South Korean Professor Speaks on Century-long History of Tenrikyo’s Mission in Korea

Tenrikyo Overseas Department and Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in South Korea co-organized a lecture commemorating the mission headquarters’ 100th anniversary at Tenri University Furusato Assembly Hall on September 27. Invited as a guest speaker was Prof. Lee Won Bum, chair of the Department of Japanese Studies in the Graduate School at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea. A leading scholar of Japanese religions in South Korea, Prof. Lee gave a lecture on the century-long history of Tenrikyo’s missionary activities in South Korea under the title “Tenrikyo from a South Korean Scholar’s Perspective: Why Only Tenrikyo Was Able to Take Root in Post-War South Korea.”

Following the opening remarks by Bishop Yoshikazu Terada of the mission headquarters, Mr. Oh Dae Won, editor-in-chief of the Dowoo magazine published monthly by the mission headquarters, gave a presentation entitled “The History of Tenrikyo in Post-War South Korea.” After Mr. Oh finished his presentation, Prof. Lee took the podium and presented the reasons why he thought only Tenrikyo was able to take root in post-war South Korean society while other religious groups of Japanese origin–which had come to Korea during the pre-war period–disappeared as Japanese people returned to their homeland after the war. Prof. Lee made his points from different perspectives by taking into account the political and social climate of Japan and South Korea as well as the activities of Tenrikyo in that period.

Prof. Lee indicated that Tenrikyo’s early missionary work in Korea was carried out by missionaries whose primary purpose was to practice the teachings of Tenrikyo and was, therefore, unconnected with Japanese colonialism. He also pointed out that young intellectuals in pre-war Korea considered Tenrikyo as a “universal religion,” an awareness that enhanced the bond between the followers in Japan and Korea and that was passed down to Korean followers after the war. Toward the end of his lecture, Prof. Lee remarked: “There is so much to learn from the wisdom of these early followers, whose faith transcended nationalism. Now is the time when we need to reevaluate the history of Tenrikyo’s missionary activities in pre-war Korea.”

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