Religion in Korea – History, Progress and Impact in Korea Society!

religion in korea

From ancient traditions to modern practices, join us as we explore the diverse beliefs and religion in Korea that have woven themselves into every aspect of Korean society.

Whether you’re a curious explorer or a passionate seeker of knowledge, get ready to delve deep into the heart and soul of Korea’s religious tapestry like never before! Let’s dig in!

Table of Contents

Religion in Korea

Religion is a central role in the lives of many people, including Koreans. Korean people have practiced a lot of religions and beliefs like Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism all through out centuries.

However, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of Koreans practicing Christianity.

religion in korea
Credit to Statista

According to statistics on Statista, In 2022, 50 percent of the population in South Korea had no religion, 20 percent believe in Protestantism.17 percent believe in Buddhism. 11 percent believe in Catholics and 2% believe in other religions.

There are plenty of reasons for the decline of Buddhism and rise of Christianity in Korea. 

One reason is the modernization of Korea and the secularization of Korean society.

As more and more Koreans fell in love with Western values and lifestyles, the less they desire to maintain traditional Buddhist beliefs and practices.

In addition, the growth of Christianity in Korea is also due to its appeal to young people who are seeking an alternative to Buddhism.

Christianity is seen as a more egalitarian and modern religion than traditional Buddhism. It’s message of love and forgiveness resonates with many young Koreans who are tired of the Confucian emphasis.

Buddhism (불교) | Buddhist Influence on Korean Culture and Beliefs

religion in korea

Buddhism was first introduced to Korea from China in the 4th century CE during the Three Kingdom period. This religion quickly became a popular religion among Korean people during that time.

The religion flourished and they build numerous Buddhist temples all over the country for centuries.

However, Buddhism began to decline after Confucianism was founded and become the state ideology of Joseon dynasty.

The popularity of Buddhism continue to decline especially in the early 20th century, as Christianity became more prevalent.

Nevertheless, Buddhism still plays a significant role in Korean culture and beliefs.

Buddhist influence can be seen in many aspects of Korean life including major holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok, which is rooting from Buddhism practices.

In addition, traditional Korean funerals often incorporate Buddhist rituals such as chanting sutras and burning paper money.

Not to mention that some Koreans also visit Buddhist temples when they need help or guidance from God.

More than that, many Koreans believe in “karma,” which is the belief that one’s actions have consequences in this life and future lives.

This is a central tenet of Buddhism that has had a lasting impact on Korean culture.

Christianity (기독교) in Korea - Historical Context

religion in korea

Credit to theechonews

Christianity first arrived in Korea in the late 18th century, when Catholic missionaries from China established a small community in Pyongyang.

Afterwards, it spread to other parts of the country, particularly in the form of Protestantism, which was introduced by American missionaries in the 19th century right after World War II and the Korean war.

The history of Christianity in Korea is relatively short compare to others.

Koreans quickly fell in love with Christianity because of the significant impact they did in medical and educational fields by creating a lot of hospitals and schools.

Many of Korea’s most influential political leaders are Christians, and the Christian church has been at the forefront of movements for democracy and human rights.

Confucianism (유교) | Confucianism in Korean Society

religion in korea

Credit to wikimmedia

According to UNAM archives, Confucianism was systematically introduced to Korea from Yuan China (1279-1368) in the late thirteenth century and quickly spread to the whole country.

Confucianism is a set of ethical principles that emphasize filial piety, humaneness, and propriety.

This religion is no longer official religion in Korea. However, it still heavily influences the values of contemporary Korean society.

For example, the concept of jeong, or deep-rooted affection and loyalty, is still very important in interpersonal relationships.

In addition, Confucian concepts like filial piety and reverence for elders continue to be deeply ingrained in the collective Korean psyche.

In fact, Koreans still refer to their elders as “ajeossi” (아저씨) or “ajumma” (아줌마), which are terms that come from the Confucian concept of respect for age difference.

More than that, language and honorifics are still very carefully observe in order to show respect for others.

Other Religious Traditions, Including Shamanism and Taoism

religion in korea

Credit to Anthony Kuhn/NPR

Other religious traditions have also had a significant presence in Korea throughout its history.

Shamanism, for example, is an indigenous practice that is thought to date back to the Bronze Age.

It involves a shamaness or shaman acting as a medium between the spirits and the human world.

Meanwhile, Taoism is a Chinese philosophy that developed around the same time as Confucianism.

It focuses on living in harmony with the Tao, or “the way” of nature.

While both shamanism and Taoism influence has decline sharply in recent centuries, they still play a decent role in Korean culture and society.

For example. Koreans sometimes visit Shaman for a talisman or rituals to bring good luck and cast away evil spirit.

Exploring a Traditional Korean Temple

religion in korea

Credit to wikipedia

A trip to a Korean temple is a must for anyone interested in the country’s rich religious heritage.

Temples are beautiful, serene places, and visiting one is a great way to learn more about Korea’s Buddhist past.

There are many great temples to choose from, but we recommend Bongeunsa and Jogyesa Temple if you visit Seoul.

Sum Up

Religion in Korea is a complex and fascinating subject with tons of historical values.

Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity carry immense historical significance for Korean people.

Both modern day religions and ancient customs shape the beliefs of Koreans today while still being closely intertwined with each other.

I wish this article is helpful in help you learn the history behind the growth of Religion In Korea as well as the affect they have in Korean culture and society.

Check out our another article:

religion in korea

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