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Religions of Korea:
Republic of Korea
Republic of Korea

Koreans follow a variety of religious ideas and organized religions. They always have because as practical people, they have tried different ways to reach a fundamental Korean ideal; a sense of harmony and balance in everything. The Republic of Korea's flag represents this ideal. The central circle is divided in two halves. The top red part is yang, the positive cosmic force meaning fire, day, light, and all things constructive. The bottom blue half represents the passive side of existence - water, night, death and repose. Yet the two are joined perfectly into a whole. The bars in the four corners of the flag are also about harmony and balance. The three lines at the top left means "heaven." The broken lines opposite it at the bottom right are "earth." The bars at the top right, two broken and one solid, mean "water," while the lines opposite mean "fire." According to this theory all life, and even the cosmos, is balanced in this way

The oldest religious ideas in Korea are called Shamanism today.These are beliefs that the natural world is filled with spirits, both helpful and harmful, that can be addressed by people with special powers called shamans. Herbal medicines, dances, chants and other ceremonies mark the work of shamans, most of whom are women. Though few people believe in the religious ideas today, they do accept old ideas about the natural world and use many ancient herbal remedies.

For more information on this subject:

www.korea.insights.co.kr

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The sound of the Dharma Drum represents the Budda's sermon to enlighten the ignorant from animal and mankind
The sound of the Dharma Drum represents the Budda's sermon to enlighten the ignorant from animal and mankind

Buddhism:

In the first half of the First Millennium A.D. Buddhist monks made their way across Central Asia, through China and into Korea. It was the Mahayana, or Greater Vehicle, variety of Buddhism in which many saints and demons inhabited the spirit world. The Shilla Dynasty that unified Korea in 668 made it the official religion of the peninsula. Royal patronage allowed many magnificently decorated temples to be built and today thousands are still to be found. One uniquely Korean feature of Buddhist temples is a side chapel dedicated to a mountain spirit. He is usually shown as an old man with a pet tiger. It is a symbol of native shamanistic beliefs, and nothing like the original precepts of the faith. Buddhism, though, is not a centralized system and so there are many sects in the world today. In Korea, some monks are married and do business: it's always a shock to see gray-clad, shaved headed monks with cell phones and driving BMWs. Others are celibate. However, one version of ascetic Buddhism that developed in Korea called Son was transmitted to Japan and then around the world where it is known as Zen. Today about forty-five percent of Koreans follow Buddhism.

For more information on this subject:

http://reenic.utexas.edu/asnic/countries/korea/korea.html
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~asiaref/korea/internet.htm

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Korean Nun
Korean Nun

Christianity:

About fifty-one percent of Koreans are Christians.The Roman Catholic branch of the faith arrived in the 17th century with missionaries who also visited China and Japan. Christianity was prohibited by many of Korea's rulers, and some Christians were martyred. After World War II, however, Catholicism grew rapidly, but not as fast as Protestantism. The first Protestant missionaries (Methodists) arrived in Korea in 1884. They began programs of education for young Koreans, many of whom would become leaders of the country. After the Korean War, numbers of Protestants rose dramatically. Today, almost forty percent of Koreans are Protestants, divided into 113 denominations. That number is growing as evangelical Protestants continue to work in the country.

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Confucian Scholar
Confucian Scholar

Confucianism:

Of all philosophical systems, that attributed to the Chinese wise man called Kung Fu-Tse, or Confucius, had perhaps the greatest influence on Korean ideas. Confucianism is not exactly a religion, but is a political/social system based on subordination - sons to fathers, wife to husband, people to rulers. It emphasizes proper rituals, ceremonies, and conformity to decorum, or standards of correct conduct. Education in classical Chinese was the basis for government service and the way for young men to rise in the world. The Confucian system began to become important in Korea's kingdoms in the 7th century A.D. and became the official state cult in the 14th century with the Chosun Dynasty. Even as the old kingdoms have passed away and Korea has become a modern state, Confucian ideas remain strong. This is seen in the way families are organized, in devotion to ancestors, and in everyday behavior. Koreans tend to be formal when dealing with non-family members. For a Korean to address a stranger by their first name would be the depths of rudeness: "Mr" and "Mrs" are used routinely even among co-workers. Bowing to one another is routine. And Korean men almost always dress in formal business suits for all occasions outside the home that are not vacation or fun-related. The rules of decorum demand formality, if for no other reason than to show respect for other people and thus makes for better social relations.

For more information on Confucianism:

www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/chinarel.htm
www.religioustolerance.org/confuciu.htm