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The Korea Now Podcast

May 12, 2020

This episode of the Korea Now podcast features an interview that Jed Lea-Henry conducted with Donald Baker. They speak about the history of religion on the Korean peninsula, the rise and place held by Shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism, the arrival of first Catholicism and then Protestant Christianity, the ways in which Koreans tended to not associate themselves with specific religious identities during the Chosŏn Dynasty and into the Japanese colonial period, how religion emerged after the end of the Second World War, the transformative impact that Protestantism had on the religious landscape, how this new religiosity affected ideas of modernisation and democracy, the role that religion played in the Gwangju Uprising (including Don’s firsthand account of the massacre), how Korea’s religious scene can be best described as a marketplace, and the future of religion in Korea.

Donald Baker is a Professor in Korean History and Civilization at the University of British Columbia. He received his Ph.D. in Korean history from the University of Washington and has taught at UBC since 1987. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Korean history and thought (religion, philosophy, and pre-modern science). In addition, he teaches a graduate seminar on the reproduction of historical trauma, in which he leads graduate students in an examination of traumatic events in Asia in the 20th century.

He was a co-editor of the Sourcebook of Korean Civilization and editor of Critical Readings on Korean Christianity.  He is also the author of Chosŏn hugi yugyo wa ch’ǒnjugyo ŭi taerip (The Confucian confrontation with Catholicism in the latter half of the Joseon dynasty) and Korean Spirituality (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). In 2008, he was awarded the Tasan prize for his research on Tasan Chŏng Yagyong, a writer and philosopher in Korea in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2013 he was asked by the National Institute of Korean History to serve as the chairperson of the International Advisory Committee for the English Translation of the Annals of the Chosŏn Dynasty.

Pertinent to this podcast Don is also the author of: ‘The Impact of Christianity on Modern Korea’ (, ‘The Emergence of a Religious Market in Twentieth-century Korea’, (, and ‘The Transformation of Confucianism in 20th Century Korea’ (

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