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Protestantism in Late Confucian Korea: Its Growth and Historical Meaning Chung-shin Park CHRISTIAN EVANGELISM IN LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY KOREA C. /hristian evangelism usually met strong resistance in non-Western countries, since natives regarded missionaries as agents for Western expansionism. It was difficult for missionaries to convert the hostile indigenous people such as Indians, Chinese, Iapanese, and others to Western religions.1 The history of Protestant Christianity in Korea was no exception.2 Indeed, one could say, the circumstances under which Protestantism was introduced were even more anti-Western and anti-Christian. Roman Catholicism had been brought into Confucian Korea much earlier than Protestantism, but it only contributed to the strengthening of Korea's anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiment. While Western powers such as France and the United States aggressively demanded the opening of both "trade and missionary activity," early Korean Catholics attempted to use 1.See, for example, Stephen Neil, Colonialism and Christian Mission (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1966); Richard H. Drummond, A History of Christianity in Japan (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William1 B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), especially pp.196-201; Ka-che Yip, Religion, Nationalism, and Chinese Students: The Anti-Christian Movement of 1922-1927 (Bellingham, Wash.: Western Washington University, 1980); George Thomas, Christian Indians and Indian Nationalism, 1885-1950: An Interpretation in Historical and Theological Perspectives (Frankfurt am Main, West Germany: Verlag Peter D. Lang, 1979). 2.For Confucianization of Korea, see JaHyun Kim Haboush, "The Confucianization of Korean Society," Gilbert Rozman" ed., The East Asian Region — Confucian Heritage and Its Modern Adaptation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 84-110. 139 140Journal of Korean Studies this foreign military intervention to obtain religious freedom. The result was intensified persecution by the Confucian ruling class, which saw the growth of Catholicism as an open challenge to Confucian orthodoxy and the authority of the throne. Early Catholic efforts only strengthened the suspicion of the Confucian elite and commoners as well that Christianity was an ideological agent for Western imperialism. The Hermit Kingdom thus became anti-foreign and anti-Christian even before Protestantism was introduced in 1884.3 Korea opened its door to the outside world under pressure from Iapan in 1876 and, in turn, signed a series of treaties with various Western countries. One of the signatories, the United States, introduced among other things Protestantism to Korea. However, Korea's strong xenophobia did not disappear. It was not that the Korean government changed its anti-Western, anti-Christian attitude and then voluntarily established diplomatic relations with Western powers. The Confucian Chosön government carried out this policy reluctantly under pressure and inducement by China, who wished to check the increasing influence of Russia and Iapan in East Asia.4 Despite this hostility toward Westerners in Korea, Protestantism made an unparalleled growth there for a century. Recent statistics show that no less than 25 percent of the population in South Korea is now Protestant Christian.5 Churches are to be found in nearly all of the larger villages, to say nothing of towns and cities. Seoul, the capital, filled with church buildings and signs of the cross, has been called "a city of churches."6 Church-related schools, publishing 3.James B. Palais, Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), especially pp. 19-50 and 176-280; Martina Deuchler, Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1876-1885 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977); Kim Key-Hiuk, The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order: Korea, Japan, and the Chinese Empire, 1860-1882 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), especially pp. 31-76; Ching Young Choe, The Rule of the T'aewon'gun, 1864-1873: Restoration in Korea (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Yenching Institute, 1972); Donald L.- Baker, "Confucians Confront Catholicism in Eighteenth-Century Korea" (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1983); and Yi Nüng-hwa, Chosön Kidokkyo kúp oegyosa [History of Christianity and foreign relations of Korea] (1928. Seoul: Hangmun'gak, 1968). 4.See Palais and Kim in n. 3. 5.The statistics on the Korean church also vary. According to a government document, the number of Protestant Christians increased some seven hundred...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 139-164
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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