Case Study: NED visiting fellow researches democracy and Confucianism

NED visiting fellow researches democracy and Confucianism

Visiting Fellows benefit from NED resources, Washington research network

What is Confucianism, and is it compatible with democracy? These are among the key questions that Chaibong Hahm addressed as a visiting fellow at the Endowment’s International Forum for Democratic Studies.

Mr. Hahm, a Ph.D. recipient from Johns Hopkins University and a leading Korean expert on democracy and Confucianism, joined the Forum’s visiting fellows program in January 1999. His fellowship, which is supported by the Korea Research Foundation, includes projects on “The Confucian Gentleman and the Private Individual” and “Liberal, Social, and Confucian Democracy.”

Chaibong Hahm is associate professor of political science at Yonsei University, director of the Comparative Cultural Studies Center at the Institute of East and West Studies at Yonsei, and editor-in-chief of Jontong Gua Hyundae (Tradition and Modernity).

“Few Koreans would call themselves ‘Confucian,'” Mr. Hahm told participants of a September 1999 NED seminar, “but research indicates that a vast majority of them are.”

He noted a reemergence of interest in Confucianism in recent years by intellectuals of both the left and the right, and explained that while terms such as ‘democracy’ or ‘human rights’ are fairly new to Koreans, certain Confucian values can help them to understand these concepts.

Fellows program connects scholars, practitioners

Established in 1995, the visiting fellows program enables scholars, journalists, and democracy advocates to spend three to ten months in residence at the Forum exploring the theory and practice of democracy.

The program is one example of how the Endowment’s activities to promote research and dialogue on democracy have expanded over the years. The Endowment began its research activities in 1990 with the founding of the Journal of Democracy, which has become a highly-acclaimed resource around the world. In 1994 the International Forum was established; it now encompasses the visiting fellows program, the Democracy Resource Center (which includes a library and web site), and a variety of other programs including conferences and publications.

In addition to addressing the NED seminar mentioned above, Mr. Hahm contributed an article, “The Cultural Challenge to Individualism,” to the tenth anniversary issue of the Journal of Democracy and participated in a panel discussion on January 20, 2000, commemorating that anniversary.

“I couldn’t ask for a better environment in which to work,” Mr. Hahm said of the International Forum. “I urge anyone who has the opportunity to come and work here to do so.”