Conversion is on the rise in this part of Asia

Jun grew up in a Christian family in South Korea, but like many people in his country, his religious beliefs are now very different from when he was a child.

Speaking on the phone from the capital Seoul, he says, “I don’t know what is true, maybe God exists, maybe he is God, or maybe he is something supernatural.”

Jun’s parents are still Christians. He says that if his parents found out that their son is no longer a believer, they would be “deeply saddened”. To avoid upsetting them, he spoke to us using a changed name. ‘Jun’ is not his real name.

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Jun’s experience reflects a new study by the American think tank Pew Research Center. This study says that the rate of people leaving and changing religions in East Asian countries is the highest in the world.

More than 10,000 people were asked about their religious beliefs, and many of them said that they now have a different religious identity than the one they grew up with. That is, the religion and beliefs of their childhood have changed for them.

Hong Kong and South Korea top the list. Here, 53 percent of respondents said they had changed their religious identity, including those who abandoned the concept of religion altogether.

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In Taiwan, 42% of people have changed their religious beliefs, and in Japan the number is 32%.

Compared to a survey conducted in Europe in 2017, there is no country where the rate of conversion is more than 40%. Or even the US, where data collected last year showed that only 28 percent of adults there no longer believe in the religion they grew up with.