An increasing number of recent scholars have challenged the narrative of Korean Buddhism as persecuted, isolated, and debased under the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910). These scholars have revealed the continued support from both the state and Confucian aristocrats afforded to Buddhism; the friendship between yangbans and monastics; and the recognition of monastics’ role in Chosŏn society. While these insights provide a welcome nuance to a consideration of the period, it should be also recognized that the anti-Buddhist paradigm was a pervasive norm at the state and local levels throughout the Chosŏn era. The perception that Buddhism was heretical and that monastics were socially inferior was so deeply ingrained in the minds of aristocrats and the populace for so long that monastics developed a sense of collective trauma. This article revisits the vicissitudes of Chosŏn Buddhism by considering an incident that took place in the 1930s in colonial Korea. This case will help scholars of Korean history and Buddhism understand how colonial-period monastics acted from the trauma of the anti-Buddhist paradigm of the Chosŏn dynasty.

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