This article first appeared in the November 23, 1973, issue of Christianity Today.
Korea's stunning response to Billy Graham's crusade in Seoul this summer has called attention once again to the surprising vitality of Christianity in this small land on the edge of a continent that, for the most part has proved to be the most resistant of all continents to the gospel message.
Only about 3 percent of Asia is Christian. In Japan, for example, after four centuries of Christian witness, only one in a hundred is Christian. In China, which Christian missionaries reached more than thirteen hundred years ago, the percentage of Christians has never risen higher than a possible 1.5, and today after a quarter of a century of Communist repression that tiny proportion has eroded to a brave remnant.
But Korea has one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. Though it is situated squarely between China and Japan and far more recently opened to the Gospel (Protestants are ninety years old, Catholics a century older), Koreans have turned to Christ in unprecedented numbers. It is true that in North Korea Communists have wiped out the organized church, but in South Korea where there is freedom of worship some 10 to 13 percent of the population is now Christian. This makes Christianity the strongest and probably the largest organized religion in the country, outdrawing in fact, if not in dubious religious statistics, both Confucianism with its dwindling social influence and Buddhism with its more religious appeal.
Why has the church grown so spectacularly in Korea? The Christian community there just about doubles every ten years. There are now some three million Korean Christians, and if marginal semi-Christian sects were included, the total ...1