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Korea Before Nationalism: Judging and Misjudging, the 1801 Silk Letter of Hwang Sayŏng

November 13, 2018 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Royce 243,

Sponsored by: Center for Korean Studies

Co-Sponsored by: Center for Study of Religion, Center for Buddhist Studies


In 1801, in the midst of a bloody anti-Catholic persecution, one of the persecuted Catholics, Hwang Sayŏng, tried to send a letter to the bishop in Beijing requesting European military intervention to force Chosŏn to stop killing Catholics. Over two centuries later, historians debate how to characterize Hwang’s action. Many declare that he was traitor for asking foreign military forces to threaten Korea. A few others insist that he was a human rights activist, since all he wanted was religious freedom, not the fall of the government. Both characterizations are anachronistic. Professor Baker will provide a way to evaluate Hwang’s intentions in their historical context, before the concepts of nationalism or religious freedom were present on the peninsula. He will argue that Hwang simply wanted Chosŏn to change its allegiance from Beijing to Rome.


Donald Baker is professor of Korean History and Civilization in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. His most recent book is Catholics and Anti-Catholicism in Chosŏn Korea. He also wrote Korean Spirituality, a survey of Korea’s religious culture and has published numerous articles on Christianity and Confucianism in Korean history.


November 13, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm


Royce 243