Lessons from Conversion by Burning Temples and Cutting the Head of Buddha Statues in Korea

Over the last decade, a large number of
Buddhist temples in Korea had been destroyed or damaged by
fanatically devout Christians. More recently, the Buddha statues,
regarded as the devil, were attacked and beheaded in the name of



One of the important tasks for
researchers in social science is prediction, anticipation, with the
usual methodology of presenting scenarios and situations and
forecasting their probabilities of occurrence, as well as predicting
by intensity and level.

Here we are also following the
usual method of analyzing expected situations. However, we stick to
the case of Korean Buddhism, Buddhism in a country that is heavily
affected by conversion, and from which possible situations that can
occur to Buddhism in Vietnam are presented.

From many complex changes in
history, for which Korean Buddhism is also partly responsible,
Buddhism, at the present time, is a minority religion in Korea,
ranking second to Christianity.

Buddhists account for 22.8% of the
Korean population (according to the Wikipedia?s article "Religion
in Korea"), while Christians account for 29.2% (both Protestants
and Roman Catholics combined, with Protestants dominating).

Thus, although the religion has
become a minority with a second rank, but when compared to each
branch of Christianity, which can be considered as separated
religions, Buddhism is still the leading religion with the most
followers in South Korea.

The above ratio is still high if
compared to the percentage of adherents across the population, which
is only 18% according to official statistics. However, if compared to
the ratios in East Asian bloc countries, the percentage of Christians
in South Korea is the 3rd highest (after the Philippines and East

But compared to other countries
influenced by the Chinese civilization, then Korea would stand as the
most converted country and also with the fastest speed.

One-third of the Korean population has
become Christian sheep, while nearly half are recognized as atheists.
A good percentage of these are shifting towards Christianity, mainly

Korea and Vietnam are similar,
with both countries influenced by Chinese civilization and a
2000-year history of a Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Buddhism is
deeply entrenched in people's spiritual life, but it also is a key
focal point of Christianity. Christian adherents are growing fast,
and, especially, leading in the conversion of Buddhists are several
Protestant denominations that are extreme and sometimes fanatical.

The phenomenon of Buddhist
conversion by Protestant churches in Vietnam took place long ago.
Before 1975, it seemed to occur at the same level as Korea?s. After
1975, the conversion seemed more discreet, though silently but still

Thus, the Protestants have trained
a number of pastors and teachers, and missionary activities have
taken off in the 1990s and 2000s.

Conversion activities carried out
by Protestants in the last 10 years have moved from discreet and
quiet to frantic on the exterior side. The situation is becoming more
similar to that occurred in Korea, and some activities in Vietnam
have been advised, organized and even directly managed by Korean
Protestants from behind the scene.

The event ?fire burning at My
Dinh? in late 2010 marked a significant step in the process of
conversion activities in Vietnam. It has switched from silent to
public and frantic, and from public and frantic to challenging and
extreme, with "fiery" events, provocations and challenges.

With such reality, what
predictions can we make about the conversion of Buddhists in Vietnam,
compared with the process that took place in Korea, and in the
context of a number of Koreans who are responsible for conversion
activities, are actually present and direct these activities in

Conversion through church
preaching is normal, but it is objectionable to organize activities
that cause conflicts and provocations in an extremist and fanatical
manner. Following are the situations that happened in Korea:

– The scenario based on government
powers and support. This situation certainly cannot happen in Vietnam
on a large scale, in official policy, but it also does not exclude
acts in the back door with some officials that are corrupted and

However, we should also learn about
this situation, such as using the common excuse of public work to
remove the signposts to the pagodas, their names and visitor
guidelines in the official documents published by the government,
using the police to harass and search the pagodas, and, particularly,
the South Korean police had humiliated the leaders of the Buddhist
sect Jogye who were treated as common criminals.

– The situation of using
provocative, hostile and violent acts against Buddhism indirectly to
satisfy the manic episodes of religious excitement.

Wikipedia, in its article "Religion
in Korea", has briefly described this in the section on
"Religious Conflict". Christian activities against Korean
Buddhism represent a unique case (compared to other religions).

"Some South Korean evangelical
Christians have expressed hostility to Buddhism. There have been
dozens incidents of arson and vandalism against Buddhist shrines and
facilities over the last two decades, including the destruction of
several large temples.

In some of these incidents, the
perpetrators were identified as Christians, or left messages
denouncing "idol worship."

The exhortation of acts against
Buddhism has become public, similar to the Declaration of Belonging
to God during the fire night at My Dinh.

In a crowded preaching in Busan, Korean
Christians had prayed, according to the article "Persecution of
Buddhists" of Wikipedia, "Lord, let the Buddhist temples
in this country crumble down!
", and they did not wait for
the hand of God but they had carried out: "Over the course of
the last decade a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South
Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian
fundamentalists. More recently Buddhist statues have been identified
as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus

It also need to be told clearly
that the sneaky burning of temples and Buddha statues by Christians
in South Korea happened for a long time ago before President Lee
Myung-bak took office. He is the president who publicly supports the
actions to eradicate Buddhism.

According to the descriptions in
online documents, these acts of religious fanatics "in the name
of Jesus" are usually conducted at night, and it is very
difficult to find the culprits for heavy damages caused to the Korean

This is a situation that will
likely occur in Vietnam, when the conversion process has reached the
level of "fire" as in the My Dinh event in December 2010.

Speaking insults against ancestors
during that fire-excited night, they no longer have to fear anyone,
even Buddhism which is a very peaceful religion, but a thorn in their

There are many reasons for
Vietnamese Buddhists to stay alert against the sneaky burning of
temples as in South Korea.

Besides the reason that there are
several Korean missionaries who are present in Vietnam and direct the
activities of conversion, fanaticism can reach an extremely high
level and Christians could attack Buddhism in a sneaky way to
release their pent-up resentment of the superficial development (it
is emphasized, just superficial development) of Vietnamese Buddhism
in recent years.

And, in the same way, when they
hate someone, but if that person is too strong and they cannot not do
anything about it, then to revenge and release the pent-up
resentment, they will attack the beloved relatives of the hated

When a religion considers Buddhism as
enemy and announces excited episodes, whose history is related to the
burning of temples and destruction of statues "in the name of
Jesus", then warnings such as those in this article are very
necessary for Vietnamese Buddhists to take protective measures.

When they talk about "excited
episode" we may be concerned similarly to "Religious
ecstasy" (roughly translated as "religious ecstasy pills,
"religious stimulation"). Please see the above terms in

A reader had a very reasonable
opinion that gathering a large number of people, starting fires,
taking ecstasy pills, dancing, screaming …are too dangerous for
themselves and others.

As such, this article has
passed the alarm level of conversion, and has reached the more
alarming level about the dangers of violent means of conversion, when
the conversion process has reached the threshold "fire."

Vietnamese Link

in Vietnamese by Minh Thạnh

Translated by Nguy?n T?nh

2011 Lunar New Year


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