South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).
Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.
Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.
Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.
A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
The Buddha at a Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.
Some other information came from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.
Sometimes driving in other countries is easy, sometimes not so much. One of the most difficult aspects are the road signs and sometimes the signs are so different from what we’re accustomed to that they’re difficult to understand. If you don’t know the language, you have to do your best to understand them based on the diagrams or pictures on the sign, context of their placement and what other cars are doing; but sometimes those translations can be pretty comical.
Do you have a better caption for any of these? Leave it in a comment!
Outside of combat, it is not all that often when a Soldier in a unit dies. The exceptions are unfortunate, but demand that the unit properly and respectfully honor that Soldier. The options for the unit are essentially two: a Memorial Service or a Memorial Ceremony. The difference in the two are basically that a Memorial Service is religious in nature, while a Memorial Ceremony is patriotic in nature. A Memorial Service, being a religious service, cannot be required attendance for Soldiers, but since a Memorial Ceremony is basically patriotic (though with religious elements) the Soldiers of the unit can be required to attend, though in most circumstances the majority of the unit will want to be a part of the ceremony honoring their fallen comrade even when not required.
This week, a battalion in my brigade had the opportunity to honor a Soldier who was involved in an automobile accident. This Soldier was proficient and well-liked, so his loss was deeply felt by the unit, especially those in the deceased Soldier’s section. The Memorial Ceremony was an opportunity not only to honor the Soldier who died but also to give an opportunity for the unit to grieve together and begin to heal from their loss.
Here are some pictures from the Memorial Ceremony:
Following the “Last Roll Call,” the Honor Guard firing squad provides a 21-gun salute.
Upon completion of the 21-gun salute, the bugler plays Taps, out of sight of those in the ceremony, but where he can be heard by them. This isn’t the best of videos, but it shows the honor rendered to the fallen Soldier. This bugler did an excellent job.
While Memorial Ceremonies are not usually attended by family members, sometimes they are. This ceremony had the Soldier’s father in attendance. A video of the ceremony will also be sent to the other family members as a remembrance of the Soldiers honorable service and to show how the unit honored that service and the memory of the Soldier.
Memorial Ceremonies and Services are not only an effort to honor the fallen Soldier but also to provide an opportunity for the unit -often the Soldier’s closest friends- to remember, memorialize and honor their friend and comrade. Additionally, they give an opportunity for those Soldiers to grieve their loss and begin to heal and recover. This ceremony, with the remembrances shared by the unit leadership and friends and the message by the chaplain, went a long way toward bringing this healing to the unit’s Soldiers.
The U.S. forces in Korea have a large number of KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to U.S. Army) Soldiers working with us. The chaplain’s offices often have a KATUSA assigned to them. In my brigade, we have a KATUSA as part of the BDE UMT and one of our battalions also has a KATUSA. These KATUSAs are doing a 2-year tour of duty with about 18 months of it on assignment with us. They receive their rank based on time-in-service. My KATUSA was recently promoted to corporal and the battalion KATUSA was just promoted to sergeant. To help him celebrate his promotion, we went to Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek, a great meat buffet. Here’s some pictures: