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Republic of Korea
Sunday, 15 May 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement

Republic of Korea

The Constitution provides for religious freedom and practice.  It also establishes the separation of church and state.  There is thus no state religion.  There have been no recent reports of societal abuse or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice.  However, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered imprisonment for refusing to service in the military.

The country has a population of 49 million.  According to a 2005 census, the percentages of supporters of the main religious communities are: Buddhists, 22.8 percent; Protestant, 18.3 percent; and Roman Catholic, 10.9 percent.  Other religious groups include Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Daesun Jinrihoe, Unification Church and Islam.  According to the Korean Muslim Federation, there are about 100,000 Muslims in the country of whom exactly 25,000 are ethnic Koreans. The 2004 Gallup Korea’s survey reported that 36 percent of individuals who practiced a faith attended spiritual services and rituals at a church or temple more than once a week, 10.6 percent attended two to three times per month, 20.6 percent attended once or twice a year, and 4.9 percent did not attend services at all.  Protestants had the highest attendance rate at 71 percent, Catholics at 42.9 percent, and Buddhists at 3.5 percent.

The government does not mandate the registry of religious organizations.  Foreign religious workers do not need a definite license to operate freely. The government does not permit religious instruction in public schools.  However, it has been noted that schoolchildren are required to study aspects of various religious cultures, including the Talmud. Private schools are allowed to conduct religious activities.

Watchtower International reported that about 800 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned for refusing to serve the military in 2010.  About half that number faced jail time in the previous year for the same offense.

There have been no reports of forced religious conversion.

The Korean Council of Religious Leaders and the Republic of Korea Religious Culture Festival are designed to promote reconciliation and mutual understanding among religious groups.  The media favorably covered these events.

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on the Republic of Korea

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 19:11