- Korea, Republic of
- (South)The Republic of Korea is, along with the Philippines, one of the few Asian countries where Christianity has risen to a dominant position. As the 21st century began, Christians made up about 40 percent of the population, 80 percent of them Protestants. Buddhists and followers of the traditional Korean folk religion each make up some 15 percent.Protestantism entered the country after the signing of the Amity Treaty with the United States in 1882, which abrogated an earlier law that banned Christianity. The first Protestant to take advantage of the new situation was Horace N. Allen (1858-1922), a Presbyterian physician. By saving the life of the queen's nephew, he set the stage for the arrival of the first ordained minister and missionary, Horace G. Underwood (1859-1916), also an American Presbyterian. Over the next decade, Canadian and Australian Presbyterians established work, which in 1907 was merged with the American mission to form the Presbyterian Church of Korea. The Presbyterians enjoyed one of their great missionary successes in Korea, and the majority of Korean Protestants belong in one of the several Presbyterian churches.Methodists arrived in 1884, followed by Anglicans in 1890 and Baptists in 1895. The Methodists also enjoyed dramatic successes and today have around 1.3 million members. They also gave birth to the Holiness movement, which has several churches that count their members in the hundreds of thousands. The Korean Baptist Convention (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) has almost a million members.Pentecostalism took off in Korea after the Korean conflict (1950-53), and has been the fastest-growing community ever since. it dates back to 1903, when the first of a series of revival movements swept through the Korean Protestant churches, characterized by an emphasis on receiving the Holy Spirit and yearnings for a deeper, more mature spiritual life. However, the Pentecostal movement that developed in Los Angeles in 1906 did not reach Korea until 1923, when Mary Bumsey was able to enter the country from Japan (then the occupying power). Bumsey founded the first Pentecostal church in 1932 at Yongsangku; she was joined by several other independent missionaries. They all ran afoul of the Japanese authorities and were deported as World War II loomed. By 1940, the four Pentecostal congregations that existed had several ordained Korean ministers that together carried the Pentecostal banner through the difficult war years. After the Korean conflict, several American Pentecostal groups sent missionaries - the Assemblies of GoD,the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee), the Church of God of Prophecy, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church International. Today the Pentecostal community claims some 2.3 million members in the large denominations, and twice that many more in other groups who have had the defining experience of the movement - speaking in tongues as a sign of the reception of the Holy spirit.The Pentecostal movement has also produced one of the world's unique Christian phenomena, the Yoido Full Gospel Central Church, believed to be the largest Christian congregation in the world. starting with the Assemblies of God, Paul Yonggi Cho (b. 1936) began a congregation in seoul in 1958. Four years later, he built a 1,500-seat center to accommodate the members. The church has subsequently grown to 700,000+ members who meet in a 10-story building on Yoido island in central seoul. The church and its leader, now known as David Yonggi Cho, have become international leaders; promoting the establishment of cell groups within congregations.Following the disruption of the Japanese occupation and World War ii, the Presbyterian Church reconstituted in 1949, but 10 years later it split into two factions. The more conservative faction, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (HapDong), aligned with American Fundamentalist leader Carl Mclntire and his International Council of Christian Churches. It is now the largest church body in the country. The more liberal faction, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (TongHap) is almost as big; each has more than 2 million members. The Presbyterian movement currently exists as some 95 denominations, more than 10 of which have at least 100,000 members. in addition, in 1967 the Christian Reformed Church of North America began work in Korea, and it now has more than 400,000 members.The Presbyterian Church of Korea (TongHap) is a member of the World Council of Churches, as is the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Anglican Church of Korea, and the Korean Methodist Church. Nationally, there is a spectrum of church councils ranging from liberal Protestant to separatist Fundamentalist. They include the National Council of Churches in Korea (aligned with the World Council of Churches), the Christian Council of Korea, the Korean Evangelical Fellowship (aligned with the World Evangelical Alliance), the Conservative Christian Association of Korea, and the Council of Protestant Churches in Korea.The very success of Christianity has led to the formation of a number of indigenous Christian movements. of these, the unification Movement (the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of Christianity) founded by former Presbyterian Sun Myung Moon (b. 1920) has had the greatest impact. Moon created a synthesis of Protestantism and traditional Korean shamanism that became an international movement through the last decades of the 20th century.Though dwarfed by the larger mainline Protestant groups, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church have made a respectable showing in South Korea, each with slightly more than 100,000 members.Further reading:■ Jean-Jacques Bauswein and Lukas Vischer, eds., The Reformed Family Worldwide: A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1999)■ A. D. Clark, A History of the Church in Korea (Seoul: Christian Literature Society of Korea, 1971)■ D. N. Clark, Christianity in Modern Korea (Lanham Md.: University Press of America, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.