China Centrum Tübingen (CCT)

Confucian State or Ultra-Modern State? Leadership and Family Values in South Korea

South Korea is perceived in diverse ways by the international community: in modern times, as an OECD country with a strong economy, as a stable democracy, and as a society with a strong culture of protest movements, manifest in frequent public demonstrations on political and social issues. In history, by contrast, Korea is depicted as a model Confucian state with a society characterised by strong family values. This is, in large part, a product of the European and North American historical experience and perspective, in which family issues are perceived to belong only to the private sphere while politics is part of the public sphere. This lecture demonstrates, however, that the two spheres are not so clearly demarcated in the Korean case, and that political culture and leadership are closely connected with Korean concepts of ‘family values’, past and present. The lecture explores the relationship between the ‘family’ and ‘political’ spheres, looking at institutions, such as the household head system (hojuje), in order to shed light on the many and complex ways in which family shapes (and is shaped by) political culture.

Dr. Jong-Chol An holds a Ph.D. in modern Korean history and a J.D. in US law. He specialises in Korean legal history, and is currently researching Ernst Fränkle, a German émigré to the US who came to Korea as one of the top US legal advisors during the US occupation of Korea (1945-48). Professor An has published on topics of nationality law, the history of international law and Korean-American relations in both English and Korean. Representative publications include “Who Are the First Koreans? The First Korean Nationality Law (1948) and Its Limits,” (Papers of British Association of Korean Studies 16, (2015): 23-44) and “No Distinction between Sacred and Secular: Horace H. Underwood and Korean-American Relations, 1934-1948” (Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 23/2 (December 2010): 225–246).

At the University of Tübingen, he teaches “Modern Korean History” and “Law and Society,” focusing on Korean family, labour, and migration issues.