ISSN : 0023-3900
The blueprint for the Republic of Korea was drawn up in large part by northern Protestants who moved south following the division of the Korean Peninsula. This paper elucidates the profoundly important role they played in nation-building, highlighting the existence of multiple, functionally distinct Protestantisms. Far from constituting a uniform field, Christianity in Korea was shaped by tensions among three different Protestantisms originating in three different locations: the conservative Protestantism of the Northern Presbyterian Church in the United States, the progressivism of Canadian Protestantism, later nurtured by the Germans, and Japanese Protestantism, which entered Korea in the 1920s and left behind a deep imprint despite its relatively limited reach. While the most recognizable form of Protestantism has become inseparable from America itself, a significantly less conservative Protestantism hailing from Hamgyeong-do province and eastern Manchuria served as the core of anti-government dissidence in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet another Protestantism, concealing the word “Japan” from its genealogy in the charged atmosphere of post-liberation Korean society, survived as a powerful rival to and opponent of conservative American Protestantism in presenting a coherent vision of social reform. The existence of such different Protestantisms also reveals the presence of different modernities in postwar South Korea.