POPULATION48,860,500 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$32,100 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSChristian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
AT THE CENTER
Susan Martin on Tension Between Activism Against Sex Trafficking and Activism Against Forced Labor (Full Screen)
Mark Lagon on the Importance of Long-Term Protection for Survivors of Human Trafficking (Full Screen)
South Korea has a secular democratic government and a plurality of its population expresses no religious affiliation. The country is notable for being the only East Asian nation in which a historically Western faith (Christianity, 29.3% of the population) outnumbers the largest historically Asian faith (Buddhism, 22.8%), reflecting sustained Christian missionary work over the past century. These religious traditions are influenced by Korean Confucianism and native shamanism, both of which are deeply embedded in Korean culture after acting as the official faiths of various Korean kingdoms for one and a half millennia. Christianity began gaining converts in the late 19th century, and many Christians played a prominent role in the independence movement against Japanese occupation (1905-45). Christian numbers grew exponentially in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the proportion of Protestants is decreasing, while Catholicism and Buddhism are growing. The Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and practice, and forbids the establishment of any religion. Military service is mandatory for men, with no exception for religious obligations.