Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Yang Zhong

Committee Members

Robert B. Cunningham, David L. Feldman, David J. Houston, Rachelle M. Jacobs


In order to shed some light on how religion affects the consolidating democracy in South Korea, this research focuses on the relationship between individual’s religiosity and their political attitudes, particularly: (1) political tolerance, which is considered a prerequisite for democratic consolidation, and (2) political ideology, which enables us to look at the impact of religion on people’s political behavior.

In terms of the research design, this research uses a quasi-experimental design, a survey design for hypothesis testing using statistical procedures (sample size = 994, sample frame = all adults over 20 years old who live in Seoul, the capital of South Korea). In order to analyze a numeric data, Generalized Least Estimation is applied with two types of data transformation (Orthogonalized Data Transformation and Univariate Missing Data Imputation).

In relation to the first dependent variable (people’s level of political tolerance), it is confirmed that Buddhists are more likely to be tolerant than Protestants in Korea, and Protestants have the lowest level of political tolerance among the three popular religious groups (Catholicism, Buddhism, and Protestantism). In terms of the culture wars thesis, it is confirmed that religious traditionalists have lower levels of political tolerance than religious modernists. Thus, religious traditionalists have a negative impact on democratic consolidation due to their low levels of political tolerance.

In relation to the second dependent variable (people’s political ideology), it is confirmed that Catholics are more likely to be liberal than other religious groups in Korea, and Protestants are more likely to be conservative than other religious groups due to the theological doctrines of Protestantism (evangelicalism and theological inerrancy). Moreover, the data analysis confirms that Buddhists in Korea are more likely to be conservatives than Catholics. Based on these findings, it is assumed that negotiating between religious groups’ political interests or policy preferences will be very difficult, and overcoming this difficulty will be a crucial factor in the process of Korean democratic consolidation.

Finally, in order to suggest a better model for investigating the relationship between religion and politics, this research develops a new model, which enables us to compare the explanatory powers of the two dominant theories (the ethnoreligious and the culture wars theses). Given this new model, we can examine the impact of dynamic characteristics of religion (belonging, behaving, and believing) on politics.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."