Friday, January 10, 2014
As today's post goes out, I'm in South Korea. I have spent the week teaching at the Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission, focusing on the intersection between wholistic Christian education, theology of work, and human flourishing. Prayer would be appreciated, as tomorrow I meet with division heads of E-land, the largest fashion and retail company (by revenues) in Korea, sharing on the integration of wholistic Christian faith and work, then speaking on Sunday at the Suwon Central Baptist Church, and on Monday and Tuesday at a convention of the Korean division of the Association of Christian Schools International. They're working me hard over here, but I'm happy to speak as long as somebody will listen. (Apparently somebody wants to hear something, as this is my third speaking invitation to this country in the past six years.)
In last week's post, I asked why some parts of the world that have been "Christianized" and "churched," such as sub-Saharan Africa, have not experienced the kind of developmental outcomes that Puritan-spawned America experienced for 350 years. The history of South Korea is markedly different.
When a ceasefire was called between North and South Korea in 1953 (technically, the war is not over, and North Korea seems bent on reminding the South of this now and then), both the North and the South were in shambles. They were among the poorest nations on the planet. Yet in 2013, South Korea ranked 9 among 187 countries in the 2013 Human Development Index published by the United Nations.
The chart below shows the UN rankings since 1980 among the 38 nations that make up the top 20% of the Development Index. [Norway is currently #1 and the US is #3.] What is particularly noteworthy, is the stellar rise of South Korea.
Some have wondered to what degree Christianity, directly or indirectly, has played a role in the development of South Korea. While cause-and-effect factors are often impossible to quantify [correlation is not the same as causation], the culture-shaping vision of Christian educators, civil servants, health workers, and business leaders in Korea is an important story to tell. It reads like a Dickens novel.
I'll say more next week.