published on July 13, 2018
Kwang Soo Park
Irwon Philosophy and Social Engagement
Won Buddhism as a New Korean Religion
Won Buddhism, founded by Master Sot’aesan in 1916, is regarded as one of the four major religions in Korea. The active participation of its followers in social and educational movements has led to the spread of this religion both in Korea and in other countries. One of the most significant aspects of new religions in Korea is that they champion the universal value of “publicness,” seeking to overcome the historical suffering associated with colonialism and imperialism by constructing a peaceful and egalitarian modern society. The founding motive behind Won Buddhism was Master Sot’aesan’s search for a way in which to realize world peace in a truly civilized world, where material civilization and spiritual civilization are harmonized. To this end, a new interpretation of the Mahayana Buddhist teachings was fused with Irwon philosophy in a bid to heal social ills through “mutual life-giving” (the Korean term for ensuring the wellbeing of all society).