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Infringing on the Freedom of Belief?
[ Issue 152 Page 7 ] Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 22:43:17 Hyunwoo Shin Junior Staff hwshin0102@gmail.com

Christians have always been known for their frequent and large-scale missions. Historic examples, such as the missionaries sent to Scandinavia to convert the Vikings, demonstrate the lengths some devout Christians will go to spread their religious teachings. While many practitioners of their faith are likely to take the more congenial route in preaching their principles, others resort to more aggressive and invasive measures. Christian religion- promoting groups are quite a common sight in Korean society; it isn’t a surprise to see them around the city or on campus. However, with the increasing number of groups being spotted on the KAIST campus, it is intriguing to explore their potential harms on international students.

The detriments caused by these organizations circulate around three main ideas: religious conflicts, the sense of fanaticism, and cultural conflicts.

In regards to religious conflicts, many international students at KAIST have their own religions. Therefore, at times they have a preexisting set of ideals they follow and believe in. Some of these ideals directly oppose or are in conflict with Christian beliefs. This causes some students to feel somewhat disrespected when Christian missionaries approach them without being sensitive to their religious backgrounds. Although practicing religion in public spaces and attempting to convert others is not prohibited by Korean law, there should be a set of “unspoken promises” that everyone, as society members, should uphold. Although opinions may vary regarding what exactly these “unspoken promises” should be, most people would concede that perhaps the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them unto you) should be one of them. If Christian missionaries are capable of thinking in other people’s shoes, they should be able to empathize how uncomfortable it might be to be badgered into forsaking one’s own religion to make room for another religion to be shoved down his throat. Accordingly, they should be more careful and selective in choosing who to promote their religion to. The missionary should at least take the effort to inform himself about the audience’s own preexisting faith.

Unfortunately, many international students who have lent their precious time to these promoters comment that some of the groups tend to practice radical or fanatic ideals. Unsurprisingly, students who have been approached by such groups will be likely to acquire a skewed impression of Christianity that is unrepresentative of its core values and teachings. This only undermines KAIST’s measures to harmoniously integrate different cultures and religions into their community.

One of the reasons Korean students don’t seem to complain about such groups being allowed into campus is because they have experienced similar instances before in their lives. However, to the international students who struggle to even communicate with Korean people on a daily basis, encounters with missionaries might be an overwhelming experience. The seeming lack of respect and consideration for other cultures from the missionaries may elicit hostile responses from international students, deepening misgivings and tensions stemming from cultural differences.

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