To Be Queer and Christian: Organizing for Queer Youth in Korea

Memo #270

By Joseph Yi – joyichicago [at] & Daniel Payne – koreanrainbow [at]

Joseph YiDaniel PayneSouth Korea has among the highest rates of suicide among developed (OECD) countries, peaking at 28.4 per 100,000 people in 2011.  Hidden among these tragedies are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual… Continue reading

Buddhist Monks and Militant Violence in Laos

Memo #185 – Many, especially outside Asia, are under the mistaken impression that Buddhists are inherently non-violent, especially in comparison with other world religions such as Christianity and Islam. Despite this impression, violence is often linked with Buddhism and perpetrated by Buddhists. Monks in Theravada lineages are not allowed to directly engage in violence, but some have become involved with militancy. Although I am unaware of any Lao monks who have directly participated in violent acts, a few have been shot in Thailand by those opposed to them for providing support to insurgents. This indicates that their support is perceived as substantial and significant. Continue reading

Ending Islamic Solidarity in Post 9/11 Pakistan: New Restrictions on Migrants

Memo #100 – The rise of the “security state” is not just a Western phenomenon. Post 9/11 Pakistan has seen a proliferation of new surveillance technologies that created social divisions and marginalized long-term migrants previously welcomed in the name of Islamic solidarity. Continue reading

The Indonesian Model: Learning from a Muslim Majority Democracy

Memo #86 – With the old autocracies of the Middle East falling and new regimes yet to emerge, policy makers are grasping for models that can inform analysis. U.S. President Obama has proposed the ‘Indonesian model.’ The logic is straightforward: Indonesia is a majority Muslim country that has transitioned from a military dominated autocracy to a democracy. Continue reading

Missionaries Infiltrating North Korea: How Long Can the Hermit Kingdom Avoid Reform?

Memo #77 – On April 11, 2011, the US State Department confirmed North Korea’s intention to prosecute an American, Jun Young-su, held since November 2010 for proselytizing. Another American missionary, Aijalon Gomes, was prosecuted and released in August 2010, following the February 2010 release of missionary Robert Park. A fascinating juxtaposition emerges: while more than one thousand North Koreans risk their lives to escape the hermit kingdom each year, outsiders risk severe punishment to enter the country to preach Christianity, with little evidence that missionaries in general receive leniency. Continue reading

Japanese Buddhism After the Earthquake: Memorials, Spiritual Comfort, and Emergency Response

Memo #69 – On the 7th day after the earthquake, at precisely 2:46 p.m., sirens rang out along Japan’s northeastern coast. Millions paused, placing their palms together and bowing their heads to remember those who were lost. In the Japanese Buddhist funerary cycle, the living perform rites for the dead every 7th day, continuing until the 49th day after death. Spirits of the deceased are believed to spend 49 days traveling to their next rebirth. As communities transition to harsh new realities, Japanese Buddhist groups are hard at work in expected ways, performing memorials for those lost and comforting those displaced. Perhaps unexpectedly, they are also organizing an effective emergency response. Continue reading

Key Issues Facing East Asia – (Video Interview with Dr. Tun-jen Cheng)

Memo #67 – In this interview, Dr. Tun-jen Cheng discusses a range of key issues facing East Asia today, including religion, governance, economics, and politics. When speaking about a religious revival in China, Dr. Cheng notes that Christianity is accepted by many new middle class urbanites as a source of inspiration and a symbol of modernity and greatness. Dr. Cheng then gives an account of the challenges facing East Asian democracies. Most notably, he mentions the public’s complaints about the shortage of horizontal accountability – the checks and balances between various branches and units of government. Nonetheless, he concludes that East Asian democracies are quite robust when compared to systems in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Continue reading