Abraham Kuyper was a pastor of a reform-minded church in the Netherlands. He criticized a church merely interested in salvation and established in 1879 the Anti-Revolution Party, a political group of Protestant churches. The Christian Democratic Party, which stems from the Anti-Revolution Party, is still a ruling party. In Germany and Italy, Protestant parties also emerged in protest against socialist parties following World War II. The Christian Democratic Union-Christian Socialist Union coalition remains the largest political party in Germany, while the Christian Democratic Party was Italy`s largest party until as recently as 1994.
In Korea, Protestant churches are moving to establish a party ahead of the general elections next year. The churches seem to have a victim mentality in that they believe Protestants came under attack by Buddhists and the Catholic Church despite an administration led by a Protestant elder, and say the ruling Grand National Party has failed to serve as a conservative party and is thus leaning toward the left. So the Protestant churches are discussing the need to establish a party of their own. The so-called National Coalition to Righteously Establish the Nation and Church led by the Rev. Choi Byeong-doo will hold a meeting of the nascent party`s founding members at Seoul`s Jangchung Gymnasium Tuesday.
The principle of separation of politics and religion under the Korean Constitution does not ban the establishment of a religion-based party, but Korea has seen little presence of religion-based parties. The Hoguk (Patriot) Party, which called itself a party of Buddhists, fielded a presidential candidate in 2002 but was dismantled later. In the 2008 general elections, the Unification Churchs Peaceful Reunification and Family Party fielded candidates in almost all constituencies nationwide, but saw its registration as a party revoked due to lack of public support. The Party for Implementing Christs Love established in 2007 is the country`s lone regional-based party but has no parliamentary seats. This is in contrast with the New Komeito Party of Japan, which was established by a Buddhist group and wields influence in Japanese politics.
Korean Protestants have no structure in which their churches can speak with one voice. The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the country`s largest, has its headquarters that represents the order. The Catholic Church can also amass opinions of the church through a meeting of bishops. In contrast, Korean Protestants are divided into the National Council of Churches Korea for liberals and the Christian Council of Korea for conservatives, and neither of them has authority corresponding to that of the Jogye headquarters or the Catholic Church`s meeting of bishops. As evidenced by the blocking of the governments move to enact the Sukuk Act for attracting Islamic funds into Korea, the Protestant influence in Korea cannot be ignored. Once the Protestant churches sets up a party, other regions could also do the same. What is worrisome is the possibility that the establishment of religion-based parties might foster inter-religious conflict in the country.
Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (firstname.lastname@example.org)