Korea, Republic of (ROK) - Religions



Most South Koreans are quite eclectic in their religious beliefs, the majority subscribing to varying mixtures of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Ch'ondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way, an indigenous sect originating in 1860), and local animism. Shamanism, especially its aspect of exorcism of evil spirits, survives in some rural areas of the ROK. Geomancy is also used in matters such as the selection of auspicious building and tomb sites.

In 1995 (the last government survey), 49% of the population practiced Christianity (including 8,760,336 Protestants and 2,950,730 Roman Catholics); 47% Buddhism; 3% Confucianism; and 1% folk religion (shamanism), Ch'ondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way), and other. Over 21 million people claimed that they did not practice any religion.

Within the religious communities, there are about 38 different orders of Buddhism and 83 different Protestant denominations, including Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and the Korean Gospel Church Assembly. The Catholic Church has 15 dioceses. Other religions with significant popular followings included Taejongyo, based on the worship of a trinity of ancient deities, and Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect of Japanese origin. There were also practicing Muslims, members of the Unification Church, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government reportedly respects this right in practice. There is no state religion, and the government does not subsidize or favor a particular religion.

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