[Series IV] Evangelical Christians and Political Society: Kim Young-sam, and Other Evangelical Politicians

Evangelical Christians and Political Society:
Kim Young-sam, and Other Evangelical Politicians

Written By HONG, Young-Gi (Ph.D.)
The Senior Pastor of the Full Gospel Church of Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

 

Kim Young-sam was elected as the first civilian president by fair election, receiving 42 percent of the popular vote. Kim Dae-jung finished second with 33.8 percent, trailed by Chung Ju-young, who garnered 26.5 percent. (See Table 6.)

 

 

The democratic reforms of Kim Young-sam as a evangelical Christian president affected the development of democracy in Korea.  His role therefore merits more detailed examination; moreover, because of this paper’s theme, it is important to explore how his Christian faith may have influenced his actions, and especially democratic reforms, during his presidency.

In 1992 Kim Young-Sam became the first civilian president to be directly elected after thirty-two years of military domination.  Kim Young-sam, until the previous year, had been an important leader of the democratic political opposition.  His thirty-year career of defying the authoritarian state was made possible by his ability to operate safely within the structures of the Protestant churches of South Korea (Brouwer, Gifford, and Rose, 1996: 109).

Political parties in Korea characteristically have been personality-driven and ephemeral.  Tied to a single leader, parties existed for the sole purpose of promoting his victory.  Yet the top-down imposition of policies does not guarantee success, as churches have learned.  Effective Presidential influence depends on bureaucratic actors who have considerable autonomy, and on the voice of public opinion (including that of the church).

Many of the principal leaders of the opposition movement against authoritarian regimes have been Christians, such as Kim Young-Sam and Kim Dae-Jung.  These two Kims had long been champions of democracy during the opposition movement against authoritarianism, who were symbols of the democratic movement in Korea.  Under authoritarian regimes, they exercised symbolic and practical leadership, and were supported by many Christians, as well as advocated of democratization, even though that support never did effectively overcome the obstacle of regionalism.

The relationship between the state and the church has been influenced and changed by the religious propensity of the president and key politicians and the political propensity of religious leaders.  Politicians’ religion and politics have sometimes influenced each other inappropriately.  (To some extent this may reflect a long Korean history of state control of intellectual and religious doctrine:  various long-lasting Korean dynasties elected to promote Buddhism, or Confucianism, as the country’s official philosophy often suppressing rival schools; and Japanese Colonialism made an official cult of Shinto.  North Korea is not only Communist, but makes a kind of worshipping cult out of veneration for its “Great Leader”  Kim Il-sung and his son the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il”.  In postwar South Korea, the first Republic accepted a separation between politics and religion in principle, but in practice this was constantly marred by one-sided support given to Christianity and a repressive policy toward other religions.  The second Republic was also pro-Christianity.  The third to sixth Republic were pro-Buddhist.  The Kim Young-sam government was evaluated by some as pro-Protestant.

Yet any politician must have his own ideal and try to embody it in reality.  Kim Young Sam’s democratic vision was influenced by his own religious beliefs and his suffering.  Although we cannot be sure that Kim Young-sam tried to have the political embodiment of his Christian faith, the accomplishment of liberal democracy based on Christian faith may have been the source of his struggle for democracy and his democratic reform. It may be that he believed that he suffered for truth, for the building of a healthy moral community for the nation. What is the relationship between his Christian faith and democracy? What kind of political reforms did he do? How the democratization of Korea has been consolidated during his presidency?

 

4.1   Kim Young-sam’s Evangelical Commitments and Roots

The special interview with Kim Young-sam was conducted for four and half hours on August 2001 two times.

Kim Young-sam has a strong Christian background down from his grandfather.  His grandfather who was sick with paralysis invited a pastor to have a service at home.  He was healed by Christian faith and later founded the Sin Myong Church in the early period of Protestantism in Korea (Interview # 16, and Kim, Young-sam, 2000: 94).  Kim’s wedding took place in the church, which was unusual, especially at that time.  Kim testified that his wife, Son Myung-sun, had been a sincere Christian from her earliest years.  I asked Kim was who had influenced most his Christian faith in the course of two special interviews with him for this paper, conducted over four and a half hours in August 2001.  Kim replied: “It was my mother. She was illiterate, but was able to memorize and read the verses of hymns.  She liked to hear the Bible.  I put her favorite Bible in her tomb according to her will when she died.”  In 1978 Kim became an elder in a Korean megachurch, the Chung Hyun Church, Presbyterian Haptong

We get a glimpse of his Christian faith after he inaugurated his presidency:  on the first Sunday after his presidency, he prayed for the smooth start of the civilian government (Kim, Young-sam, 2001: 65).  Every Sunday, he invited Protestant pastors to hold a service in the Blue House.  Kim Young-sam told me that he had never skipped Sunday services during his presidency, even on overseas visits.  When he visited Czech Republic in March, 1995, he invited a local Korean pastor to hold a Sunday service where he was staying.  “I visited Czech Republic, the second country I visited [as President].  Many Korean residents there warmly welcomed me when I got the airport of Prague…the next day a Korean pastor studying there led a Sunday service in my lodging place” (Kim Young-sam, 2001b: 42).

Kim Young-sam used to ask various prominent evangelical pastors to pray for him and the nation.  Kim attests in his autobiography:

 

I am still thankful to those pastors for their helping me to lead the country with the courage by Prayer and wisdom by God's words during my presidency. I endeavored continuously to lead a life of abstinence and moderation as a Christian and never skipped even one Sunday service during my presidency, including my overseas visits…In particular I am most grateful to Rev. Cho Yong-Gi and Kim Chang-hwan. Two pastors are those who gave me a great help with prayer when the country is at stake…I used to receive prayer on the phone before important meetings or statements usually by pastor Cho Yong-Gi and Kim Chang-hwan (2001b: 387).

 

Through this brief sketch, we see that Christian faith appears to have been a significant factor in Kim Young-sam’s life and his political career.  Many people I talked to felt that it was uncertain whether Kim’s democratic beliefs and struggle and were directly affected by his Christian convictions, however, they generally agreed that Kim’s democratic reforms reflected a strong Christian element.  (e.g. Interview # 4)

 


 

The Protestant pastors who led a Sunday service in the Blue House (mentioned by Kim, Young-sam, 2001b: 385-387): Han Kyung-jik, Cho Yong-gi, Kim Chang-hwan, Kim Sam-hwan, Park Cho-jun, Kim Chang-in, Lim Young-su, Kim Sun-do, Kim Jin-hong, Ok Han-hum, Na Kyum-il, Kim Ki-su, Chang Cha-nam, Yi Chung-ik, Park Chang-hwan, Chung Young-hwan, Chung Young-taek, Kim Dong-kwon, Kim Jun-kyu, Choi Sung-kyu, Song Tae-kun, Sin Sung-jong, Son Sang-ryul. It is clear that those pastors mentioned above are mostly Protestant evangelical pastors who were leading the large congregations.


 

4.2   Kim’s Christian Faith and His Struggle for Democracy in Korea

One important task in assessing the role faith developing Korean democracy is to examine how his Christian faith is related to Y. S. Kim’s democratic struggle for Korea. The period of his presidency was five years, but the preceding democratic struggle lasted nearly 30 years.  Kim Young-sam made it clear in the interview that without his Christian faith he would not have undertaken a democratic struggle against the military regimes, and would not have been able to sustain his efforts:

 

When I was in the early stage of politician, many conservative Christians and pastors, including the senior pastor of the church I was attending persecuted me, saying that Christians should not participate in politics.  However, owing to Christian faith, I have had a sense of justice about the unjust.  There were many pains during my democratic struggle, however, the power I was able to stand against those pains and persecutions was the Christian faith.  During my house arrest for nearly 3 years, I read over and over the Bible.  I could not help reading the Bible.  The Bible gave me power and comfort.  Christian faith gave me conviction and courage that there was nothing to be afraid of.

 

Kim emphasized that his courage for democratic struggle and conviction about democracy were inspired by Christian values.  He said that democracy was most important value in building a healthy society. (Interview # 16)  Kim told me that the most difficult period during his democratic struggle was the period of house arrest (1979-1982).  The military government prevented him from meeting people.  He found this a difficult period, and felt lonely, but his Christian faith gave him power.  During this captivity, he came to be very fond of Isaiah 41:10, for this scripture encouraged him: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.  He said that individual conviction has exerted more influence on this own struggle for democracy than organizational context or opportunities had.

 

4.3   Kim’s Young-sam’s Democratic Vision and Reforms as President

Because Kim Young-sam played a particularly prominent role as Korea’s President, and the President, moreover, who presided over the completion of Korea’s democratic transition, it is also essential to look at his conduct of the Presidency, and consider whether or how that was influenced by his evangelical Christian faith.

In his Inaugural Address on February 25, 1993, President Kim outlined a community-oriented model of democratic consolidation under the name of a New Korea.  The New Korea he sketched was a sharing community, working and living together in harmony, in which justice would flow like a river.  (A reference to Amos 5:24)  Kim told me that his idea of a New Korea stemmed from his Puritan Christian faith:

 

The New Korea aimed at "clean government" and "clean nation", and I think it was closely related to my Christian faith. The core idea of the New Korea was to restore the spirit of Puritan Christian faith. For example, I did not allow any politicians to receive political fund. And I am still proud of that.

 

Kim’s notion of democracy goes beyond a merely electoral or minimalist definition of democracy which is used by many scholars, following Dahl’s (1971), in academic definitions of democratic transition and consolidation.  Kim Young-sam thought that democratic consolidation required the building a true moral community, by removing every vestige or enclave of authoritarianism, and refusing to make common cause with such things.  Institutionalization and elite convergence – conversely – do not figure prominently in his idea of consolidation.  Instead, purification and purgation are its most critical elements.  He tended to assume that attaining his democratic vision proceeded from individual ethical values and practices.

Thus, we turn now to looking at what Kim actually did in office:  how his vision was translated into concrete reforms.  The beliefs of political activists are a key element in causing political actions and change of regime, as Dahl argues in his seminal work Polyarchy (Dahl, 1971: 128-188) and as many have shown in subsequent research..  Kim’s own view was that his greatest achievements during the presidency were (1) Reform of the military; (2) the policy of the Real-name account; and (3) moral cleanness that he did not receive political funds. (Interview # 16)  Hahn Bae-ho (1997: 2-7) summaries the nature of change during the democratization reform of Kim Young-sam under six headings:  (1) From political unrest to political stability;  (2) Depoliticization of the military;  (3) From centralized rule to regional autonomy;  (4) From coercion to compromise;  (5) From surveillance to respect for public opinion; and  (6) From all-powerful executive branch to party politics.  However, here I have organized the achievements of his administration under a series of concrete measures or issues areas:  Real-Name reform, local autonomy, election reform, and reform of the military.

Real Name Reform.   Kim Young-sam carried out an important democratic tax reform, called Reform of Real Names.  Korean inheritance tax was often evaded by the very wealthy by registering assets under fictitious names, a practice which was, in itself, legal.  The Reform of Real names was a law abolishing this common practice had facilitated political corruption as well as tax evasion.

Local Autonomy.   Also, he actively supported the enactment of local autonomy legislation and campaign reform legislation.  Under authoritarian rule, local government had virtually no autonomy from central government, either at the state, city, or town level:  in effect, it was merely a local administrative arm of the central government.  Accordingly, government was unresponsive to needs of local people, and often somewhat oblivious to essential local planning and economic needs.  Local autonomy legislation involved having key local officials elected, rather than appointed, and placing much more decision-making in local hands.

Campaign Reform.   Kim’s prominent democratic reform was often called the campaign to rectify the past, which began on October, 1995, with an investigation of the political slush fund amassed by former president Roh Tae Woo and later Chun Doo Hwan.  The two former presidents, Chun was sentenced to life in prison and Roh, seventeen years in prison, respectively.  In short, these reforms were steps toward making public officials, even at the highest level, accountable to serve the public interest and obey the law themselves.

Reduction of Military Interference in Politics.   President Kim Young-sam's reform of the military was one of the greatest achievements of his presidency.  Many new democracies have been threatened, explicitly and implicitly, by a military establishment that regards itself as the privileged definer and guardian of the national interest (Diamond, Linz, and Lipset, 1995: 46). In the case of the countries which make the transition from the military autocratic regime to the democratic government, the fate of the country rests on whether the civilian control of the military succeed. Some Latin American countries are example of this: although they attained democratic transition, they have been plagued by the military intervention of politics because of failure of the perfect control of the civilian government on the military.   Kim Young-sam (2001a) writes in his autobiography that dismantling the power of the military was carried out by a thorough plan which he knew to be a risk.  Kim realized the significance of elimination of military power (Kim, Young-sam, 2001a: 125, translation from Korean).    As soon as Kim assumed the presidency, he dismantled the whole power of the Hanahwoe (which means One Association), a completely private, secret organization within the Army which had great influence.  Doing so was quite important for reducing the possibility of military subversion and coups, and of course therefore also enabled civilian authority much freer to operate independently of the views and demands of the military.  The potential for military subversion has been further preempted by the relatively good performance of democracy in South Korea.

These reforms were concrete measures, with lasting impact for the most part, which put Kim’s principles, or democratic vision, into practice.  Kim's vision of moral democratic community for New Korea seems to have been influenced by his own Christian conviction, as discussed above.  As a Presbyterian elder, in a mega-church, Kim was schooled in a strict Calvinistic vision of society. However, Kim’s vision to build the moral community of a New Korea, while it was an impressive motto, encountered setbacks, and Kim was involved in significant failures, mistakes, and discouragements, also, in the course of his Presidency.

 

4.4   Mistakes, Failures, and Disappointments and Limitations in Kim Young-sam’s Presidency and Democratic Reforms

However, Kim Young-sam’s moral vision itself has not been very effective in consolidating democratic institutions and legitimating democratic values.  From the beginning of President Kim's administration, his political party, the Democratic Liberal Party had connections with conservatives and authoritarian elements of previous military rules.  Kim's Democratic Liberal Party was the product of a coalition with a previous ruling party controlled by its military leaders.  Before the national election, Kim Young-sam shrewdly joined with the ruling party to extend his political power base.  With this coalition of political powers he won the election, but his alliance with his former foes, the former foes of democracy, necessarily compromised his stands.  Consequently Kim's policies and reforms had limitations (Kang, 1997: 144).

Kim himself notes the difficulty that he faced during his reform:

 

I felt that reform was more difficult than revolution. Many people supported real-name reform, but once I began the policy, many opposing forces emerged. They thought that the policy would not bring them benefit. I began to know that many people objected to policies when their vested interests were threatened. The most difficult people were conservative forces and forces of vested interests.

 

The inauguration of Kim Young-sam government in grand alliance of conservative groups and progressive groups defined the way that reforms would be carried out.  In short, they were “reforms from above” in a situation in which the very problem was bound up with top-down governance.  In seeking to defend himself, Kim also acknowledges that his model of A New Korea tended to be framed by his personal decisions – again, a top-down and unaccountable method – rather than the institutionalization of politics.  Yet he tends to view this as an unintended result, as something that happened to him without his control. (Interview # 16)  In a passage that recalls Lazaro Cardenas’ famous ironic defense of his having included the military as one of the four leading sectors of the PRI – Cardenas reminded critics that it had been the one and only effective political force before – Kim complains:

 

Some scholars may not understand the reality of politics. For example, in regard to military reform, I could not, should not, say anything about it before I became the president. During the Chun regime, one general called all the congressmen who belonged to the National Security Committee to the party.  There all the congressmen were beaten hard by military soldiers and nobody could reveal the event at that time. The military power was absolute. Also, in regard to the Real-Name Reform, if the reform was known beforehand, it was impossible to execute the reform.  So I had to make major decisions alone.

 

It may be argued that the important reason that democratic reforms were carried out by Kim’s personal fiat was that Korean political society was dominated by conservatism.  Further, the structure of the ruling party was schizophrenic; one group moved toward reforms, while another group moved toward conservatism (Choi, Jang-jip, 1996: 251).  When the “reforms from above” were carried out, the co-existence of these heterogeneous elements were a structural limitation hindering the reform itself.  But in making himself the personal center of rule and in keeping his power by direct appeals directly to the people, ignoring the mediating process rather than working the political system, Kim Young-sam’s political reforms were transformed into populism.  (Kim, Se-jung, 1999: 128).

Lee Jeong-jin (2000) argues that the institutional democracy of politics is closely related to popular support rather than personal ability.  During Kim's presidency, public support became a crucial resource of power for the president.  Kim Young-sam carried out reform policies in the early part of his term on the basis of strong popular support.  But as the public support rate for him gradually declined after 1994, Kim's influence within the ruling group was weakened, and he frequently shifted his position in making important decisions, following public opinion.  In part this arose from scandals in his administration, including a crucial scandal involving Kim’s son, which was linked to the failure of Hanbo Steel, Inc., which became known in 1997.  Public approval declined markedly, relatively early on in his administration; as Table 7 shows.  As the South Korean economy went into crisis in the later part of his presidency, he lost almost all of his presidential authority.

 

 

From Kim Young Sam’s incomplete attempt at democratic consolidation, we may suggest that institutionalization of democratic procedures will be not be very effective unless the primordial or particularistic political habits and corrupt practices of the authoritarian past are transformed into community-oriented and universalistic ones (Han, 1999: 203).  His democratic attempt was also hindered by the officials own self-interests and particularistic interests, notably by the imprisonment of his two immediate predecessors and his own son (bribery and tax evasion).  Indeed, the compromised character of Kim’s rule due to the inclusion of many long-time anti-democratic forces might be said, in a way, to have arisen from Kim’s choice to make alliance with them, and this may have reflected a willingness of Kim’s part to relax his principles or democratic commitments to assure that he would gain power.  Kim acknowledges that he failed to inculcate people with democratic consciousness (for instance that low-ranking government officials were still willing to receive bribes), saying that many Korean people seem to be still conforming to the old legacies of bad habits (Interview # 16).  Kim complained that he had a great difficulty in meeting people’s great expectations from his democratic reforms.  Although people had great expectations, he noted, they failed to support him when his reforms jeopardized their own vested interests.  (Interview # 16)

Kim Young-sam's democratic reforms were a kind of “delegative democracy”, as O'Donnell (1994) develops that concept:  they were based on the leader’s personal decisions, without much involvement with political parties and institutionalized systems.  Whether or not there is a core group supporting reform is an essential factor in determining its ultimate success or failure (Hahn, Bae-ho, 1997: 10).  Neither the apparatus of Kim's ruling party nor the bureaucrats were committed supporters of Kim's reforms.  The president was his own key supporter:  he had to generate support anew for each new issue.  In a word, Kim Young-sam failed to build a broad alliance that could have spearheaded his democratic reforms.

Kim told me that the concept of democracy he had before becoming Presidency changed as a result of holding office:  he said he learned that just the direct election of the president and the freedom of the press were not sufficient for democracy; instead a mature democratic consciousness in the population was important.  (Interview # 16)

However, some critics also insist that Kim Young-sam’s personality structure was authoritarian – that in the course of strife against military dictators he had developed a non-liberal character, in effect picking up the ways of his foes.  (e.g. Kim, Se-jung, 1999).  Again we see here that a person’s general democratic convictions are one thing and that person’s capacity and willingness to effect democratic reform is another.  A shadow falls between the dream and the reality.  Democratic realities and practices are harder to achieve than unpracticed democratic ideals.

Y.S. Kim's institutional reforms have failed to bring about substantive democratization.  While Kim's successes thoroughly infuriated many authoritarians, his failures have equally disenchanted many democrats.  That’s one reason why the Kim Young Sam government ended up immensely unpopular.  Kim felt a great deal of anguish and pain when he resigned his presidency, although he said to me that his Christian faith helped him to overcome those difficult periods (Interview # 16).

A new democracy normally faces great challenges, because of the legacy of the past discredited regime (Rose, Shin, and Munro, 1998: 3).  The experience of Kim’s democratic reforms shows how hard for democracy to be consolidated, how difficult to break with the authoritarian past and destructive cultural values.  Working out the task of balancing self-interests with the common good in its details is perhaps more difficult to achieve than the initial installation of democratic institutions.  After democratic procedures have been put in place, popular dissatisfaction with public performance and public officials may remain, and developing adequate ways to respond to public concerns remains a daunting challenge.  Kim Young-sam’s democratic reforms and failures highlight the importance of the democratic culture of political parties and a mature democratic consciousness in a country’s population.  Song Ho-gi characterizes the democratic reforms of the Kim regime as “the delayed consolidation of democracy”.  Our study of Kim Young-sam’s presidency suggests that his own Christian faith influenced his democratic convictions, but it could not guarantee his democratic practice.

 

4.5   The Role of Religion in Evangelical Politicians’ Thought and Action

What kind of function does religion play in politicians’ thinking and action?  This section turns from a detailed examination of one prominent leader, Y.S. Kim, to look at evangelical protestants in Korean politics more broadly.  The relationship between politicians and religion can be looked at many ways, and certainly is in a religiously plural society such as Korea.  First I would like to briefly sketch out the present picture of evangelical weight in Korean political society.  In the 1992 elections for the National Assembly it was claimed that ninety Protestants were elected out of 299 congressmen (Korean Torch, July-Sep. 1993: 22).  The number of Protestants in the National Assembly gradually increased (Interview # 3).  Interestingly, the number of Christian politicians is particularly large in the 16th National Assembly, which started in 2000.  (See Table 8.)

 

 

In the 16th National Assembly congressmen with religion occupy 75.9 per cent.  This suggest that in contemporary Korean society the role of religion can never be overlooked.  The presence of evangelicalism is given much weight in the political arena. Christian congressmen (Protestant and Catholic) are comprised of 177 members, which is nearly 65 per cent of all congressmen.  This percentage is much above that of Christians in the population, which is around 26%*».  Among the 112 Protestant congressmen, there are 68 congressmen who hold important church positions (e.g. deacon or elder), and there is one Anglican priest (Lee Jae-jung).  Some congressmen attend the Korean mega-churches which have more than 10,000 adult attending on Sunday services.  Five congressmen attend the Yoido Full Gospel Church, and five also attend Somang Church.  There is at least one each who attend Onnuri Church and Sarangui Church (Church of Love).  It is clear, then, that many key political leaders are Christians.

Conflicts between personal convictions and party loyalties are one index of religious influence.  A survey of “congressmen and religion” (Kim, Sung-woong, 2000) found that 84 per cent of Protestant congressmen (43 out of 51 responding) and 93 per cent of Catholic congressmen (14 out of 15 responding) said their Christian faith contributed to their political activities, and, in particular, influenced their decision-making and policy views.  This was a higher percentage than for Buddhist congressmen (62%) or those without a stated religious affiliation (33%).  When asked what they would do in a case where the views of the political party with which they are affiliated came in conflict with religious convictions, Protestant congressmen divided evenly between saying they would follow their party’s line (36%) and saying they would follow their religious convictions (36%).  Some 27 per cent of Protestant congressmen said they would reserve their decision – that is, that it would depend on circumstances.

Kim Young-jin (2000), an MDP congressman and the president of the BPMNA, takes the view that religion is above politics, as religion is the norm of providing meaning and guides where to go forward. Kim believes that politics has a great influence on even the deepest areas of human life, and religion can and should contribute to the making of good and happy community.

Evangelical influence can be seen not only in individual congressmen, and in the numbers of believers holding office, but also in organizational activities.  Protestant congressmen organized the Breakfast Prayer Meeting of the National Assembly (BPMNA, Kukka Chochan Kidohoi) as early as 1968.  This led to the organization of a Buddhist Breakfast Prayer Meeting from 1980 on.  The BPMNA is the most well-organized group of Christian congressmen, and it has exerts a definite Christian influence on politics.  The former representative of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), Kim Jung-kwon (a devout evangelical Christian), the former president of the United Liberal Democrat Party (ULDP), Kim Jong-phil, president of the ULDP, and the former president of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Hoi-chang, all are involved as advisors in the BPMNA.  As is plain, many of the key leaders are Christians.

Evidently, evangelical Christians occupy a significant place in Korean politics.  The evangelical Protestant political presence is far greater than the Protestant percentage in the general population, as we have seen, as if Protestants had provided an initial basis for political society in a historically traumatized country where political society was lacking.  (Freston, 2001: 68).  This makes evangelicalism potentially crucial for democratic consolidation in Korea.  However, compared with its broad representation, the development and fulfillment of a Christian vision for politics is very weak (Interviews # 3 and 18).  One evangelical congressman, Hwang Woo-Yea makes a point of this.  (Interview # 14)  He initiated the Christian Institute for Politics in 1998 with a view to helping Christian politicians do politics with a Christian mind.  The Institute has held several seminars, but it has not yet assumed a definite institutional shape.  The institute held an international symposium on “Korean Christianity and Politics” on 22 March, 2002.  Some Christian politicians who participated in the symposium pointed out various structural barriers they faced as Christians in pursuing political reforms.  Cho Bae-suk, an MP of the Millennium Democratic Party, told me that Christian politicians must collaborate with a Christian mind for political reforms (Interview # 19).  Some other MPs also told me that there was no systematic effort among evangelical politicians for the institutionalization of party politics.

Here we see that the Christian political vision of Korean society and political reformation is often hampered by the structural factors of weak insitutionalization of political parties or divided political interests.   The task of developing a consolidated, well-working party system is one still to be accomplished in Korea, and Evangelical politicians could contribute powerfully to this.  As we have seen in the case of Kim Young-sam’s democratic reforms, personal Christian vision of democracy is not sufficient to bring about the substantive democracy.  Work by a healthy band of evangelical Christians may be needed to help bring about a better institutionalized political system.

 

 

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