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Pop religion

"Pop religion" Continued...

Issue: "Inside Election 2012," Oct. 20, 2012

Christianity, Kim said, is “part of this whole package” of cultural “glamor and modernity.” It’s also part of a cycle: Some Koreans first accepted Christianity from American missionaries because of their idealized perception of America.

Korea in July celebrated a milestone: The country now has more than 20,000 missionaries working in 169 countries, a number second only to that of the United States. Perhaps that’s why many churches embrace K-pop, despite increasing concerns about K-pop’s “slave contracts” and behind-the-scene mistreatment. 

Jason Yu remembers his first Easter service in Seoul. The service was held in a soccer stadium instead of a church. As the service began, the pastor announced, “We’re going to have a special guest today! Can you guess who it is?” 

Yu guessed it would be a famous pastor. Instead, it was U-KISS, a seven-member boy band. About half its members are Christians. The crowd roared. Some 15,000 attendees chanted, “U-KISS! U-KISS!” as the band strutted out to perform its newest hit song and an Easter-themed hymn. 

“I was in shock,” Yu said. “It was pretty crazy to me how K-pop bands would come out to church. … I wouldn’t be surprised if some [fans] come to church just for celebrity sightings. These fans, they love K-pop bands like a religion.”

Sophia Lee
Sophia Lee

Sophia is a features reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in print journalism and East Asian language and culture. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Shalom. Follow Sophia on Twitter @SophiaLeeHyun.

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