Sun Zhaonan
Sun Zhaonan, Faculty of Engineering
Sharing on Seoul Study Tour 2014

South Korea, the Republic of Korea has become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. This great nation bears strong traditional culture and heritage, while it is also making giant steps towards the world, achieving its high degree of globalization. In terms of globalization and international city, Hong Kong is a strong candidate in this area. However, Seoul, as the capital of Korea, has become a powerful rival in various sectors, including IT, technology advancement, entertainment, tourism and services to achieve world class with wide recognition in the East Asia regional and also on the international platform. Though different perspectives were observed during the study trip, personally speaking, I am particularly interested in the religious development in the country, which was mainly revealed from our visit to house of Joy. In this report, some background information and statistics about religious development in Korea will be introduced followed by some personal reflections.

  1. Confucian tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributionsBuddhismTaoism, and Korean Shamanism. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, Christianity has competed with Buddhism in South Korea, while religious practice has been suppressed in North Korea. Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of separation; the influence of traditional beliefs of Korean Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have remained an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture; all these traditions have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong Westernization from Christian missionary conversions in the South or the pressure from the Juchegovernment in the North. According to 2005 statistics compiled by the South Korean government, about 46% of citizens profess to follow no particular religion. Christians account for 29.2% of the population (of which are Protestants 18.3% and Catholics 10.9%) and Buddhists 22.8%.Islam in South Korea is practiced by about 45,000 natives (about 0.09% of the population) in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries.

The statistics are really astounding to me, someone who has little knowledge about religions in Korea. It is really hard to imagine that Christian could become the dominant religion in an East Asian country, whose history was under great influences of Confucianism and Taoism. Clearly, the same thing does not happen to North Korea. After the World War II, Korean War has divided the country into two parts, with different ideology. Under the strong influences of the United States, Christian was brought into Korea and became popular. This trend is a valid indicator that globalization cannot only to confined in the economic area. Cultural and religious changes are also necessary during the process. The important thing is to minimize government control on such issues to grant the people with freedom, the right to make a choice. Mr Kim, person in charge at house of joy, really impressed me by talking about his moment with God to every one of us visitors. His piousness makes me curious so I also would like to explore this world.

The memories this trip gave me is beyond my words. I am really grateful that MISS could give me, as well as other final year students who already become alumni of PolyU. I hope to keep in touch with MISS, and maybe help a bit in the upcoming events of MISS.