About half of Koreans confess to being affiliated with some religion. The most prominent religions in Korea are Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity. The most visible is Christianity with thousands of red crosses dominating the skylines. Confucianism is more of a code of ethics which has been firmly entrenched into the minds of Koreans. Buddhism brings the most character, culture and color to Korea while Shamanism is rarely seen or experienced by a foreigner. If you are looking for some spiritual guidance while you are in Korea, then you can easily find a church 100 yards from your apartment and a Buddhist temple somewhere in your neighborhood.
Christianity– Of the 50% of Koreans that claim to be affiliated with a religion, almost half of them call themselves Christians. In the 1980s the number of Christians in Korea skyrocketed giving Korea the second largest Christian population in Asia. Many people attribute the rise of Christianity to the fact shamanism is a monotheistic religion and Christianity seemed familiar. Christianity’s appeal came with the fact that it addressed the afterlife. You can find churches all over Korea, and some have an English speaking missionary who coordinates an English service every Sunday. Find more informationhere.
Buddhism– Even though Buddhism has had a difficult history in Korea, like the Korean people themselves, it has persevered. Though it was the official religion during the Goguryeo period, Buddhism was persecuted under the Joseon Dynasty who favored Confucianism over Buddhist thought. This is why you find many Buddhist temples high in the Korean hills, where they fled to practice far away from authorities. Buddhist temples are beautiful, interesting and extremely welcoming. You can even be a monk for a weekend at one of the many temple stays in the country. Read more about it here.
Confucianism– This code of ethics lords over Korean society. Confucianism has helped shape morality, law, relationships and most aspects of Korean life. Relationships with elders and family are deeply rooted in Confucianism. You can see it in everything from the way a person greets their elders or the deep commitment Koreans have to their families. You can also see Confucian influence in Korean pottery, tea ceremonies and gardens. Though Korea thinks of Confucianism as part of its past, it still manifests itself in almost every interaction you have with Koreans.
Shamanism– The Korean government tried to snuff out Shamanism from society by making it seem superstitious. For the most part it has worked as you find few shamans and shamanist in Korea. But as Korea becomes more modern and increasingly grasps for its past, aspects of shamanism are making a come back. Shamanists in Korea seek to solve problems by making connections with the deceased. Shamans, usually women, are the intermediaries and make these connections to solve all sorts of life’s problems including monetary and agricultural issues.