Abstract

The Sarang Global Ministry Center (SGMC) in Seoul, South Korea, is well known for its architectural design and for several controversies surrounding its construction. The SGMC does not have conventional Christian architectural features, such as a steeple or stone facade; instead, the church resembles a luxury department store. Reactions to this building have been mixed, reflecting differing opinions about Christianity in South Korea. Some value the fact that the building’s aesthetics blend Christian activities with everyday life outside the church. Others criticize the building’s corporate appearance, citing it as evidence that Sarang Church is “just a business.” While the way religion is permitted to operate in South Korean secular society is partially defined by legal principles, such as the separation of church and state and state neutrality toward religion, secularism also entails an active configuration of the social order through lived experience. Secularity both constitutes and is constituted by the materiality of religious space, which disputes over the SGMC design make clear. Considering varied responses to the SGMC building project, this article highlights how church architecture, city planning, and consumer capitalism participate in the shaping of Korean Protestant Christianity and how it manifests within South Korea’s secular social and political order.

You do not currently have access to this content.