SOAS University of London

Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

Nationalisms in new religions: Minjokchonggyo in Korea



Yeonju Lee (SOAS)

Date: 19 March 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 19 March 2020Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B103

Type of Event: 0


Along with the dramatic changes in history, politics and culture that took place in modern Korea, the religious life of Korean people went through significant transformations. One aspect of this development was the emergence of new religious movements from the late 19th century, beginning with Donghak (‘Eastern Learning’). Numerous religious groups sprang up, and while many eventually declined over time, some achieved considerable levels of success and became sizeable and influential religions. Well known examples of these new religions include Daejonggyo, Ch'┼Ćndogyo, Daesun Jinrihoe, and Won Buddhism.

The talk will examine Korean native new religions through the theme of nationalism, an important element that is shared across these new religions. In particular, the category of ‘minjokjonggyo’ will be the focal point of discussion. Korean native new religions have eagerly identified themselves as ‘minjokjonggyo’, which can be translated as ‘national’ or ‘native religions’. Although relatively recent in origin, minjokjonggyo has become a widely used concept to categorise native new religions, and it has been institutionalised by The Association of Korean Native Religions which represented 33 religions at its foundation. By investigating how the category of minjokjonggyo was constructed and established, the analysis aims to explore what ‘minjok’ means to the beliefs and ideologies of the Korean new religious scene, and the significance of nationalism in maintaining relevance in Korean society.


Yeonju Lee is a third year PhD student in religious studies at SOAS. Yeonju’s doctoral research explores how various kinds of nationalism were manifested by Korean new religions, especially in the latter half of the twentieth century. From 2018 to 2019 she undertook a year of fieldwork in Korea, during which she examined the archives of various new religious organisations in the country.

Organiser: CSJR

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