When we study Korean religion, we face two sets of basic questions. First, what do we mean by “religion”? How broad should be the range of phenomena that we want to include in our study? Should we study Korean religion as a single organic unity or as a plurality of diverse traditions? Above all, the classical question whether or not religion is to be regarded as a phenomenon sui generis needs to be addressed one way or another by any scholar engaged in the study of Korean religion. Second, what do we mean by “Korean” in studying Korean religion(s)? How strongly should we stress its/their Korean identity? Is there a distinctive Korean character underlying all Korean religions or Korean religious culture in general, past and present? In addressing these issues, we need the wisdom to avoid two extremes of essentialism and radical nominalism. Apart from these methodological issues, we need to pay more attention to the rich and dynamic religious world of Korean society today than has been accorded to it thus far. Closer analysis of the interaction between various religious traditions and groups is another area that has been neglected in the study of Korean religion. Finally, it is always worth remembering that we study Korean religion as much for the spiritual values and insights it may have for today’s world as for its importance in deeper understanding of Korean society and culture, the primary concern of Korean studies in general.


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