Religions in Korea
One of the especially noteworthy workshops was the 2- day International Workshop on Religions in Korea. This workshop, held in the presence of the Korean Ambassador to Israel, commemorated 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and the State of Israel. The workshop was part of the educational cooperation between the two nations wherein dozens of Korean students arrive at Bar-Ilan each year to study bible, archaeology, nanotechnology, education, economics, law and humanities.
Ambassador of Korea to Israel, Kim Il-Soo praised the "special and unique" relationship between Israel and his nation, and applauded the religious ties between the two peoples, adding that Israel is regarded very favorably in Korea. "We are the second largest country in Asia that sends pilgrimages to Israel. Israel is very popular among Koreans. As ambassador, I'd like to see the relations grow even closer between our two countries," he said.
"As educators we believe that it is our duty not only to lecture our students, but to open before them the gates of friendship and mutual exchange," said Dr. Danielle Gurevich, who initiated the Asian Studies Program at Bar-Ilan University, and has served as Director of the Program since its inception. Rated in a student satisfaction survey as the number one most popular study track at Bar-Ilan, the Program also offers a multidisciplinary study track in Asian Studies for Law Students, the only one of its kind in Israel.
Ms. ShinAe Kim, a Korean PhD student in Bar-Ilan University's Zalman Shamir Department of Bible, expressed her special thanks to Karl Gutzlaff (1803-1851), a Jewish mercenary who was the first person to introduce the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in Korea. She also acknowledged Alexander Albert Pieters (1871-1958) who translated the Hebrew Bible into Korean. To emphasize her love of Israel, its people and the Hebrew Bible, she quoted from the Genesis portion Lech L'cha: go forth ….to the land that I will show you, and I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you, I will make your name great, And you will be a blessing…
In his keynote address, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, of Bar-Ilan's Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud and President of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, recounted the fascinating tale of his involvement in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians over the last 30 years. “ Interfaith dialogue, encounters, and study workshops between intellectual thinkers who are open and willing to learn have engendered deep friendship and appreciation of the people involved and led to improved relations following generations of hatred” he said, adding “that sometimes even the simplest misunderstandings between groups were caused by linguistic barriers and the misinterpretation of sacred texts. Learning about religions gives us an appreciation of what they are about, of what the religious feeling is all about and brings us closer to one another ideologically for ongoing relationships," emphasized Prof. Sperber.
The opening session was chaired by workshop organizer Dr. Alon Levkowitz, coordinator of Bar-Ilan University's Asian Studies Program.
On the second day of the workshop, Dr. Se-Woong Koo (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Social, France) discussed the issue of religion in Korea and how this concept was adopted by Koreans. Dr. Liora Sarfati (Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) spoke about the internet practice of Korean Shamans in modern Korea. Prof. Keith Howard, a prestigious scholar from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, spoke about the influence of Western music on Korean Christianity and religious music. Mr. Sung Il-Kwang (Tel-Aviv) analyzed the Muslim minorities in Korea and the issues that the Korean government faces. Mrs. Ira Lyan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) spoke about her research on the success of Korean culture in Israeli society and how Israelis see the Korean Hallyu. Ms. ShinAe Kim (Bar-Ilan University) told the participants about her religious-academic journey to the Holy Land and her experience in biblical studies at Bar-Ilan. Dr. Alon Levkowitz, Coordinator of Bar-Ilan University’s Asian Studies Program analyzed Israel's and South Korea's attitude towards the 50,000 South Korean Christian pilgrims that visit Israel each year.