By Baker, Don
International Bulletin of Missionary Research , Vol. 34, No. 3
Born Again: Evangelicalism in Korea. By Timothys. Lee. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai'i Press, 2010. Pp. xvi, 228. $40.
South Korea occupies a unique position on the religious map of the world. Normally a country is either secular, like China, or it is dominated by one particular religion, as in Buddhist Japan, Islamic Indonesia, or Hindu India. Korea is neither. Official census records show that over half of the South Korean population has adopted a specific religious affiliation, so Korea cannot be called a secular society. Yet no one religious community dominates. According to those same census figures (from 2005), 22.8 percent of Koreans said they were Buddhists, and 29 .2 percent said they were Christians. Moreover, in a part of the world in which countries that have substantial Christian communities, such as the Philippines and East Timor, tend to be predominantly Catholic, in Korea Protestants outnumber Catholics almost two to one.
Timothy Lee, a professor at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, is the leading authority in North America on Korean evangelicals. In this insightful study he explains how Protestant Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, became the most vibrant religious force in South Korea in the second half of the twentieth century. Lee argues that a tradition of enthusiastic revivals, dating back to the first decade of the twentieth century, has drawn Koreans into evangelical churches and, once they were there, filled them with proselytizing fervor, which has then brought even more Koreans into those churches. …