Newsletter of the District of Asia

 Jan-Jun 2001

Some Statistics for South Korea
as of 2000

Population 47,000,000

Buddhism 36%

Confusianism 24%

Protestantism 15%

Catholicism 8.3%

In 1954, there were 160,000 Catholics

In 1984, there were 1,600,000

In May, 2000, there were 3,946,844

However, statistics show that the number of non-practicing Catholics as increasing.  At the end of 1999, non-practicing Catholic numbered 1,249,115, which is 31.7% of all Catholics, an increase of 9.7% in relation to the previous year which had showed 1,137,428 non-practicing.  These figures are taking from the annual statistics published by the Bishops’ Conference of Korea, on May 30, 2000.  The Bishops’ Conference qualified as ‘non-practicing’, a Catholic who has not been to confession, either at Christmas or Easter, for three years in a row. Church leaders must reflect on the method to use to bring back to church these non-practicing faithful.

In South Korea, it is mandatory for all those who have made their First Communion to go to confession at Christmas or Easter.  The system of ‘confession cards’ enables a very precise control as well as genuine statistics.  From those of May 30, 2000, Korea has now 3,946,844 Catholics, which means an increase of 142,750 i.e., 3.8% on the previous year.  This is slightly better than in 1998 (3.5%) but is still rather low compared to 1991 (6.28%).  The average number of faithful going to Mass on Sunday is 1,164,630, i.e. 29.5%.

Nationwide, Catholics now represent 8.3% of the population, the third largest percentage in Asia, after the Philippines and Vietnam.  In the Seoul diocese, they are 10.5% of the population.  It is the highest percentage of the 14 diocese of the whole country, the lowest being the diocese of Kyonbuk with only 45,437 Catholics, i.e. 4.6%.

The Archbishop of Seoul has recently launched a campaign to raise the Catholic population of Seoul to 18% in the next 10 years, i.e. the exact proportion of the Catholic Church worldwide.

Sources: Eglise d’Asie, July 1, 2000, pp.6-7; Archives des M.E.P., Etudes et Documents, no. 11, 2000, pp.68-71, Lives of the 103 Martyrs of Korea, Seoul, 1984, p.161.

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