Nowadays in Korea, people have become more sensitive towards controversies regarding religious bias. By holding a street rally, Buddhists cried out their fury to President Lee Myung-Bak for his biased government towards Protestants. Not to mention the sexual harassments by Cheng Myong Suk, founder of the Jesus Morning Star, it seems certain that conflicts over religion in Korea have came into sight again.
To fully understand why people hold on to religion and how religion affects our lives, it is important to understand the origin of religion. It is commonly said that people depend on their religions due to the fundamental fear of death. People tend to have desires to depend on something or someone on a higher level than themselves in order to cover their weaknesses. Therefore, religion is not only significant for religious people, but also for non-religious people, because its origin is based on a universal desire in human nature.
A variety of religions and opinions on the issue coexist inside the SNU campus. Three of the most popular religion includes Protestantism, Roman Catholics and Buddhism. Some people believe that God exists while others don’t. And a great number of SNU students are hesitant towards giving a definite answer to the existence of God. As people have such varied opinions on religions and God’s existence, the presence of various controversies regarding religion is, to some extent, obvious. In fact, religious bias and controversies are found in everyday lives.
In daily life, SNU students often come across evangelists and/or Zen Buddhists who try to convert them to a particular religion. Evangelism takes place in various forms. Hanging posters in campus buildings and dorm rooms is one type of evangelism whereas using films, videos and websites to share religion is another. Some evangelist takes a more straightforward way. Zen Buddhists use a method of open air preaching to share their religious values. It is when a Zen Buddhist goes to a stranger and asks questions such as: “Do you know Tao?” or “I can feel the mystic aurora of our religion from you.” Christian evangelists also ask if you are interested in studying the Bible or whether you believe in God. Many students have such experience in school on their busy way to classes.
It seems that there are students who feel uncomfortable and do not welcome the evangelists. Even some Christian students frown on these bold evangelists. “When evangelists come near to me on the streets, I usually ignore them, because I do not know whether they are credible or not.” one student remarks. Other non-religious students also show strong detest towards evangelism for the reasons of annoyance and incredibility.
On the contrary, some students are positive toward evangelizing. “What good is freedom of religion if we are not given the right to express religion in public?” said Choi Mina (Department of Manufacturing Pharmacy, ’08). Another student from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, “I go on college campuses and see advertisement for soda pop, credit cards and all kinds of other products. What is it that if the product is Jesus Christ, suddenly you cannot talk about it?” Jeong Han-Ju (Leader of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a religious dongari in Seoul National University) says that whenever he engages in missionary work, he asks people first whether they want to listen or not. He also says that it is very hurtful when people regard evangelism so negatively.
Both religious and nonreligious people are living their life under the influence of religion despite the fact that the degree of influence might be different for each individual. Considering the huge influence of religion and its importance in people’s lives, conflicts and bias regarding religion should be alleviated as soon as possible. In order to minimize the clash between different perspectives about religion, students should be willing to become tolerant towards acknowledging the religious differences. And as far as the evangelists and Zen Buddhists are concerned, they need to respect students’ refusal and share their religious beliefs on the level where students’ rights are not ignored.
written by: Koo Jun Eun