SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Buddhism in contemporary South-Korean society

Dr Florence Galmiche (Assistant Professor Department of East Asian Studies, Paris-Diderot University)

Date: 17 January 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 17 January 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


Until the end of the 1990’s in South Korea, most of the persons who were attending Buddhist temples were not actively labeling themselves as “Buddhists” and the notion of religious membership was not fully relevant to describe their forms of religious participation and activities. However, in competition with powerful Protestant churches that present themselves as symbols of Korean prosperity and modernity and display influential social and political networks, Buddhist institutions have set as a priority the consolidation of their social base of support. Most of the Buddhist leaders are now aiming at strengthening their religious denomination by developing a more “conscious”, “proud” and “collective” affiliation among the believers, with the explicit aim that religiously educated and socialized Buddhists would contribute to represent Buddhism in society and subsequently to its influence. This concern is not only a clerical one but, in contrary, is shared by a large part of the people attending the temples: lay practitioners are also actively taking part in this new affirmation of a Buddhist identity and in the constitution of religious networks vying with the Protestant ones. On the basis of ethnographical and sociological data, this paper addresses the ambivalent relationship of Buddhism with the successful model of the Protestant “megachurches” as well as the contemporary ambition of Buddhists actors and institutions to redefine and affirm their place in South Korean society through new forms of mobilization.

Speaker Biography

Florence Galmiche completed her Ph.D in sociology at the EHESS in 2011 with a research on contemporary Buddhism in South Korea. She did a postdoctorate at the Ruhr University Bochum from 2012 to 2013 and she is now maître de conférence at the University Diderot-Paris 7.

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