[KS] Choson History Society Talk (Ilsoo Cho, 1/11)

Sean Han syhan0512 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 6 09:40:10 EST 2022

Dear Korean Studies members,

The Choson History Society is welcoming Ilsoo Cho (Kyoto Univ.) for a presentation with a title, 
Limits to Sinocentrism: Persistence of Nativist Discourses of Identity in Chosŏn Korea

Date: January 11, 2022 Tuesday, 4:00pm (PDT) / January 11, Tuesday, 7:00pm (EDT) / January 12, Wednesday, 9:00am (KST) / November 3, Wednesday, 00:00am (GMT)

This is a virtual Zoom event. Please register below. We look forward to seeing all of you!
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pduGopzgrE9eRWnR9bxL3umLyE3xSgQEN  <https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pduGopzgrE9eRWnR9bxL3umLyE3xSgQEN>

Dr. Ilsoo Cho, Limits to Sinocentrism: Persistence of Nativist Discourses of Identity in Chosŏn Korea.


Over the past generation, scholars have actively brought the sweeping legacy of the Mongol empire to light. Far from being a fleeting experience, the Mongol dominance over much of eastern Eurasia fundamentally altered the political cultures of the countries it ruled. Aiming to recreate the world-empire of Chinggis and Khubilai, what historian Timothy Brook translates as the “Great State” (M. yeke ulus), the early Ming rulers sought to incorporate all existing polities into a reinvigorated Sinocentric system. The Mongol experience also fundamentally changed Korea. The Koreans no longer saw themselves occupying an independent imperial sphere of their own, as they did so before the Mongol conquest, and internalized the Sinocentric worldview and Korea’s predetermined inferior position within it. In other words, through the Mongol experience, the Korean elites started to voluntarily self-identify their country as a vassal of the empire. In this sense, Ming China and Chosŏn Korea ideologically aligned themselves in tandem in creating the post-Yuan world order.

There is no denying the momentous impact the Mongols had, among other things, on the histories of China and Korea and the nature of post-Yuan Sino-Korean relations. But the Korean internalization of the Sinocentric worldview did not mean that the Koreans of Chosŏn imagined or operated their country only as a vassal of the Chinese empire or forgot about the nativist identity that existed before the Mongol subjugation. This presentation aims to reveal some of the nativist discourses of identity from Koryŏ that survived into the Chosŏn period. Designed to position Korea as a historical “rival” of China, these nativist discourses sought to magnify the world-historical significance of Korea. They argued that the Korean peninsula somehow paralleled China proper as a geographical entity, and the Chosŏn people’s ancestors “defeated” the unified empires of Sui and Tang China on the battlefields. By examining such discourses of nativism in Chosŏn, this presentation argues that the Chosŏn acceptance of Sinocentrism was far from total, and a sense of Korean identity as an independent geopolitical entity survived Korea’s subservience to Beijing.

About the Presenter
Ilsoo Cho (Ph.D. Harvard University 2017) is Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellow at Kyoto University. He works on the history of Korean foreign relations, primarily focusing on how the Korean policymakers and elites of Chosŏn responded to the Ming-Qing transition and the rise of Tokugawa Japan over the 17th century. His most recent publication is "Imperial Loyalism and Political Fissures in Early Modern Japan" (Journal of Japanese Studies, 2021).

Please find more information about the Choson History Society: https://www.chosonhistorysociety.org/ <https://www.chosonhistorysociety.org/>

Sean (Song Yeol) Han
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