(Not) In the News: Korea’s Christian Heritage

Flag_of_South_Korea.svgI’m a bit of an Olympic junkie.  Ever since completing a school project on the Olympics back in 4th grade (thanks, Mrs. Gamino!), I’ve loved the modern Olympic ideals: competing for self and country, placing fellowship above results, and pushing oneself ever faster, higher, and stronger.  Today, the Rio Olympics 2016 have just closed, meaning we turn our attention to the next Winter Olympics, to be held in PyeongChang, South Korea.  Since NBC holds the broadcast rights to both the just past and future Olympics, it’s not surprising that their news arm would put out an anticipatory piece in the wake of Rio.

However, I’m calling a minor foul on the piece, because while it brings up religion, it totally ignores South Korea’s Christian heritage, especially its growth in the last 100 years and its tendency toward enormous megachurches.  (You can read more at this summary piece.)  Since I was reading the item as an Olympic story, I was surprised to read the line “They’re certainly praying for success.”  But when I did, I thought, “Wow — they’re going to talk about one of the megachurches in Korea!”  Alas, no: it described a Buddhist temple high up in the mountains.  Sadly, it seems that the writer (whose career has mostly focused in Western Europe and the US) made the mistake that so many of us do: assuming that East Asia is full of folks who practice traditional Asian religion(s).  As it happens, Korea has more Christians than Buddhists… but sadly, there are more “nones” than either of these two groups.  When we take the “nones” out of the equation, we see that Christians make up more than half of those confessing a religion.

So, as you can tell, this news story maybe should have included Christianity — but now you know more about Christianity in Korea than you did before!  And if you want some more contemporary facts, you can check out this Pew Research link.

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