Jinja Shintō and Japanese Religions in the Pre-Colonial Joseon History

Dr David W. Kim1

1Australian National University, Australia

The international relationship between Japan and Korea used to be characterised by cultural exchanges, economic trade, political contact and military confrontations. During the ancient era, Buddhism, Chinese-influenced cuisine, Han characters, and other technology came to Japan via Korea and/or the East China Sea. The tendency of social flow began to reverse when Japan invaded Joseon (=early modern Korea) in 1592. Afterward, the social success of Japan’s modernisation under the leadership of Emperor Meiji (1867-1912) instigated in earnest the globalisation of Japanese religiosity as part of the imperial policy. Then, what kind of faith communities came to Joseon before the Japanese annexation of Korea (pre-1910)? How did they settle down? What was the cultural environment for Japanese beliefs? What was their relationship with the Japanese government in the peninsula? This paper analyses Records Pertaining to Religion and Shrines, Temples and Religion for the historical discourses of Jinja Shintō, Kyōha Shintō, Japanese Buddhism, and Japanese Christianity in the pre-colonial society of the Joseon dynasty. The geopolitical confusion and change of East Asia over the process of modernisation is argued as one of the key factors through which the maritime beliefs could transnationally root without legal restriction for Japanese residents.


David W. Kim (PhD: Syd) is Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University. His publication includes Colonial Transformation and Asian Religions in Modern History (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), Religious Encounters in Transcultural Society: Collision, Alteration and Transmission (Lexington, 2017), Religious Transformation in Modern Asia: A Transnational Movement (Brill, 2015) and Intercultural Transmission in the Medieval Mediterranean (Continuum, 2012).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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