ANZA & BASS: combined April get-together

 In News
A pril was a busy time around Seoul.  Thankfully, our friends at BASS were able to join us to host a combined event to hear an interesting talk from an expert in Korean history.

BASS kindly arranged for the group to meet at Aston Hall in the British Embassy and ANZA arranged for Prof Leighanne Yuh to speak on the topic of “The Hermit Kingdom: The legacy of 19th century myth-making and redressing misconceptions of Korean culture”.

Professor Yuh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Korean History at Korea University and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Korean History. At the meeting, Prof Yuh discussed the origins of Korea’s reputation as a Hermit Kingdom and whether it is or was based on myth or reality.

An extract from Prof Yuh on the topic follows.

A “Hermit Kingdom” is a term applied to any country which willfully cuts itself off, either metaphorically or physically, from the rest of the world. William Elliot Griffis, an American Orientalist and author, first coined this term in the late nineteenth century to describe pre-modern Korea, which then became widely popularized by the English explorer and writer Isabella Bird Bishop. Over the past century the term and its connotations have persisted, and the appellation “Hermit Kingdom” is now applied to North Korea for its extremely limited contact and distrust of the outside world. This address proposes that the depiction of late Chosôn Korea as xenophobic, contemptuously suspicious of foreigners (especially Westerners), and dogmatically conservative is in fact a myth that was created in the late nineteenth century and that has been perpetuated until today. Consequently, and quite unfortunately, this myth has contributed to continued misunderstandings of Korean culture and has affected modern-day foreign relations.

ANZA gratefully acknowledges the support of BASS for this event and we look forward to other opportunities to join forces in the future.

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