Dear Workshop,

On Thursday, May 10, M. Sahm Suh, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion will present a chapter from his dissertation:


“The Conservative Turn of the New Christian Right”


Time: 12:00, Thursday, May 10, 2012

Place: Swift Hall, Room 400

Food: Snacks provided, feel free to bring your lunch!

Paper: Copies of the essay are available by emailing


A short quote from Sahm’s chapter follows:

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, urban displaced persons and social outcasts thronged into the Chonggye Creek area of Seoul, making temporary homes in tin-roofed shacks. Most of these people left their rural hometowns for the metropolis without a clear prospect of how they would support themselves at a time when the entire nation was undergoing a rapid process of industrialization and urbanization, in line with Park Jung Heefs state-driven modernization project. It was in this part of Seoul that Kim Jin-hong, then a young seminary student, founded the Hwalbin (Invigorating the Poor) Church in 1971. Inspired by American social activist Saul Alinsky and Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, transmitted via Korean Minjung theologians, Kim believed that Christians should strive for social salvation as well as the redemption of individual souls. Therefore, in 1964, Kim participated in student rallies to protest against the restoration of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan 20 years after the end of the colonialism, and, as a seminary student, went to work in a factory “to become a friend of workers.” In January 1974, he joined a group of young pastors in openly criticizing Park Jung-hee’s issuance of the First Emergency Measure, which restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and association. Kim was subsequently imprisoned for civil disobedience for over a year. When he was accused of being an endogenous, if not pro-North Korean, socialist because of his public challenges to the government, Kim readily admitted that he was a “biblical” socialist.4 In line with this classification, the key motive of Kim’s faith-based social activism was to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and the Lukan Jesus, responding to the divine call “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”


Thirty years later, this Christian liberationist pastor seems to have radically changed his ideological stance, along with several other evangelical leaders who played key roles in the labor and democratization movements in the 1970s and 1980s. In keeping with their left-leaning stance in the past, these pastors remain critical toward the past military dictatorship and blind subscription to Cold War propaganda. Nevertheless, they unequivocally root for (formal) democratization and neoliberal capitalism and strongly oppose socialist policies and antiglobalization ideologies. Over the last decade, these pastors have not only fiercely mounted criticism against their past comrades or the ’80’s student movement generation for being captives of bygone socialist ideologies, but have also proactively participated in reviving and reforming conservatives as an important part of the so-called “New Right.” Since this group of evangelical leaders has always been active in public engagements and recently underwent an ideological conversion from the left to the right, I call them the “New Christian Right” (hereafter, NCR) to contrast them with the OCR group, which has consistently been conservative in ideological orientation.



Best wishes,




Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Paul Chang in advance at