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Introduction to Korean Philosophy and Culture

Sungkyunkwan University via Coursera


This course will give you the cultural and historical background to begin your journey into Korean philosophy, and there is no prerequisite knowledge on philosophy required. Anybody who either has an interest in Korean culture, maybe through K-Dramas or K-pop, or an interest in philosophy from a cross-cultural perspective, are all welcome.

Despite the growing interest in Korean culture, there are few courses which explore the fascinating topic of Korean philosophy. On this course, you’ll be introduced to concepts in Korean philosophy through an exploration of the Korean language, culture and perspective.
The Korean cultural, social, and political environment has informed and transformed the intellectual assets of China and the West. You’ll explore the creative tensions that Koreans have experienced, and broaden your worldview as you discover a new philosophical approach.


  • What is Korean philosophy?
    • This week, we’re going to look at what Korean philosophy is, and what makes it different from the Western philosophy that you might be accustomed to. We’ll also be looking at Chinese philosophy in comparison to Korean philosophy, because it has had a large influence on the evolution of Korean philosophy.
  • How does Innovation occur at Cultural Boundaries?
    • This week, we will look at how Koreans formed their own culture and ideas. What we consider to be “Korean” today is the result of their long-standing self-awareness and tenacious practice of reconstructing the cultures from outside. Among them, the Chinese culture had the deepest influence on pre-modern Korea. We will explore ways Koreans have adapted and innovated at cultural boundaries.
  • What are the Core Debates of Korean Philosophy?
    • This week, we will cover two traits that are often used to describe Koreans: One is “Koreans are affectionate” and the other is “Koreans are argumentative.” We will focus on these two seemingly contradictory characteristics of Koreans and revisit the two famous debates in the history of Korean philosophy: the Four-Seven Debate and the Horak Debate.
  • How do you think through Korean Philosophy?
    • Koreans have developed their way of thinking by innovating on knowledge at cultural boundaries. What they developed are reflected in contemporary Korean language. This week, we are going to talk about the core ideas of Korean philosophy that have endured up till now. We’ll see how we can think differently about the world through these ideas.

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  • A four-week course can only cover so much, of course, but I’m surprised at how much was included from history, language, and philosophy. The course was designed for absolute beginners in both Korean culture and in philosophy in general, so there’s a lot of unexplored depth, but it still conveyed a substantial introduction.

    FMI see my blog post at

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