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  • 조선의 선교사, 선교사의 조선. Chosŏn ŭisŏn’gyosa, sŏn’gyosa ŭi Chosŏn [Chosŏn’s missionaries, missionaries’ Chosŏn]
  • Eun-Young Kim
조선의 선교사, 선교사의 조선. Chosŏn ŭisŏn’gyosa, sŏn’gyosa ŭi Chosŏn [Chosŏn’s missionaries, missionaries’ Chosŏn]. By 조현범 Cho Hyŏnbŏm, Seoul: Center for Korean Church History, 2008, 356p.

This book, which the author also titles in its French abstract, “Les images de la Corée et la conception de la civilisation chez les missionnaires français au XIXe siècle,” set out to examine a particular “civilization-religion relationship formation” in Korea by exploring French missionaries’ perception of Korea and their conception of civilization in the 19th century. Cho also seeks to apprehend the significance and influence of the Société des Missions-Etrangères de Paris (MEP), as well as that of its missionaries, for Korean Catholic Church history, as he confesses in the preface that he used to imagine himself sojourning in France with the French missionaries working in nineteenth-century Korea. To accomplish this, he organizes the book’s main chapters around the following themes: cultural activities performed by the French missionaries in Korea and their prosopographical characteristics; the evolution in their perspectives and thinking regarding Korea and Koreans; and the relationship between their observations of Korea and their opinions of modern Western civilization.

The book, a revision of Cho’s doctoral dissertation defended in 2002, is composed of ten chapters, which save for the first chapter are grouped in their turn into the three aforementioned themes. After presenting a short introduction to the field and a brief overview of the historiography and the corpus, the author consecrates the first chapter, “Missionaries and Orientalism,” to problematic and epistemological questions. This chapter is the starting point of the research, synthesizing the author’s fundamental reflections. Cho claims that when the French missionaries left European civilization for Korea, a non-civilized land, they assumed two very delicate missions that seemed both contradictory and complimentary: the evangelization of Korea and the transmission of modern Western civilization to Koreans. Yet, the author emphasizes, the Church of France and its priests in the nineteenth century were hostile toward modern civilization and considered themselves persecuted by modernity. Thus, according to Cho, the paradox between evangelization and propagation of modernity obliged French missionaries to maintain an attitude quite complex vis-à-vis the questions of belief and civilization. Cho presents the following [End Page 160] arguments: on the one hand, the missionaries portrayed Koreans as savage and lacking in the values of modern civilization, while on the other hand they praised Koreans for maintaining their traditional morals. The author claims that this floating position of the missionaries differentiates them from merchants or soldiers, who saw non-Western countries only in terms of modern civilization. Based on such reflections, Cho examines French missionaries’ writings in order to describe and explain, in significant and selected detail, their views on both Korean society and Western civilization (“les images de la Corée et la conception de la civilization”) in the following three parts.

The first part, “Missionaries in Korea: Activities and Characteristics of Missionaries Working in Korea,” consisting of four chapters, traces the background of the French Catholic Church and missionaries in the nineteenth century, and analyzes the individual training and prosopographical characteristics of French missionaries sent to Korea, as well as the mission policy of Rome and the MEP. The author also summarizes the daily lives of the French missionaries and their cultural activities in Korean society, which were responsible for the missionaries’ views on Korea.

Part two, “Missionaries’ Korea: Their Perception of Korea,” also comprised of four chapters, contains perhaps the bulk of the author’s scholarly effort as well as the most informative pages for the reader. It is in this part that the reader may enjoy the missionaries’ descriptions of various aspects of Korea and the author’s detailed assessment of the logic of their ideas of Korean society. To achieve this objective, Cho relies on letters and reports the missionaries sent to Paris, in particular representative documents from a limited number of missionaries, such as Bishops Berneux and Daveluy. To be sure, the author could not...


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pp. 160-162
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