Sascha O. Becker Cheongyeon Won

Jesus Speaks Korean: Christianity and Literacy in Colonial Korea

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In the mid 19 th century, pre-colonial Korea under the Joseon dynasty was increasingly isolated and lagging behind in its economic development. Joseon Korea was forced to sign unequal treaties with foreign powers as a result of which Christian missionaries entered the country and contributed to the establishment of private schools. We show that areas with a larger presence of Christians have higher literacy rates in 1930, during the Japanese colonial period. We also show that a higher number of Protestants is associated with higher female literacy, consistent with a stronger emphasis on female education in Protestant denominations.


  • Literacy
  • religion
  • missionaries
  • gender gap
  • Korea


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