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German scholar lectures on 'Saving Confucius from Confucianism'

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By Jon Dunbar
Werner Sasse / Korea Times Archive

Werner Sasse / Korea Times Archive

There are always reminders about how Confucian Korea is, and how that's the basis for its deeply conservative heritage, or its rapid economic development. But that's not necessarily the case, according to one German academic, who calls such views "far too superficial."

"Contrary to what many people think, Korea is not at all a Confucian country — and never really was," Werner Sasse said in an online invite to his lecture, titled "Is THAT what Confucius said? Saving Confucius from Confucianism," scheduled for Dec. 12 at KOTE in central Seoul's Insa-dong area.

"There are Korean scholars and educators who try to revive Confucianism in the face of a perceived spiritual and moral lack of direction in contemporary Korean society," Sasse said. "As my reaction as a Westerner to this trend, I will talk about Confucius' influence in the history of Western philosophy as the basis for my views of Confucianism, then about universal ideas in the Confucian traditions, and finally about ways to re-read and re-interpret the 'Selected Sayings' (a.k.a. Analects, Lunyu/Noneo) in a way suitable for the 21st century."

Sasse studied Korean studies, Chinese literature and general linguistics at Bochum University in Germany in the early 1970s. He was an assistant professor of Korean studies at the university from 1975 until 1988, at which point he became a full professor and founded the university's Korean studies department. In 1992 he moved to Hamburg University where he founded another Korean studies department. He was a guest professor at Chonnam University in Gwangju in 2007, and a chair professor at Hanyang University from 2008 to 2011. He was also president of the Association of Korean Studies in Europe (AKSE) from 1999 to 2003.

The hybrid lecture starts at 7:30 p.m. this Tuesday at KOTE in central Seoul's Insa-dong. Entry costs 10,000 won, or 5,000 won for students of all ages with valid student ID, and is free for RAS Korea members. Those who wish to view the lecture live online should register in advance to receive a Zoom address. Visit for more information.


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