Saturday 15 November 2014

Meeting of the Korean Association for Religious Studies, Seoul 2014

Prof. Kim Chae Young

Just back from the meeting of the Koean Association for Religious Studies held at the Dongguk [Buddhist] University near the centre of Seoul. Lovely campus, very well kept, lots of students. The members of the KARS were from different universities in and around Seoul, including the very prestigious Seoul National University. The opening talks - 3 of them - were in Korean and Japanese, the theme being Religion in Public Discourse. After that, break up into sections. Mine was the foreign scholars section: a talk on the political implications of Martin Luther's Large Catechism by David W. Kim, another on Islam in Indonesia by Laurens de Rooij, a third on academic trends and databases of Mormon history by Richard E. Turley Jr., and then mine on using generalized method to read Sankara. I was invited by Prof. Kim Chae Young of Sogang University, who is currently also the President of KARS. Kim Chae Young is a Lonergan scholar. We have been meeting regularly at the Lonergan Workshop in Boston, and always dreaming of organizing an Asian Lonergan Workshop someday.

Present was also Fr Anselm Byun, another Lonergan scholar who teaches at Sogang [Jesuit] University here in Seoul. He has just published a book on Lonergan's method in Korean. Also Fr Peter Sam Cao Nguyen, Catholic University of Korea, who had presented earlier in the day a paper entitled “Vietnamese Im/Migrants in Korea: Serpents and Doves.” Peter is an SVD priest who teaches pastoral theology and is also chaplain for Vietnamese immigrants here in Seoul. 

It was quite an experience listening to lectures in Korean and Japanese and understanding almost nothing, though Anselm would kindly fill me in now and then. The experience of listening to the foreign scholars was also very challenging, because I realized I was more used to listening to interreligious situations than to ecumenical ones. The lecture of David W. Kim was a sort of first introduction to Luther by someone who is Protestant if not Lutheran, and it made me realize both how far we have come, and how little that is known as yet. The lecture on the Mormon church was also quite a challenge. What I learnt was that the Mormons are explicitly missionary, that they have at present some 88,000 missionaries, and that they gave up polygamy some 100 years ago, though there are still breakaway groups that do practise it and have been excommunicated. They are at present the fourth largest church in the USA,and have grown phenomenally over the world, going from 1 million members in the 1930s to 23 million or so just now. The lecture by de Rooij was instead very informative and useful, since I know next to nothing about Indonesia and Islam. 

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