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South Korean parliament is most Catholic in history

South Korea Jesus statue

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October 1, 2012: Sunset view of Jesus statue on the roof of Donghang Cathedral against Busan Port Bridge with pink light on the sea at Busan Port

J-P Mauro - published on 04/24/24

While there is no single reason for the nation's growing confidence in Catholic leadership, Cardinal Heung-sik notes strong vocational awareness.

Recent elections held in South Korea have installed the highest percentage of Catholics in positions of leadership ever. Hailing from both the ruling and opposition parties, it seems that many Koreans who hold different political leanings are still willing to unify over their religious beliefs. 

According to UCA News, the April 10 elections saw 53 seats of the Democratic Party of Korea filled by Catholics, with an additional 16 from the ruling People Power Party. A further 11 Catholics taking seats for the New Reform Party brings the total of newly elected Catholic representatives in South Korea’s parliament up to 80, a number never before reached. 

Despite Catholic leaders appearing in every party, the power dynamic in South Korea was seen to shift in this election cycle. The opposition Democratic Party won 161 seats, while the People Power Party, of which President Yoon Suk Yeol is a member, walked away with only 90 seats. 

While many of these lawmakers retained seats from the last election, which takes place every four years in South Korea, the 2024 election showed an uptick in Catholic representatives, which now make up 27% of the 300-seat parliament, up from 25% in 2020.

This portion is almost an exact representation of the number of Christians in South Korea, which make up about 28% of the population, while Catholics account for about 11% of the population. 

While there is no clear explanation for the nation’s increasing confidence in Catholic leadership, it is worth pointing towards recent comments made by Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy, who spoke on his people’s tendency to approach many aspects of life as vocations

“Vocation is essentially the call to be happy, to take charge of one’s life, to realize it fully and not waste it,” the cardinal told the Vatican newspaper. “[The path to happiness,] is then embodied and realized in a life choice, in a specific mission and in the many situations of every day…

“We must not run the risk of thinking that the spiritual aspect can develop apart from the human one, thus attributing to God’s grace a kind of ‘magical’ power. God became flesh and, therefore, the vocation to which he calls us is always embodied in our human nature.”

Read more of Cardinal Heung-sik’s comments on vocations at the USCCB.

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