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WON BUDDHISM AS A KOREAN NEW RELIGION

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Won Buddhism was founded in the early 20th century, but although it is one of the more important new religions in modern Korea little research has been undertaken on it to date by non-members. In this introductory study based on field observations and text studies, essential information is presented which will provide a starting point for further investigations. This includes an outline of the historical development, set in motion by the founder Pak Chung-Bin (1891–1943), and of the general features of Won Buddhism as a religion. Particular attention is given to Won Buddhism's role in modernisation processes, to the question of gender balance, and to the sense in which Won Buddhism should be regarded as a "new religion" on the one hand and as a form of "Buddhism" on the other hand. Of methodological interest is a sub-discussion running through the article about the delicate relationship between believers' and observers' accounts of a religion. Four illustrations are included.

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