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Korean Religions Unit

Call for Proposals

The Korean Religions Unit welcomes proposals for papers sessions, roundtable sessions, and individual papers. Proposals in all areas of Korean Religions will be considered. This year, we especially invite submissions to the subtopics proposed by interested AAR members, as listed below. If you would like to contribute to one of the panel proposals below, please contact the organizer(s) directly, and submit your proposal at least two weeks prior to the AAR submission deadline which will be on February 27, 2023, 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.


Megachurches in South Korea: anthropological, historical, and sociological exploration 

Organizer: Timothy Lee (

South Korea is home to five of the twenty largest megachurches in the world, including the largest, Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has for decades been the poster child of the megachurch phenomenon. Korean megachurches have attracted admiration from church growth devotees and criticisms from detractors of the phenomenon. Yet they have rarely received sustained dispassionate exploration. Engaging in such exploration is the aim of this panel. We seek proposals that aim to explore Korean megachurches through historical, anthropological, sociological, or other disciplinary lenses.  Proposals may treat the phenomenon as a whole as it is manifested in Korea or particular instances of it on specific issues. Also welcome are proposals that seek to compare Korean megachurches with megachurches in other countries.


The Varieties of Korean Exceptionalism: Religion and Ethno-Nationalism 

Organizer: Minjung Noh (

A sense of exceptionalism, or superiority, often appears among the religious groups in Korea. Korean Buddhists, Confucians, Christians, and New Religions' leaders have often stated that they have exceptional quality in their religious doctrine, practice, and identity. This can involve a sense of national pride, philosophical developments, or unique practices. For example, some Chosun dynasty academics claimed that they preserved the orthodoxy of neo-Confucianism, Korean/Korean American evangelical Christians have argued that they are the new Chosen People, and a number of Korean new religious leaders—including Unification Church, Jeungsangyo, Shincheonji, and many others—have argued their messianic status as the source of religious authority. In addition, the explosive global popularity of Korean popular culture created a Hallyu (Korean Wave) phenomenon that accompanies the religious transnational fandom. In such a backdrop of religious and cultural history, what distinguishes religious phenomena of Korea from others? What constitutes Korean exceptionalism and what are the consequences in domestic and transnational spheres? What are the roles of politics, ethno-nationalist ideology, race, and gender therein? In this panel, we seek critical engagement with broadly construed Korean exceptionalism in religion on various levels, both historically and methodologically. We welcome paper proposals that address the connections between Korean religious diaspora and global culture as well as explorations on the concepts of Korean locality and indigeneity. 


Veneration of the Dead in Korean Religions 

Organizer: Liora Safarti (

Ancestors are an integral part of Korean vernacular religious practices, be it Confucian ancestor rituals or shamanic rituals for appeasing spirits; Buddhist priests are invited to chant sutras after funerals and host cremated remains in their temples; dead leaders feature in many Christian denominations and New Religions as founders, protectors, and respected elders. This panel seeks research papers that explore how the dead are venerated in Korean contemporary and historic religious groups, and what makes them central in each case. Work on recent veneration practices related to victims of mass deaths such as the sinking of the Sewol Ferry and the Itaewon disaster is especially welcome.


Lastly, the Evangelical Studies Unit and the Korean Religions Unit welcome proposals for a joint session on Christian in South Korea that explores the anthropological, historical, and sociological dimensions of evangelical megachurches, and also studies that use a transpacific lens.


Any other papers that address the relationship between society, culture, and religion as broadly construed can be submitted directly through the AAR portal. Other inquiries can be directed to Sean Kim, or Liora Sarfati In submitting proposals, please follow the AAR guidelines carefully.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit provides a forum for the scholarly exchange of ideas on the religions of Korea. It addresses all aspects of religions and religious experiences of Korea — past and present and traditional and modern. The Unit investigates Korean religions in all its diversity, including social, cultural, historical, political, and philosophical, giving full weight to the complexity of religious phenomena in Korea. The Unit encourages conversations that compare aspects of Korean religions with those of other religious traditions, as well as theoretical conversations about religion that are grounded in Korean religions. In order to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of Korean religions, the Unit welcomes scholars from both in and outside of Korean religions and fosters a dialogue among scholars from different religious traditions as well as different disciplinary approaches to religions.


Steering Committee Members


Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members