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Date Posted: 20:49:53 06/09/04 Wed
Author: Chris
Subject: "Moral corruption ... originating from Confucian values"
In reply to: Nick T. 's message, "huge article about Christianity in Korea" on 17:55:08 06/06/04 Sun

Here is another amazingly upfront article written by a Korean on Confucian and Christian Values in Korea. It explains some of the things we can see in UBF. Some quotes:

Since the economical collapse of Korea in1977 (the so-called “IMF Affair”), it is said that Korea embraces an epidemic problem commonly spread in all sector of the Korean society such as the religions, public education, politics, and economy. This problem has been known to be the “moral corruption of every Korean society”. It has been pointed out that such a problem originated from Confucian values, which has been operating as the driving force in the formation of Korean ethical values during the last centuries.

Since Protestant Christianity was introduced into Korea in 1984, the Korean Protestant Church has accumulated 118 years history and a remarkable growth of 19.7 percent of the population in 1995. This growth of the Church may be considered to have two reasons. One might be the mission policy of John Nevius practiced in the beginning of its history. However, the major reason for the rapid growth of the Korean Church may be due to the Policy of Church Growth by Donald McGavran in the past decades. This mission policy was popular among the Presbyterian Churches and brought a rapid growth in its denominations. Now the Korean Presbyterian Churches occupy the majority of Korean Christianity. That is why, it is said that ‘the history of the Korean Church is the history of the Presbyterian Church’. The first denomination of the Presbyterian Church in Korea was named The Taehan Yesukyo Changnohwe (Ye-Jang). In spite of these increases, the Korean Protestant Church is being criticized for which means that it is facing a serious moral crisis in regard to its socio-ethical identity. The Korean Gallup in 1998 reports that whereas only 57 percent out of all the Korean Protestant Christians hold the Christian values in their moral life, 22.7 percent of them hold the Confucian values, and 11.7 percent hold Shamanist trends.

A representative scholar from the Evangelicals would be Dr. Son Bong-Ho (1938~ ). He piercingly analyses major aspects of Korean contemporary society in light of the Christian perspective; its culture, religions especially of the Protestant Church, and public education. He especially criticises the contemporary Protestant Church of Korea in regard to Christian Ethics.

Out of his abundance of articles one article: the “Social Role of a Religion” written in 2000, evaluates the current Christian society of Korea socio-religiously. He explains that a religion has played a very important role in the formation of a society in four areas;
Firstly, a religion arranges people as constituents of a society ‘spiritual commom Place’, that is, it forms the worldview or perspective of people in the society.
Secondly, a religion presents the norm of “how one should act morally in caring out a certain behavior” within a society.
Thirdly, the most important role of a religion is ‘social criticism’.
Lastly, religious adherents around religious leaders must protect their religion from being ideologized and socerized or magicianized.
Through these criteria Son Bong-Ho becomes very critical, saying that the Korean Church is facing a serious crisis, a desperate situation in its moral society.

The moral level of the contemporary Korean Church is at a level where if they don’t think doing something to glorify God will reap any benefits, they are easily able to throw it away. In contrast, if they think something will be advantageous for them, they spare no pain to do such a thing even though it may dishonour God. It is not a church, but a human gathering. The Church has no concerns about the society. According to a recent survey, in the social respectability Catholic fathers are the first, Buddhist priests second, and Pastors the last. If they unable to gain social respectability what advice could they give advise to the society? There has never been such a kind of moral corruption of the Korean Church in Christian world history. There are many cases of moral corruption of the church when they became weakened, but there has never been any history, which moral corruption goes with the church growth numerically together at the same time like today’s Korean Church. This is the worst catastrophe. It is like having an acute cancer realizing that they have a serious cancer.

However, it surprisingly appears that he keeps silent about the original reasons for the problems of the Korean Church, and he only adds a socio-phenomenological analysis. He does not take a serious view of the relation between Church education and social behaviour of Christians.

Korean Christians accepted dualism as their theology, and introduced Confucianism unconsciously for their moral values. Nevertheless, they do not take an attention as a serious matter. What the important thing to them, is “to be saved by faith” and the material blessing. Material blessing is not the Christian message, but a Shamanic view. There are a lots of prevailing non-Christian values in the church such as the Confucian consciousness of competition of thinking our church must be better and much bigger than other churches. And also it cannot be ignored with the competitive consciousness between church leaders. Therefore, the teaching in the church and the behaviour outside of the church are dualistic. Once starting to live by abnormal way of life ethically, one can gain advantages in society, and so they seldom think that what they are doing is wrong.

In conclusion, Son Bong-Ho suggests the problem of the Korean Church as being due to relying on dualistic belief that caused a lack of moral behaviour according to Christian values. Because this research, however, understands that such problems may come to exist by the result of the perverted goal of Church education.

As mentioned above, it appears that in every dimension of the Korean society the impact of Confucian Values can be seen; its core value being Filial Piety which will be dealt in the latter part of this review. Monald S. Macdonald describes Korean behaviour are being “the result of three main factors: the traditional Confucian ethic; an underlying individualism that is somewhat at odds with that ethic; and an overlay of Western ideas”. Although this Confucianism, which has been a decisive factor upon the system of Korean worldview, is changing now, it is still strongly conditioning Korean attitudes and behaviour. Macdonald summarises the Confucian way of life as below;

As in previous times, Confucianism coexists with a strong aggressive underlying sense of individual assertiveness and ambition. Often, therefore, men’s burning desire for wealth, power, and social recognition tears through the network of Confucian harmony and propriety. Koreans are gamblers for high stakes; they take extraordinary risks to further their ambitions. Success, wealth, and status are flaunted for all to admire. This tendency makes the distribution of wealth in south Korea seem more unequal than it really is.

Most people in Korea seem to understand that this serious immorality of the society emerged as a by-product of unexpected and unavoidable consequences of Confucianism, but no one dared to criticize the evil practices directly and kept silence for centuries. Breaking the silence, a young scholar Kim Kyung-Il criticizes in acrid tones the evil vice brought on by the Confucian values.

We Korean people, within only 100 years of Korean history, have already lived through the three bitter humiliations of the repressive amalgamation of Korea and Japan in 1910, the
Korean War in 1950, and the IMF intervention in 1998. They would have been the cases to lose the country. But, we were proud of escaping from such miserable situations, saying that we were wise enough to overcome them and then used to forget them easily. However, did they happen by chance? There must have been some inevitable reasons for them. …..I found the answer of it from Confucius’ ideology, that is Confucianism. As a result, in spite of its splendid modifier the moral of Confucius was not the philosophy for man, but the philosophy for politics, only for male beings, only for those who have vested rights, only for adults, and even for the dead. Hence the Confucian culture standing on this Confucius ethics cannot but be filled with political deception, the sense of male superiority, obliteration of the youngness and their creativeness, and melancholy of the worship for the dead, etc. This gentile culture was introduced into Korean society, as a political ideology, under the Chosŏn Dynasty. Since then these Confucian values represented as the culture of Sanong-Gonsang (the traditional four classes of society: scholars, farmers, artisans and tradesmen) is the society of social position, the strictly patriachical society, the society of the Sage logic, and of blood ties, etc, and then it has been occupying the society of Korea for centuries. ……. Now, the validity of Confucianism has finished!

He says that the reason Koreans have not evaluated Confucian values was due to the people's economic plight which Korean people had to suffer since the Japanese Colony (1910~1945). But, a question is raised: Why then did Korean people not show their willingness to evaluate Confucian values since the 1980s when they have gained economical leeway? It seems to be obvious that people are willing to embrace them rather than to throw them away. Especially, Why do not many Christians show the willingness to regulate them? This researcher presupposes that this unwillingness of Christians is deeply related to their understanding of the religiosity of Confucianism.


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