South Korea Religious Denominations

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Similar to China and Japan, Korea's Buddhism comes from the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. Although Buddhism's influence over society has declined over the years, the devout still make regular pilgrimages to give offerings at temples.


Unknown in the peninsula before the 18th century, Koreans were first introduced to Christianity through Jesuits in China. The Catholic branch spread so quickly when it was introduced to Korea that the King perceived it as a threat and actively persecuted the early missionaries. Protestant missionaries started coming in the late 19th century and established numerous hospitals and colleges. Christianity has been embraced with a vengeance, and many of the world's largest churches are in Korea (including Yoido Full Gospel Church, reputed to be the world's largest with a congregation of 700,000 members).


Although not technically a religion, the teachings of Confucius permeate throughout Korean society. The derived highly authoritarian, male-dominated system is reflected in the paternalistic and male-dominated Korean culture. The country's emphasis on education and respect for ancestors also comes from the teachings of Confucius.


Although not an organized religion per se, Shamanism revolves around a mudang (priest or usually priestess) who acts as an intermediary between the spirit and living worlds. The ceremonies involve intricate dances and songs. It is seen by many as a primitive religion and has more of a following in rural village areas.


Very few Koreans have embraced the Islamic beliefs. However, a large mosque near It'aewon in Seoul is frequented by many foreigners in Korea.