The Hankyoreh has an editorial on the growing religious divide opening up in Korean politics between Christians and Buddhists. Korean Christianity was once synonymous with the democracy movement and progressive, left of centre forces in a way that is rare outside of Latin America. Buddhism on the other hand, whether fairly or not, was tainted by its perceived complicity with both the Japanese authorities in the colonial period and the authoritarian regimes of the post-liberation period.
The editorial gives the impression of a government captured by the Christian right, in much the same way as happened in the US in the 80s and again in the early 2000s. But Buddhists certainly aren’t taking this lying down and monks from all over the country held a massive rally in Seoul today to protest the Lee Myung-bak government.
Could we be seeing a radicalisation of Buddhism in Korea? Buddhist monks are now angry enough to be openly calling for the president to step down. And, as an aside, the idea of Buddhism as a progressive religion certainly has a precedent in Korea in the 1920s writings of the famous monk, writer and independence activist, Han Yong-un. When asked by a Journalist in 1931, “So, if we were to express Buddha’s economic ideas in modern language?”, Han answered simply, “It would be Buddhist socialism.”
Finally, this just in from youtube, showing just the sort of militant evangelical Christianity that Lee Myung-bak supports: