Christianity accounts for nearly one third of religious identification, with the number of Christians doubling between the 1990’s and 2000’s. South Korea’s rapid economic growth in the 1960’s and 1970’s created by policies of export-oriented industrialization, a strong alliance with the United States continued and social values of a strong work-ethic arising from Confucian principles all affected a combined perception of Christianity with modernisation and aspirations of the Middle Class. In recent years the growth of Protestantism has slowed, however, perhaps due to scandals involving church leadership and conflict among various sects, as well as what some perceive as overly-zealous missionary work.
I have always encountered a juxtaposition of opinions towards Korean churches by church goers and non-church goers in the London Korean community. Some people believe that the Church is a great place, where people can become part of a religious family and help to spread God’s message. Other people are sceptical about how much Church really is about worship or a space to measure a person’s social status. These people are disillusioned by the way that the big, passionate, evangelical Protestant churches that exists in South Korea and have spread their wings to places like London owe their success to capitalist exploits, investments and commercial advertising.
Buddhism accounts for just under a third of religion in Korea and my Korean family is predominantly Buddhist. I can remember long hikes with my grandparents to visit sacred temples high up in the mountains when I was a child. Buddhism in Korea is a mixture of Buddhist values, cultural superstitions and shamanism. My grandparents would often call monks to their house to see if any bad spirits were residing. One time, a monk advised my grandmother that if her bathroom door had been built a few inches to the right of where it was the ‘feng shui’ of the room would have been completely thrown off balance, and a portal to would have been open for bad spirits to enter the house from the spirit-world. It was a good thing the door was where it was then.
My grandmother has many stories concerning spirits and consultations with shamans but perhaps I’ll save those for another blog.
I found this quite interesting: