Abstract

Northern Buddhists are often described as the “most active and powerful” North Korean religious organization. Moreover, many Korean Buddhists see their tradition as an indigenous one, unlike Christianity, which they deem “imported.” Accordingly, Buddhist representatives from both sides of the DMZ believe that a merger of North and South Korean Buddhism is an essential key to the peninsula’s reunification. However, that vision comes up against a number of obstacles. Firstly, no matter how dynamic it is, the Chobulyŏn 朝佛聯, which is the North Korea’s sole Buddhist body, has remained subordinate to the Chuch’e sasang 主體思想 (or Juche, Self-Reliance ideology) since its birth in 1972. Secondly, many Southern Christian groups, untroubled by their “imported nature”, compete fiercely with Buddhists for the religious conquest of the North. Thirdly, two other factors have hampered the efforts made by Southern Buddhists to get closer to their Northern counterparts: the lack of continuity characterizing the reunification policies of the last four Southern presidential administrations; and the Chogyejong’s 曹溪宗 lack of autonomy regarding those policies. Despite these obstacles, Venerable P’ŏpt’a 法舵 (b. 1945), alias the Bodhisattva of Reunification, maintains that it is imperative to keep engaging North Korean Buddhists as they are, and to keep providing material help to Northerners—especially food—through Buddhist channels. Doing otherwise would not only be counter to the spirit of universal compassion which typifies Mahāyāna Buddhism, but also leave Southern Buddhists unprepared in the case of unexpected political changes in P’yŏngyang.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2167-2040
Print ISSN
2093-7288
Pages
pp. 9-50
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-28
Open Access
No
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