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Introduction: Social Darwinism And The Ambivalences Of Modernity

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Chapter Summary

Yi Kwangsu started his career as a devout Protestant Christian and Tolstoy's most influential follower in Korea, and later combined both Christianity and Buddhism to create a sort of synthetic religion built on universal ethical foundations. How did Yi's Buddhist religious beliefs become so well adapted to a worldview centred around 'national might'? How did Yi's worldview reach the point of including the Korean nation within the boundaries of the 'greater Japanese race' and praising Japanese expansionist designs veiled behind the rhetoric of the 'struggle for survival between the races,' otherwise known as Social Darwinism? The reasons for the enthusiastic reception given to Social Darwinist thought by a wide spectrum of modern Korean thinkers - vociferously anti-colonial yet pragmatically accepting the realities of colonisation; Christian and Buddhist; some with domestic educational credentials, others Japan- or USA-educated - is what this chapter attempts to elucidate.

Keywords: Buddhism; Christianity; Korea; Social Darwinism; USA; Yi Kwangsu



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