restricted access Authenticity, Brand Culture, and Templestay in the Digital Era: The Ambivalence and In-Betweenness of Korean Buddhism1


Templestay, the cultural experience program accommodating foreign and domestic visitors to Korean Buddhist temples, is one of the most successful and popular heritage tourism products of contemporary South Korea. Noting the interwoven relationship between Korean Buddhism, the state's heritage policies, spiritual tourism, contemporary brand culture, and new digital media, this research explores how the branding practices and narrative of Templestay in digital spaces newly shape the presence of Korean Buddhism in the contemporary social world that is inevitably imagined and constantly (re)mediated. Despite Templestay's efforts to anchor Korean Buddhism in the locations of tradition, spirituality, the sacred, the self, and authenticity in the contexts of late-modernity and globalization, this research finds, the public presence of Korean Buddhism, mediated by digital media and branding practice, constantly oscillates between the secular and the sacred, the global and the local, modernity and tradition, tourism and spirituality, the market and the self, and commodity and authenticity. It is the dilemma of Korean Buddhism that the spontaneous employment of digital media and branding practices for sustaining and fixing its public presence in this highly mediated and networked social world, inevitably generates the ambivalence and in-betweenness of the mediated presence of Korean Buddhism.