The business of Buddhism takes centre stage in Seoul, South Korea this week as tens of thousands of people from all over the world flock to one of Asia’s most unique expos that promotes the development of Buddhist cultural industries.
Hosted by the Jogye Order, the 2023 Seoul International Buddhism Expo will be held from March 30th to April 2nd at the Seoul Trade Exhibition & Convention Center (SETEC). India will be the guest country for the Expo to mark the 50th anniversary of Korea-India diplomatic relations.
Organisers said this year's Seoul International Buddhism Expo has various programs, including a robust online schedule of events, in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of Buddhist cultural products as the Expo will feature 420 booths and services from 330 businesses.
India’s Buddhist history, culture and rituals will be featured at 20 booths and a media-arts exhibition. There will also be a ‘live commerce’ platform to support small business owners and exhibitions featuring Nepalese Buddhism and cultural products from temples across South Korea.
Running alongside the Expo are the Seoul Relax Week programs which can be found online at www.relaxweek.kr. The Seoul Relax Week aims to provide opportunities for citizens and visitors to cultivate healthy mindfulness in their daily lives.
Other highlights include a special program that will discuss the restoration of the “Yeolamgok Rock-carved Buddha" and other Buddhist cultural assets.
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, had in January announced plans to restore the 1,300-year-old rock-carved statue of the Buddha that is believed to have been toppled in an earthquake some 600 years ago.
The five-meter, 80-tonne stone sculpture was discovered in 2007 lying face down, its nose just five centimeters from a rock face, but with its features otherwise undamaged.
“The Buddha [statue has] spent a thousand years lying face down, to bear the sufferings of the people,” Venerable Jinwoo, president of the Jogye Order, said during a press conference in Seoul.
“Erecting the Buddha means raising up ourselves, and this will become a holy Buddhist service that restores the nature in all of us,” he said according to a report in The Korea Herald.
The Jogye Order, the key sponsor and organizer of this 10th annual event, represents the largest segment of South Korea’s Buddhist population, administering about 1,900 active temples with more than 13,000 monks and nuns who lead seven million followers nationwide.
The Seoul International Buddhist Expo began in 2013 with 159 companies and 231 booths attracting about 50,000 visitors. Last year close to 200,000 people attended the event.
Seoul International Buddhist Expo co-chair and CEO of Buddhist Newspaper Ven. Sam-jo said the organisers are planning “to gather all the resources of Korean Buddhism in one place in order to become Asia’s Buddhist hub and become a platform that bridges Asia and the rest of the world.”
Ajung Kim, a Vancouver-based filmmaker, said the Expo and the Seoul Relax Week programs showcase the diversity of the Buddhism industry.
“In these times of uncertainty and heavy dependence on technology, it is essential to reflect on the role of religion, tradition, culture, and spirituality have to play in our daily lives,” said Kim, who is part of the organising committee.
“We are expecting to meet tens of thousands of international visitors virtually and in person this year," she said.