This paper sheds light on the life and thought of Baek Yongseong (1864-1940) and demonstrates his success at balancing mukti and karma. At the turn of the century, when Korea lost its independence, Baek saw the predicament Korean Buddhism was in, facing the inva- sion of Japanese Buddhism and the introduction of Christianity. Baek sought to revitalize Korean Buddhism by making it understood and accepted by the general public. He also declared economic indepen- dence for Buddhist organizations and decried the newly established Japanese Buddhist institution. Above all, his balance of mukti and karma has become the standard for many contemporary Korean Bud- dhists, and as such allows us to draw important lessons from him. First, as an important shaper of modern Korean Buddhism, Baek taught that individual salvation must be accompanied by action for the benefit of the people. He also advised Korean Buddhist organizations to neither claim exclusive use of the gongan method nor overemphasize words and letters (bullip munja). Finally, he never defined how bal- ance between mukti and karma should be maintained, but instead said followers must strike their own balance out of compassion for other beings.
Korean Buddhists during the colonial period (1910-1945) first had to overcome the effect of the Chosn persecution and then bring changes to their religion that were compatible with their newly opened society. The arrival of Japanese Buddhism and Christianity in the peninsula provided Korean Buddhists with both challenges and a frame of reference for their idea for modernity. This paper presents the major reform issues, activities, and institutional changes implemented by the Korean Sangha. The viability of Korean Buddhism depended largely on the capability and willingness of Buddhists to participate in a nationwide march toward co-opting Western modernity. Social and nationalistic stances were adopted to prove the utility of Buddhism, so that the status of Buddhism in society would be improved. The Buddhist order was launched on the modernization of Buddhism, focusing on reformation of the monks education as well as their proselytization. While educational reforms were aimed at consolidation within the Buddhist order, the Buddhist order also attempted to promote the religion in society by developing propagation methods. At the same time, Korean Buddhists joined the nationalist march for the restoration of sovereignty. After the March First Movement in 1919, young clerics began to challenge the docile Sangha and question the religious policies of the colonial regime. This paper shows, however, that Korean Buddhists faced a number of difficulties, such as a lack of financial resources, passion, and vision, in their effort to create a modern tradition.
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.
A paradoxical argument has been made repeatedly with regard to conservatism in Korea: “There is a conservative force, but no conservative philosophy in Korean politics. This is what I would define as the dilemma of Korean conservatism. Thus Koreansboth academic scholars and politicianshave been suffering from a perennial complex, this being the lack of a proper conservative political philosophy. However, this complex is derived from a misguided internalization of West-centrism, a phenomenon that is quite common in many contemporary Third World countries that have been spellbound by West-centrsim. When they consider conservative philosophy, they usually have a Burkean (or British) conservative political philosophy in mind. But the conditions that had led to the formation of such a conservative political philosophy have been utterly lacking in Korea. The fundamental reason for this difference is, of course, derived from the fact that the context of modernization in Korea, like many Third World countries, was radically different from that in England. Thus, I will first try to articulate the three causes for such this difference in the paper: the conservative monopoly of politics and political power, the original contradiction between political and philosophical conservatism, and the heavy dependency of Korean political theories upon outside (Western) sources for their formation and innovation. Thereafter I will suggest two strategies for nourishing philosophical conservatism in order to overcome this dilemma: one outlines a strategy of aligning political conservatism with the support for liberal democracy and the market economy more tightly, and the other is a strategy of taking advantage of traditional cultural resources such as Confucianism.
Whether nature is believed to have intrinsic standards for good and bad as human beings do, or is merely an object free of a value system of its own, becomes a major criterion for deciding the premodernity or modernity of a philosophy or system of thought. However, a critical issue in this essay is whether the application of the same criterion can do justice to Hong Dae-yongs philosophy.Hong Dae-yong used the cognitive possibility of the senses as a criterion to deny the presiding force of li, and argued that all things in the world come into being and change through gihwa (gi-ization). He demystified the theory of yin-yang and the Five Elements (ohaeng) by explaining yin and yang as different intensities of sunlight and the ohaeng as five concrete material elements. Li only exists within gi, but that does not deprive li of its value. As the basis of the identity of all things, it means nature (seong), origination, prosperity, advantage, and correctness (won-hyeong-i-jeong) humanity, rightness, decorum, and wisdom (in-ui-ye-sin); in one word, it means humanity as the mind-and-heart (sim) with which heaven and earth generate all things.Hong argued that since even the five moral imperatives (oryun) were the lessons that sages of the past took from nature, now human beings had to observe nature more closely and consider their society more carefully to constitute rules and laws that best suited the age. He called for a reflective critique of the imposition of human subjectivity on nature. His ideas took a direction different from that of the reductive view of nature typical of the West.
This article maintains that recent anti-American protest waves in South Korea are rather driven by internal structural cleavages than by the behavior of the U.S. government. Anti-Americanism is considered as a "master frame" in order to link a broad range of different social interests and groups. In the first step, an outline of the problem definitions (diagnostic framing), solutions (prognostic framing) and the historical consciousness (memory framing) of the anti-American protest movement in South Korea is drawn. In the second step, structural cleavages in the subsystem of education, economy, politics and religion are described. It will be discussed, why different social groups take up a critical stance towards the United States. The conclusion is that the influence of the United States on the public opinion in South Korea is very limited, even if the U.S. government changes, for example, its political strategy towards North Korea. To some degree, anti-Americanism in South Korea appears to be independent of the U.S. policy.