Illuminating Dasan, an Innovative Thinker of the Joseon Dynasty
Publishing the series of Dasan Dokbon
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Dasan Jeong Yak-yong is considered one of the greatest thinkers in the late Joseon dynasty. Dasan -- a scholar and politician throughout the late 18th and early 19th century -- is well known for his pragmatic approach towards Confucianism, publishing highly influential works on philosophy, science, and theories of government. Illustrating Dasan's work is Professor Jung Min (Department of Korean Language and Literature), a scholar who has devoted his career to illuminate the values of Dasan and his publications.
Jung recently completed publishing his series of Dasan Dokbon in Hankook Ilbo, which is a critical biography that takes a glimpse into Dasan's unknown life. “The articles cast light upon Dasan’s early years as a politician,” said Jung. “It was an age of turbulence following the breakdown of dominating Neo-Confucian values.” Jung portrayed Dasan as an ambitious intellectual who actively sought a breakthrough in social issues. Fortunately, Dasan received political support from King Jeong-jo, the reformist monarch who ruled Joseon in the late 18th century.
Jung paid attention to Dasan’s approach to Catholicism throughout Dasan Dokbon. Unlike some scholars who see Dasan as a devout Catholic in his youth, Jung interpreted that Dasan regarded Catholicism as a field of study rather than a religion. “Dasan was deeply interested in the promotion of public welfare through science,” said Jung. “This is why he embraced Catholicism as a major ideological foundation of Western science.” Ironically, Catholicism is what forced Dasan out of his position, as it was counted as heresy by the ones with vested rights. Dasan was involved in the Catholic Persecution of 1801, and it ended his political career. Dasan was exiled to Gangjin, where he concentrated on his publications for 19 years.
Jung plans to cover Dasan’s years of banishment through his further works. Jung claims that Dasan’s management of information will give out new insights to people living in modern society. “There is no Korean scholar who can surpass Dasan in the quantitative and qualitative richness in publications,” said Jung. “Dasan offered a new mechanism of processing voluminous information which is co-operated with his pupils.” Jung stated that Dasan’s competence as a data compiler will provide templates to which are required in the era of big data and collective intelligence.
Jung highlighted the importance of changing perspective. “Stereotypes prevent the emergence of new thoughts and ideas,” said Jung. “I tried not to confine myself to the traditional view on Dasan.” Jung’s humanistic insights to find connections with the society produced innovative results in his Dasan studies. As some people say, you can expect no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.
Oh Kyu-jin firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Ju-eun
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