Menue phone
all research fellows

Prof. Kyuhoon Cho, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

(01–02/2019, 07–08/2019)

Areas of Interest

  • sociology of religion
  • religion and secularity in East Asia
  • transnational religious networks
  • North Korean religion
  • religious diversity in the context of globalisation

Secularity and the Formation of Religion in South and North Korea

This research project begins with the hypothesis that the incorporation of East Asia into a globalised modern world conditions ways in which both religion and the nation are constructed in modern Korea. The theoretical suggestion of multiple secularities provides a systematic framework that helps one to investigate in a global comparative perspective not only the historical rise of the category of religion in many parts of the modern world, but also the modern transformations of the religious and other social spheres.

Societies in East Asia have been active contributors to the global engagement with divergent expressions of religion and the secular. Whether through accepting, appropriating and/or resisting secularism as a result of colonial attempts or experiences, or through elaborating and promoting their own versions of secularity, East Asian nations have diversely defined their various traditions as “religion”, “civilisation”, “spirit” or “magic/cult/superstition” in their respective modernizing courses.

During the fellowship, I plan to interrogate the interactions between politics of secularism and changing religious expressions in East Asia, especially how the interactions between forms of secularity and religious discourses and practices have contributed to the rise of nation-states, transformed the religious terrains, and reformulated the modern functional systems such as political, legal, and educational institutions in a globalised Korea. Research up to the present makes me conjecture that unlike in China and Japan, secularism in 20th century Korea played a crucial role in implanting a somewhat positive understanding of “religion as the modern or national spirit” as well as explosively expanding and invigorating the field of religion. Based on the theoretical studies and empirical researches mentioned above, this research project is composed of three distinctive but related strands:

  • The first feature of the project concerns the conception of religion in special reference to the rise of the modern secular nation in Korea. To answer to this question, I will focus on the intersection between religious traditions and secular institutions in Korean societies from a comparative perspective.
  • Secondly, I will examine the political activism of Protestantism in globalised South Korea. The conceptual study of religion provides theoretical underpinnings to clarify the divergent loci and roles of Protestant groups in the making and re-making of the Korean nation in a globalised modern world.
  • The third research strand is to interrogate the religious system of North Korea as a transnational place. To do this, I will suggest a threefold methodology, which is designed to overcome expected difficulties to study the religiosity of North Korea, one of the most inaccessible societies in the world.



Assistant Professor, Department of Gender, Religion and Critical Studies, University of Regina, Regina (CAN)


Research Associate, Asian Institute of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto, Toronto (CAN)


Research Professor, Institute of History and Culture, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul (KOR)


Research Fellow, Asia Center, Seoul National University, Seoul (KOR)


Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (SGP)


Postdoctoral Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore (SNG)


Visiting Scholar, Institute of Asian Research, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver (CAN)


PhD, Religious Studies, The University of Ottawa, Ottawa (CAN)

Relevant Publications

  • Cho, Kyuhoon (forthcoming): Muslims in Contemporary South Korea: Islamic Religion and the Cultural Politics of Ethnicity. In: Yuka Kobayashi (Hg.): Muslim Minorities in East Asia: Accommodation and Contestation in the Lived Experience of East Asian Muslims: Amsterdam University Press; University of Chicago Press.
  •  Park, Hyung Wook and Kyuhoon Cho. “Science, State, and Spirituality: Stories of Four Creationists in South Korea.” History of Science 56, no. 1 (2018): 35–71.
  • Park, Jin K., Kyuhoon Cho, and Sam Han. “Religion and Media: No Longer A Blindspot in Korean Academia.” Journal of Korean Religions 8, no. 2 (2017): 5–10.
  • Cho, Kyuhoon. “Religion in the Press:: The Construction of Religion in the Korean News Media.” Journal of Korean Religions 8, no. 2 (2017): 61–89.
  • Cho, Kyuhoon. “Protestantism, Education and the Nation:: The Shifting Location of Protestant Schools in Modern Korea.” Acta Koreana 19, no. 1 (2016): 99–131.
  • Cho, Kyuhoon. “Religion and the Sustainable Modern:: The Crisis of Modern Secularity and the Emergence of Contextual Transcendence.” Studies in Religion 76, no. 3 (2016): 125–56.
  • Cho, Kyuhoon. “Another Christian Right? The Politicization of Korean Protestantism in Contemporary Global Society.” Social Compass 61, no. 3 (2014): 310–27.
  • Cho, Kyuhoon. “Niklas Luhmann’s Theory on Religion: Religion as Autopoietic Communication System in Global Society.” The Critical Review of Religion and Culture 26, no. 9 (2014): 230–59.