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“Victory over Communism: South Korean Protestants’ Ideas about Democracy, Development, and Dictatorship, 1953–1961”

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This article complicates the traditional narrative of anti-Communist Christians in Korea, examining the history of anti-communism among them in light of their claims to support democracy and development. Changes in Christian thinking in Korea followed the end of formal fighting in the Korean War. The conflict transformed Korea’s post-colonial history into a developmental struggle, pitting communism versus capitalism in a deadly battle. From the mid-1950s, South Korean Protestants saw the struggle as a competition between two systems, not simply one to eradicate the North Korean regime. From this new perspective, they began condemning political injustice and corruption under President Syngman Rhee. The contradictions in the ideas of Christians were partly embodied in their support for the civil uprising that would topple the Rhee regime, but also in their endorsement of Park Chung-hee’s military takeover in 1961. South Korean Protestants assisted the coup’s central leadership and helped a totalitarian regime come to power. This paradoxical aspect within Korean Protestant history is closely tied to the unique characteristics of its anti-communism and how it evolved after the Korean War.

Affiliations: 1: Sogang University, jragnes@hanmail.net

10.1163/18765610-02402016
/content/journals/10.1163/18765610-02402016
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2017-09-12
2018-10-19

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