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A reflection on the growth and decline of the Korean Protestant Church.


This article examines the reasons for the growth and decline of the Korean Protestant Church during the following five periods:

* In the early period of settlement (1884-1909), growth originated from the emancipation motif modern values, the Christian's moral life, the Revival experience, Bible study, and the prayer culture. The Korean church did not polarize evangelism and social action.

* During Japanese domination (1910-1945), growth came from the respect of the people toward the church. The church served the nation, consoled and healed the minds of the people, and gave brave witness of their faith in God. However, political persecution, economic devastation, socialist influences, and finally the coercion of the Shinto shrine worship to the church blocked church growth.

* During the recovery time (1945-1960), the social anomie after the nation's liberation and the Korean War ironically became a seedbed for church growth. However, the church improperly made her image pro-government and pro-America.

* During the time of industrialisation and urbanisation (1960-1995), Korean Protestantism achieved great growth and the highest percentage. Most of the Korean Protestant churches in cities, taking advantage of the mass rural--city migration, were actively involved in evangelism and church planting. University mission organisations and military missions were most active. Yet, they did not do well in terms of holistic evangelism. On the other hand, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), the Urban Rural Mission (URM,) the minjung churches and others carried out social mission work.

* After the time of urbanisation (1995-2005), church membership began to decrease. The Protestant church-planting policy in city areas became inappropriate. In addition, the church's political conservatism fell out of favour with the young generation.

The sudden politico-economic changes in Korean society and the commitment of the Korean Christians had created very favourable conditions for Protestantism. However, those conditions now disappeared, and the church must overcome its inability to accommodate itself to the new changes. One of the impending tasks of the Korean church is to set qualitative goals and gain the costly respect and credibility of the Korean populace.

Korean Churches and Evangelism

Christianity has now become a major religion in Korea, in spite of its relatively short history: 230 years for Roman Catholicism and 130 years for Protestantism. Most churches in Asia find it difficult to engage in evangelism, partly because many Asians believe that their own traditional religions are better than Christianity, but also because the majority of Asian countries have experienced the negative effects of Western colonialism. Incidentally, Korea was not colonized by a Western country; this may not be the sole reason we have seen substantial growth of the church in Korea. According to the most recent government statistics, collected in 2005, the Christian population in Korea was 29.2 percent of the total population: 18.3 percent Protestants and 10.9 percent Catholics. The next most prominent religion was Buddhism, at 22.8 percent.

However, the Protestant population has declined over the past 10 years, since 2005, while the membership of the Catholic Church has grown rapidly. This has attracted the interest of many academics. Scholars are investigating this religious phenomenon in order to analyze the reasons behind this growth in Catholicism and decline in Protestantism.

This article is written with the intention of sharing the unique experience of the Korean churches in terms of church growth and decline, hoping that it will provide other contexts with some insight. In order to do so, both socio-political and theological approaches to the history of the Korean Protestant church are used to find out the main reasons for the church growth. In addition, the following five types of evangelism, as set out by the Church Growth School, have been borrowed and will be used to analyze the main reasons for the church growth. (1)

1. Presence type (P-1): non-verbal witness through diakonia, Christian morality, social participation in social justice and peace action, or solidarity with the poor.

2. Proclamation type (P-2): proclaiming the gospel in a direct way or through mass media.

3. Persuasion type (P-3): invitation to a deep fellowship with Christ, nurturing, and persuasion to commit oneself to Christ.

4. Power Evangelism type (P-4): healing and counselling, or showing the power of God.

5. Proclamation Community Formed type (P-5): training task force teams and church planting.

Successful settlement: 1884-1909

The major traditional religions of Korea were Shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism, until Christianity came in. From the end of the 18th century, some Confucian scholars accepted Roman Catholicism through some of the Chinese translations of Catholic teaching. The belief spread among commoners and women. During the 19th century, several periods of official persecution produced more than 10,000 martyrs.

Before the first Protestant missionary came into Korea in 1884, a few Koreans had already received Christianity in Manchuria with the help of the Rev. John Ross, a Scotch Presbyterian missionary. They translated the gospels and the New Testament into the Korean language. The Koreans also spread the gospel into Korea, risking their lives, and even planted the first Korean native church.

At the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910, missionaries said that Korea was the most rapidly growing mission field in the world. Protestants alone reached nearly 200,000 persons in only 25 years. What made such growth possible?

1. The first non-theological reason is that the Protestant missions to Korea came in with no imperialist, colonial tag. Instead, they brought the motif of emancipation for women and the humble, and some value of the modern culture for the intellectuals, establishing a high standard of ethical life for the society. These factors provided a very favourable condition for mission. The preaching of biblical egalitarianism accelerated the dismantling process of the highly stratified class system and gender discrimination. The church requested believers to live a puritan style of life by prohibiting concubinage and smoking/alcohol, forbidding the abandonment of wives, and emphasizing parents' duty to their children.

The Protestant church also promoted the formation of modern culture with education and medicine. In the early stage, the Korean King Gojong allowed only Western doctors and teachers to come into Korea. His decision was a way of accepting Western technology while avoiding a strong resistance of Confucian scholars against Western culture. The American Boards of Mission also favoured this as a wise method to avoid probable religious persecution in sending their missionaries. This factor greatly reduced the resistance of the traditional religions against Christianity.

2. The second non-theological reason is that Protestants came in at a time when Korea's religious and cultural heritage was crumbling. At the end of the 19th century, Koreans were surprised to see Japan's victory over China and Russia, and the Japanese protectorate to Korea. The Koreans began to question the old Confucian value. This sort of unstable socio-political context became a spiritual seedbed for mission. Graph 1 shows that the Protestant membership rapidly increased from 1,000 to 4,000 after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and from 35,000 to 55,000 after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).

Some theological and ecclesiological reasons for church growth in the early period are much more crucial than others, because they characterized the features of the Korean Protestant church. 3. The third reason is the wise mission policy of the early Presbyterian missionaries. They adopted the so-called Nevius Mission Policy in 1890. The aim of the policy was to establish a self-propagating, self-governing, self-supporting native church as soon as possible. (2) According to the principles, each one of the native believers had to be trained as an energetic worker for their neighbours' conversion. To be a communicant, a Christian had to win at least one convert. That is why the Presbyterians grew faster than the Methodists in Korea.

4. The Great Revival of 1905-1907 swept the whole country. The experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit brought spiritual rebirth to the Korean church. The motivations of the early Korean church members were mostly extrinsic to Christian faith. Poor people came to church to get economic benefits and protection from local officials by Western missionaries. Intellectuals accepted Christianity with patriotic motivations. Yet the revival awoke the deep and real meaning of Christian faith. It also promoted the formation of the indigenization of Christian culture, such as simultaneous audible prayer, dawn prayer meeting, all-night prayer meeting, rice offering, day offering for evangelism, (3) and weekly Bible class. During the revival, Protestant membership doubled, from 55,542 to 118,246.

5. Finally, the reason for the growth is the initiative of the Korean Christians. The Korean Protestant Christians are even now very committed to Christ. They willingly devote themselves to their local church community. They naturally accept that observing the Sabbath, giving weekly offerings, faithful tithing and contributing financially to the work of the local church is a Christian duty which they must perform, and also a token of their faith in God. This religious commitment originated from the earliest period.

In the early period, Korean Christianity did not polarize evangelism and social action. The church growth originated from the emancipation motif, the modern value, the Christians' moral life, the revival experience, Bible study and the prayer culture. The "Presence" type (P-1) and the "Proclamation" type (P-2) of evangelism prevailed.

Japanese domination: 1910-1945

During the Japanese occupation, the Korean church suffered oppression by the colonial rule, as Christian faith in God conflicted with the divine emperor ideology of Japan.

The Korean church was a strong cradle of the patriotic national movement and was also closely connected to the British and American churches. The Japanese policies to the Korean church strongly influenced the church's growth and decline. As Graph 2 shows, the growth-decline curve is repeated four times. From 1910 to 1937, Protestant membership doubled from 177,692 to 374,653. Yet church membership rapidly decreased after 1938.

1. The most powerful factor for church growth in this period is no doubt the fact that Protestantism was a delivery room for the patriotic independence movement. For instance, after Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910, the Japanese fabricated the case of Governor-General Attempted Murder in order to exterminate any root for the national movement. One hundred and five Korean leaders were prosecuted after being severely tortured; 85 percent of them were the Protestant church leaders.

The Protestant church was also a prominent leader of the March First Independence Movement in 1919. This movement was accompanied by a great peaceful nationwide demonstration of millions of people for six months. Among the 33 national leaders who signed the Letter of Declaration for Independence, there were 16 Protestants, 15 Chondogyo leaders, and two Buddhists. Around 40,000 people were arrested and 6,000 people were murdered. Though the Protestants were less than 2 percent of the population, around 25 percent of those arrested were Protestants. Graph 2 shows that the Protestant population grew rapidly from 1920 after the brief decrease of 1919. Before that event, the Protestant church was just a foreign religion; afterward, it was at last the national religion that had gained the costly respect of the Korean people.

2. The Korean Protestant church became strong and autonomous from the Western missions. The Presbyterian Church in Korea established its General Assembly in 1912. The Korean Methodist Church became independent in 1930. They worked hard for evangelism through revival meetings, Bible classes, Sunday schools, medical and educational missions, and more. They even sent Korean missionaries to China, Russia, Japan and Manchuria.

3. Under the Japanese domination, the Korean church clung to the last hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ. This kind of pre-millennial eschatological faith encouraged the believers to fervently conduct evangelism. The church also offered spiritual power to console and soothe the minds of people who were in despair and suffering. In many cases, revival meetings were accompanied by miraculous healings.

4. Korean Christianity peacefully co-existed with traditional religions. In the early days, Korean Christians accepted persecution in humility as a minority religion. However, with time, Korean Christians have engaged in various forms of interfaith dialogue and have learned to coexist with people of other religions in their family, among friends and as neighbours, while bravely witnessing to their faith, particularly through their moral example. It is only in recent times that Korean Protestantism has been criticized as being exclusivist.

There are some reasons for the decline in membership of the church during this period. From the mid-1920s to 1945, 2.5 million Korean peasants who were deprived of their land emigrated to Manchuria, Japan, Russia and Hawaii. This affected the church's decline. However, the church sent pastors to those migrant areas, and developed the enlighten movement for rural communities. In addition, the growing socialist movement, accepted by the younger generation as an alternative national independence movement after the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, criticized pro-Americanism, irrational mysticism and the otherworldliness of the church. As a result, a large number of young people left the church.

The Japanese army invaded Manchuria in 1930 and inland China in 1938, rushing into the Pacific War. From 1930 to 1945, the Korean peninsula became the warfare supply base for Japan. The Japanese government forced the Korean church to participate in the Japanese Shinto Shrine worship. In fact, it was an ideology attempting national integration and mobilization for warfare. It was also the idolized emperor's worship. In the meantime, there were many conflicts in the Korean churches, between the conservative and the liberal theologies within the Presbyterian churches, between the Presbyterian and the Methodist churches, between the nationalistic Korean churches and the foreign missionaries. In addition, there was inter-regional conflict. The Korean church failed to respond effectively to the disunion policy of Japanese authority and its coercion for the Japanese Shinto shrine worship. The Presbyterian Church in Korea, which had resisted the shrine worship, finally surrendered to the Japanese in 1938. All the denominations were dissolved or integrated into the Japanese Union Church. The Protestant population decreased back to the levels of the year 1915. In the process of the anti-Shrine worship movement, around 2,000 Korean Christians suffered torture and imprisonment, and around 50 became martyrs.

During this period, the types of "Presence" (P-1), "Proclamation" (P-2) and "Power Evangelism" (P-4) appeared.

Recovery after liberation and the Korean War: 1945-1960

In 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided into north and south soon after the liberation from Japanese domination. Christianity was persecuted in North Korea, while the South Korean church largely grew with the special favour of the American Military Government (1945-48) and the subsequent government (1948-60).

1. The first non-theological reason for the growth of the church was the socio-political and military structure, which provided a favourable condition for the church. Protestants actively participated in the political activities and Korean church leaders also skillfully utilized the pro-Christian regime for the benefit of the church, such as the monopoly of chaplaincy positions in the prisons and the army, and preferential disposal of former Japanese religious property to the church. From 1945 to 1950, the Protestant population doubled from 240,000 to 500,000.

2. The second non-theological reason is the anomic situation of the Korean society, which took place after the Korean War (1950-53). During the war, three million casualties occurred, the whole country and key industries were devastated, the majority of the churches were scorched, and many leaders were killed and kidnapped to the north.

One million refugees came from the north. The refugee Christians from the north spread the gospel and built up their churches upon settling down. They also provided comfort communities for other refugees. In addition, a large amount of relief material from Christian nations and churches during the war assisted victims and resulted in the growth of the church. By 1960, the Protestant population had reached 623,000 (a growth rate of 24.6 percent over 10 years).

3. It is important to remember that the Korean church continuously sought to spread the gospel throughout the Korean population. For example, famous international evangelists, such as Rev. Billy Graham, held large revival meetings with the support of the Korean churches. In 1955, the Presbyterian church set out a Five-Year Evangelism Plan for church planting in the 490 towns and urban areas where no local church existed. Other churches also made similar efforts, with a tremendous effect.

4. During this period, the Protestant churches and denominations experienced divisions. Korean Protestant sects sprang up rapidly, reaching up to over 200 sectarian or cultic groups. This sort of factionalism resulted in the total increase of the Christian population. (4)

In this period, "Proclamation" (P-1) type and "Power Evangelism" (P-4) type were influential. Yet the Korean Protestant church lost its pre-eminence in terms of the prophetic role due to its dependence upon the authoritative political power, projecting a pro-government and pro-America image. "Presence" (P-2) type weakened as a result.

Explosive growth during industrialization and urbanization: 1960-1995

A military government regime took power through a military coup d'etat in 1961 and powerfully drove an industrialization policy. This resulted in a mass rural-urban migration. In 1960, the urban population was 39.15 percent but by 1990 it was 81.95 percent. The mass migration created large slum areas around cities and destroyed the traditional extended family structure. The gap between the haves and the have nots became greater. In the urban areas, many people felt rootless and longed for intimate communal support.

1. The Protestant church found a great opportunity for church growth in the process of the industrialization and urbanization of Korean society. Churches promoted evangelistic activities and church planting in urban areas. These urban areas seemed to welcome church visitors from large denominations, which set numerical goals and put all their efforts into achieving them.

For instance, an inter-denominational national evangelization movement took place in 1965. In the first stage, church ministers gathered together for prayer meetings according to their regions. Thereafter, they mobilized their congregations in a place for prayer

meetings and trained them for evangelism, also paying home visits. In that year, there were 2,239 meetings and 40,000 new members were added.

According to Graph 3, the Protestant population in 1966 was 0.9 million (3 percent of the population), while four years later it reached 3.2 million (10.2 percent). This figure shows that industrialization and urbanization have had a great influence on Protestant church growth. In 1980, Protestant membership reached 5.34 million (14.3 percent).

From 1980 to 1990, 2.7 million new members were added, reaching 8.7 million (19.7 percent of the population) by 1995.

2. One of the notable results of church growth in Korea is the emergence of Protestant mega-churches. Among the 50 largest churches in the world, 23 of them are in Korea. There are 15 mega-churches, each of which has more than 10,000 adult worshippers. The largest Methodist church in the world is not in England, the largest Presbyterian church is not in Geneva, and the largest Pentecostal church is not in South California. They are all in Seoul, Korea.

The growth of the mega-churches has now become a model case that most Korean medium-sized or small churches are looking for. For example, the Yoido Full-Gospel Church (YFGC) started in a slum area in Seoul with five members of humble origin in 1958. Its membership grew to 800 in 1962; 18,000 in 1973; 503,000 in 1986; and 709,000 in 1997.

Rev. Young-Hoon Lee, the present senior pastor of the YFGC, claims six reasons for the development of that church: a strong positive message, powerful healing ministry, the Prayer Mountain movement, baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, home cell group meetings, and the use of mass media. (5)

The YFGC has been a persuasive power for poor and marginalized people. The founder, Pastor Yong-Gi Cho, appealed to them with the promise of spiritual salvation, physical healing, material blessings and prosperity in their life here and now. His message addressed exactly what the urban populace desired. The emergence of the Korean mega-churches was a result of modernization, which was accompanied by industrialization and urbanization. The government ideology of economic development was closely related to the numerical church growth strategy in Korea. The market enterprise culture developed the "bigger is best" syndrome. This capitalist culture inspired an egoistic local church-ism and church competition. The size of the church is understood as a measure of success. In the religious market, "religious institutions became consumer commodities." (6)

The Korean mega-churches adopted Church Growth Theology, developed bureaucratic systems to earn better efficiency, and used the best technology to control the spirituality of the people (closed-circuit television service, Internet broadcasting station, satellite service, etc.). It is often noted that the dynamism of the mega-churches is due to the ability of the charismatic pastors. They displayed their special gifts to lead their congregations to transcendent religious experiences and to belief in divine guidance.

One strong impact of modernity on religion is its privatization and lack of institutional loyalty. To overcome these problems, the mega-church leaders systematically developed their own effective use of small-cell strategies. Pastor Yong-Gi Cho divided up his congregation into homogeneous cells of 5 to 10 members with common orientations or occupations within geographical areas. The cell leaders were lay women who were well trained. In 1985, there were no fewer than 50,000 cells in the YFGC, thus ensuring religious commitment in the congregation.

3. Since the 1970s, the educational level of Korean pastors has become higher, and their concerns in pastoral and church growth strategies have also been heightened. Pernoctacion prayer meeting, Bible study, disciple training and reinforcement of the home cell system of the parish, lay training as well as various programs were developed. In the 1970s, the Korean church extended its mission work, including military mission, police mission, hospital mission, school mission and urban industrial mission.

4. University mission organizations such as the Campus Crusade for Christ, the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the Navigators-international organizations, Joy mission, University Bible Fellowship--Korean inter-denominational organizations, and so on developed methodologies of evangelism, Bible study and cell organizations, all greatly contributing to church growth.

5. In 1970s and 1980s, some of the progressive Christians based on the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) took leadership in the human rights and democracy movement against the military dictatorship government. They also became pioneers in initiating the reunification movement between North and South Korea. Since the mid-1980s, the liberating tradition of Protestantism has been succeeded by the minjung church movement. The minjung churches mainly belong to the Presbyterian Church in Korea, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) and the Methodist Church in Korea. They regard today's minjung as the least, such as single parents, differently abled people, daily workers, ex-convicts, the unemployed, prostitutes, the urban poor, prisoners of conscience and migrant workers. (7) They are working for unemployed and casual workers, the homeless, migrant workers, and international wives of Korean men.

Such activities of the minjung churches have not influenced numerical church growth, but they do show a practical way of promoting a preferential option for victims and suggest the direction of church renewal. After the democratization of Korea, the civil government borrowed the ideas of the minjung churches in constructing the national welfare system.

Despite the overall growth of Korean Protestantism during this time, holistic evangelism did not flourish. In spite of the development of church planting and good training courses for their new believers, the social responsibility and prophetic role was left to small groups of progressive Christians in the NCCK, the URM and the minjung churches. The "Proclamation" (P-2), "Persuasion" (P-3) and "Proclamation Community formed" (P-5) types appeared strongly. Yet the "Presence" type (P-1) was still weak.

Decline after industrialization and democratization: 1995-2005

By 1995, Protestants reached the highest mark, but from 1995 to 2005, the Protestant membership decreased by 140,000. It is interesting to investigate why the Korean Protestant population started to decline. We may attribute the reasons to economic growth and the democratization of Korea, as well as the internal corruption of the church.

First, many of the advantageous socio-political factors for church growth have disappeared. Today, religious pluralism prevails in Korea. Many people enjoy economic prosperity and leisure activities instead of religious practice, while the democratization of the country brought relative social stability.

On the other hand, the Protestant church is now losing its social credibility because of the immoral conduct of some church leaders, sectarian competition, low social responsibility, exclusivist attitude toward other religions, and the wide gaps between large and small churches and between urban and rural churches. (8) Another factor is the fact that Korean Protestantism is unable to adjust to the political developments after 1998, when the opposite party came into power after 32 years of military dictatorship and five years of the conservative party's ruling. The civil society had grown enough to request clear transparency of the religious institutions. However, the majority of church leaders were afraid of the Sunshine polity for North Korea and progressive reforms, which led to many young people leaving their conservative churches.

Yet the secularization theory that modernization weakens the influence of religions on society does not seem appropriate in the Korean religious context.

Table 4 on the next page shows that the religious population in Korea is steadily growing in spite of modernization. The rate of the Roman Catholics to the population increased by 4.3 percent in the last 10 years, yet the rate of Protestants decreased by 1.4 percent.

Seung-ho Kim argues that the inter-relation between city population and the number of churches has a great influence on church growth and decline. (9) The increasing number of pastors and their competitive church planting in the cities were favourable factors for the growth of church members during the time of rapid urbanization of 1960 to 1990. Yet they have produced a contrary effect since 1990, when the city population began to move to suburban areas. In contrast to the Protestant churches, the Korean Roman Catholics had not achieved such explosive growth before 1990. Yet since then, their membership has rapidly increased, without any significant change in the number of churches and priests. (10) Kim argues that the Korean Protestant churches need to stop producing more seminary students than needed and must carefully plan church planting.


The growth of the Protestant church in Korea was astonishing and miraculous. The reasons are largely divided into the external socio-political ones and the internal spiritual and theological ones. It is true that the sudden politico-economic changes in Korean society created very favourable conditions for Protestantism. Korean history, which is full of suffering, we believe, probably became the spiritual blessing for the Korean church. However, without the church's efforts and its passionate spirituality and perseverance, such growth would have been impossible. As the apostle Paul says, planting and watering is our job, while we must let God take care of the growth.

We cannot choose just one of these tasks, however. Planting and watering work together. In the early stage, Korean Protestantism preached the gospel and at the same time provided the liberation motive to the poor and marginalized people. It also carried out a prophetic role against the social injustices of the Japanese colonial rule. The church gained the respect of Korean peoples through holistic evangelism and the growth of the church.

In the 1970s and 1980s, in the face of industrialization and urbanization, the Korean Protestant church carried out active evangelism and church planting, achieving rapid growth. Yet most of the Korean churches clung to quantitative growth; these number-driven churches lost their sense of social responsibility. On the other hand, the URM, the NCCK and the minjung churches led the democratization of the country, the human rights movement, and minjung mission, but they were a minority in the Korean Protestant church. After Korean churches became rich (even though 40 percent of the Protestant churches are poor), churches lost spiritual power and social credibility. The purpose of church growth is to serve the expansion of the kingdom of God, but if the church loses its purpose, numerical church growth will only matter for its institutionalization.

The church should be ready to adopt better methodology, while training believers to always witness to their faith. The evangelistic methods that were used in the time of industrialization are now inefficient.

The quality of a Christian's life has an influence on church growth. However, church growth can happen with or without the quality of the church. Poor quality necessarily causes a reduction in members in due time. This is exactly one of the reasons why Korean Protestant membership has declined. One of the impending tasks of the Korean church is to set qualitative goals and achieve qualitative growth. Another task is to accept the ways of holistic evangelism. Korean laypeople have a passion for evangelism, but their methods are narrow and ineffective. I think what is needed is to recover our calling as agents of the kingdom of God, and the real meaning and proper methods of evangelism.

(1) Elmer Towns, "Evangelism: P-1, P-2, P-3," in Evangelism and Church Growth (Ventura, CA: Regal Books. 1995), 212-16; Eddie, Gibbs, "Class Syllabus, Foundation of Church Growth" (Fuller Theological Seminary, Unpublished material, n. d.).

(2) China's communists applied the "three-self method" to the Chinese church, borrowing the term "three-self" from the Chinese YMCA, which in turn had borrowed it from Korean Christians. Samuel Moffett, "Has Christianity Failed in Asia?" An Invitation Lecture of the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary, 14 May 1996.

(3) Many poor Christians who had no money willingly decided to offer their time for evangelism. They did it at the expense of their farming time.

(4) Byong-Suh Kim, "The Growth and Decline of Religiosity in Modernization Process," Yonsei Review of Theology & Culture (1998): 168.

(5) Young-Hoon, Lee, "The Holy Spirit Movement in Korea," Journal of Soon Shin University (1993), 163-67.

(6) Yong-Gi, Hong, "Encounter with Modernity: The McDonaldization and Charismatizadon of Korean Mega-churches," International Review of Mission Vol. 92 (2003): 242ff.

(7) Hong-Eyoul, Hwang, "The History of Mission of Minjung Church in South Korea from 1983 to 2005," in Center for Peace and Mission, ed. Peace and Mission in Korea (Seoul: Handl Publishing House, 2006), 130-31.

(8) The rate of the non-self-supporting churches is 40 to 50 percent. Seventy percent of the Protestant churches have under 100 members.

(9) Seung-Ho, Kim, "An Analysis and an Alternative Idea on the Minus Growth of the Korean Church," Mokhoewa sinhak (Ministry and Theology) (2007): 2.

(10) There are also other factors for the Catholic growth. The cohesive character of Catholics, the integrity of celibacy, their open mind toward other religions, ancestor ritual, and alcohol/smoking, and their progressive activities for justice and human rights.

Byung Joon Chung

Rev. Dr Byung Joon Chung is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and assistant professor of Church History at Seoul Jangsin University. He serves as the director of the Korean Institute of Future Ecumenism and is a director of the Council for World Mission representing the Presbyterian Church in Korea.
Table 1

Year     Members

1896       4,356
1897       6,164
1898       8,364
1899      11,470
1900      20,914
1901      28,921
1902      21,012
1903      31,356
1904      35,759
1905      55,542
1906      89,652
1907     118,246
1908     133,145
1909     157,633

Table 2

Year       Members

1910       177,692
1911       181,269
1912       157,902
1913       174,495
1914       151,496
1915       267,484
1916       279,586
1917       270,698
1918       315,377
1919       262,141
1920       319,359
1921       349,399
1922       366,270
1923       357,881
1924       342,716
1925       355,385
1926       293,470
1927       265,075
1928       286,249
1929       312,645
1930       314,534
1931       345,261
1932       283,117
1933       312,746
1934       325,736
1935       342,176
1936       366,305
1937       374,653
1938       368,433
1939       283,543
1940-41       --
1942       245,000

Table 3

Year     Members     Growth Rate    Ratio to Total

1950      500,198                         2.4%
1960      623,072           24.6          2.5%
1966      905,000           45.3          3.1%
1970    3,192,600          252.8         10.2%
1975    4,019,000           25.9         11.6%
1980    5,337,000           32.8         14.3%
1985    6,489,300           21.6         16.1%
1991    8,037,500           23.9         18.5%
1995    8,760,300            9.0         19.7%
2005    8,616,000           -1.4         18.3%

Table 4. Distribution of Population by Religion

(Unit: Percent)
                                  1995           2005         (last
Relgions\Year          1985     (growth)       (growth)     20 years)

Religious population   42.6    50.7 (8.1)     53.7 (2.4)       11.1
Protestants            16.1    19.7 (3.6)    18.3 (-1.4)       2.2
Buddhists              19.9    23.2 (3.3)    22.8 (-0.4)       2.9
Roman Catholics         4.6     6.6 (2.0)     10.9 (4.3)       6.3

Source: Korea National Statistical Office.
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Author:Chung, Byung Joon
Publication:International Review of Mission
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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