New Perspectives in Modern Korean Buddhism

Institution, Gender, and Secular Society

Edited by Hwansoo Ilmee Kim & Jin Y. Park

Subjects: Korean Studies, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Asian Studies, History Of Religion
Hardcover : 9781438491318, 348 pages, December 2022
Paperback : 9781438491325, 348 pages, June 2023

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Table of contents

Note on Translations and Conventions

Hwansoo Kim

Part 1: Beyond the Grand Narratives in Zen Buddhism

1. What Do Zen Masters Teach Us Today? The Case of Sŏn Master Hyeam Sŏnggwan
Jin Y. Park

2. Paek Yongsŏng and the Boundaries of Early Modern Korean Buddhism: Historiographical Issues and the Question of Scale
Mark A. Nathan

Part 2: Nuns and Laywomen in Modern Korean Buddhism

3. Lady Ch’ŏn and Modern Korean Buddhism
Hwansoo Kim

4. Experiencing a Different Buddhist Community: Nun Suok’s Travel to Japan and Her Contribution to the Korean Community of Nuns
Eun-su Cho

Part 3: Clerical Celibacy, Marriage, Scandals, and Monastic Rules

5. Rethinking Married Bhikṣu: An Examination of Bhikṣu Ordinations and Clerical Marriage in 1920s Korean Buddhism
Jeongeun Park

6. Flesh in the Closet: The “Secret Wife” in Korean Buddhism
Su Jung Kim

7. Monastic Regulations in Contemporary Korea
Uri Kaplan

Part 4: Secularity, Society, and Politics

8. Han Yongun, Fukuzawa Yukichi, and Questions of Nationalism and Colonialism
Gregory N. Evon

9. Kim Kugyŏng’s Liminal Life: Between Nationalism and Scholarship
Kim Cheonhak

10. Praying in Kangnam and Longing for the Mountains: The Dilemma of Centrality in Contemporary Korean Buddhism
Florence Galmiche


Offers alternative approaches to the study of colonial and postcolonial Korean Buddhism, suggesting new directions for scholarship.


New Perspectives in Modern Korean Buddhism moves beyond nationalistic, modernist, and ethnocentric historiographies of modern Korean Buddhism by carefully examining individuals' lived experiences, the institutional dimensions of Korean Buddhism, and its place in transnational conversations. Drawing upon rich archives as well as historical, anthropological, and literary approaches, the book examines four themes that have gained attention in recent years: perennial existential concerns and the persistent relevance of religious practice; the role of female Buddhists; clerical marriage and scandals; and engagement with secular society. The book reveals the limits of metanarratives, such as those of colonialism, nationalism, and modernity, in understanding the complex and contested identities of both monastics and laity, thus demanding that we diversify the methods by which we articulate the history of modern Korean Buddhism.

Hwansoo Ilmee Kim is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University and the author of The Korean Buddhist Empire: A Transnational History, 1910–1945. Jin Y. Park is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University. She is the author of Women and Buddhist Philosophy: Engaging Zen Master Kim Iryŏp and the editor of Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism, also published by SUNY Press.


"This work lives up to its titular promise by providing nuanced insights into the intricate dimensions shaping the formation, transformation, and contemporary complexities of Korean Buddhism within the context of modernity … By centering on individual lived experiences and recognizing the transnational and institutional dimensions of modern Korean Buddhism, the text challenges simplistic interpretations that narrowly focus on the current state of Buddhism in Korea. Instead, it underscores the intricate and nuanced factors that have collectively contributed to the multifaceted tapestry of Korean Buddhist development into its present form." — Religious Studies Review

"…a welcome addition to studies on Buddhism in Korea … This is a cogent collection of essays that cover a wide range of interconnected subjects and offer some fresh perspectives on discourses on Korean Buddhism using novel research methods." — Journal of Buddhist Ethics

"Every scholar can find their niche within these chapters. Whether this book inspires a new scholar in the field or becomes a key reference for a senior scholar, it pushes Korean Buddhist studies into the future with fresh insights and groundbreaking ideas." — Seoul Journal of Korean Studies

"This book will be a great resource for students and specialists seeking to understand modern and contemporary Korean Buddhism. It covers a broader range of topics than any other monograph on the subject, and provides much more material on the role of women in the preservation of Korean Buddhism." — Richard McBride, Brigham Young University