South Korea’s Catholic population doubles in 20 years

Pope Francis with Korean pilgrims at a general audience in the Vatican last year (Vatican News/ANSA)

The number of Catholics in South Korea has almost doubled in the past two decades, a new study shows. Source: Vatican News.

By Robin Gomes, Vatican News

The study was conducted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea’s Pastoral Institute.

The number of Catholics increased by 48.6 per cent, from 3.9 million in 1999 to 5.8 million in 2018 and today they make up 11.1 per cent of South Korea’s 51 million population.

However, the year-to-year growth rate in the Catholic population has gradually slowed to below 1 per cent. In 2000-2001, the Catholic population grew 3.2 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively, before falling to the 2 per cent range until 2009. The growth rate dropped to 1.7 per cent in 2010 and briefly rebounded to 2.2 per cent in 2014 due to Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea. It then levelled off at around 1 per cent per year.

As for the ratio of Catholics in the nation’s population, it rose from 8.3 per cent to 11.1 per cent in the 1999-2018 period.

However, Sunday Mass attendance, considered a key indicator of faith life, has declined by about 10 points, from 29.5 per cent to 18.3 per cent during the past two decades.

The report speaks about the efforts of dioceses to revamp church attendance but there hasn’t been any significant improvement. The Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea is urging the Church in the country to reflect on its missionary thrust and reconsider the direction of “domestic evangelisation”.


Catholic population of S. Korea grows by 50per cent in 20 years (Vatican News

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