Seeking the colonizer's favors for a Buddhist vision: The Korean Buddhist nationalist Paek Yongsǒng's (1864-1940) Imje Sǒn movement and his relationship with the Japanese Colonizer Abe Mitsuie (1862-1936)
© 2014 Academy of East Asian Studies. In this article, I will challenge the widely accepted, yet one-dimensional, image of Paek as a staunch nationalist and argue that he prioritized his modern Buddhist vision over the allencompassing, nationalist goal, and thus was willing to curry favor with the politically and religiously powerful Abe Mitsuie. In a desperate effort to unify Korean Buddhism under the Imje Zen lineage, Paek deemed Abe an ally and approached him to seek influence on the colonial government in favor of Paek's version of institutional reform. The fact that Paek sought political favors from Abe not only contradicts the immaculate nationalist status devoutly attributed to him by some scholars of modern Korean Buddhism, but also attests to the complex colonial realities that prompted Koreans and Japanese alike to employ multiple visions and identities, including religious, around which they could build personal and group networks. Equally importantly, their collaboration also reflects a larger religious landscape of colonial Korea in which Zen Buddhism emerged as a modern, alternative religion for Japan and Korea.
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