Christianity in Korea

Christianity in Korea

Robert E. Buswell
Timothy S. Lee
Copyright Date: 2006
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    Christianity in Korea
    Book Description:

    Despite the significance of Korea in world Christianity and the crucial role Christianity plays in contemporary Korean religious life, the tradition has been little studied in the West.Christianity in Koreaseeks to fill this lacuna by providing a wide-ranging overview of the growth and development of Korean Christianity and the implications that development has had for Korean politics, interreligious dialogue, and gender and social issues.

    The volume begins with an accessibly written overview that traces in broad outline the history and development of Christianity on the peninsula. This is followed by chapters on broad themes, such as the survival of early Korean Catholics in a Neo-Confucian society, relations between Christian churches and colonial authorities during the Japanese occupation, premillennialism, and the theological significance of the division and prospective reunification of Korea. Others look in more detail at individuals and movements, including the story of the female martyr Kollumba Kang Wansuk; the influence of Presbyterianism on the renowned nationalist Ahn Changho; the sociopolitical and theological background of the Minjung Protestant Movement; and the success and challenges of Evangelical Protestantism in Korea. The book concludes with a discussion of how best to encourage a rapprochement between Buddhism and Christianity in Korea.

    Contributors:Donald Baker; Robert E. Buswell, Jr.; Paul Y. Chang; Cho Kwang; Donald N. Clark; Kelly H. Chong; James Huntley Grayson; Wi Jo Kang; Byong-suh Kim; Chong Bum Kim; Wonil Kim; Gari Ledyard; Timothy S. Lee; Sung-Deuk Oak; Kang-nam Oh; Anselm Kyongsuk Min; Jacqueline Pak; Yi Mahn-yol.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6189-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Robert E. Buswell Jr.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Timothy S. Lee

    Anyone who has visited the South Korean capital of Seoul will have noticed the myriad church steeples that dominate the cityscape, especially at night when the crosses atop them light up in red or white neon. The prevalence of these steeples in Seoul—as in other cities and towns across the southern half of the Korean peninsula—speaks to the ubiquity of Christianity in modern South Korea. For understanding modern Korean culture, society, and politics, the importance of Christianity cannot be underestimated. It may be somewhat of an exaggeration to claim that Christianity is to modern Korea what Buddhism was...

  5. PART ONE: Overview

    • Chapter 1 A Quarter-Millennium of Christianity in Korea
      (pp. 7-26)
      James Huntley Grayson

      In this volume, various chapters consider a range of historical issues in the overall story of Christianity in Korea. To understand this history, why it took the shape that it did, we have to understand what the Christians of Korea believed, for it is these beliefs that in one way or another impelled their actions.

      We cannot reduce the story of Korean Christians down to simple social, economic, and political motivations. Profound beliefs motivated their actions. The twentieth-century German theologian Paul Tillich, who came to intellectual maturity in the aftermath of the First World War and later became an American...

  6. PART TWO: The Beginnings of Christianity in Korea

    • Chapter 2 Human Relations as Expressed in Vernacular Catholic Writings of the Late Chosŏn Dynasty
      (pp. 29-37)
      Cho Kwang

      Catholicism began to be disseminated in earnest in East Asia with the arrival of Francis Xavier in Japan in 1549 and especially with the arrival of Matteo Ricci in Beijing in 1601. In Beijing, Catholic missionaries published tracts and other doctrinal literature in Chinese to promote their religion, and these Sinitic writings made their way into Korea via Korean envoys.¹ From these writings, many Koreans discovered a new worldview, one that posed an alternative to the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy of late Chosŏn society. And, as is well known, it is through the study of these writings that a group of Koreans...

    • Chapter 3 Kollumba Kang Wansuk, an Early Catholic Activist and Martyr
      (pp. 38-71)
      Gari Ledyard

      Kollumba (Columba) Kang Wansuk (1761–1801), who perished in the great anti-Catholic persecution of 1801, is well known among a small number of historians of Korean Catholicism, but not among more general scholars of Korean history or in the wider field of Korean Studies. She should be more broadly recognized, since aside from her importance as an early Catholic, she was also a remarkable woman who worked in a cause that unfolded outside the home in public space, something that was hardly imaginable for a woman in her time and probably without precedent in earlier Korean history. She had a...

    • Chapter 4 Chinese Protestant Literature and Early Korean Protestantism
      (pp. 72-94)
      Sung-Deuk Oak

      Since the 1870s when Chinese Protestant literature began making inroads into Korea and especially since the 1880s when missionaries from the United States began arriving in the peninsula, Protestantism made rapid progress in Korea. By the end of the twentieth century, as Donald Baker and Timothy S. Lee discuss in this volume, every fifth South Korean was a Protestant. Many a factor—ranging from the sociopolitical to the religious—has been proffered to explain this rapid growth. This is all good and proper: no relevant factor should be neglected if we are fully to appreciate the complexity and richness of...

  7. PART THREE: Christianity, Nationalism, and Japanese Colonialism

    • Chapter 5 Church and State Relations in the Japanese Colonial Period
      (pp. 97-115)
      Wi Jo Kang

      Religious scholars have engaged in heated debates regarding alleged collusion versus firm resistance on the part of Christian churches during the era of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The discussion below contends that church-state relations during the Japanese colonial period cannot be characterized monolithically or consistently as cooperative or contentious, but, instead, as evolving and changing in response to the unfolding of historical events over a number of years.

      In the early years of Japanese annexation, many foreign missionaries and Korean church leaders applauded Japanese rule and sought cooperative, cordial relations with Japanese government officials. As the Japanese state enacted...

    • Chapter 6 Cradle of the Covenant: Ahn Changho and the Christian Roots of the Korean Constitution
      (pp. 116-148)
      Jacqueline Pak

      The Korean quest for independence from Japanese colonial oppression between 1910 and 1945 occurred simultaneously with a momentous Christian movement spreading throughout East Asia, a movement that was unprecedented in the twentieth century.¹ The independence movement coalesced around Christian enlightenment reforms and sought to create a new type of democracy, especially as Christianity was not necessarily presumed by the late Chosŏn monarchy to be a menacing tool of Western imperialism. Enabled by a historically serendipitous partnership between Korean nationalism and Christianity against the threats of foreign colonialism and loss of sovereignty, the rise of democracy and Christianity profoundly transformed the...

    • Chapter 7 Preaching the Apocalypse in Colonial Korea: The Protestant Millennialism of Kil Sŏn-ju
      (pp. 149-166)
      Chong Bum Kim

      Protestant Christianity has often been guilty of cultural imperialism. Guided by the idea of the “white man’s burden” to “civilize” the world, Victorian-era missionaries regarded with contempt the cultures and religions of non-Western peoples and imposed upon them not only a new faith, but also a new way of life. Korea was no exception. When the first Protestant missionaries arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they condemned ancestor veneration as “idol worship” and instructed converts to burn traditional ritual objects. They also carried out a whole range of social reforms, from temperance to hygiene. The missionaries saw...

    • Chapter 8 Mothers, Daughters, Biblewomen, and Sisters: Account of “Women’s Work” in the Korea Mission Field
      (pp. 167-192)
      Donald N. Clark

      In 1984, the publication of Jane Hunter’s study of women missionaries in China opened a new window of scholarly inquiry about the work and interactions of Western and Chinese Christian women, particularly single women, in the promotion of Christian institutions and opportunities for “native” women.¹ Especially notable is the field of women’s education. Less familiar is the work of evangelistic missionaries and their local counterparts. The contributions and achievements of the “agents and actors” in these areas are not in doubt. However, the practitioners remain objects for study rather than people to identify with, and missionaries—and again this seems...

  8. PART FOUR: Christianity and the Struggles for Democracy and Reunification

    • Chapter 9 Carrying the Torch in the Darkest Hours: The Sociopolitical Origins of Minjung Protestant Movements
      (pp. 195-220)
      Paul Yunsik Chang

      During his tenure as South Korea’s leader (1961–1979), President Park Chung-hee exercised his authority by developing laws and various state apparatuses aimed at controlling all dissident movements. For this end, the Korean military, the national police, and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) became useful coercive structures Park employed to maintain his rule. In addition to these structures of domination, Park also attempted to legitimize and justify his seizure of power as well as his plans to modernize South Korea. These legitimizing discourses revolved around two main themes. Park initially justified his seizure of power as an issue of...

    • Chapter 10 Minjung Theology’s Biblical Hermeneutics: An Examination of Minjung Theology’s Appropriation of the Exodus Account
      (pp. 221-237)
      Wonil Kim

      Traditional Christian theology—at least that is its claim—has been a Bible-based theology. It is a theology built first and foremost on the Bible.

      As has been the case with liberation theologians of the Americas, it is therefore not surprising thatminjungtheologians do their work by showing that the theology they are constructing is rooted in the Bible in some significant way, and therefore credible. While we can hardly label them biblicists, their reliance on the Bible as an indispensable primary source of their theology is unmistakable.

      Again, as has been the case with Liberation Theology,¹ one of...

    • Chapter 11 Korean Protestants and the Reunification Movement
      (pp. 238-257)
      Yi Mahn-yol

      Korean Protestants joined the movement for national reunification in earnest in the 1980s. The movement was spearheaded by the progressive wing of the Protestant church, but conservatives also participated in due course. In the face of hostile dictatorships, Protestants persisted in their efforts and in the end helped to shape the South Korean government’s reunification policy and make it possible for nongovernmental agencies and individuals to take part in the movement.

      Historically, Korean Protestants have taken active roles in national issues akin to the reunification movement. In their early history, for example, they led efforts to reform the feudalistic practices...

    • Chapter 12 The Division and Reunification of a Nation: Theological Reflections on the Destiny of the Korean People
      (pp. 258-280)
      Anselm Kyongsuk Min

      As we speak of reunification, North and South, as we Koreans have been increasingly doing in recent years, it is crucial to approach the issue comprehensively by considering as many dimensions of its challenge as we can, rather than narrowly focusing on immediate political issues. Reunification requires more than the establishment of a single government on the peninsula; it demands a long period of preparation and adjustment as well. It demands not only the unification of political, military, and economic systems and institutions but also the elimination of those elements of national consciousness that militate against reunification in many areas...

  9. PART FIVE: Growth and Challenges

    • Chapter 13 Sibling Rivalry in Twentieth-Century Korea: Comparative Growth Rates of Catholic and Protestant Communities
      (pp. 283-308)
      Donald Baker

      At the end of the twentieth century, according to figures supplied to South Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism by seventeen of Korea’s nearly one hundred different Protestant denominations and subdenominations, there were an estimated 12,260,321 Protestant Christians in the Republic of Korea.¹ At that same time, Korea’s Catholic Church reported a membership of 4,071,560. Those are remarkable figures. One hundred years earlier, at the beginning of the twentieth century, there were fewer than 20,000 Protestants in all of Korea. There were also approximately 42,000 Korean Catholics at that time, for a total of little more than 60,000 Christians in...

    • Chapter 14 Modernization and the Explosive Growth and Decline of Korean Protestant Religiosity
      (pp. 309-329)
      Byong-suh Kim

      Sociological studies have often found that institutional disorganization and the loss of the social function of religion may occur when society becomes modernized. Peter Berger summed it up thus: “The impact of modernity on religion is commonly seen in terms of the process of secularization, which can be described as one in which religion loses its hold on the level both of institutions and of human consciousness.”¹ Berger’s harsh assessment may well describe the state of the Korean Protestant church today. For the last forty years, a startling wave of modernization accompanied by industrialization, urbanization, and rapid social mobility have...

    • Chapter 15 Beleaguered Success: Korean Evangelicalism in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 330-350)
      Timothy S. Lee

      At the beginning of the twentieth century, Christians constituted less than 1 percent of the Korean population.¹ By the end of the century, according to a 1995 survey by the South Korean Statistics Office, Christians constituted 26.3 percent of the South Korean population, surpassing Buddhists, the next largest religious group, at 23.3 percent. In 1997, according to another major study, Christianity’s numerical edge over Buddhism was even larger—27.4 percent versus 18.3 percent. In both these studies, Protestants constitute the vast majority of Korean Christians: 75 percent of the Christian population (or 19.7 percent of the entire population) in the...

    • Chapter 16 In Search of Healing: Evangelical Conversion of Women in Contemporary South Korea
      (pp. 351-370)
      Kelly H. Chong

      South Korea has been receiving increasing recognition in recent years for the spectacular growth and success of Protestantism on its soil. Not surprisingly, this comes amid intensified interest on the part of both the Western academy and the public in the revitalization and expansion of religious “fundamentalisms” around the globe, including that of traditionalist Islam, evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism in the United States, and Pentecostalism in various parts of Latin America.

      In Korean academic circles, a great deal of research has already been undertaken to explain the phenomenon of evangelical expansion in South Korea, an effort that has resulted in...

    • Chapter 17 The Christian-Buddhist Encounter in Korea
      (pp. 371-386)
      Kang-nam Oh

      Buddhism and Christianity are currently the two dominant religions in South Korea, with approximately one-half of the country’s population of forty-five million as their adherents. Of these adherents, approximately one-half are Buddhists and the other half Christians.¹ Under such circumstances, it seems obvious that a dialogical and cooperative relationship between these two religions in Korea is both a prerequisite and an imperative for the peaceful and harmonious future of Korean society.

      The main purpose of this chapter is to survey briefly the historical background of these two religions in Korea, to analyze the current situation of the Buddhist-Christian relationship in...

  10. A Select Bibliography for the Study of Korean Christianity
    (pp. 387-392)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 393-396)
  12. Index
    (pp. 397-408)