A Buddhist Colonization?: The Sotoshu/Wonjong Alliance of 1910 (Pulgyo jok sigminjihwa?: 1910nyon ui Chodongjong/Wonjong yonhap)
One of the most infamous events in modern Japanese and Korean Buddhist history was the alliance attempted between the Japanese Sotoshu(Soto Sect) and the Korean Wonjong(Complete Sect) in late 1910, forty six days after Japan annexed Korea. The Japanese Buddhist priests involved have been characterized as colonialists and imperialists trying to conquer Korean Buddhism on behalf of their imperial government while the Korean monks orchestrating the initiative have been cast as traitors, collaborators, and sellers of Korean Buddhism. All the key figures-Takeda Hanshi(1863-1911), Yi Hoegwang(1862-1933), clergy from the Wonjong and Sotoshu, and colonial government officials-are portrayed in historiographies as villains. But the politicized narrative of the alliance has neglected two crucial points among others. First, behind Yi and Takeda was a bilingual Korean monk named Kim Yonggi(1878-?) who played a key role in this movement. Second, the Sotoshu was not enthusiastic about the alliance, which, thirdly, reveals that Takeda’s vision for the alliance was at odds with that of the heads of his sect. This article draws upon these two findings in overlooked primary sources-about the influential players, the Japanese and Korean sects’ conflicted motives, and the governments’ responses-to draw out the complex power relationships and discourses surrounding the attempted alliance.
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