South Korea Church Records
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The percentage of Christians in South Korea is about 25 percent of the population. However, South Korea has by far the highest percentage of Christians of any Asian nation. Only about 4 percent of the overall Asian population is Christian, with South Korea making up a substantial portion of that 4 percent. Also, South Korea has some of the largest Christian churches in the world, with some church memberships approximating 500,000.
According to a recent study, South Korea is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, with about 23 percent of its population Buddhist, 19 percent Protestant, 7 percent Catholic, 49 percent no religion, and a variety of other religions each representing less than 1 percent of the population.
Christianity in Korea has a strong materialistic and nationalistic appeal, based on the perspectives that Christians are likely to prosper and that the growth of Christianity is likely to win God’s favor for South Korea. Protestant Christianity in South Korea appears to have a particularly strong alliance with the government, being granted a variety of financial favors by the government and, in return, being unequivocally loyal to the government. The growth rate of Christianity in Korea since the early 1960s has been greater than in any other country. However, 49 percent of South Koreans report no formal religion and only 48 percent report belief in God.
Christian Church Records (Gidok Gyo-in Kirok)
Research Use: These records are very helpful for researchers who have Christian ancestry. Church books are a primary source of birth, marriage, and death information. They identify names of parents, prove other relationships, and are very useful for linking generations.
Record Type: Records kept by church clergy of baptisms, marriages, and burials. These include the parish registers of Roman-Catholic and various Protestant churches.
Background: The Catholic church began work in Korea in 1788 and flourished despite the danger of persecution. The Archdiocese of Seoul was formally established in 1831. From that time on they kept good records of all church events such as baptism, confirmation, and marriage: There may even be some records before 1831 but specific data is unavailable at this time. Protestant churches were not well established until the 1880s. Christians were subject to significant persecutions in Korea until the 1900s.
Time Period: 1831 to present.
Contents: Baptisms – name of individual, date of birth and baptism, names of parents, residence. Marriages – names of the groom and bride, ages, date and place of marriage; sometimes birthplaces and parents of groom and bride; other pertinent facts. Deaths and Burials – name of the deceased, date and place of death and burial, age at time of death, marital status, cause of death, name of spouse; for children parents’ names are often included. Other Lists – membership records list baptismal dates and usually names of parents; confirmations list names of young confirmants, usually with birth dates.
Location: Older Catholic church records are in the archive of the Catholic archdiocese in Seoul, more recent records are at the local parish. Protestant records are likely at local parishes or centralized at a church headquarters.
Population Coverage: Between 2% and 5% of population.
Reliability: Should be fairly reliable.
Preservation of Record/Vulnerability: The Korean Catholic church has its records well preserved in the Archdiocesan archives in Seoul.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Korea,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-2001.