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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Korean Buddhist Reforms and Problems in the Adoption of Modernity during the Colonial Period

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2005, v.45 no.1, pp.87-113

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Abstract

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.

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