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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

The Formation and Transformation of the Concept of the Modern "Individual" in Korea

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2005, v.45 no.3, pp.160-128

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Abstract

This paper focuses on texts by the enlightenment group that actively introduced and accepted the concept of Western liberalism between 1895 and 1905, the year that when Korea began to loset its national sovereignty. Based on these texts, the paper explores how the concept of the individual that was represented in the as modern in Korean modernity was changed and transformed in each period, and examines the different meanings of this concept. Of the terms that were most widely used at the time such as people, commoners, and the self, the term people was used as a general and abstract term, or as the only sole object of enlightenment. But it was in fact the term individual that contained a substantial meaning. The rights of the individual essentially meant the rights to protect his or her own body and property. In Korea, the concept of a modern nation (gungmin) was unable to be born failed to appear, and after 1905 the term minjok officially took its placereplaced this empty space. In the meantimewhile, the birth of the concealed yet stable individual was lay behind these terms.In this paper, the individual and modern people are not seen as points along a linear continuation continuum but are rather mutually exclusive. In the process of its formation and transformation, the notion of the individual does not necessarily conflict or is incompatible with the notion of state, but requires and constitutes the notion of state for the protection of the individual rights of life and property. Therefore, while the concepts of the individual and the people in the formation of Korean modernity did not always have an affinity for each one another, the concepts of the individual and the state were not necessarily exclusive.

keywords
modern Korea modernity individual people state liberalism modern Korea modernity individual people state liberalism

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