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Buddhists Look to Youth at International Buddhism Expo in Seoul


The 2024 International Buddhist Expo, held from 4–7 April in South Korea, has sparked significant interest due to its innovative approach to presenting Buddhism, particularly targeting younger audiences. This year’s expo, held at the Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Center in Seoul’s Gangnam District, has drawn attention for its focus on new approaches to the ancient religion. The event was aimed at presenting Buddhism in a more accessible and engaging manner, appealing to the tastes of younger generations.

“I’d say the event is living up to the slogan they put out,” said Kim Hyung-sik, an undergraduate student from Seoul on the first day of the expo, referring to the slogan emblazoned across the stage: “Joyful Buddhism.” (The Korea Herald)

Kim, who described himself as an atheist with no intent on joining a religion, nonetheless said that he enjoyed “exploring what each faith has to offer,” noting that the music at the event could help bring in younger people. (The Korea Herald)

Key attractions of the event included unique events such as electronic dance music (EDM) Buddhist remixes and “Hip Buddhism” lectures by Buddhist monk Kkot. One highlight of the expo was the “Buddha’s Handsome” event hosted by New Jinnim (comedian Yoon Seong-ho), which featured an EDM Buddhist Remix DJ Networking Party that generated significant buzz, causing the official website of the event to be temporarily overwhelmed with traffic.

Yoon Seong-ho appeared on stage dressed in a monastic robe and playing EDM remixes of Buddhist scriptures while dancing energetically. The audience enthusiastically joined in, shouting out responses to the music as Yoon shouted: “This is also Gina-ri, this is Gina-ri, I overcome pain, and I’m living in paradise,” and “Extremely Rock.” (Maeil Business News Korea)


Feedback from attendees was largely positive, with many expressing surprise at the engaging contemporary presentation of Buddhism. Comments such as, “It’s really amazing” and “It has become an open religion,” were noted among attendees. (Maeil Business News Korea)

Visitors to the expo engaged in a variety of activities, including trying out VR headsets playing Buddhist scriptures, and participating in mass prostrations. Jeremias Stefan, a Chilean national, shared his experience of attending the expo and participating in Buddhist practices despite not identifying as Buddhist himself: “But I do meditation and bows. They help me,” he noted. “I didn’t feel the same connection,” the 23-year-old said of why he had previously “quit Christianity” when he lived in Chile. (The Korea Herald)


Artist Kim Min-Ji, known as Sheryn, created a large chocolate statue of a bodhisattva for the expo. “I wanted to explore beyond what’s traditional,” she said. (The Korea Herald)

Organized by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the expo was intended to “think fresh to bring in fresh believers,” according to a senior official, who added that the inclusion of unconventional elements, such as the monk DJ, reflected the order’s willingness to adapt and evolve in response to changing societal attitudes. (The Korea Herald)

South Korea, once predominantly Buddhist, is today a mostly non-religious country, according to survey data. In 2021, 60 per cent of respondents reported that they hold no religious affiliation. Buddhists today account for 16 per cent of the population, while Christians make up the largest religious segment at 23 per cent.

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The 2024 Seoul International Buddhist Fair, held on the 4th, is a hot topic  (Maeil Business News Korea)
Buddhism puts on young face (The Korea Herald)

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