SEOUL, March 6 (Korea Bizwire) — Religious practice in South Korea has hit its lowest point since 1998, according to a survey conducted by the Korean National Association of Christian Pastors (KNACP).
The survey, which interviewed 9,182 individuals aged 19 and above between February and November 2022, found that the share that identified themselves as religious stood at 36.6 percent, the lowest in five surveys conducted since 1998. The results were released on March 2.
This downward trend in religious practice is further compounded by the aging of the religious community, as fewer young people are joining the faith and existing clergy are getting older.
According to the Fifth Korean Christianity Analysis Report, the proportion of those with no religious affiliation in South Korea has risen to 63.4 percent. This is the highest proportion in five surveys conducted since 1998.
In contrast, the percentages of those identifying as believers of the three major religions in South Korea, Buddhism, Protestantism, and Catholicism, were 16.3, 15, and 5.1 percent, respectively, all of which hit their lowest percentages since the survey was first conducted in 1998.
The aging population has become a significant concern for the Catholic Church, as the proportion of elderly clergy (priests over the age of 65) exceeded 10 percent for the first time ever in 2021. In contrast, Buddhism is responding by raising the retirement age for priests and the age at which they can leave the temple.
The decline in the religious population in South Korea is happening at an accelerating rate, with the proportion of the religious population falling to less than half of the total population in 2017, down from 2012.
This decline is part of the country’s overall demographic crisis, with the country’s total population declining in November 2021 for the first time since the establishment of the first Republic of Korea in 1948.
The report also highlighted that at least 340,000 individuals who identified as Protestants were estimated to attend sects regarded as cults. The religious community in South Korea is thus faced with multiple challenges that require significant attention and action to address.
Jerry M. Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Could you provide sources for the statistics? Thank you.