Special Issue "The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (29 September 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Song-Chong Lee

Associate Professor of Religion, University of Findlay, 1000 N. Main St., Findlay, OH 45840, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Korean religion and society; cosmopolitanism; neo-Confucianism; Ham Seok-Heon

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Religion is one of the most effective human reactions to cope with various challenges of life. Like other major players, such as family and government, religion plays a powerful role in swinging the pendulum of our destinies between hope and despair, between liberation and enslavement, and between forgiveness and vengeance. There would be arguably no better place than Korea for finding exemplary cases, memories, and narratives. We can see, through the emergence of Buddhism during the Three Kingdom Period, a pendulum’s swing, a political transformation from parochialism to central government. We can see a paradigm shift, on the purpose of politics, from superficial utility for power to inner cultivation through the enhanced axiology and metaphysics of Neo-Confucianism. We can see a pendulum’s swing, on our perception of religion, from the priestly role to the prophetic role in leading and reshaping a society through Donghak Movement and Minjung Theology. The pendulum’s swing can be witnessed in many other domains, including socio-cultural phenomena, textual understanding, and political movements. Examples would further include new, creative interpretations and utilizations of Confucian texts, engaged and patriotic Buddhism, explosive church growth,  nationalist and democratization movements, and revolutionary roles of religious figures. To deepen and expand our understanding of religions in Korea, this issue invites papers that would address a variety of questions concerning the role and meaning of religion and religious texts for society.

Prof. Song-Chong Lee
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Asian Religion
  • Confucianism
  • Neo-Confucianism
  • Buddhism
  • Chinese Religion
  • Japanese Religion
  • Religion and Politics
  • Korea

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Tracing the Satipaṭṭhāna in the Korean Ganhwa Seon Tradition: Its Periscope Visibility in the Mindful hwadu Sisimma, ‘Sati-Sisimma
Religions 2018, 9(11), 341; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110341
Received: 25 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 3 November 2018
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Abstract
The Buddha is said to have awakened to the true nature of existence and attained final liberation from suffering through the practice of Satipaṭṭhāna. This practice begins by addressing sensations from the processes of body and mind, as characterized by ‘bare attention’
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The Buddha is said to have awakened to the true nature of existence and attained final liberation from suffering through the practice of Satipaṭṭhāna. This practice begins by addressing sensations from the processes of body and mind, as characterized by ‘bare attention’ and ‘clear comprehension’ through non-judgmental observation, ultimately effecting a transformation into a unique religious experience. During its transmission to East Asian countries, particularly in the Chan tradition, the essence of Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta has become transformed, while maintaining the theme of intense concentration, perhaps in the form of ‘counter-illumination’—an extended equivalent of ‘bare attention’. Not much has been written on which aspects of the Indian contemplative tradition were passed on to the Chan/Seon schools. In the Korean Ganhwa Seon practice, however, there are some indications that the spirit of Satipaṭṭhāna, resonating as a role of sustained attention with mindfulness, has been partially manifested, having crystallized into the mindful hwadu called Sisimma, or ‘Sati-Sisimma’. To substantiate this, this paper investigates how the two seemingly different practices can be seen to link together in the Korean Seon tradition, and proposes pari passu meditative parallels, Satipaṭṭhāna and Sati-Sisimma, recommending for an ‘attentive’ mode and a ‘non-attentive’ mode respectively, in modern meditative practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
Open AccessArticle Candlelight for Our Country’s Right Name: A Confucian Interpretation of South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution
Religions 2018, 9(11), 330; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110330
Received: 10 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 26 October 2018 / Published: 28 October 2018
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Abstract
The candlelight protest that took place in South Korea from October 2016 to March 2017 was a landmark political event, not least because it ultimately led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Arguably, its more historically important meaning lies in the fact
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The candlelight protest that took place in South Korea from October 2016 to March 2017 was a landmark political event, not least because it ultimately led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Arguably, its more historically important meaning lies in the fact that it marks the first nation-wide political struggle since the June Uprising of 1987, where civil society won an unequivocal victory over a regime that was found to be corrupt, unjust, and undemocratic, making it the most orderly, civil, and peaceful political revolution in modern Korean history. Despite a plethora of literature investigating the cause of what is now called “the Candlelight Revolution” and its implications for Korean democracy, less attention has been paid to the cultural motivation and moral discourse that galvanized Korean civil society. This paper captures the Korean civil society which resulted in the Candlelight Revolution in terms of Confucian democratic civil society, distinct from both liberal pluralist civil society and Confucian meritocratic civil society, and argues that Confucian democratic civil society can provide a useful conceptual tool by which to not only philosophically construct a vision of civil society that is culturally relevant and politically practicable but also to critically evaluate the politics of civil society in the East Asian context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
Open AccessArticle Introducing Christian Spirituality to Joseon Korea—Three Responses from Confucian Scholars
Religions 2018, 9(11), 329; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110329
Received: 1 October 2018 / Accepted: 23 October 2018 / Published: 26 October 2018
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Abstract
When the books written by Jesuit missionaries were introduced to Joseon Korea via China during the 18th century, Joseon Confucian scholars were drawn to not only western science and technologies but also to theological ideas centered on Christian spirituality. Among many foreign conceptions,
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When the books written by Jesuit missionaries were introduced to Joseon Korea via China during the 18th century, Joseon Confucian scholars were drawn to not only western science and technologies but also to theological ideas centered on Christian spirituality. Among many foreign conceptions, the most alien were the following three: immortality of the soul; eternal life in heaven or in hell after death; and finally, the resurrection of the body. There had been three responses from all levels of society: refutation, recognition, and reconciliation. First, Shin Hudam (1702–1761) wrote a book, Disputation on Western Learning, to dispute the above three doctrines as being most unreasonable and contradictory. Meanwhile, Jeong Yag-Jong (1760–1801) found that the doctrines were the true path to the salvation of human suffering and wrote the first catechistic book in vernacular Korean in the way that appealed to common people with Confucian backgrounds. Finally, Jeong Yag-Yong (1762–1836) was extremely careful, neither embracing nor rejecting, yet suggested alternative ways to address the core Christian theological problems without crossing the boundaries of Confucianism. All three were active dedicated responses to Christian spirituality and genuine Christian-Confucian dialogues, which also reflected common concerns and attitudes toward a new religion in Korean society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
Open AccessArticle Confucian Democracy and a Pluralistic Li-Ki Metaphysics
Religions 2018, 9(11), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110325
Received: 6 October 2018 / Revised: 19 October 2018 / Accepted: 22 October 2018 / Published: 23 October 2018
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Abstract
This essay explores the possible constructive role of a Confucian metaphysics in the pluralistic Confucian-democratic context of South Korea. In his recent landmark study, Sungmoon Kim has argued that South Korean democracy is sustained by a public culture of civility that is grounded
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This essay explores the possible constructive role of a Confucian metaphysics in the pluralistic Confucian-democratic context of South Korea. In his recent landmark study, Sungmoon Kim has argued that South Korean democracy is sustained by a public culture of civility that is grounded in Confucian habits and mores and yet is pluralistic in ethos. I appreciatively interrogate Kim’s thesis in order to advance a claim that a comprehensive Confucian doctrine such as Confucian metaphysics can contribute significantly to the flourishing of Confucian democratic public culture, provided that it affirm a pluralistic ontology. I contend that the tradition of Korean Neo-Confucian li-ki metaphysics, particularly one found in the works of Nongmun Im Seong-ju, offers rich resources for a pluralistic ontology despite its history of ethical monism. By putting Nongmun’s thought in conversation with some of the contemporary critiques of the Schmittian (mis-)appropriation of the notion of popular sovereignty, I outline a pluralized version of the Rousseauian general will—a kind of critically affectionate solidarity of diverse groups of people—that is Confucian in character. My claim is that such a critically affectionate solidarity finds its grounds in and draws its nourishment from a pluralistic Confucian ontology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
Open AccessArticle “Korea National Prayer Breakfast” and Protestant Leaders’ Prophetic Consciousness during the Period of Military Dictatorship (1962–1987)
Religions 2018, 9(10), 308; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100308
Received: 17 September 2018 / Revised: 4 October 2018 / Accepted: 5 October 2018 / Published: 10 October 2018
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Abstract
This paper illuminates the prophetic consciousness of Korean Protestant leaders by examining the “Korea National Prayer Breakfast” (Gukgajochangidohoe, 국가조찬기도회) that they hosted, particularly during the military regimes. In explaining the motivation for and intention of this special religious event in the
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This paper illuminates the prophetic consciousness of Korean Protestant leaders by examining the “Korea National Prayer Breakfast” (Gukgajochangidohoe, 국가조찬기도회) that they hosted, particularly during the military regimes. In explaining the motivation for and intention of this special religious event in the political arena, most scholars have emphasized the Protestant leaders’ political ambition and their agendas to get the government support and expand their power in Korean society. However, we should take heed of the leaders’ religious aspirations to make the country righteous in God’s sight. They attempted to have a good influence on the inner circle of the military dictatorship, which some Christians regarded as an evil force. Though they preached to and prayed for the military regimes, their sermons were often unpleasant and challenging to the presidents and their associates. The Protestant leaders wanted to play the role of John the Baptist rebuking Herod Antipas rather than the compliant chief priests and scribes serving Herod the Great. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
Open AccessArticle Performing the Bible in the Korean Context: Korean Ways of Reading, Singing, and Dramatizing the Scriptures
Religions 2018, 9(9), 268; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090268
Received: 7 August 2018 / Revised: 3 September 2018 / Accepted: 6 September 2018 / Published: 10 September 2018
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Abstract
The present study explores the performative nature of the Bible as a sacred text in the Korean context. Drawing on the theory of scriptural performance advocated by James W. Watts, I investigate its character as words and contents. First, I delve into
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The present study explores the performative nature of the Bible as a sacred text in the Korean context. Drawing on the theory of scriptural performance advocated by James W. Watts, I investigate its character as words and contents. First, I delve into the scriptural performance of thoroughly reading (and listening to) the Bible at the level of words. Second, I scrutinize the scriptural performance of singing and dramatizing the Bible at the level of contents. The specific context of South Korea—whether religious, cultural, or social—alerts us to the performed transformation of the semantic range of the long-standing Christian tradition. Given the cultural differences between Western and Eastern Christianity, I contend that the adaptation of Christianity to Korean soil renders the performative dimension of the scriptures all the more semantic. In other words, the Korean ways of performing the Bible are essentially deeply rooted in those of signifying it. In the long term, Christianity turns out to be such a global religion that it provokes a more complex analysis of its scriptural performance in its widely differing range of semantics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role and Meaning of Religion for Korean Society)
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