Followers of the Tonghak movement saw that from the outside Korea was being threatened by imperialistic aggression on the part of Japan and powerful Western nations, while within the country the oppression of the people by a corrupt government was becoming unbearable. They believed that in this kind of situation the only way the nation could be saved was through religion.
But the traditional religions, Confucianism and Buddhism, had lost their strength and the new Western religion was also one of the weapons of the foreign invaders.
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Therefore, they thought, the only hope for national salvation lay in the appearance of a new "Korean style" religion. Claiming the authority of divine revelation, Choi Che-woo proclaimed that Tonghak was this new religion so badly needed, but as a result he was executed by the government just three years later. The movement continued after Choi's death, however, and through the missionary efforts organized by his followers it grew over the next thirty years to become the largest religious group in Korea.
Its culmination came in the Tonghak Revolution of under the slogan, "Save the nation and bring peace to the people by getting rid of government tyranny and keeping out Western and Japanese influence. The second major period of the movement for national culture in Korea can be characterized in various ways. Extending from to it was of course the period of Japanese colonialism, but from the Korean viewpoint could be called the period of the Independence Movement.
It was also a period of research. From the time of the takeover in Japan's attempt to colonize Korea was carried out under a policy designed to eradicate Korean culture by gradually replacing it with Japanese culture. As I have said, it was an attempt not merely to colonize but to Japanize Korea, and this could only be done by eliminating everything Korean.
They began with language and history, by prohibiting education and research related to the Korean language and Korean history. Then in the later part of the s it became illegal to even speak Korean in Korea and Korean people were forced to worship at Japanese Shinto shrines. Striking at the heart of personal as well as cultural identity, the greatest indignity was that finally Korean people were not allowed to use their own names but were forced to take Japanese names instead.
Paradoxically, research into Korean culture during this period was initiated by Japanese scholars. Their purpose, however, was not to preserve or to foster the development of Korean culture but to provide justification for their colonial policy. Thus the field of Korean studies had its beginning as a servant of Japanese colonial policy.
Some of the works produced by the Japanese during this period are as follows:. Also, in the Japanese Government-General established an editorial committee for research on Korean history. The work of this committee, however, reflected a particular view of history designed to justify colonial policy.
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While Japanese scholars were pursuing colonialist aims in research on Korea culture, Korean scholars on the other hand began their own research in order to discover in the traditional culture the spiritual basis for the independence movement against Japan. In contrast to the Japanese, who held what could be called a colonialist view of history, these scholars held a nationalistic view. For the most part they were traditional Korean scholars of the old school who were also independence fighters and had been living in exile in China since the fall of Korea to Japan in Some of their representative works are as follows:.
Along with such works as these which were produced in the traditional Korean pattern of scholarship, from the s there were also works on Korean culture by scholars who followed Western methods of research. For example, the Korean Language Society was established in and began publishing a journal called Hangul that carried scholarly articles on the Korean language. This society also undertook the compilation of a Korean dictionary.
Likewise, the Chindan Society founded in engaged in historical research on scientific principles.
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Their journal, the Children Hakbo , carried articles dealing with such areas as politics, art, the history of Korean thought, folk traditions and so on. Some of the representative works based on Western methods of scholarship produced during the period are as follows:. In addition, there were also Korean scholars in this period who were concerned with religion and folklore in relation to national culture. A few examples are:. With the surrender of Japan in Korea was liberated from Japanese colonialism and again became an independent nation.
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However, the division of the nation into two parts and the tragic war between north and south that followed in temporarily stopped cultural activities and resulted in the loss of many valuable research materials. It was not until the s that cultural research could be resumed on a normal basis, so that was when the modern period had its real beginning. By then the number of scholars had increased greatly because after Liberation it was easier to go abroad for advanced study and research and many who did so were returning to engage in their work at home. Also, although there have been a number of social problems along the way, the economic development beginning in the s has provided more leeway for cultural activities.
If we say that the decade of the s was a time of struggle for political stability and the s one of struggle for economic stability, then the s became the decade of search for cultural identity -- and we have believed that cultural identity is the cornerstone of national independence. Beginning in the s, a number of research institutes for the study of Korean culture have been established. Among them there are some independent organizations such as the Korean Research Center, but for the most part these institutes were set up within university structures.
East Meets West
There were sixteen such institutes by the end of the s, then twenty-two by the end of the s. Also in the government established its own institute, the Academy of Korean Culture. According to figures compiled by the Academy, at the end of there were scholars in Korea engaged in various fields related to Korean studies. Historians and linguists comprised the two largest groups, and about seventy per cent of the total were young scholars still under the age of forty. Also, most of the research articles in the post-liberation period have been published since Man was also believed to have a soul that never dies.
So a corpse was laid with its head toward the east in the direction of the sunrise. Neolithic man believed that while good spirits like the sun would bring good luck to human beings, evil spirits would bring misfortune. Shamanism gradually gave way to Confucianism or Buddhism as a tool for governing the people but its influence lingered on. The shaman is considered capable of averting bad luck, curing sickness and assuring a propitious passage from this world to the next.
The shaman is also believed to resolve conflicts and tensions that might exist between the living and the dead. Korean shamanism includes the worship of thousands of spirits and demons that are believed to dwell in every object in the natural world,including rocks, trees, mountains and streams as well as celestial bodies. Shamanism in ancient Korea was a religion of fear and superstition, but for modern generations, it remains a colorful and artistic ingredient of their culture.
A shamanistic ritual, rich with exorcist elements,presents theatrical elements with music and dance. The introduction of more sophisticated religions like Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism did not result in the abandonment of shamanistic beliefs and practices. They assimilated elements of shamanistic faith and coexisted peacefully. Shamanism has remained an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture. Buddhism is a highly disciplined philosophical religion which emphasizes personal salvation through rebirth in an endless cycle of reincarnation.
In Silla, Buddhism was disseminated by monk Ado of Koguryo by the mid-fifth century. Buddhism seems to have been well supported by the ruling people of the Three Kingdoms because it was suitable as a spiritual prop for the governing structure, with Buddha as the single object of worship like the king as the single object of authority.
Under royal patronage, many temples and monasteries were constructed and believers grew steadily.
By the sixth century monks and artisans were migrating to Japan with scriptures and religious artifacts to form the basis of early Buddhist culture there. By the time Silla unified the peninsula in , it had embraced Buddhism as the state religion, though the government systems were along Confucian lines. Royal preference for Buddhism in this period produced a magnificent flowering for Buddhist arts and temple architecture including Pulguk-sa temple and other relics in Kyngju, the capital of Silla.
The state cult of Buddhism began to deteriorate as the nobility indulged in a luxurious lifestyle. Buddhism then established the Son sect Chinese Chan; Japanese Zen to concentrate on finding universal truth through a life of frugality. The rulers of the succeeding Koryo Dynasty were even more enthusiastic in their support of the religion. During Koryo, Buddhist arts and architecture continued to flourish with unreserved support from the aristocracy. The Tripitaka Koreana was produced during this period. When Yi Song-gye, founder of the Choson Dynasty, staged a revolt and had himself proclaimed king in , he tried to remove all influences of Buddhism from the government and adopted Confucianism as the guiding principles for state management and moral decorum.
Throughout the five-century reign of Choson, any effort to revive Buddhism was met with strong opposition from Confucian scholars and officials. When Japan forcibly took over Choson as a colonial ruler in , it made attempts to assimilate Korean Buddhist sects with those of Japan. These attempts however failed and even resulted in a revival of interest in native Buddhism among Koreans. The past few decades have seen Buddhism undergo a sort of renaissance involving efforts to adapt to the changes of modern society.
While the majority of monks remain in mountainous areas, absorbed in self-discipline and meditation, some come down to the cities to spread their religion. There are a large number of monks indulging in scholastic research in religion at universities in and outside Korea. Son meditation -oriented Korean Buddhism has been growing noticeably with many foreigners following in the footsteps of revered Korean monks through training at Songgwang-sa temple in South Cholla province and Son centers in Seoul and provincial cities.
Confucianism was the moral and religious belief founded by Confucius in the 6th century B. Basically it is a system of ethical percepts—benevolent love, righteousness, decorum, and wise leadership—designed to inspire and preserve the good management of family and society. Confucianism was a religion without a god like early Buddhism, but ages passed and the sage and principal disciplines were canonized by late followers. Confucianism was introduced along with the earliest specimens of Chinese written materials around the beginning of the Christian era.
The Three Kingdoms of Kogury, Paekche and Silla all left records that indicate the early existence of Confucian influence.
Paekche set up such institutions even earlier. The Unified Silla sent delegations of scholars to Tang China to observe the workings of the Confucian institutions first hand and to bring back voluminous writings on the subjects. For Kory Dynasty in the 10th century, Buddhism was the state religion, and Confucianism formed the philosophical and structural backbone of the state. The civil service examination of kwag adopted after the Chinese system in the late 10th century, greatly encouraged studies in the Confucian classics and deeply implanted Confucian values in Korean minds.
The Choson Dynasty, which was established in , accepted Confucianism as the official ideology and developed a Confucian system of education, ceremony and civil administration.
When Korea was invaded by many West European countries including Japan in the late 19th century, the Confucianists raised "righteous armies" to fight against the aggressor. Efforts were also made to reform Confucianism to adapt it to the changing conditions of the times. These reformists accepted the new Western civilization and endeavored to establish a Modern Independence government. Also, during Japan's colonial rule of Korea, these reformists joined many independence movements to fight against imperial Japan.
Today, Confucian ancestral worship is still prevalent and filial piety highly revered as a virtue in Korean society. The tide of Christian mission activity reached Korea in the 17th century, when copies of Catholic missionary Matteo Ricci's works in Chinese were brought from Beijing by the annual tributary mission to the Chinese Emperor. By the 18th century, there were several converts among these scholars and their families.
The number of converts continued to increase, although the propagation of foreign religion on Korean soil was still technically against the law and there were sporadic persecutions. By the year , a dozen priests presided over a community of some 23, believers. In ,79 Koreans who had been martyred during the Choson Dynasty persecutions were beatified at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and in an additional 24 were honored in the same way.
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During and after the Korean War , the number of Catholic belief organizations and missionaries increased. The Korean Catholic Church grew quickly and its hierarchy was established in It was the first time that a canonization ceremony was held outside the Vatican. This gave Korea the fourth-largest number of Catholic saints in the world, although quantitative growth has been slow for Catholicism. In , Horace N. Allen, an American medical doctor and Presbyterian missionary, arrived in Korea.
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