Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




This dissertation reveals how religious factors affected the development of the Korean War. Much prior research has analyzed the causes and nature of the Korean War, in part because of the war's impact upon later events, from the Cold War to the present day geopolitical standoff. Though the war has been much-studied, religious factors have rarely been included in these analyses. This de-emphasis of religion may be a justifiable simplification in general war historiographies, but not in the specific case of Korea. This current study uncovers the unique role of religion in Korean-American relations and in Korean culture and politics, prior-to-and-during the time of the Korean War.;The Korean War ushered in a time of intimate collaboration between state and non-state actors, unparalleled in American diplomatic and military history. Because American missionaries had been working among Koreans for many years, they possessed the language skills, human connections, and geographical knowledge that the US military lacked. From the early days within the Pusan Perimeter through the late period at P'anmunjo˘m, American missionaries were highly visible on the frontline, at the negotiation table, and in the POW camps. They were also important to the battle of propaganda. their letters and reports aroused sympathy in America for the Korea people.;In addition to the contributions of American Missionaries, the effect of Korean Christians was an equally important factor to the shaping of the conflict. Churches were rather influential within Korean society; clergymen were active in Korean politics; and many of the top politicians were Christians. Christianity was a major obstacle to Communist control of the North and subversive activities in the South. With the assistance of foreign funding, churches were transformed by the ravages of war into an important source of charitable assistance for millions of impoverished refugees. Although this study looks at religious factors in general, the discussion focuses primarily on Protestant churches and Protestant missionaries. These Protestant churches, of all religious institutions in Korea; exerted an influence far disproportionate to their per capita membership. Similarly, these Protestant missionaries, of all religious actors, had significant influence upon the American military and upon the American public. In particular, the majority of missionaries who stayed behind and worked effectively with the Korean government and US military were from the American Presbyterian missions. They took the initiative on relief efforts and set the standard for others to follow.;This dissertation makes an important contribution to religious history as well. In the process of assessing the impact of Christianity upon the Korean War, this dissertation begins by examining Christianity's development within Korea, primarily from the arrival of American missionaries in the late Choso˘n period. Christianity is found to have had a strong impact upon Korea's social development, internal politics, and foreign-relations. The Christian community was an important part of the independence movement against Japanese control. When one considers that South Korea has emerged today as one of the most Christianized of nations, that every elected Korean president has been a Christian, and that Korea now sends out more missionaries than any nation besides America, then the historical value of such a study of into Christianity's origins becomes clear.



© The Author