Korea, South
Republic of Korea
July 19-20

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Area 99,067 sq.km. Southern half of Korean peninsula. Forested mountain ranges; 22% arable.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 46,843,989 +0.83% 473 per sq. km.
2010 49,975,564 +0.58% 504 per sq. km.
2025 52,532,789 +0.25% 530 per sq. km.

Capital Seoul 10,400,000. Other major cities: Pusan 3.9 mill.; Inchon 2.9m; Taegu 2.65m; Taejon 1.48m; Kwangju 1.38m; Ulsan 1.15m. Urbanites 85%.


One of the world's most homogeneous nations.

Korean 99.8%. An ancient and cultured nation.

Other 0.2%. Chinese 100,000; US Military. Illegal migrant workers may be 250,000.

Literacy 100%. Official language Korean.


Few natural resources. Rapid industrialization since 1953 has transformed the poor, devastated nation into the 11th largest economy in the world. A wide range of sophisticated, export-oriented industries. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed the weaknesses in the banking system and the chaebol conglomerate companies. Some restructuring and improvements were made, but these may prove inadequate in the long-term. HDI 0.852; 30th/174. Public debt 8% of GNP. Income/person $10,550 (34% of USA).


A 2,000-year history of frequent invasions and interference from surrounding nations. The Japanese occupation (1910-1945), the Russian-engineered division of Korea (1945-48) and the devastating Korean War (1950-53) have moulded the attitudes and politics of Koreans. Strong military-civilian governments held power from 1950 until 1988, when public unrest led to constitutional change and a more open multi-party democracy. The first civilian president in 32 years was elected in 1992. Economic disasters and political shenanigans in North Korea make some form of reunification inevitable.


There is complete religious freedom. The distinction between religious beliefs and unbelief is imprecise, so there are widely varying published figures.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
non-Religious 35.02 16,404,765 +0.4%
Christian 31.67 14,835,500 +1.9%
Buddhist 23.89 11,191,029 +1.0%
Indigenous religions 8.00 3,747,519 -1.5%
Other 0.80 374,752 +1.1%
Chinese 0.47 220,167 +0.8%
Baha'i 0.08 37,475 +3.6%
Muslim 0.07 32,791 +4.0%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 151 36.19 16,954 +4.5%
Independent 18 1.15 539 +3.8%
Anglican 1 0.16 75 +4.6%
Catholic 1 8.12 3,805 +2.1%
Marginal 59 3.75 1,757 +1.0%
Doubly affiliated   -17.70 -8,291 n.a.

The large number of doubly affiliated is due to widespread dual membership, denominational divisions and unrecorded transferral of membership – especially within Protestant and Independent bodies.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 980 2,125,665 3,804,940
Presby. – HapDong P 6,494 918,306 2,295,766
Presby. – TongHap P 6,270 1,103,983 2,207,966
Korean Methodist [4] P 4,752 656,486 1,365,490
Korea Assembly of God P 1,178 513,953 1,130,696
Pres. – HapDong BoSu [4] P 3,172 630,000 1,097,000
Korean Baptist Conv P 2,245 270,000 650,000
Presb. – HapDong JeongTong P 1,695 183,482 610,818
Jesus Korean Holiness P 953 193,373 505,946
Korea Evangelical (I) P 2,041 400,000 501,793
Presby. – KoShin P 1,416 176,832 442,080
Unification (Moonies) M 407 132,132 440,000
Presby. – YeJang P 425 185,000 345,325
Presby. – KiJang P 1,448 141,750 321,773
Jesus Assemb of God I 270 120,836 302,090
Seventh-day Adventist P 628 147,080 190,000
Presby. – YeJang Hap Bo P 293 109,700 187,500
Presby. – HoHun [3] P 976 145,000 182,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 1,502 87,179 130,000
Latter-day Saints (Morm) M 150 47,170 75,000
Episcopal A 88 15,000 75,000
Jesus Korean Meth. P 330 26,224 75,000
Gospel Baptist Conv P 155 37,500 75,000
Full Gosp Intl Gen Mtg P 95 30,000 75,000
Ch of the Nazarene P 210 40,000 55,000
Ch of God (Clev) P 117 20,601 36,000
Korea Evangelical (II) I 35 4,505 10,000
Other denoms [196]   17,496 2,896,000 5,429,000
Doubly affiliated     -4,000,000 -8,291,000
Total Christians [231]   55,822 7,359,000 14,839,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.


7,269 +3.9%


1,596 -1.3%


1,742 +0.2%

Missionaries from South Korea
P,I,A an est'd 12,000 in 166 agencies of which an est'd 10,646 are serving in 156 other countries: Japan 546, Philippines 528, Russia 316.

Note: The KWMC estimated 8,206 missionaries in 2000, but many Korean missionaries serve in missions not part of that survey. There are also many Korean missionaries sent by denominational agencies but serving with international agencies, resulting in duplication.

Missionaries to South Korea
P,I,A 411 in 46 agencies from 12 countries: USA 373. C 900.

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Answers to Prayer

1 Praise God for the unique Korean Church. It was founded on sound indigenous principles, blessed with a succession of revivals, refined by persecution and is now one of the foremost in the world for missions vision. Its presence is highly visible; every level of society has been impacted and growth has been remarkable. Korea could become the first majority Protestant/evangelical country in Asia.

2 Passionate Korean praying and commitment has made possible these superlatives:

a) The first Protestant church was planted in 1884. By 1984 there were over 30,000 churches, and by 2000 over 60,000.

b) Of the 11 largest mega-congregations in the world, 10 are in the one city of Seoul. Here also are the largest Pentecostal, Presbyterian and Methodist congregations in the world and the second-largest Baptist.

c) The world's largest theological colleges, Christian baptismal services since Pentecost, and some of the largest evangelistic and Christian gatherings in history.

3 Korean missionary numbers have rapidly increased. The goal of 10,000 missionaries serving in other lands by 2000 was almost achieved. Korea has now 10,646 – the second-highest number of serving missionaries and only exceeded by the USA.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The Asian recession of 1997 with its reverberations in politics, industry, the economy and the churches was a severe shock. Materialism and pride were punctured, and though there has been some recovery, the needed restructuring and democratic checks and balances have not gone far enough. Pray that the country's political, industrial and religious leaders may face up to the need, and courageously tackle the changes needed. During the crisis many churches humbled themselves before God in repentance and revived earnestness.

2 The looming crisis of possible economic and political disaster in North Korea will have an enormous impact on the South. Pray that political and Christian leaders may be ready for it and make wise decisions that will be best for the healing of all Korea.

3 The Korean Church grew strong through early morning prayer meetings, prayer mountains for seeking God, church-based Bible study, evangelism programmes, fellowship in home meetings and at Sunday meals. Pray that this heritage may not be lost, and that revival might be rekindled.

4 The Korean Church has major spiritual challenges to both admit and address if its credibility before the world and effectiveness in ministry is to be restored:

a) Spiritual pride. There has long been a widespread belief that success and prosperity are an indication of God's blessing. There is often a pride in statistical growth, impressive organization and buildings, with exaggerated claims made. It is a temptation for leaders to seek success, wealth and degrees more than lifting up the Cross.

b) Division. Nearly every denomination has suffered major schisms. There was one Presbyterian denomination at the end of the Japanese occupation, but there are now nearly 100. Strong denominationalism, domineering leadership patterns and personality clashes have been at the root of this and accentuated doctrinal, ecumenical and regional disagreements. Some are actively working to remedy this. Pray for humility, reconciliation and a new spirit of cooperation to be evident in every part of the Church.

c) Patterns of leadership. Leadership is often too authoritarian. The high status of pastors hinders a biblical servant leadership and promotes division, formality, legalism and a stifling of expectation of personal guidance from God for 'ordinary' Christians.

d) Inadequate discipling. A significant number of Christians come from a background steeped in Buddhist concepts and structured by Confucian ethics. The Spirit and the Word must bring them into the full liberty of grace in the gospel.

e) Neglect of ethical teaching has meant little application of biblical truth to social issues. Christians have often condoned low ethical standards, bribery and corrupt practices and have neglected social wrongs. Catholics have taken a stronger stance on these and often gained more credibility than Protestants.

5 Theological training in Korea is unique. In no other country of the world where there is a large, growing Church is there such a surfeit of people trained for pastoral work. There are possibly 280 theological institutions in Korea. In the top accredited Presbyterian seminaries are over 16,000 students. Right across the English-speaking world are thousands more Koreans studying for Christian ministry. For many who graduate there are few openings in desirable city congregations – yet the poorer rural congregations have many! Pray that the best of these men and women may humbly commit themselves to less prominent rural pastorates and bless the world through cross-cultural missions.>

6 Young people are more world-conscious than ever before. Pray for:

a) University students, who number over 2.5 million on 994 campuses. Many are involved in 15 Christian student organizations such as CCCI (845 staff on 90 campuses), Navigators (with over 120 staff) and Universities Bible Fellowship (UBF) with 10-20,000 students involved. Also of significance are IVCF(IFES) with 89 staff, Joy Mission, YWAM, ESF, SFC – each with 1-5,000 students involved.

b) SU which has a vital role to play in producing Bible study materials. Pray that young people may find the delight of personal Bible study.

c) CEF which has 120 workers committed to children's ministry.

7 The missions vision of the Korean Church has grown rapidly and matured. An increasing number of cross-cultural missionaries is being sent all over the world by over 160 Korean and international agencies (sometimes in both!). The larger Korean agencies are: UBF (751), HapDong Presbyterian (730), TongHap Presbyterian (492), Methodist (447), Holiness (290), GMF (266), Baptist (214), CCCI (193), KoSin Presbyterian (186), KaeHyuk Presbyterian (181), Full Gospel Mission Association (177), Tyrannus Mission (145), Korea Harbor Mission (122), and Paul Mission (89). There are also large contingents in international agencies such as: YWAM (658), OM (212), OMF (74), WEC (67) and WBT (52).

a) Mobilization of young people for missions has gained momentum. Mission Korea is a large biennial nation-wide mission movement of various agencies (IVCF[IFES], Joy Mission, YWAM, GMF, GP, OMF and others). Thousands of young people have been recruited for short-term involvement by UBF, CCC, OM, YWAM, Joy Mission, etc. Pray that these young people may be at the forefront of missions – either in going or in supporting those who go.

b) Preparation and orientation for missions have developed fast. Many institutions have been founded. To mention a few: The Centre for World Mission (Presbyterian TongHap), Global Missionary Training Center, Kosin MTI, the Missionary Training Institute (Presbyterian HapDong), the Global Professionals' Training Institute (for tentmakers). Pray for effective preparation for Korean missionary trainees.

c) Cultural adaptation is hard for Koreans who come from a mono-cultural and mono-lingual nation. The enthusiasm and rugged dynamism of Koreans are valuable assets in pressing through to fruitfulness.

d) Korean missionaries serving overseas need prayer – for their adaptation to other missions and missionaries, for effective cooperation, for pastoral care and for adequate education for their children.

8 The less-evangelized sections of the population which need special approaches in ministry:

a) Shamanism is resurgent, though few openly claim to be followers of this ancient Korean religion. There are about 600,000 shamanist practitioners – mainly women.

b) Buddhists are probably over a quarter of the population. There are a number of indigenous religions such as Chondokyo (one million followers) and pseudo-Christian sects with Buddhist/shamanist ideas (1-2 million followers).

c) Korean Muslims. These are growing in number as a result of Islamic missionary efforts among Koreans working in Saudi Arabia. There are about 40,000 Korean Muslims and 60% of them live in Seoul. A Korean Islamic University is being planned. There is no specific outreach to them, and also a lack of knowledge of how to reach them.

d) The Chinese. There were 7 congregations with 800 members in 2000. They were then 1.4% Protestant.

e) The 250,000+ illegal migrants – often working in appalling conditions and for long hours.

9 The Korean Diaspora. Emigration and extensive business interests have multiplied Korean communities around the world. In nearly all, thriving churches have sprung up (over 3,000 in USA alone), and they too are becoming a major factor for sending missionaries.

10 Missions in Korea have a valuable servant role in giving fresh perspective to biblical teaching, personal holiness and student work. A number of mission agencies have made a major impact in church planting, including SBC (79 workers), several Presbyterian agencies (25), Baptist Bible Fellowship (19), SdA (19) and OMS (8). OMF loans workers to minister within established churches. OMS missionaries planted the largest denomination in Asia originating from a faith mission.

11 Christian literature plays a vital role. The Bible in Korean has gone through several translations and has become a treasured part of the culture. The very active Korean Bible Society has a national and global ministry of Bible printing – making Korea one of the world's major Bible production centres – printing 4.7 million Bibles/NTs for 103 countries as well as 4 million Korean Bibles/NTs in 1995. The range of theological and devotional books is rapidly increasing, and there are many Christian bookstores including Tyrannus Press, Word of Life Press (TEAM), Voice (CMA) and CLC (with 12 stores) and various publishers (IVCF[IFES], MB, Torch and CLC with 400 titles published). Pray that this ministry may help to form a strong, Bible-literate Church.

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