Buddhist and Protestant Korean Immigrants: Religious Beliefs and Socioeconomic Aspects of Life

Buddhist and Protestant Korean Immigrants: Religious Beliefs and Socioeconomic Aspects of Life

Buddhist and Protestant Korean Immigrants: Religious Beliefs and Socioeconomic Aspects of Life

Buddhist and Protestant Korean Immigrants: Religious Beliefs and Socioeconomic Aspects of Life

Synopsis

Kwon explores how Korea's two major religious groups, Buddhists and Protestants, have emigrated and how their religious beliefs affect their adjustments after immigration. Kwon bases his study on a survey of 114 Korean congregations, participatory observation of a Buddhist temple and a Protestant church, and in-depth interviews with 109 devout immigrants. He finds that non-religious variables-urban background, educational level, and social class-have a greater effect on adjustment to the host society than religion does. Religious congregations promote members' social capital for adjustment, but at the same religious participation serves as a barrier to assimilation.

Excerpt

“Oil and water” were the terms that I once used to contrast Eastern culture to Western. But now I am somewhat reluctant to use the terms because I understand that every culture shares some universal characteristics. Additionally, modernization proceeds more unpredictably than ever before, making the distinction between the two cultures less meaningful in recent years. Each cultural world enjoys both material and non-material elements of its counterparts’ with appreciation and understanding. Religion is an example of cultural diffusion between the two worlds. Although the modernization process makes people in the two worlds less religious, they simultaneously expose the people to an increasingly multi-religious setting. Christianity is practiced in virtually every corner of the earth: Islam has spread rapidly everywhere a religious vacuum exists; Buddhism is practiced in many Western countiies; and many local religions are increasingly exposed in many cosmopolitan cities in the world. International migration expedites this process of religious implantation and transplantation along with other cultural fusions and diffusions.

Living in New York City, one of the world’s most diverse and industrialized cities, I have encountered many immigrant religious centers. African-American Mosques, Middle-Eastern Mosques, Jewish Synagogues, Asian Buddhist temples, Asian Indian Hindu and Jain temples, Anglo-American Catholic churches, Italian-American Catholic churches, Irish-American Catholic churches, Anglo-American Protestant churches, Hispanic Protestant churches, Hispanic Catholic churches, Greek Orthodox churches, Chinese Protestant churches, Korean Protestant churches, and Korean Catholic churches are all located within just few miles away from my apartment in Flushing, New York City. Quite a few American Protestant church buildings around the area also post signs in two or three languages. The majority of Korean Protestant congregations in New York City and other major urban areas rent their worship space from Anglo-American churches.

Like Koreans, most immigrants bring their homeland religions to the new country. For most immigrants, religion plays an important role in their adjustment in the host society. Immigrant churches and temples become religious, social, and ethnic organization. Immigrants’ religious participation encourages and promotes their in-group solidarity on the one hand, while emphasizing the importance of their incorporation into . . .

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