary alliance he
was forming  with seoja.
Does anybody else out there know
what the latest informed scholarly
opinion of Ho Kyun is?

As for my comments about Ho
Kyun not being a radical, I
have seen no evidence that
he wanted a drastic overhaul
of the Choson dynasty social
structure, other than his
dissatisfaction with the
discrimination against seoja 
(a sentiment he shared with 
many of the yangban elite).

Maybe I am reacting too strongly
against the characterization of
Ho Kyun and the Hong Kil-tong
story as presenting a radical
challenge to the Choson social
system because I have seen
Ho's views on other issues 
distorted greatly. For example,
quite a few Korean historians
claim that Ho Kyun was a
Catholic because of a statement
attributed to him by An
Chong-bok at the end of the 18th
century, almost two centuries after
Ho died. Not only is there no other
evidence that Ho made such a statement,
the statement isn't even a Catholic
statement. (Ho is supposed, according
to An Chong-bok, to have said that 
"Heaven has given humanity emotions
and desires.The social distinctions
we observe are derived from the
teachings of the sages. Since heaven
is more worthy of our respect than
the sages are, I would rather go
against the teachings of the sages
than go against the human nature
Heaven has given me."

Associate Professor, Asian Studies, Univ. of British Columbia


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