Diverse theological approaches to a divided land: a critical assessment of liberal and conservative South Korean protestant thinking on the problem of a divided Korea
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Embargo end date10/07/2020
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The main argument of this thesis is that neither ethnic-centred Christian nationalism, minjung discourse, nor an evangelism-focused approach toward the unification of Korea of South Korean Protestant churches has provided a theologically effective basis for the reconciliation and unification of the two Koreas among the South Korean populace who have been deeply influenced by anticommunism and anti-North Korean sentiment constructed through the modern history of Korea. Therefore, a critical assessment of, and a serious engagement with their manipulated memory and sentiment toward North Korea are essential for seeking justice, reconciliation and unification of Korea in accordance with the ethical imperatives of Christian tradition. Starting with the general history of political turmoil in South Korea after the division of Korea, and the emergence of nationalist discourses as well as the development of Minjung theology by South Korean liberal Christians, chapters 2 and 4 describe the unification discourses of the liberal camp of South Korean protestant churches which strove for the unification of Korea from a nationalist and minjung perspective. Chapters 3 and 5 examine the unification discourse of more conservative churches consisting of the majority of South Korean protestants who searched for national evangelisation which would make the North Korean communist regime collapse and eventually bring about the unification of Korea. Those chapters 2 to 5 show how the unification movement of the liberal camp of South Korean churches resulted in fractions and debates on anti-communism and the social responsibility of churches of South Korea, while that of conservative churches strengthened anti-communism among the South Korean populace as well as churches and impeded Christian discourse for peace and reconciliation of Korea. Following a historical and critical assessment of the unification discourse of the South Korean Protestant churches, chapter 7 explores how a Christian theology of memory and reconciliation could contribute to continuance of Christians’ longing for reconciliation and the unification of Korea according to the changing scope of the social and political realms of South Korea in the 21st century. The thesis concludes with an argument that South Korean Christians could contribute to reshaping discourses of reconciliation and unification of Korea by searching for just, truthful, and communal memory, which has been neglected by previous theological approaches toward the problems of a divided Korea.