The Political Empowerment of Korean Protestantism since around 1990
(Vol.52. No.3 Autumn, 2012 pp.64~90)
Jin-ho KIM
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The time around 1990 was an important turning point for the Korean Protestant Church. The church, which had undergone rapid growth in previous years, began declining at this time. In this period, while Korean society saw the system of growth-oriented statist mobilization cease and launched into the era of democratization and the difficult processes of overcoming remnants of the past, the Korean Protestant Church became ever more focused on growth. This paper refers to such a phenomenon as “anachronistic growth” to encompass the fact that the church came to be situated in conflict and tension with civil society. The growth crisis and civil society affect each other in a vicious cycle, which reinforces the negative relationship between the two. This paper examines this vicious cycle by looking at the trajectory of the destructive effect of the church on the notion of “social publicness,” with a focus on the political empowerment of the church. The political empowerment of the church interferes with the institutionalization of a social publicness that is being newly constructed in the post-democratization era. This paper also attempts to conceptualize a notion of “social spirituality” in order to discuss the theology that goes beyond the faith antagonistic to social publicness.
Keywords: Korean Protestantism, growth-oriented economics, decline in congregation membership, mega church, political power of the church, social spiritualization
Types: Special Topic
Subject: Religion , Korean Studies
About the author(s) Jin-ho KIM is Chief Researcher at the Christian Institute for the 3rd Era. He received his Master of Divinity from Hanshin University in 1990. His publications include Geupjinjeok jayujuuijadeul (Radical Liberalists) (2010) and Simin kei, gyohoe-reul nagada (Citizen K, on the Threshold of the Church) (2012). E-mail: