S. Korea’s religious population on decline

February 12, 2015
Leading monks of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism hold a conference at the Korean Culture Training Institute in Gongju, central South Korea, on Jan. 28, 2015. (Yonhap)

Leading monks of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism hold a conference at the Korean Culture Training Institute in Gongju, central South Korea, on Jan. 28, 2015. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea’s religious population dropped in 2014 from 10 years earlier mainly due to a fall in the number of Buddhists and religious youths, a poll showed Thursday.

According to the survey on 1,500 adults taken by Gallup Korea between April 17 to May 2, 50 percent of the respondents identified themselves as religious faithfuls, down 4 percentage points from 2004.

The pollster said a sharp decline in the number of young people with religions is considered to be the main reason behind the fall.

The rate of the respondents in their 20s who are religious was 45 percent during the same survey conducted 10 years ago. In 2014, however, the rate fell 14 percentage points to 31 percent.

The figure for those in their 30s also declined from 49 percent to 38 percent during the period. The decrease was relatively small among those in their 40s and 50s.

By religion, 22 percent of those polled identified as Buddhist while 21 percent and 7 percent identified as Protestant and Catholic, respectively.

But the share of Buddhists was 2 percent lower than 10 years ago while the rates for Protestants and Catholics remained almost unchanged.

Since it had the first survey on religions in Korean in 1984, Gallup Korea had conducted similar polls in 1989, 1997 and 2004.

“Young people’s rejection to religion is highly likely to be led to the aging and long-term decline of the nation’s religious population in the next 10 to 20 years,” said Yoon Seung-yong, a director of the private Korea Institute for Religion and Culture who has been taking part in analyzing the polls since 1989.

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