Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 253–262 | Cite as

An Antiseptic Religion: Discovering A Hybridity on the Flux of Hygiene and Christianity

  • Shin K. Kim
Original Paper


An antiseptic religion is a form of Protestant Christianity that was shaped in the context of colonization in Korea. This term was coined to explain a religious hybrid that was produced by the intermingling of American Evangelical Protestant Christianity, the concept of hygiene (germ theory) and indigenous Korean religiosity. This research deals with a historical process of making ‘a medicalized religion’ in Asia from a perspective of postcolonialism. Most of the early American Protestant missionaries in Korea were medical doctors who were influenced by the Germ theory of illness and considered Western medicine as an efficient tool to evangelize the country. As a result of their mission, a religious culture which emphasized washing away sins from the soul as analogous to washing away germs from the body was born. In addition, the Korean people developed a very unique form of public bathing ritual centered in the development of public baths to alleviate anxiety and to destabilize the solid strategies of the Japanese and the Americans, the two major colonial powers in Korea’s history in the late 19th century.


Religion Hygiene Colonization Korea 


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Copyright information

© Blanton-Peale Institute 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Theology DepartmentGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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