There is so much to say about South Korea: its cramped geography (between China and Japan), its tragic history, its amazing industrialization in the last quarter of the 20th century, and the many facets and contributions of its global diaspora (including missionaries). South Korea has suddenly emerged from its colonization and exploitation to become a world leader in technology, in Christian spirituality, and in some ways, filial piety (in a world with family crises).
South Korea is partially the product of an arbitrary division of the peninsular country by the world powers after WWII (1939-45). Its line of division was first decided to be the 38th parallel. The Korean War (1950-1953) then set a line of demarcation and a demilitarized zone that runs from just south of the 38th parallel in the East to north of it in the West.
South Korea is about the size of the U.S. state of Indiana, and its population in 2014 is about 50 million, which makes it one of the densest national populations in the world. Besides its green hills and mountains and small villages, it can seem to the visitor as a new world of concrete streets and high rises.
Life in these high rises is amazingly convenient. There are restaurants and laundries with delivery services, gyms and spas, salons and barbershops, and much more. It seems as if the whole country has been swiftly developed for technological convenience.
South Korea’s people move swiftly through the streets, through lunch, seemingly through life. They are busy, efficient, yet can take time to be courteous and friendly.
Diplomatic tensions arising from a belligerent North Korea produce a crisis. Deep desires for reunification within most Koreans, North or South, are tempered by different goals of reunification and extreme difficulties posed by the process. The Koreas are obviously a significant flashpoint in global geopolitics.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What is your interest in South Korea?
How important do you consider Korea to be in the world today?
Can you think of any reasons why the ancient and current culture of Korea, its vast history, its terrible exploitation and suffering from China and Japan, its arbitrary treatment by the great powers, and its amazing development ought to be studied by all?
How would you explain the indifference about Korea found among some Korean-Americans—and ignorance of its culture and contributions among others in the world?
To what extent should South Koreans fear an all-out attack from the North?
What is your opinion about the reunification of North and South Korea? Should this take place? How might this take place? How are neither North nor South Korea presently ready for reunification? How long, if desired and possible, should the process of reunification take place, in your opinion?
It has been easy for the world to ignore or see Korea as less important than China or Japan.
Korea has both benefitted from, and contributed to, Chinese and Japanese culture throughout history. It has much to give the world beyond.
The religious history of Korea is rich and complicated. In time it will bring Asian values and characteristics into global theology.