South Korean Culture


Religion can be a casual topic of conversation in Korea and is often a point of interest to many when meeting someone for the first time. It is not considered improper or prying to directly ask someone what their religious affiliation is during the first conversation after meeting them. According to 2015 estimates, more than half of the population (56.9%) is unaffiliated with any religion, 19.7% identify as Protestant Christians, 15.5% identify as Buddhists and 7.9% identify as Catholic.1


It should be noted that traditional Asian philosophies such as Confucianism are not always considered to be ‘religions’ by Korean people, but are rather more commonly perceived as a way of viewing life that can coexist with other religions. Many Korean people (including those who identify as non-religious) have some affiliation or understanding of traditional Asian philosophies, as the tenets and values of these belief systems still tend to have a strong influence on societal behaviours and practices.


The Korean variant of Buddhism is called Korean Buddhism. It is an approach to Buddhism refined by Korean thinkers to eliminate perceived discrepancies in Mahayana Buddhism. It is thought to have fewer inconsistencies and therefore is considered by its followers to be the more holistic school of Buddhism.


1 Central Intelligence Agency, 2017

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