Ties That Bind or Tearing the Social Fabric? : The Integrating and Disintegrating Power of Religion in South Korea

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:50
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Lee SANGGU, Sogang University, South Korea
Scholars such as Durkheim have long recognized the crucial role that social integration plays in both the public and private spheres. But as modern South Korean society shifts into a “post-secular” era, the public conflict between sacred and secular continues to intensify, threatening societal cohesion. In response to this phenomenon, this paper examines social integration through multidimensional research incorporating religious factors (spirituality, frequency of participation in worship, etc.) and social factors (political inclination, citizenship, etc.), with the goal of identifying and comparing factors that contribute to social integration versus social conflict.

This study is based on quantitative research utilizing the 2008 and 2012 Korea General Social Survey (KGSS, sample size 1,508) and data from the Korea Social Science Data Archive (KOSSDA, sample sizes 1302 [2009], 7254 [2011]). Findings indicate that patterns of closed community spirit, such as “fundamentalist thought” and “white supremacy,” exert a negative influence on social integration. However, patterns of “religious pluralism” and “individual spiritual experience” are strongly associated with religious openness and exert a positive influence on social integration. Liberal churches, openness-citizenship and active participation in civil society also hypothetically exert a positive influence on social integration. In sum, important issues surrounding religion and social integration center not only on understanding dogma in religion, but also the need to create transcendental principles based on “integrative values” (Bellah) that go beyond individual religious institutions and exist in within whole meaning systems. This research offers a foundation for further exploration into the many complex factors impacting social integration and how they interact in the context of civil society.