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Does South Korea have freedom of religion?


South Korea is a country known for its rapid economic growth, technological advancements, and cultural exports such as K-pop and Korean dramas. However, the issue of religious freedom in South Korea is a topic that has been debated for years. In this article, we will discuss whether or not South Korea has freedom of religion, the history behind it, and the current state of religious affairs in the country.

History of Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long and complex history when it comes to religion. The country was originally influenced by shamanism, but over time, Buddhism became the dominant religion. In the 18th century, Catholicism was introduced to Korea by French and Chinese missionaries. However, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Confucianism became the state religion and other religions were suppressed.

Constitutional Protections

South Korea’s constitution provides for freedom of religion. Article 20 states that “all citizens shall enjoy freedom of religion.” This means that citizens are free to practice any religion they choose without fear of persecution or discrimination.

Religious Diversity in South Korea

Despite constitutional protections, religious diversity in South Korea is relatively low. Christianity is the largest religion in South Korea, followed by Buddhism, and then Confucianism. Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism have very small followings in the country.

Discrimination Against Minor Religions

While major religions like Christianity and Buddhism are generally accepted in South Korea, smaller religions face discrimination. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced persecution from the government and society due to their refusal to serve in the military.

Government’s Role in Religion

The South Korean government plays a large role in regulating religion. All religious groups must register with the government and are subject to government oversight. The government also funds some religious organizations and provides tax benefits to certain religions.

Religion and Politics

Religion has played a significant role in South Korean politics. Many politicians use religion to gain support from voters, and religious leaders have significant influence in society. However, this has also led to tensions between different religious groups.

Freedom of Expression

While the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression is not as well-protected in South Korea. Criticism of religion or religious leaders is often met with backlash from the public and government officials.

Religious Tensions

There have been several instances of religious tensions in South Korea. For example, there have been conflicts between Buddhists and Christians over the construction of Buddhist temples. Additionally, the spread of a fringe Christian group called Shincheonji has led to controversy and criticism.

North-South Divide

The issue of religion also highlights the divide between North and South Korea. North Korea is officially atheist, with no freedom of religion. In contrast, South Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, tensions between the two countries have led to restrictions on religious activities near the border.


In conclusion, South Korea does have constitutional protections for freedom of religion. However, there are still issues with discrimination against minority religions and restrictions on freedom of expression. Additionally, tensions between different religious groups and political leaders can cause conflict in society.


To improve religious freedom in South Korea, the government should take steps to reduce discrimination against minority religions and protect freedom of expression. Additionally, efforts should be made to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding between different religious groups.


– “South Korea.” U.S. Department of State.
– “Religion in South Korea.” Wikipedia.
– “South Korean Religions.” Asia Society.

Does South Korea allow Christianity?

While South Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion and separation of church and state, the government has been sympathetic to Christianity. It considers the religion to provide some ideological protection against their Communist neighbor.

What religions are allowed in South Korea?

A significant portion of the South Korean population does not adhere to a particular religion, while Christianity (both Protestantism and Catholicism) and Buddhism are the most widely followed religions by those who affiliate with a formal faith. Moreover, Buddhism and Confucianism have a significant impact on the daily lives of many South Koreans.

What freedoms do South Korea have?

In South Korea, all citizens above the age of 19 have the privilege to vote, according to the country’s constitution, which grants various rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech and of the press. As a result, there is no formal censorship in the country.

Are there any religious conflicts in South Korea?

The diverse religious community in Korea has also resulted in conflicts. For example, there have been cases where Christians have discriminated against Buddhists in the armed forces and instances where Protestants have damaged temple property. The religious landscape is sometimes referred to as a dormant volcano due to the potential for tension to erupt.

Do Christians in Korea drink?

In South Korea, Protestants are commonly seen as individuals who do not consume alcohol and refrain from smoking, as of the year 2022.

Do they celebrate Christmas in South Korea?

Christmas in Korea is a festive time with bright lights, decorated malls and streets, and abundant holiday merchandise. Cheonggyecheon Stream is particularly beautiful with its stunning lights during the Christmas season.

– The issue of military service exemption for religious reasons has also been a contentious topic in South Korea. All able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for around two years, but some religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, refuse to participate in military service on the basis of their beliefs. This has led to legal battles and discrimination against those who refuse to serve.

– The government’s regulation of religion has also been criticized by some as a violation of religious freedom. Some religious groups have complained about excessive government interference and surveillance, while others have accused the government of favoring certain religions over others.

– Another issue related to religious freedom in South Korea is the treatment of refugees and immigrants who practice different religions. While the country has seen an increase in the number of refugees and immigrants in recent years, many struggle to integrate into society due to discrimination and prejudice based on their religion or culture.

– Despite these challenges, there are also efforts being made to promote religious tolerance and diversity in South Korea. Interfaith organizations and initiatives have been launched to foster dialogue and understanding between different religions, and some religious leaders have spoken out against discrimination and intolerance.

– Overall, the issue of religious freedom in South Korea is complex and multifaceted. While the country has made progress in promoting religious tolerance and diversity, there are still challenges that need to be addressed in order to fully protect the rights of all citizens to practice their religion freely and without fear of discrimination or persecution.

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