In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews175 2. See the following two articles by Hyaeweol Choi: "Missionary Zeal in Transformed Melodrama: Gendered Evangelicalism in Korea," Asian Journal of Women's Studies 7, no. 1 (2001), 7-39; and "An American Concubine in Old Korea: Missionary Discourse on Gender, Race, and Modernity," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 25, no. 3 (2004), 134-61. Christianity in Korea edited by Robert E. Buswell, Jr., and Timothy S. Lee. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005. 416 pp. $60.00 (cloth) Tucked away from the main sea routes between Europe and Asia after the sixteenth century, Korea was forced to face the Western challenge more belatedly than India, the Philippines, China, and Japan. These countries became the main objects ofChristian missions, yet, with the exception ofthe Philippines , Christianity did not have a lasting impact in any of them. Catholic Christianity, first brought to Korea by Korean emissaries to China a little more than two centuries ago, was known as "Western Learning," with no clear distinction between religion and secular learning. Then, in the late eighteenth century, when Christianity began to penetrate Korea, it was branded as a dangerous heterodox religion that defied ancestor worship and constituted a menace to society. As such, it provoked bloody persecutions, first in 1801 and even more severely later on, much like the suppression of Christianity in post-seventeenth-century Japan. Unlike in Japan, however, Catholicism managed to survive underground in Korea, paving the way for the Protestantism that arrived after Korea was opened to Western contact in 1882. The spectacular growth and achievement of Protestantism in Korea has been receiving increasing worldwide attention. Unlike other regions of the world, in which Christianity has been regarded as the vanguard of Western colonial expansion, in Korea Christianity has been recognized as a cultural force that underscored a strong sense of national identity and national culture (by promoting Han'gül, for example) against Japan's assimilative colonial policies. Korean Christianity has also been identified with progress and modern development, playing significant roles in the formation of modern Korea by introducing Western-style education, medicine, and most notably, new ideals and patterns of equal, free, and autonomous human relations. These ideals would later help produce a leading social force in modern Korea for democratization and the promotion ofhuman dignity, human rights, and socialjustice. The mere fact that more than 25 percent ofSouth Koreans today are deemed to be Christians, and that Korean Christian missionaries are more active around the world than those from any other country except the United 176The Journal ofKorean Studies States, evinces the wide-ranging influence ofChristianity in Korea. Furthermore , it is also noteworthy that proportionately larger numbers of overseas Koreans, especially in the United States, are drawn to Christianity than in the homeland. All is not well, however, on the Christian front in Korea. Despite its significant achievements, or perhaps in the aftermath ofits success, Pentecostal and evangelical churches that constitute the major thrust ofKorean Protestantism have over the last few decades divulged increasing contradictions and problems that engulf the principle of Christian transcendence. The Gospel has become captive to thepower ofconsumer culture and the market, merely serving as a means for individual consolation and the attainment ofworldly goals. Bereft of its moral compass, Korean churches are mired in moral confusion, rampant pursuit of egotistic individualism and private interest, and a crass global capitalist culture. Besieged by stalemated growth, if not a decrease in members in the last decade or so (especially among young people), and worse, marred by the increasing loss ofmoral credibility and respect, Korean Protestantism appears to be increasingly stagnant. Challenged by a comparatively ascendant Catholicism, Buddhism, and secular culture, Protestantism faces the necessity for clear moral choice and self-reflection. The dominant worldwide trend toward globalization in economy, science, technology, the environment, and culture, too, poses a tremendous challenge for Korean Christianity to find a way out of its current predicament. Considering these historical conditions, accounting for the Christian factor in the modern development ofKorean history and society is an important task, not only for Christianity in Korea, but also for Korean society and Christianity in general in the global age. To carry out this assignment, scholars...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 175-180
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.