, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 415–422 | Cite as

Same-Sex Marriage, Korean Christians, and the Challenge of Democratic Engagement

  • Joseph Yi
  • Joe PhillipsEmail author
  • Shin-Do Sung
Culture and Society


The contest over gay rights (e.g., same-sex marriage) dramatizes the clash between increasingly nonwhite (“majority-world”), religious conservatives and mostly white, progressives. It renews longstanding debate about the compatibility of religious conservatism and liberal, pluralistic democracy. A study of one influential group, Korean Christians, shows that the younger, western-educated generation generally combines religious conservatism and political liberalism; they are much more likely to espouse liberal-democratic principles and to participate in the larger, plural society than the older, immigrant generation. However, the polarizing politics of gay rights partly reverses the generational pattern: the historically insular, first generation participate more in mainstream politics, while some western-educated, second-generation Korean Christians become intolerant and isolated from elite-educated circles. Ideological minorities self-segregate themselves in the face of hostile, energized majorities, whether progressives in Korean Christian circles or conservatives in secular, educated ones. Public deliberation on same-sex marriage depends on whether it becomes viewed like the clear-cut issue of interracial marriage or the more ambiguous one of abortion.


Proposition 8 Same sex marriage Korean Asian Christian Evangelical Immigration Generation 

Further Reading

  1. Bishop, B. 2008. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing us Apart. New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  2. Brooks, D. 2000. Bobos in Paradise. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  3. Catapano, P. 2011. “Dead in the Water?” New York Times, July 1.
  4. Conger, K. H., & McGraw, B. T. 2008. Religious Conservatives and the Requirements of Citizenship: Political Autonomy. Perspectives on Politics, 6(2), 253–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. de Tocqueville, A. 1969. In J. P. Mayer (Ed.), Democracy in America. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  6. Egan, P. J., & Sherrill K. 2009. “California’s Proposition 8: What Happened, and What Does the Future Hold?” January.
  7. Gibbs, N. 2008. “Why Have Abortion Rates Fallen?” Time, January 21.Google Scholar
  8. Healy, P. D. 2005. “Senator Clinton Speaks of ‘Common Ground’ on Abortion,” New York Times, January 24.Google Scholar
  9. Jeffreys, D. 2007. “South Korea turns against ‘arrogant’ Christian hostages,” The Independent, August 4.
  10. Jenkins, P. 2002. “The Next Christianity.” The Atlantic Monthly, October.
  11. Kim, R. Y. 2006. God’s New Whiz Kids?: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kraynak, R. P. 2001. Christian Faith and Modern Democracy. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  13. Lampman, J. 2007. “How Korea embraced Christianity.” The Christian Science Monitor, March 7.
  14. Mutz, D. 2006. Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Park, C.-S. 2003. Protestantism and Politics in Korea. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  16. Paulson, M. 2007. “Christian school to host gay activists.” Boston Globe, April 16.Google Scholar
  17. Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. 2010. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  18. Steinberg, D. I. 1989. The Republic of Korea: Economic Transformation and Social Change. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  19. Stouffer, S. 1955. Communism, Conformity and Civil Liberties. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  20. Wolfe, A. 2003. The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceHanyang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of Global StudiesPusan National UniversityBusanSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Public AdministrationHankuk University of Foreign StudiesSeoulSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations