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Friday, November 26, 2010

Christianity Is Not A Private Affair

Greetings from Seoul, South Korea.

Immediately following the Korean War, North and South Korea shared one thing in common: they were among the poorest countries in the world.

56 years later, the International Monetary Fund listed South Korea as having the 12th largest Gross Domestic Product in the world. South Korea, a small country, came out ahead of Canada, ahead of Australia, ahead of Saudi Arabia and ahead of 165 other countries.

In 1910, only about 1% of the Korean population was Christian. By 2005 (95 years later), the number of Christians had risen to 29.2%, and Christianity replaced Buddhism as the most prominent faith among all citizens.

Korea is second only to the United States in the number of missionaries it sends overseas.

Many people have wondered if there is a relationship between the growth of Christianity and the impressive growth of the Korean economy since 1970, when the bulk of economic growth occurred. During this time, the population of Korean Christians rose from about 6% to nearly 30%.

Dr. Kirsteen Kim, former resident of Korea now teaching at Leeds Trinity University College in England, maintains that the connection between Korean development and Christianity goes back to well over a century of Christian influence in politics, education, human rights and service to the suffering in Korea.

Three of today's top five universities in Korea were founded by Korean Christians, and many hospitals were established by Korean believers. With respect to politics, Kim notes that Koreans in the nineteenth century acted on the belief that "Christianity would help revitalize the nation."

"The main contribution of Christianity," she asserts, "was to stimulate new visions and inject a new energy that enabled Koreans to transform their existing situation and revitalise--or redeem--their society."

Historically, early Korean Christians operated on the premise that Christianity is not a private affair, concerned only with the salvation of individual souls. They saw it is a message of transformation that applied corporately as well as individually. This belief, put into action, invigorated early Korean development.

In her paper, "Christianity and modernization in twentieth-century Korea: perspectives on new religious movements and the revitalization of society," Kim sites examples of Korean Christianity as "a revitalizing force that inspired Korean activity toward development."

Kim's research paper is at http://www.bezinningscentrum.nl/Religion_Development/kirsteen.pdf.

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