Protestantism and Politics in Korea

Article excerpt

Protestantism and Politics in Korea. By Chung-shin Park. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 2003. Pp. xii, 316. $50.

In Protestantism and Politics in Korea, Chung-shin Park, professor of Christian studies at Soongsil University in Seoul, explores the sociopolitical issues surrounding the inception, initial growth, and development of Protestant Christianity from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century. Park makes the point that before 1919, Protestantism was a radical force because its social criticism appealed to the dispossessed elite and oppressed classes. Church leadership after 1919 was conservative, which he attributes to the institutionalization of the church, when the leadership sought to preserve Protestantism's newly achieved status of respectability. During the 1950s, Park claims, Protestantism under Syngman Rhee achieved sociopolitical dominance because the most influential members of the political leadership were Protestant, a situation that changed after 1961 under Park Chung Hee and his successors, when the bonds of religious affiliation were dissolved.

Although there is much food for thought here, the book is not free from criticism. …


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