This article explores the ideological divergence within South Korea’s Catholic population and chronicles its growing intensity during the presidency of Park Geun-hye, culminating in the unprecedented circumstances that led to Park’s impeachment and subsequent court-ordered removal from office. Our analysis shows how the intertwinement of political and religious beliefs fits into the larger historical trajectory of South Korea’s political development as well as the contentious debates that accompanied Park’s term as president. We further show how the controversies that accompanied the Park presidency and ultimately led to its downfall fueled dynamics of delegitimation between two Catholic civic groups: One that sought to advance liberal democracy and social democracy and placed emphasis on human rights and social welfare, and another driven by anti-communism, neoliberalism and, in some instances, extreme right-wing ideology. The ideological contestation between these two groups during the Park presidency—with both groups avowedly pursuing goals of justice and security but with diametrically opposing moral visions and policy prescriptions for South Korea—illustrates how church-related civil society organizations with competing outlooks continue to exert political influence in national arenas in the aftermath of ‘third wave’ democratization.
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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Religious studies