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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Protestant Church and Wolnamin: An Explanation of Protestant Conservatism in South Korea

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2004, v.44 no.4, pp.157-190

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Abstract

Conservatism in the South Korean Protestant Church has been a long-standing phenomenon. After becoming more active in politics after the 1990s, the Protestant conservative forces have come to represent the right wing in South Korea since 2000. The primary focus of this paper is on that of how wolnamin (Protestant groups of North Korean origin) contributed to the political and social conservatism of the Protestant Church in Korea, looking at the case of the Presbyterian Church. Wolnamin were able to garner power and lasting influence because of the following factors: 1) the large size of the wolnamin group; 2) their ability to reorganize successfully in the church and South Korean society; (3) their ability to rise to the center of the religious power structure by utilizing conflicts and divisions schisms within the South Korean Protestant Church; 4) their ability to reconnect with foreign missionaries in South Korea and receive abundant financial support from churches in the U.S.; 5) that the non-regional presbytery system and churches for wolnam Protestants guaranteed a share of religious power beyond their capacity; and 6) that they maintained strong solidarity at the denominational as well as the trans-denominational level. As a result, they rose to power in the 1950s and continued to maintain it for a long time. They showed some signs of crises after the 1960s; however, they were able to maintain their vitality until recently, with partial revitalization after the 1980s. In particular, the continued strength of the wolnam group contributed to Protestantism representing conservative forces in South Korea after 2000.

keywords
Korean Protestantism Presbyterian Methodist Protestant conservatism wolnam Protestants North Korean Protestants non-regional presbytery wolnamin church North Korean church Korean Protestantism Presbyterian Methodist Protestant conservatism wolnam Protestants North Korean Protestants non-regional presbytery wolnamin church North Korean church

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