Junzi (君子), the Confucian Concept of the ‘Gentleman’ and its Influence on South Korean Land-Use Planning

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The crowded, lively, and diverse cities of East Asia are a fascinating experience for the Western visitor. What some perceive as chaotic is actually the result of a set of values derived from Confucian culture that are reflected in the organization of the city. While Western philosophy believes in the dialectic idea that truth can be found through reason and ultimately leads to the resolution of contradictions, Eastern philosophy follows an aesthetic notion of order, which uses contradictions as a means of understanding the relationships among objects and events. Confucian aesthetics value harmony among differences more than rationality and uniformity, and it is this notion that seems to be reflected in the diverse and lively urban centres of East Asia. In this chapter, the relation between philosophical ideals and urban expression is explored through the investigation of a series of developmental steps in the history of Seoul. Starting with the junzi (君子, ‘gentleman’), the exemplary person in Confucian thought, it becomes clear that moral values, institutional frameworks, and economic processes have produced a certain type of specifically East Asian urbanism. The Park regime in the 1960s, in its push for economic development, radically embraced Western values; this choice has also had consequences for the planning, form, and land-use diversity of the modern Korean city. The investigation into the application of Western concepts in practice in Korea reveals that certain Confucian values remain present in modern Korea, in hybridization with the imported Western typologies.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationAncient and Modern Practices of Citizenship in Asia and the West
Subtitle of host publicationCare of Self
EditorsGregory Bracken
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9789048538317
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameAsian Cities
PublisherInternational Institute of Asian Studies


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