South Korean DJ NewJeansNim Captivates Youth with EDM-Infused Buddhism

South Korean DJ NewJeansNim performed at Seoul's lotus lantern festival, blending EDM with Buddhist teachings to captivate a young audience. His unique approach has sparked both praise and controversy, with some criticizing his performances as "inappropriate" and "confusing".

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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South Korean DJ NewJeansNim Captivates Youth with EDM-Infused Buddhism

South Korean DJ NewJeansNim Captivates Youth with EDM-Infused Buddhism

On May 13, South Korean DJ NewJeansNim, aka Youn Sung-ho, performed at the annual lotus lantern festival in Seoul, blending electronic dance music (EDM) with Buddhist teachings to captivate a young audience. The 47-year-old comedian, known for his character name "bbakoo," has taken on a new persona as a DJ, drawing in younger generations with his unique fusion of EDM and Buddhist chants.

During his performance, NewJeansNim wore a shaved head, a beatific smile, and flowing grey monk's robes, shouting "This too shall pass! If you overcome suffering, you will live in paradise!" to a crowd of thousands, who chanted "Buddha Handsome!" and jumped with their palms joined in prayer. His stage name is derived from "Sunim," a Korean title of respect for Buddhist monastics.

Why this matters: This innovative approach to promoting Buddhism among young people has significant implications for the future of the religion, which has seen a decline in popularity in South Korea in recent years. By making Buddhism more accessible and appealing to a younger audience, NewJeansNim's efforts could help revitalize the religion and increase its relevance in modern society.

NewJeansNim's unique approach has been welcomed by Korea's Buddhist community for promoting "young Buddhism." His EDM performances, which incorporate Buddhist sutras, have drawn younger generations to the religion. "I am just starting to feel that young people are changing their views on Buddhism. Whoever calls me, or wherever, I will go and perform to make it easier for people to accept Buddhism through my EDM performance," Youn told Reuters.

On April 30, Venerable Jinwoo, the head of the Jogye Order, the largest sect of Korean Buddhism with 10 million followers, gifted DJ NewJeansNim with prayer beads and a headset, asking him to continue spreading hope and happiness to young people. Fans, such as 25-year-old Lee Hyo-min, appreciate NewJeansNim's fresh approach to Buddhism: "He is really fresh and new because normally when you think about monks they are pious and quiet. I thought he was really hip."

However, NewJeansNim's performances have not been without controversy. In Malaysia, his appearance at a nightclub in Kuala Lumpur sparked widespread backlash, with the Young Buddhist Association Malaysia calling his performance "inappropriate" and "confusing" to the public about Buddhist rituals. Malaysian lawmakers have also spoken out against Youn's performances, calling for him to be banned from entering the country again.

Despite the controversy, Youn continues to entertain fans across Asia, with upcoming performances scheduled in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Buddhism has seen a decline in South Korea in recent years, with 22% of the population identifying as Buddhists in 2015, compared to 17% in 2021, according to Gallup polls. NewJeansNim's innovative approach aims to reverse this trend and make Buddhism more accessible to younger generations.

Key Takeaways

  • South Korean DJ NewJeansNim blends EDM with Buddhist teachings to appeal to young audiences.
  • NewJeansNim's performances aim to revitalize Buddhism in South Korea, where it's seen a decline in popularity.
  • Korea's Buddhist community welcomes NewJeansNim's "young Buddhism" approach, making the religion more accessible.
  • NewJeansNim's performances have sparked controversy, with some calling them "inappropriate" and "confusing".
  • Despite controversy, NewJeansNim continues to perform across Asia, aiming to make Buddhism more appealing to youth.