The politics of religion in South Korea, 1974-89: the Catholic church's political opposition to the authoritarian state
What explains the South Korean Catholic Church's increased sociopolitical activity during the 1970s and 1980s after almost two centuries of relative silence and inaction? This study hypothesizes and affirms that the Church's heightened political activity and influence was the result of the interaction of two phenomena: (1) the politicization of the international Church which followed Vatican II and produced a potent external stimulus for increased Catholic activism, especially in Latin America and Asia; and (2) the growing authoritarianism of South Korean regimes which compelled the Church to respond to and oppose the state's oppression.The study also explores the type of role performed, and the methods used, by the Church in its political activism, and the Church's impact on, and reaction to, the democratization of the South Korean state.The two-pronged research strategy utilizes (1) extensive secondary sources on the doctrinal history and institutional patterns of Church-state relations, including a comparative study of the Church's political activism from the 1960s through the 1980s, and (2) extensive primary resources on the political activities of the South Korean Church and state, including ten case studies of significant incidents and developments during the 1970s and 1980s.The combination of the external and internal factors which caused the dramatic politicization of key elements of the South Korean Church in the 1970s and 1980s enabled the Church to perform a "prophetic" role in attacking socioeconomic and political injustices and human rights abuses, sometimes involving its own members, and in pastoring the poor, the disadvantaged and the oppressed. This "prophetic" role was performed under the leadership of activist clergy and laity who exerted political influence by example, symbolic action and moral persuasion. Their primary contribution to sociopolitical change and democratization was not achieved by partisan political involvement, but by the application of religious moral principles to the sociopolitical context.Although the Church does not contend for political power and its sociopolitical role may diminish as democratization is achieved, it is important to stress that the Church can continue to perform its "prophetic" role and bring its moral influence to bear on the many socioeconomic and political issues which continue to plague modern society.
- Political science