A recent survey reveals a level of distrust toward Protestantism in South Korean society, reports the Union of Catholic Asian News (Nov. 27).
The survey was conducted by the Christian Ethics Movement of Korea, a group that has been involved for years in promoting church reform and renewal (and thus is not entirely “neutral”). More than 48 percent of respondents said they didn’t trust Protestant churches. Fortytwo percent said that Protestants needed “consistency of action with speech.” Apparently, due to its important social work, the Catholic Church enjoys on average a better image in Korea.
According to the 2005 census, there were 18.3 percent Protestants in Korea, a decline from the 1995 census, while both Buddhists (22.8 percent) and Catholics (10.9 percent) had grown. Buddhism is reported to have a strong appeal among the younger generation. At a seminar presenting the results of the survey, Lee Sook-jong (Sungkyunkwan University) said that “[t]he distrust comes mainly from ethical issues involving Protestant leaders and their faithful, and their exclusive attitude toward other religions.”
An analysis of the results of the recent survey should take into consideration the wider background, including political developments. In an article published in the Winter 2004 edition of the Korea Journal, researcher Lee Jin Gu had reported on the spread of antiChristian websites in South Korea since the beginning of this decade. These websites—in which a number of lapsed Protestants are said to play a prominent role— target primarily fundamentalist types of Protestantism, seen as intolerant and depreciating the intellect.
Beside the criticism of exclusivism (seen as essential to Christianity), several scandals involving Protestant leaders have fueled resentment. Such sites are not unlike those critical of major conglomerates or the media: in a country where nearly everybody goes online, cyberspace has become a favorite place for such “anti-drives.” In part, antiChristian Internet activism had also been a consequence of the irritation caused by the heavy missionary activities of some Protestant groups across Internet platforms. It had met very little organized Protestant reaction, the article added.
(Union of Catholic Asian News, www.ucanews.com; Korea Journal, www.ekoreajournal.net)