Confucian Identification, Ancestral Beliefs, and Ancestral Rituals in Korea

Jibum Kim, Jae Mahn Shim, Sori Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Since Koreans do not consider Confucianism to be part of religion, conventional religious identification questions cannot accurately capture the number of Confucians in Korea. Using the Korean General Social Survey and other data sources, we aim to describe the identification, beliefs, and practices related to Confucianism, especially ancestral rituals, and to examine whether these beliefs and practices differ across religious groups. Contrasted with 0.2% of the adult population identifying their religion as Confucianism in the 2015 Korean Census, 51% considered themselves as Confucians when asked, “(Regardless of your religious affiliation) do you consider yourself a Confucian?” If we consider those who think that rites for deceased family members are Confucian, the proportion was 44%. Considering those who conduct ancestral rites at a gravesite as Confucians, the proportion was 86%, but was only 70% when we count those who perform ancestral rites at home as Confucians. We also found substantial differences among religious groups. In general, Buddhists were most likely and Protestants were least likely to identify with Confucianism, believe in the power of ancestors, and perform ancestral rites. Perhaps most telling is the result of religious none falling in the middle between Buddhists and Protestants in terms of identification, beliefs, and rituals of Confucianism. The differences of religious groups appear to reflect religious syncretism and the exclusivity of religion. It is overstating to declare a revival of Confucianism, but it is reasonable to say that Confucianism is not a dying tradition in Korean society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2020S1A3A2A03096777).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Ancestor worship
  • Ancestral beliefs
  • Ancestral rituals
  • Confucian identification
  • Confucianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Confucian Identification, Ancestral Beliefs, and Ancestral Rituals in Korea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this