Friday, August 1, 2008

The Church in South Korea

Some of my viewers might have noticed that I served as a full time missionary for the Church in South Korea, but I have not made any posts about the Church in that country. I wanted to take the opportunity to write a little bit about how the Church is doing in South Korea.

The Church has been in South Korea for over 50 years. There are 17 stakes, six districts and around 80,000 members. A temple was dedicated in Seoul a little over 20 years ago. Four missions cover the country of 48 million. Most Koreans who are religious are Christian, particularly Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic (although they do not consider Catholicism to be a Christian Church). As for the rest of the less religious population, most identify themselves with Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. The majority of the stakes in South Korea were created in the 70s and 80s. The last new stake created was in Daejon (대전) back in 1998.

Although the Church has around 80,000 members, sacrament attendance is only around 10,000 for the whole country. One of the problems we had as missionaries was we did not have the addresses or contact information for the majority of the inactive members. It is difficult to correct the problem when you cannot find the members. In most of the wards and branches I served in, about a third to half of the members were active. A lot of the growth the Church experienced in South Korea dissipated once the middle class began to collapse back in the mid 1990s.

Most missions in Korea baptize around 200 to 400 people a year. Several of the wards and branches have become so small from active members moving to new areas that they have been combined with other wards and branches. Unfortunately the number of active members moving into new areas does not follow with new units being created since a percentage of the active members become less active or immigrate to Australia, the United States, Canada, or New Zealand.
On the above map, yellow squares are stakes, green squares a districts. The only place I could see a new stake organized in the next five years would be in the Busan (부산) Mission, possibly in Ulsan (울산). This last city became its own district upon the realignment of a stake in Busan with a district (west of Busan) that was integrated into the stake.

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