Religion in South Korea

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Religion in South Korea is diverse. Most South Koreans have no religion. Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism) and Buddhism are the dominant confessions among those who affiliate with a formal religion.


  • “The requiring by Respondent [the Army Training Center] of Complainants’ attendance at either a Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic, or Won Buddhist ceremony, the court concluded, demonstrates that Respondent officially acknowledged and encouraged the four religions and preferred them to other religions or irreligion. The Court notes in this connection that the constitutional principle of the separation of religion and politics serves the purpose of guaranteeing the diversity laying the foundation of a democratic society. In the context of this principle, the State maintains a neutral position, acknowledging the possibility of eclectic religious convictions, atheism, etc. The conduct of Respondent cannot be permitted under the principle of separation of religion and politics as it amounts to favorable treatment of particular religions in violation of State neutrality to religion.”
  • In case of “covered” evangelism where the name of the group to which the missionaries belong is not disclosed, whether the converts lost their freedom of religion making the missionary strategy illegal is a question, the Supreme Court said, that can only be “determined individually and specifically, by considering the age of the other party, educational background, social experience including prior religious life, the relationship between the missionary and the other party, the circumstances in which the other party chose the religion, and the changes in attitude or life before and after the other person chose the religion.”
  • Deprogramming has been declared illegal in all democratic countries, but is still practiced in South Korea. More than 3,000 members of [the] Shincheonji [Church of Jesus] have been kidnapped in South Korea for purposes of deprogramming. Two female Shincheonji devotees have died in connection with deprogramming. …South Korea needs a law, but not against Shincheonji or the so-called “cults.” It needs a law aligning South Korea with other democratic countries by outlawing the crime of deprogramming and forced conversion, and punishing hate speech against religious minorities.
    • Massimo Introvigne, "The Jeongeup Murder Case: A Hate Crime Against Shincheonji", Bitter Winter (2022)
    • Curator's Note: Deprogramming is, in the terms of Bitter Winter, the practice of kidnapping a member of a religious group (often name-called as a "cult") and coercing him or her to quit that religious group (put simply, forced deconversion), and even struggle against that religious group (apostasy).

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