ESL South Korea

Religion in Korea

Korean cultural lifestyle is thus largely influenced by Confucian teaching and customs and traditions usually have their roots in Confucianism.  Things like respect towards elders, family life and the conservative roll of woman in society all stem from Confucian ideals.  But Confucianism does not pretend to give extended guidance on spiritual and religious matters in the way that Taoism, Buddhism or Islam would typically do.

The two most pervasive religions in Korea are Buddhism and Christianity.  Buddhism has a long history in Korea and has traditionally been the accepted religion among most Koreans, though with modernization and the influx of Christianity, this has certainly changed.

Along with Taoism, Buddhism entered the Korean cultural landscape in the 4th century, coming from China.  Buddhism remains popular among the more traditional eastern part of the country and in conservative cities like Daegu and Andong.

Christianity is fairly new to Korea, but its adherents are growing in number.  Many high ranking government officials (among which is the 2008 incumbent president Lee Meyong-Bak) are declared Christians.  The single largest church is the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church is Seoul with over 1 Million members.  Christians all over the world often travel to visit this church and hear its famous pastor – David Yeonggi Cho.  Churches are found everywhere in Korea and can easily be spot at night through the multitude of glowing red neon crosses that often dot the city skyline.
Statistically I’ve heard and read so many different numbers, that it’s impossible to try and correctly determine the demographics of religion in Korea.  A good estimate puts Buddhism at 30% (in relation to the entire population), and Christianity at 30%.  What about the rest?  Well, a growing number of Koreans declares themselves to be ‘ginjang‘.  That’s the Korean word for ‘just’ and simply means that they don’t necessarily believe anything.

It’s important to remember that even though a Korean might not belong to a certain religion, inherent cultural elements might be construed as shamanism, such as the worshipping of ancestors during Chuseok festivals or other times of the year.

Cults and sect are prevalent in Korea, the most famous probably being the Unification church or Sun Meyong Moon, with their mass wedding rituals.