Chapter 5 Tzu-Chi and the ‘Moonies’

New Religious Movements in Taiwan and South Korea

In: Assessing the Landscape of Taiwan and Korean Studies in Comparison

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This chapter focuses on two new religious movements (NRMs): Tzu-Chi and the Unification Church within Taiwan and South Korea. The chapter documents their beginnings and explores their involvement within welfare provision. It is argued that NRMs are part of the very fabric of modernisation theory and in the absence of state-led welfare, it often falls to grassroots-level organisations to provide aid. In societies marked by economic imbalance between the rich and the poor, it is at the grassroots level that more organisations, charities, and foundations tend to form. Since religion is deeply rooted in many communities in the countries under discussion, it therefore makes sense that faith-based NGOs would be established and begin work in those communities. The link between notions of welfare and religious practice is well-documented. Religious groups play a key role in determining how well a country’s welfare system has developed. Their reach includes education, medical care, and other social services. This is instead frequently centred on informal provision at the community level rooted in strong cultural-religious values. With the analysing of two NRMs this chapter bring into the light the links between religion and welfare. It argues that both Tzu-Chi and the UC were founded during a period of rapid economic growth, but also in a time of great welfare need.