The Movement to Reform Korean Buddhism
(Vol.52. No.3 Autumn, 2012 pp.35~63)
YOON Seung Yong
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This study aims to understand the current state of Korean Buddhism by analyzing the development and limitations of the Buddhism reform movement during Korea’s democratic transition since the 1980s. The study first focuses on the repoliticization of Korean Buddhism, following the activation of the religious market. The independence and democratization of the Jogye Order, disputes on discrimination of religions, and the critical discourse over religious power are the results of this repoliticization of Korean religion. Second, the study analyzes the trends in the Buddhist reform movement, beginning with
the reforms undertaken by the Emergency Order in the 1980s, which exhibited social reform leanings. Thereafter, the movement led by Buddhist communities (sangha) in the 1990s centered on the practical reform of Mahayana Buddhism rather than social reform. This in turn paved the way for the Reformist Forum that focused on the institutional reform of the Jogye Order in 1994, and the current Reformist Order. Lastly, the study analyzes the tasks faced by the current reform of the Buddhist order, such as forming a new relationship with
the state power, increasing Buddhism’s social role, searching for a new order identity, and establishing a harmonized community among monastic monks (chulgaja) and lay Buddhists (jaegaja).
Keywords: Buddhist reform movement, social democratization, religious market, repoliticization of Buddhism, Emergency Order, practical Buddhism movement, Reformist Order
Types: Special Topic
Subject: Religion , Korean Studies
About the author(s) YOON Seung Yong is Director of the Korea Institute for Religion and Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from Seoul National University in 1992. His publications include Hyeondae hanguk jonggyo munhwa-ui ihae (The Modern Religious Culture of Korea) (1997). E-mail: