SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Rhee Syngman in the first decade of the twentieth-century

Justin Youngchan Choi (SOAS, University of London)

Date: 30 January 2015Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 30 January 2015Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


Following his release from prison in 1904, Rhee’s personal trajectory was notable for a number of reasons. From his private audience with the President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, as a secret royal envoy just before the Portsmouth Treaty in 1905, to earning the first doctoral qualification in Korean history in 1910 under Woodrow Wilson, he swiftly gained a significant profile on the international stage.

Contentious issues surrounding the changes his political view underwent in the six years he spent in the United States have invited many interpretations, ranging from Marxian denunciation, to secular-nationalist repudiation of his church-state conflation, to more recent liberal-conservative efforts to re-evaluate his legacy. My contribution to the debate will be narrowly focused on two texts, The Spirit of Independence (1910) and The Neutrality as Influenced by the United States (1912). Both works have attracted a sizeable body of commentaries, largely in efforts to positively re-evaluate their place in modern Korean intellectual history. But how should we make sense of his writings in such a way as to situate them faithfully within their animating spirit and original concerns? In this talk, I highlight some of the theoretical issues which Rhee was at pains to stress, namely the problem of equality and law.


Justin Youngchan Choi is a doctoral candidate in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korean Studies at SOAS, University of London.





This seminar is free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Organiser: Centre of Korean Studies

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