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

Buddhism and the Afterlife in the Late Joseon Dynasty: Leading Souls to the Afterlife in a Confucian Society

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2020, v.60 no.4, pp.267-293
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2020.60.4.267

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Abstract

Before we can fully appreciate how Catholicism came to be established in Korea, we need to describe the socio-religious context of the late Joseon period. It was in the later Joseon period that Joseon society became increasingly Confucianized, yet despite this transformation Buddhism maintained its authority over issues of the afterlife. Among indicators of this, the popularity of the Buddhist Pure Land tradition can be particularly noted, among others. It was within this socio-religious context that was widely grounded in Pure Land practices and its thinking that Catholicism arrived on the Korean Peninsula offering new notions of religious practices and religiosity. In the initial stages, Catholicism was noted to be uncannily similar to Buddhism. The newly arrived Catholicism followed a similar pattern of thought regarding the afterlife that had long been sketched by Buddhism. However, unique differences were perhaps the reason for the final success of Catholicism, characteristics such as monotheism and personal devotion have come to be accepted as characteristics of what it means to be a religious tradition, facets that other religions in Korea have come to adopt.

keywords
Joseon Buddhism Pure Land practices afterlife filial piety religious adaptation Confucianization Catholicism

Korea Journal