Becoming a city Buddhist among the young generation in Seoul

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Abstract

The quest for spirituality among young urban dwellers represents a novel and highly distinctive form of social reproduction in contemporary South Korea. As young people are forced by a hyper-competitive work environment, fragmenting family, and high youth unemployment, they strive to overcome the attendant feelings of stress and anxiety, turning to the anti-materialist values of Buddhism. Within this context, the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism’s ‘engaged Buddhism’ – as manifested in Jungto Society – provides an interesting case study to examine the ways in which the culture of healing is being popularized among the young city dwellers. Of particular appeal to this generation is Jungto Society’s combination of individualistic practice with social action, which also differentiates it from other Buddhist organizations. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with young city dwellers who engage in Buddhist meditation and practices, this article aims to analyze how a young urban population strives to reconcile the knowledge and management of one’s heart, promoted by Buddhist religion, with the neoliberal ethos of self-improvement. This article argues that the fundamental Buddhist concepts generate a certain form of self-reflection among their practitioners that expands both their religious and civic minds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-466
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Sociology
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 1

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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