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What explains the prevalence of Christianity in Korea?

What explains the prevalence of Christianity in Korea?

Writing for the Diplomat, Dave Hazzan notes that Christianity, persecuted for 75 years, has flourished in Korea, which now sends out the most missionaries of any nation, except for the United States. The article explores this rise and tries to sort out the particulars and the reasons behind these developments.

One factor in the rise seems to be a remarkable lack of negative experiences with early missionaries. Christianity was seen as a protecting force against annexation from Japanese invasion, and acquired a reputation as not only benevolent but helpful.

From the article:

Christianity became a source of resistance, especially to Japanese colonial rule, which began in 1910 and was famously brutal. Though not all churches were anti-Japanese, many were.

“There was no other hope for Koreans at that time,” says Dr. Andrew Park, professor of Theology and Ethics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. “They couldn’t depend on China, Russia, Americans, any other country. There was no help. Only God alone, they were so desperate.”

Grayson says that annexation provided a link between nationalism and Christianity. “The Korean church has never had to answer questions about association with Western imperialism, because imperialism in Korea was Japanese.”

Megachurch membership is popular, too, which Hazzan traces to migration from rural communities to cities, where new arrivals sought out companionship and community, often finding it in increasingly large church families.

Were you familiar with the history he’s shared? Do you see any universal or specific lessons to help grow the faith elsewhere?



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Leslie Marshall

In May of 1973, Rev Billy Graham shared the gospel with 3 million Koreans during his 5-day Crusade. Over 1 million traveled by foot to attend. 75,000 Koreans gave their life to Jesus when they heard the Good News.

Tory Baucum

Full Gospel Church of Seoul, pastored by Paul Yongi Cho, had a over a million members attending in their many services on Sunday when I visited in 1998. Some missiologists have noted Cho’s effective contextualing of certain popular folk Buddhist practices into his ministry, making it emotionally and psychologically accessible to these rural immigrants to the cities noted above. Cho’s cell group pastoral scheme provided alternative kinship groups which they had lost as new urban immigrants, and the contextualing of Buddhist prayer practices likewise validated aspects of their past history and practice as they learned to embrace Christ.
20th C Korean Christianity is a memorable case study of how western missionaries handed over the churches to indigenous leadership, like Cho, and trusted them with the trajectory of its development.

Amanda in the South Bay

There’s been a severe amount of tension at times with Korean Protestantism vs Buddhism( not so much with Catholicism).

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