What’s different about the Korean Catholic church is that it is growing, vibrant, and respected. People wanting to know how to make the parishes in their home countries more vibrant, and avoid Protestant poaching, might want to read this article:
Part of the appeal of South Korea for the current pope is the role the laity has played in the church’s foundation and early growth. Almost uniquely among Catholic countries, Korea’s church was founded in the 18th century not by missionaries, but by scholars who traveled to China and baptized one another. Indeed, the early church survived for decades without any clergy, and when the first missionaries arrived from France in the 1830s, they found a Korean-language Bible already translated by local scholars.
The pope, who has emphasized the role of lay persons in energizing the church, will beatify scores of lay martyrs during his visit, a small slice of the 10,000 documented Korean martyrs…
The importance of the laity persists today. While key decision-making power still sits with the clergy, lay persons lead small prayer or Bible study groups and invite neighbors and family to join, taking a page from the grass-roots evangelization employed with huge success by many Protestant denominations. The nonclergy who serve as lectors during Mass sometimes wear special robes that exalt their presence on the altar. Even older people and women sometimes take on the role of altar servers, while lay members of a church often flock to funerals of nonrelatives to offer prayers and hymns…
That positive vibe has captured prominent celebrities, such as Korean pop stars Rain and BoA, and figure skater Yuna Kim, a national sweetheart. A group of celebrities even recorded a song and a music video for the pope’s visit.
To be sure, despite its growth, the Korean church is beginning to suffer the same trends that have eroded the Catholic Church elsewhere. While Catholics are well respected, church attendance is falling, while an ambitious plan by the Korean bishops to double the number of Catholics by 2020 has largely been played down.
Nonetheless, the vibrancy of the Korean church is such that it provides one of the biggest Catholic missionary groups in the world, sending envoys to nearly 80 countries, lagging only behind the U.S.