Eurocentrism and Development in Korea: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Eurocentrism and Development in Korea

1st Edition

By Jongtae Kim


240 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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Under the global hegemony of the West, societies have interpreted the world and defined their identities through the frameworks of Eurocentric discourses. Since the mid-twentieth century, Eurocentrism has tended to be associated with economic developmentalism. The discourse of seonjinguk (developed country) has been a dominant Eurocentric developmental discourse in Korea.

However, in what historical contexts have the Koreans set seonjinguk as their national goal and yardstick to judge nations? What roles have been played by the concept of seonjinguk in Korea? What discursive frameworks did the Koreans use for their national identities and worldviews before the developmental era? Eurocentrism and Development in Korea is the first scholarly approach to those questions. Through a chronological analysis of Korea’s dominant discourses from the late nineteenth century to the present, Kim demonstrates the historical nature of developmentalism and seonjinguk discourse for Korea’s developmental era, and traces their genealogy to gaehwa (enlightenment) and munmyeong (civilization) discourses from a sociological historical perspective.

Providing essential knowledge about Korea’s history of Eurocentrism, developmentalism and national change, this enlightening monograph will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as postdoctoral researchers, interested in fields such as Korean Studies, Development Studies and Global Sociology.


This is an important critique of west-centric progress worship in South Korea and a profound analysis of different modernization and development paths in East Asia, with comparisons of South Korea, Japan and China. A significant contribution to the East Asia literature and a good read.

Jan Nederveen Pieterse, University of California, Santa Barbara

This book keenly unravels very significant and under-represented aspects of Korean identity and world view in the modern era. One may barely grasp the Korean society and its development without reading this elaborate work.

Gil-Sung Park, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor of Sociology, Korea University

Table of Contents


Introduction: What Is the Discourse of Seonjinguk?


PART I (Chs. 2-4)

From "Munmyeong" (Civilization) to "Baljeon" (Development): The 1880s – The 1950s


The Origins of Korea’s Eurocentrism: Gaehwa and Munmyeong Discourses from the 1880s to the 1930s


The Politics of Modern Discourse of Civilization in Colonized Korea: The 1910s and the 1920s


Competition between Civilization and Development Discourses: The 1950s


PART II (Chs. 5-7)

The Rise of Developmentalism and Its Current State: The 1960s – The Present


The Rise of Developmentalism and Seonjinguk Discourse: The 1960s and the 1970s


Change in the Discourse of Seonjinguk: The 1980s and the 1990s


The Discursive Structure of Korea’s Developmentalism and the Mobilization of Nation: Geundaehwa (Modernization), Segyehwa (Globalization), and Seonjinhwa (Becoming Advanced)


PART III (Chs. 8-9)

National and Regional Identities and Mutual Perceptions in the Development Era


A Comparison of Development Discourses in Korea, China, and Japan: National Identities and Mutual Perceptions


A Comparison of Regional Identities between Northeast Asia and Europe: The Constructions of "Self" and "Others"



Conclusion: Beyond the Discourse of Seonjinguk

About the Author

Jongtae Kim is Humanities Korea (HK) Research Professor in the Asiatic Research Institute at Korea University, Seoul, Korea.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Emerging Societies

The baton of driving the world economy is passing to emerging economies. This is not just an economic change, but a social change, with migration flows changing direction towards surplus economies; a political change, as in the shift from the G7 to G20; and over time, cultural changes. This also means that the problems of emerging societies will increasingly become world problems. This series addresses the growing importance of BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) and rising societies such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE and Mexico. The term ‘emerging societies’ refers to concerns wider than just emerging markets or emerging powers, taking a kaleidoscopic approach that ranges from political economy, finance, technology and IP to social movements, culture, art and aesthetics. The series focuses on problems generated by emergence such as social inequality, cultural change, media, ethnic and religious strife, ecological constraints, relations with advanced and developing societies, and new regionalism, with a particular interest in addressing debates and social reflexivity in emerging societies.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General