In Korea, Christianity saw a notable rise among various denominations and acceptance right before and during the colonial era, whereas in other countries in the region such as China and Japan, it could not gain similar acceptance. East Asian regions had a history profoundly shaped by Buddhism, Confucianism, and traditions of Ancestor-Worship. Researching the reason for Christianity’s extraordinary rise in Korea, one comes across various explanations from scholars and academics interested in studying its patterns. To explain why Protestantism gained popularity in Korea whereas it could not do so on a similar level in neighboring countries requires a careful study of the different factors that led to its rise.
To provide an answer, the questions that will be included as part of this research involve investigating various factors that led to popular social acceptance of Protestantism from 1880-1920 era in Korea. For example; what political factors contributed to the rise of Protestantism in Korea that was different from Japan or China? The research also studies, what different methods and policies were adopted by the Church to push its missions in Korea. What were the social and cultural effects the Protestant Church left on Korean Society? How did Protestantism in Korea come to be associated with political activism and nationalism? What external factors were responsible for helping sustain its growth? How did education and literacy rate affect the spread of Christianity? How do perceptions of class differences contribute toward greater conversions and acceptance? These questions will be used to provide insight into how Christianity progressed to become a major Korean religion today.
To answer these questions, the history of protestant missions to Korea would be analyzed to study the degree of success they had in each decade and the reception they received. The relief and aid services helped the missionaries establish a solid base to further organize their activities, and win the hearts of the public as well as rulers. A brief comparison of the different social and political conditions between Japan, China, and Korea would help understand social attitudes, that led to a greater acceptance in Korea. The way the Japanese colonization impacted Christianity and its contribution to creating a political upheaval. The religious and cultural factors that drove conversion rates as the solace the Protestant Church provided the Korean people, which traditional ancestral beliefs could not, will also be studied. The class difference in the society in which protestant beliefs came to be associated with the poor and middle classes will also be investigated. Finally, the political factors that explain the rise of Protestantism and the integration of nationalistic sentiments with Christianity will also be discussed to provide insights to describe the popular acceptance of the Protestant Church.
The primary sources that will be studied to answer the question include Protestantism in Korea and Japan from the 1880s to the 1940s (Kim), The Bishop’s Dilemma: Gustave Motel and the Catholic Church in Korea, 1890–1910 (Rausch), ‘A Political Factor in the Rise of Protestantism in Korea: Protestantism and the 1919 March First Movement’ (Lee), ‘Proceedings of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of Japan: held at Osaka, Japan, April 1883’ (GCPMJ), ‘Protestantism Comes East: The Case of Korea’ (Oak, Protestantism Comes East: The Case of Korea’), ‘Presbyterian Mission Methods and Policies in Korea’ (Oak). The ‘History of Protestant Missions in Korea’, 1832-1910’ (Paik), and ‘Church Growth in Korea’ (Wasson) that will be used as primary studies for the research.
GCPMJ. “Proceedings of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of Japan : held at Osaka, Japan, April, 1883.” General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of Japan. Osaka: Yokohama, Japan : R. Meiklejohn, n.d. <https://archive.org/details/proceedingsofgen00geneuoft>.
Kim, Andrew Eungi. “Protestantism in Korea and Japan from the 1880s to the 1940s: A Comparative Study of Differential Cultural Reception and Social Impact.” Korea Journal (2005): 262-290.
Lee, Timothy S. “A Political Factor in the Rise of Protestantism in Korea: Protestantism and the 1919 March First Movement.” Church History 69.1 (2000): 116-142. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3170582>.
Oak, Sung-Deuk. “Presbyterian Mission Methods and Policies in Korea 1876-1910.” Oak, Sung-Deuk. The Making of Korean Christianity. Seol: UCLA, 2013. 1-12.
—. Protestantism Comes East: The Case of Korea’. Thesis. Los Angeles : University of California, n.d.
Paik, George Nak-chun. The History of Protestant Missions in Korea 1832-1910. Pyeng Yang: Union Christian College Press, 1929.
Rausch, Franklin. “The Bishop’s Dilemma: Gustave Mutel and the Catholic Church in Korea, 1890–1910.” Journal of Korean Religions, 4.1 (2013): 43-69.
Wasson, Alfred. Church Growth in Korea. International Miss Council, 1934.