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Lazy Eye
06 Oct 11, 00:51
The Korea Times has an interview (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2011/10/135_96021.html) with Ven Dae Bong, a Philadelphia-born monk who currently heads Musang Temple -- which was "founded with the purpose to serve as a bridge between Korean Buddhism and the West."

Apparently this mission has met with success, as there is rising interest among foreigners. However, the article made me wonder about how Korean Buddhism is faring among actual Koreans. I lived in Pusan for a time, a dozen or so years ago, and the impression I got was that Buddhism was losing ground rapidly to Christianity, especially of the evangelical sort.

Still, the temples were beautiful, and very well-kept.

I wonder if the situation has changed for better or worse since I left...

FBM
06 Oct 11, 01:17
Hi, Lazy Eye,

I went to Musangsa a couple of times several years ago and listened to Ven. Dae Bong speak. At least, I think it was him. Bald white guys in robes tend to look alot alike. ;)

I think your description of the trend in Korea is still accurate. Churches have been multiplying at a steady or increasing rate since I got here in 1996. The current president is a pretty hardcore Christian, and he seems to be trying to secretly suppress Buddhism. For example, not too long after he took office, when the Seoul city government published its official tourism guide, there were cathedrals and such, but all the Buddhist temples had disappeared, despite them being among the top tourist destinations in the country. Buddhist leaders had to make a public outcry over it to get the temples put back on the map. More recently, the president's budget office cut funding to national parks in such a way that the Buddhist temples would lose about half their gov't support. Once again, Buddhist leaders had to take to the press. Not sure how it resolved, or if it is resolved yet.

So, yeah, Buddhism seems to be on the decline here, but I don't think it'll ever disappear completely. It's built into Korean cultural identity.

plwk
06 Oct 11, 04:08
The stronger the resistance, the stronger the resilience...

srivijaya
06 Oct 11, 18:32
I think your description of the trend in Korea is still accurate.
Hi FBM,
Would you say it's an image thing with Christianity perceived as more modern and western ?

Lazy Eye
06 Oct 11, 22:26
Churches have been multiplying at a steady or increasing rate since I got here in 1996. The current president is a pretty hardcore Christian, and he seems to be trying to secretly suppress Buddhism. For example, not too long after he took office, when the Seoul city government published its official tourism guide, there were cathedrals and such, but all the Buddhist temples had disappeared, despite them being among the top tourist destinations in the country. Buddhist leaders had to make a public outcry over it to get the temples put back on the map. More recently, the president's budget office cut funding to national parks in such a way that the Buddhist temples would lose about half their gov't support. Once again, Buddhist leaders had to take to the press. Not sure how it resolved, or if it is resolved yet.


Ugh. That doesn't sound promising. I've heard stories about belligerence on the part of some church groups -- praying for the destruction of Buddhist temples and so on.

Are there Buddhists among your Korean friends and acquaintances? Do they know you are a Buddhist practitioner? What do they think about that?

FBM
06 Oct 11, 22:57
Hi FBM,
Would you say it's an image thing with Christianity perceived as more modern and western ?

Definitely. And more affluent. $$$ ;)

FBM
06 Oct 11, 23:02
Ugh. That doesn't sound promising. I've heard stories about belligerence on the part of some church groups -- praying for the destruction of Buddhist temples and so on.

Are there Buddhists among your Korean friends and acquaintances? Do they know you are a Buddhist practitioner? What do they think about that?

Yeah, there have been incidents in the past decade or so of Christians burning temples and damaging Buddhist shrines. Not much in the past few years, though.

I have Buddhist, Christian and atheist/apathetic Korean friends. I have to be careful talking about Buddhism to my Buddhist friends, though, because I don't believe a lot of stuff they believe, and I don't want to offend them. But in Korea, for the most part, differences in belief are not usually seen as something worth arguing over. Just a few extremists at the fringes take it to the point of burning temples.