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Religions and Religious Studies in Korea

Panel Chair: Chae Young Kim | Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m.

Religious Studies as an independent academic discipline is not yet introduced fully in the international network of religious studies in spite of many foreign scholars’ interest in knowing about the situation of religious studies in Korea. According to my research, though there are some individual studies of Korean religion(s) published in foreign academic journals and monographs in Europe and North America, I could not find a distinct informational research done on the situation of religious studies as a modern academic discipline beyond the exclusive study on each religion separately in Korea.

Shin Ahn

Pope Francis’ Visit to Korea and its Religious Meanings

Pope Francis visited South Korea in August, 2014. Koreans responded to this historical event in various ways. Though a group of conservative Protestants held anti-Catholic demonstrations, the public image of Catholicism became dramatically improved. The pope met marginalized people including Korean ‘comfort women’, sexual slaves of the Japanese army during World War II. He also consoled family members of the victims of Sewol disaster, the sunken ferry killing 304 people. Connecting the memory of early Martyrdom with the anti-Christian persecutions in the 21st century, he beatified 124 martyrs who died in persecutions between 1791 and 1888. After meeting leaders of other religions, Pope celebrated the final mass of peace and reconciliation at the Seoul’s Cathedral. This paper deals with religious meanings by examining the public reactions to Pope’s visit to Korea.

Ji-Yun Jeong

The Social Idea and Practice of Daesoon Thoughts

Religion contains the universal belief system and the principle of practice for the salvation of humanity. Here, the major cause of religion transmitting its own contents over the long history can be found from the successful fulfillment of its religious duties through social practice. Hence, it would be in line with the success of accomplishing its religious object through major activities to find whether it actively responds to the various problems at hand in contemporary society. Hereupon, after reflecting on Haewonsangsaeng (Resolving the grievances for the beneficence of all life) and ‘Repaying the gratitude for the beneficence of all life’ as a social idea of Daesoonjinrihoe, this paper will examine how these two social ideas express themselves as social practices corresponding to the needs of the times.

Kwangsuk Yoo

Korean Religions and the International Religious Freedom Reports

Since 1998, the International Religious Freedom Office in USA issues about 200 country reports every year. The reports on the Korean situation have a heavy influence on the relationship between religious groups and the government. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses are reported as a major victim of governmental and social oppression, and hence Korean government is under pressure by the US embassy. This means that religious globalization leads to a global expansion of the criterion of religious freedom.

Participants: Shin Ahn, Ji-Yun Jeong, Kwangsuk Yoo


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