The Sin of Patriotism?

american-and-christian-flags1It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the United States of America. Here in Korea, you wouldn’t know it from any other day (unless, of course, you’re on a U.S. military installation). But with the benefit of the Internet, there’s no escaping it…though personally I wouldn’t want to. I celebrate with millions of other Americans our hard-won independence from Great Britain 240 years ago.

Much of what I’m seeing in my Facebook feed, however, is not a positive response to it being the 4th of July. I’m not judging, but from where I sit, many of those posters seem to be speaking from their holier-than-thou ivory towers to us lowly patriotic souls who are in need of their superior spiritual insight and understanding of the mind of God. Let me explain:

First, they condemn our fight for independence as contrary to the scriptural mandate to be obedient to the powers in place over us as being instituted by God. They view the situation on the American continent of the 18th century through 21st century glasses, presuming to understand the situation our political forefathers and mothers experienced better than those who were living it.

Continue reading original post at my personal blog site . . .

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Closing Down a Worship Service

Wherever a chaplain is assigned, in addition to his/her assigned duties, they are expected to also be involved in religious support to the garrison where they’re located. Often this means being part of one of the on-post worship services. This has been the case for me while in Yongsan, South Korea. I have been the pastor of the Traditional Protestant Congregation who worshiped at Memorial Chapel on Main Post, for the year that I’ve been in Korea.

Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The final group photo of the congregation taken on our last Sunday together as a congregation

I’ve mentioned before about the movement of U.S. forces from all over Korea to USAG Humphreys near Pyeongtek. This is beginning to impact religious support at USGA Yongsan as there are fewer chaplains to support the multiple worship services. Today (26 June 2016), this impact became real for the congregation I have been pastoring as we celebrated the final service of this congregation which has been active in Yongsan for over 25 years. Beginning next week, the attendees will begin attending one of the other remaining services on post.

Here are a few pictures of the final service and the fellowship brunch we enjoyed together at Greenstreet at Dragon Hill Lodge following the service.

Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
Richard always opens our service with announcements and birthday/anniversary greetings.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
Passing the Peace
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The Scripture being read by one of the congregation members who has attended for 15 years.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The choir is unbelievable. The choir director is a paid contractor who studied in the U.S. Many choir members come just to work with him.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
Dr. Rev. Lee studied in the U.S. and has been singing for the congregation for 10 years.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
Our musician (at the piano) is also a paid contractor. She’s great on both the piano and the organ.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
On this last Sunday, we celebrated Communion by Intinction.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The Parish Advisory Council (PAC) gave a gift to some of the congregation who volunteered in different capacities.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The mug the PAC gave chapel volunteers (and me).
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
Angel first came to Korea to fight in the Korean War. Since he’s been back (near the beginning of the congregation over 25 years ago) he has been serving the congregation in many ways.

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After the service we went to one of the restaurants at the Dragon Hill Lodge on post (Greenstreet) and enjoyed the Brunch Buffet:

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Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
This couple has been part of the congregation for about 15 years. They’re there nearly every Sunday!
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
This couple has attended for about 10 years. The man was also a regular usher.

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Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The congregation gave me this plaque in appreciation for leading the congregation for the past year (I’ll replace the picture of the congregation with the one we took today).
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
I had these bookmarks made for everyone in attendance at our final service.

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Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
I was surprised at how much the congregation touched me in just a year. Here’s the “farewell” letter I put in the bulletin.

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Here are some other pictures of Memorial Chapel where the Traditional Protestant  Congregation has worshiped for over 25 years:

Yongsan Memorial Chapel
Here’s an artist’s drawing of Memorial Chapel on USAG Yongsan

Yongsan Memorial Chapel

Yongsan Memorial Chapel

Yongsan Memorial Chapel

Yongsan Memorial Capel
The front of Memorial Chapel on USAG Yongsan

Here’s a short video showing the sanctuary changing from Catholic to Protestant worship

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Unification Church in South Korea

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From left to right: Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and the Koran.

Out walking the other day, I passed a curious statute that I had to return to with my camera. What it turned out to be was part of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as its name prior to 1994 when Rev. Sun Myung Moon consolidated his several organizations, Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity  or the Unification Church. Many non-Unificationists (as they prefer to be called) may know them best as “Moonies” though this is viewed as a derogatory term by adherents.

The founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. Moon was raised a Presybeterian, but according to Moon, on Easter when he was 15, Jesus appeared to him commissioning him to complete the work that Jesus had started. In the 1950s, after being excommunicated from the Presbetyerian Church for his unorthodox beliefs, Moon founded his church which today boasts several hundred thousand adherents around the world.

Interestingly, Moon has had quite a bit of trouble with the law both in South Korea and the United States where he spent 13 months in prison for tax evasion.

The Unification Church views the apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity, who codified the teachings of Jesus into a formal religion. Hell is accepted as being present on Earth now, but in time will become Heaven on Earth. They also view Communism as an expression of Satan and link it with Cain, while viewing Democracy as the expression of God and link it with Abel.

They also believe that Eve had a sexual affair with Lucifer which caused the spiritual fall of humankind. Before she was married to Adam, she also had premarital sexual relations with him, causing the physical fall of humankind. Their marriage produced an imperfect family allowing Satan to have control of the world.

The remedy to this problem was for Jesus (the 2nd “Adam”) to form the perfect marriage to redeem humankind, but he was crucified before he could complete his mission. His spiritual resurrection did secure spiritual salvation for humankind, but because Jesus wasn’t able to complete his mission, physical salvation is not possible in this lifetime. Therefore, a third “Adam” is needed to provide complete salvation for humankind. According to the Resurrection Church, this 3rd Adam was born in Korea between 1917 and 1930 and his appearance will be recognized as the 2nd coming of Christ. This 3rd Adam will marry, producing the perfect family, enabling complete salvation for those who choose it.  Many Unificationists had viewed Rev. Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han (his 2nd) as this perfect family, the “true spiritual parents of humankind” but he died in 2012, having appointed his youngest son,  Hyung Jin Moon, his successor in 2008.

The Unification Church is known for their mass weddings. Many times, the couples do not know who they will marry until a month before the ceremony, sometimes not meeting them until that day. They can, however, not participate in the wedding without shame. The newlyweds do not consumate their marriage for 40 days, representing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The church emphasizes the importance of the family and encourages times of family study and devotion.

Exact membership numbers are hard to determine but are said to be in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, with about 5,000 in the U.S. It appears that membership in South Korea is not significant enough to appear anywhere but in the “others” column of religious adherents.

Here are some pictures I took of Cheon Bok Gung Church of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Seoul:

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Cheon Bok Gung Church Seoul
The announcement board outside of the Cheon Bok Gung Church in Seoul
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This view of the church building shows the symbol of the Unification Church designed by Sun Myung Moon the elements of which have these meanings: “The center circle symbolizes God, truth, life, and light, the four elements that reach out or radiate from this origin to the whole cosmos in 12 directions. The number 12 represents the 12 types of human character and that truth (the Principle) is able to spread out in 12 ways (such as in the 12 tribes and 12 disciples). According to Moon, the structure of the heavenly kingdom is also patterned after this system of 12. The outer circle represents the harmony of giving and receiving action, the principle of the cosmos. The square represents the four position foundation. The symbol is used on Blessing Ceremony rings, jewelry, on churches and in publications.” (RF site)
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This is the view that caught my eye on my walk…I thought that looked like Jesus on the right…

 

Cheon Bok Gung Church
As you walk in the main entrance, your eyes are drawn to a round room in the center surrounded by blocks and pillars.

Cheon Bok Gung Church

Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the right is a small cafe.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the left and behind are a number of personalized tiles.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
By the information desk at the entrance is a schedule of the services offered.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The round room in the center is the “Jeongseong Room.” According to the sign in front of it, this room is an area for offering prayer and jeongseong in silence. Before entering, pray-ers are to remove their shoes and be careful not to fall into the water, which doesn’t have a cover.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the left side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Buddha.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the right side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Jesus.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The Cheon Bok Gung Church is housed in a large building with space for worship, prayer. lectures, conferences and education.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On an outside door of the building is a saying which found nearly anywhere might be a good one: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved…forever.”

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A brochure with the order of worship for the Cheon Bok Gung Church

 

 

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All photos were taken by the author. Information for this post was gathered from the following sites:

Religious Tolerance website, “The Unification Church…”

Religion Facts website, “Unification Church”

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification-USA

The Unification Church, “Rev. and Mrs. Moon”

Wikipedia, “Unification Church”

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Brigade Hail and Farewell

Hail and Farewell gatherings are a long-standing tradition in the military to welcome Soldiers just coming into the  unit and say “farewell” to those who are leaving. The Army doesn’t have a prescribed ceremony or format for Hail and Farewells, it is up to each unit to decide how often to have them and what they will be composed of.

The brigade I am leaving tried to have them every other month or so, so there was never too many being hailed or farewelled. Coming up on PCS season, however, there are a lot more changes, so they started farewelling people farther away from their actual departure than normally would be done. I was farewelled a full three months before I was scheduled to leave!

This Hail and Farewell was held at a massive buffet that had a variety of Korean, Chinese, Western and all sorts of types of food to include breads, fruits and desserts. There was too much to chose from, but it all looked good. Of course, one of the criteria for picking the location is that they have a meeting room so that we can be separated from the rest of the restaurant guests.

501st MI BDE H & F
The new Command Sergeant Major was being hailed the night I was being farewelled. When being hailed, the commander or your supervisor shares a little background about you: past assignments, family, hobbies, etc.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
When you’re being farewelled, your supervisor, or in my case the Brigade Commander, talks about your contribution to the unit mission.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Usually you’re presented a farewell gift, often the “colors” of the unit. Sometimes it’s another symbol of the unit or location. Some received a Korean Familial Bell.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
A close-up of the colors I received.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
I also received a Brigade Commander’s coin.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
The farewellee is given a chance to speak, often thanking those who contributed to their success.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Many times there are games or some other form of entertainment.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Continuing to play a game
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Of course, there’s food, too. I can’t say that I ate any of this fish…
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I didn’t eat any of this fruit, either.
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I did have Bulgogi Pizza

 

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Interesting People & Curious Things

One of the things that I find most interesting when I visit other countries is the differences that exist between my culture and theirs. Often times what a Westerner thinks is odd or peculiar in another culture is completely normal or natural for them. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through the minds of visitors to the United States when they see some of the things unique to us.

Since this interests me so much, I take a lot of pictures of those things that turn my head. Most just wind up in a file on my computer, but some of the most unusual ones I like to share. Understand that in posting these pictures I’m not making fun of, or ridiculing, Koreans in any way. Like I said, what seems odd to a Westerner is often very normal for them. I post them here just to show what I find to be unusual, through my Western eyes and the differences that exist between our cultures.

By the way, if you find this post interesting, keep coming back. I’ll add the odd and unusual here as I encounter it, acknowledging the fact that admitting what I view as “odd and unusual” may label me as “odd and unusual”!

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I see a lot of Koreans sleeping on the subway. This woman kept going to sleep and would lean on me.
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This elderly Korean noticed a tattoo on my Chaplain Assistant and started talking to him. He was all smiles and seemed very happy.
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I thought the rolling bag seemed more Western than would be expected here (and thought that my wife would like it…since it has flowers).
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This gentleman was eating lunch with a statue. It didn’t seem unusual to anyone else passing by.
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Koreans do like their Spam! It seems like they have an unusual attraction to it, even giving it as gifts.
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Another Korean falling asleep on the Subway…my Soldier took it like a trooper!
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I was surprised to find a Goodwill Store in Suwon.
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I found this sign funny. Koreans don’t strike me as being bowlers.
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Asleep again on the subway!
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A Korean cutting up fish on the street.
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An elderly Korean woman selling her wares on the street. It seems odd to me how many booths, kiosks and carts line the roads, often with many of the same things for sale.
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Many Koreans still move thins with manpower.
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Many of the foods Koreans eat I just don’t find palatable.
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My kids used to make sandwiches like these when they were little. I can’t believe they sell them here!
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And then there’s the strawberry sandwich…
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Instead of liquid soap dispensers in the public restrooms, many of them have bar soap, on a stick.
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Sorry, I found this mannequin creepy!
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On the way out-of-town on the train, I saw this woman sitting on a cardboard box. When she started looking through the garbage at the restaurant next store, I went to a convenience store and bought her a sandwich. I didn’t see her eat it, but she walked away with it.
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You can’t tell as well in the picture, but these fixtures are all miniature for children. It’s was in the Men’s room in the Yongsan Station.
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One of the Korean lunches I had. I really don’t like my fish looking at me when I eat it!
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At the district assembly of a Christian church, they used a locked ballot box for one of the elections. Is there really that kind of lack of trust among Christians?
Pyeongtaek-Hooters
This happens in a lot of countries. I’m sure many Americans are fooled by this “Hooters Snack Bar”!
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Nearly every convenience store sells squid in various forms. Yuck!
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A woman with her baby on her back at a Suwon bus stop. Seems like that baby is a bit big for that kind of carry…
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This one isn’t so unusual, but after I bought some of her art work, I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wanted it  in a good place in her shop, and posed appropriately.
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I found this amusing. This old couple was at the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, with a beautiful scene right in front of them, but they were painting from photographs.
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Just a couple of puppies on the back of a scooter.
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I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this in the U.S. but I’ve seen them a lot here. It gives you the ideal location to take a photograph.

8 May 2016 Update

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Many motorcycles have these racks on the back. Some have things stacked way over their heads.
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The way the ROK Soldiers at the JSA stood struck me as funny. It’s like a combination of “attention” and “parade rest” with clinched fists.
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Koreans have unusual candy flavor mixtures.
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Very unusual mixtures. This one is “chili nut” M&Ms!
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American Indians in Korea
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A group of Buddhist women taking a break between “performances” at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
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A group of Koreans in traditional dress at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
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A disabled man was pulling himself through town, while pushing a box. You can’t say that he just sat around waiting for a donation. I gave him a few thousand won but it never seems like enough.
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This scene struck me as funny. Two girls in traditional Korean dress tied to their cell phones.

14 May 2016 Update

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There are a lot of ethnic restaurants in Seoul. It seems like an extremely large amount…Here’s a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish man in traditional Turkish dress.
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Compared to American trucks, I find Korean trucks very unusual (their cows look the same, though).
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Riding on the subway is always interesting. As a large American, I have to squeeze into the smaller Korean-size seats. It’s also funny how so many people sit on the subway on their phones.
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A little Thai boy came and sat down on the subway and started talking to one of my Soldiers, asking all kinds of questions, with just a little occasional help from his mother. I was surprised at how well he spoke English, and how he knew to speak it to my Soldier.
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The escalators get packed after a subway opens its doors (the “down” side). Koreans don’t seem to mind being packed together like sardines.
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A large selection of snack foods, most of which I haven’t and likely won’t try. Sorry.
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These ladies struck me as interesting. When I think of “Roman Catholic” I think “Western.” It was unusual to see Korean women in dress I perceive as from a Western institution. I also found it intriguing to see them in very conservative dress surrounded by a woman with dark red lipstick on one side and short-shorts on the other…cultures colliding…

21 May 2016 Update

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There are homeless everyone (any country you go). This man was right outside the subway station in Suwon. It seems like giving a few dollars (or won) isn’t doing enough to help!
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It’s funny how job sites provide slippers for workers to wear inside a near-complete building so as not to damage the flooring. I don’t remember seeing this in the U.S. when I worked on construction sites.

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Buddhism in South Korea

In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!

Laughing Buddha Suwon
A traditional “laughing” Buddha statue at a shop in Suwon.

Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.

Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.

At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.

During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling  a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.

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Suwon Buddhism
This picture was taken from the parking lot of the palace in Suwon and shows the prominence of some of the Buddhist statues.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This is the entrance to the temple that is home to the statue in the above picture. It’s above a number of small side-streets.
Suwon Buddhist temple
One of the buildings in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The statue in the center of the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Below the statue is a shrine for worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Like many Korean sites, there are slippers for you to change into before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view inside the shrine below the statue. Notice the banners hanging on the ceiling on the right and left which contain what looks like Nazi swastikas. “In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart.”(1) This symbol was used in art and religion long before the Nazis used it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice to the right of the statue are notes left by worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple pagoda
A pagoda on the temple grounds
Suwon Buddhist temple
A number of small monuments on the hill above the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some type of oven on the temple grounds with small statues on it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance/exit to the temple complex. Notice the bell on the tower. “Beomjong, as Buddhist bells are called in Korean, are one of the four Buddhist instruments…” (2)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress bell
Here’s is a better picture of a Korean Buddhist bell though this one isn’t at a Buddhist temple but on top of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (you can ring it 3 times for ₩1000).

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Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance to another Buddhist temple complex in Suwon
Suwon Buddhist Temple
This temple complex has more of an appearance of a vihara, or Buddhist monastery, with living and working areas.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some of the temple complex was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t see it all. The sign on the structure above the steps is about praying for children’s testing for university attendance (a big deal in Korea).
Suwon Buddhist temple
The building housing a shrine in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice shoes sitting outside of the shrine. Shoes are always removed before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view of the inside of the shrine in the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
The inside of the entrance/exit gate of the temple complex.

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Suwon Buddhist Temple
Another Buddhist temple on the other side of the Suwon River from the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This temple is larger and uses modern architectural design in contrast to the ones above which use more traditional Korean architecture. However, there is an elaborate pagoda on top of the building.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign on the temple building
Suwon Buddhist temple
A look inside the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign describing the temple complex

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(1) http://www.religionfacts.com/swastika/buddhism

(2) http://eng.templestay.com/upload/board/2013121810273680997.pdf

Some of the information for this post came from the online New World Encyclopedia.

All photos were taken by the author.

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Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).

Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.

Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.

Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.

South Korea religious preference
This graphs shows percentages of South Koreans who identify with a particular faith group. It does not include the nearly half of the population who say they are “non-religious.” Thus, percentages are of those who identify with some religion, not of the population as a whole.

 

 

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A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:

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A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate
A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate.
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek.
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon.

 

A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple between businesses down a small street in Suwon.

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The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from  http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.

Some other information came from  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.

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