Secularization of Religious Education in Korea: State Confucianism, Missionary Schools, and Religious Freedom

By Joosil Kim.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 6, 2014 $US5.00

Separation of church and state as part of secularization involves the problematic dichotomy between public and private spheres. Politics have intervened in differentiation of private and public spheres as well as conceptualization of religion and secularity. This paper will examine the history of religious education in Korea which well represents the role of power in defining spheres and concepts. At the end of the five-hundred-year-old Confucian State, Koreans encountered Western Christians. While most of Africa and South America were colonized by Christian countries in Europe, Korea was colonized by anti-Christian Japan in the early twentieth century. This religious difference complicated the relationship between American Protestant teachers, Japanese colonial administrators, and Korean students in missionary schools. Their complicated relationship and politics about teaching religions in schools challenged the distinction between public and private spheres, the separation of church and state, and also the Western concepts of secularity and religion. Religious education in missionary schools still matters in contemporary Korea regarding religious freedom of students. This paper will suggest that religious education needs more secularization.

Keywords: Secularization, Separation of Church and State, Confucianism, Mission, Religious Freedom

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2014, pp.77-87. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 6, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 359.222KB)).

Joosil Kim

Ph.D. Student, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, TEMPE, ARIZONA, USA

My research focuses on American Protestant missionaries in Korea in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. Particularly, I am working on their social enterprise including education as well as their cultural and political attitudes in relation to Japanese colonial rule in Korea. Generally, I am interested in religion and politics, religious education in modern society, the role of power in manufacturing concepts of religion and secularity along with separation of church and state. I went to a missionary high school and then I graduated from a national university in Korea with two majors in Religious Studies and English; and I also studied Education. In my master's thesis, I compared historical contexts of a Korean indigenous religion with Jewish tradition about Moses.