South Korea Religions
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Religions in South Korea
Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the year 372 AD. Similar to China and Japan, Korea's Buddhism comes from the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. Today, about 90% of Korean Buddhists belong to Jogye Order. Most of the National Treasures of South Korea are Buddhist artifacts. Buddhism became the state religion in some of Korean kingdoms since the Three Kingdoms Period, when Goguryeo adopted it as the state religion in 372, followed by Baekche. Buddhism had been the state religion of Unified Korea from North South States Period (not to be confused with the modern division of Korea) to Goryeo before suppression under the Joseon dynasty in favor of Neo-Confucianism.
Buddhism remained the predominant religion in Korea until the introduction of Christianity in the eighteenth century. Although Buddhism's influence over society has declined over the years, the devout still make regular pilgrimages to give offerings at temples.
Unknown in the peninsula before the 18th century, Koreans were first introduced to Christianity through Jesuits in China. The Catholic branch spread so quickly when it was introduced to Korea that the King perceived it as a threat and actively persecuted the early missionaries. Protestant missionaries started coming in the late 19th century and established numerous hospitals and colleges. Christianity has been embraced with a vengeance with it being South Korea's largest religion, accounting for more than half of all South Korean religious adherents. Many of the world's largest churches are in Korea (including Yoido Full Gospel Church, reputed to be the world's largest with a congregation of 700,000 members). There are approximately 13.7 million Christians in South Korea today.
Although not technically a religion, the teachings of Confucius permeate throughout Korean society. The derived highly authoritarian, male-dominated system is reflected in the paternalistic and male-dominated Korean culture. The country's emphasis on education and respect for ancestors also comes from the teachings of Confucius.
Although not an organized religion per se, Shamanism revolves around a mudang (priest or usually priestess) who acts as an intermediary between the spirit and living worlds. The ceremonies involve intricate dances and songs. It is seen by many as a primitive religion and has more of a following in rural village areas.
Very few Koreans have embraced the Islamic beliefs. However, a large mosque near It'aewon in Seoul is frequented by many foreigners in Korea.