DP15640 Jesus speaks Korean: Christianity and Literacy in Colonial Korea

Author(s): Sascha O. Becker, Cheongyeon Won
Publication Date: January 2021
Keyword(s): Gender Gap, Korea, Literacy, Missionaries, religion
JEL(s): I21, J16, N35, Z12
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15640

In the mid 19th 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.