Communication, culture and the Korean public sphere.
The aim of this thesis is to analyse the public communication activities of Korean
people from the Chason dynasty to the present day using the conceptual category of the
public sphere theorised by Jurgen Habermas. It is mainly concerned with two
fundamental issues: the issue of 'communication and democracy,' and that of
'communication and culture.'
Emphasising tradition and culture as among the most significant elements in the
consideration of communicative action and the public sphere in the Korean context, the
thesis takes issue with the claims to universality in Habermas's theory. My argument is
that Habermas's theory cannot easily be applied to non-Western societies unless there is
sufficient consideration of their idiosyncratic traditions and cultures.
To develop this argument, the thesis addresses the impact of Confucianism on speech
acts in Korea and the extent of their difference from those in a Western context. In
identifying 'silence' as a key term, the situation of women in Korean cultures is
particularly pertinent. The second consideration is the question of political
authoritarianism which is responsible for the repression of free expression of opinion in
collusion with Confucianism. I have discovered that several kinds of public domains of
communication have developed through Korean history, despite those two repressing
mechanisms, Confucianism and political authoritarianism, public domains which I
suggest are more appropriately called 'the public sphere' according to Habermas's
terminology. It is meaningful to filter and interpret various communication activities
across historical periods from within the analytic framework of the public sphere.
In relation to modem Korea, the thesis focuses on the media-saturated public sphere and
the current civil movements to demonstrate the dynamics between power and money
and their impact on the democratisation process