Social Implications of Spiritual Turns in Korea: Moral Clashes on Homosexuality
Although Korea’s traditional Confucian value system and conservative cultural tendencies of Korea’s three major religions (Protestantism, Catholicism, and Buddhism) have long engendered reluctance to embrace homosexuality on both a personal and societal level, Korean university students are dramatically more accepting of homosexuality than older generations.
This study utilizes qualitative interviews with 40 university students residing in Seoul, representing all three religious groups and religious non-affiliation. Findings indicated that youth who fit patterns of “believing and belonging” in these religions are experiencing a tangible shift towards individualization in their religious practice, perhaps best described by Wuthnow’s reference to the shift in American religiosity post-1950s from a “dwelling” to a “seeking” model that takes the form of a quest and emphasizes subjectivity and autonomy. We examined correlations between the degree of expressions of religious individualization and participants’ responses regarding homosexuality, ranging from vehement opposition to acceptance and support. A distinct pattern also emerged as the majority of respondents mentioned ethical standards or making right versus wrong choices as a key life impact of their religious beliefs, undermining the notion that highly individualized religion is overall less morally oriented than traditional forms of religion.