ISSN : 0023-3900
This essay examines the role of gender in Korean Buddhism’s encounter with modernity. I argue that different roles society has imposed on different genders resulted in different experiences of modernization. In the case of Kim Iryeop, a representative female intellectual who lived during the first half of the twentieth century in Korea, it was Buddhist philosophy—especially the Buddhist view of the self—that provided her a philosophical foundation in her search for identity and liberation from the traditional view of women. An investigation of Kim Iryeop’s Buddhism demands a reconsideration of the so far accepted postulation of the binary of modernity and tradition—Buddhism, in this case. Kim Iryeop’s Buddhism also brings to our attention the patriarchal nature of our understanding of modern Korean Buddhism, in which the Buddhist encounter with modernity has been portrayed as focusing exclusively on male Buddhist leaders and gender-neutral issues. Finally, Kim Iryreop’s Buddhism offers us an example of how Buddhist philosophy can contribute to the contemporary discourse on feminism, providing the possibility for creating a new Buddhist, feminist theory.
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