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Posted by on Sep 4, 2010 in Korean Culture, Korean Food, Vegetarian | 0 comments

Buddhists, Adventists promote vegetarianism in Korea

Buddhists, Adventists promote vegetarianism in Korea

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Korean Buddhist Temple meal served at Sanchon Temple, Insadong.
(courtesy of Julie Facine, via creative commons license)

JoongAng Daily on Aug. 12 detailed the travails of vegetarians in Korea. One would think that a country that is about 30 percent Buddhist and accustomed to Seventh-day Adventists — a small Christian denomination with a high-profile network of language schools and healthful-living programs — it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to follow such a diet. But you’d be mistaken. Vegetarianism (and veganism) outside the monastery is very rare in Korea.

The government is promoting Korean Buddhist temple cuisine around the world, but Koreans in their homeland face social ostracism if they refuse to “go along with the crowd” and eat meat.

The article mentions contributions of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church — commonly known as 삼육 Sahm Yook — to Korea’s growing vegetarian movement.

There’s a California connection to this Korean movement, according to the newspaper article:

Although they remain a tiny minority, three events or trends in modern Korea have led to a growth in public awareness of vegetarians. One of the first was the “New Start” movement led by Dr. Sang Lee, a medical doctor and a member of the Adventist Church, during the 1990s. Sang compared eating meat to taking poison, and said that it could result in cancer and other terminal diseases. While this movement centered on the supposed physical dangers of meat consumption, the ever-popular “well-being” trend of the early 2000s propelled public recognition and interest in vegetarianism and organic food to new heights.

NEWSTART is an acronym for:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Water
  • Sunlight
  • Temperance
  • Air
  • Rest
  • Trust in God

When I lived in Chuncheon, I taught English at an SDA Language Institute. The Korean Adventist church was just starting to promote this program in the schools and in their evangelistic endeavors.

Dr. Sang Lee brought the NEWSTART program to South Korea from Weimar College, a Northern California institution now called Weimar Center of Health and Education. He had developed the program while on the faculty in the late 1970s.

Adventists from across the U.S. travel to Weimar to learn the basics of vegetarian and vegan cooking. This program remains popular in many Korean and U.S. Adventist churches as an outreach to non-Christians looking to heal their bodies from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Here are a couple of Korea-based blogs with help on living a vegetarian lifestyle:

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