Korean Confucian Philosophy: The Mind

Korean Confucian Philosophy on the Mind 

The old adage “knowledge is power” has seemed to uphold its own reputation around the world since the formation of modern society.

It is interesting to see where different cultural values stem from. Education in Korean culture and how to utilize the mind in general, is rooted in the philosophy of  Confucianism

Although Confucianism originated in China, it trickled into Korea, and a branch of Korean Confucianism was born.  Korean Confucianism believes that people are perfectible through education, and that only the most educated in society are fit to help govern it.  The ideal leader for Koreans has always been a scholar.  King Sejong, who orchestrated the invention of the Korean alphabet is greatly revered in history for his academic contribution. 

Statue of Chinese Philosopher, Confucius (black and white)

Quick History 

During the Joseon Dynasty  from the 1300s-1800s, civil service examinations were put into place in order to determine how Government officials were chosen. This determined the importance of standardized testing in South Korea, which is still very strong today in the country.  Many other countries in the rest of the world have adopted the model. College SAT exams and standardized testing in America for example are influenced by Eastern models of education. 

There is a great importance placed on ritual and consistency in Confucian practices. The  Korean educational system conveys this idea, as it relies on repetition for teaching methods. 

A Look at Today 

The educational model in Korea may be criticized due to the fact it is so hard core, however it is important to note that the philosophy that many of these Korean practices stem from has deeper meanings and intentions. 

For example, the practice of bowing, which may seem dated and ludicrous to Westerners, is actually meant to foster humility. Being “humble” is a valued trait in general Korean character.  The physical act of bowing is supposed to develop a humble mind. It is important to bow when greeting elders, showing thanks, and paying respect to certain esteemed individuals.

A Different Kind of Mindfulness 

Teachings from Confucianism play a large role in the Korean culture and therefore the Korean mind. It is just one step to a different kind of mindfulness. 


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Written by Isabella Cammarata 

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