[KS] Name used for "god" in Korean language

gkl1 at columbia.edu gkl1 at columbia.edu
Wed Jul 30 21:02:29 EDT 2008

      I'm wondering what Erich Weingartner thinks of the discussion  
that has resulted from his query, "What is the word in Korean for  
"God"? I notice in
going back to his original message that he used the capitalized form  
"God" without any definite or indefinite article, whereas the spelling  
in his subject line was the uncapitalized "god".
      My own supposition is that in saying simply "God", he had in  
mind a transcendent, monotheistic deity as in the three Abramic  
religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If that is so, then we  
properly have to do with Korean and in some cases broader East Asian  
concepts specifically adapted to or created for one or more of these  
religions. Given the general history of modern East Asian religion,  
this will mean mainly Christianity.
      If we are dealing with the word(s) for "god", with an  
uncapitalized initial, then we would seem to be moving into a more  
complex and mainly polytheistic religious scene of which few could be  
master of all the necessary details.
      I believe that so far, all five of his questions have been  
addressed to one degree or another. But in dealing with the Buddhist  
scene, the discussion gets more complicated and subtle, and that's  
where we are now.

      It would be good if someone who specializes in Buddhism could  
join the discussion, because the issues are fascinating, going far  
beyond mere distinctions between "God" and "god(s)" and to what degree  
such distinctions are theological or simply matters of popular  

Gari Ledyard

Quoting erichwein at hotmail.com:

> 1. What is the word in Korean for "God"? (Transliteration, please)
> 2. Is this an original Korean word, or one introduced by Christian
> missionaries?
> 3. Is it the same word used in traditional Korean folk religion (e.g.
> shamanism) and in Buddhism?
> 4. Is the same word used in both North and South Korea?
> 5. In North Korea, is the same word for "God" used both in reference
> to the Christian God (e.g. in worship services of the Korean Christian
> Federation) and in reference to the "Great Leader"? (Explanation: I am
> told that the word "god" is not used in reference the the GL. However,
> on several occasions my interpreters in the DPRK did use the word
> "god" in reference to KIS. This may have been a wrong translation.
> Example: Referring to the young age at which KIS founded the PKA, one
> interpreter told me, "That is why I consider him a god.")
> 6. If not, what distinguishes the two words/concepts used?
> Thanks for any clarifications you can render.
> Erich Weingartner

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