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Café Churches Booming in Seoul

Coffee shops built near churches in South Korea are on the rise to attract more parishioners, especially the young adult population.

In 2009, Father Lee Kyung-hun opened a cafe in the church compound of Heukseok Church in the hopes of increasing Mass attendance. Coffee shops are sprouting like mushrooms in Seoul and the cleric wanted to tap into the industry to entice more worshipers, reports UCA News.

“Parishioners, especially young people, gave an explosive response,” he says. “Coffee became a medium linking the faithful with each other and our café became a hot spot.”

“Parishioners, especially young people, gave an explosive response,” he says. “Coffee became a medium linking the faithful with each other and our café became a hot spot.”

Fr. Lee’s parish is considered to be young, with most of those baptized there are now in their 30’s and 40’s. With the establishment of the coffee shop, he noticed that more people are attending the daily Mass.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee is a hard thing to resist and with coffees priced lower than those offered in high-end coffee shops, people opt to stay and enjoy their hot drinks at Heukseok Church’s café.

“We don’t need to pay rent, loyalty or salaries for workers unlike other cafés so we can offer a high quality of coffee at a low price,” explained Fr. Lee.

A recent study by Gallup Korea found that the young population of South Korea are leaving their faiths. People in their 20’s who are still adhering to their religion stood at 31%, a 14-percentage-point drop from ten years ago, The Hankyoreh reports.

According to The Atlantic, the decline in the number of young worshipers could be caused by the youth’s distrust and disillusionment of major institutions–religious and political–in South Korea.

The founder of megachurch Yoido Full Gospel Church was convicted of embezzlement in 2014 and recently, former conservative president Park Geun-hye was impeached for a bribery scandal.

Parishes are now finding ways to boost attendance and many are now wanting to copy Fr. Lee’s café church. He has established a Catholic Barista Association wherein he has trained 200 baristas. There are now 10 churches with their own coffee shops.

Sources:
Ucanewscom. (2017). Ucanewscom. http://www.ucanews.com/news/catholic-cafe-pioneer-boosts-seoul-congregation-with-cappuccinos/67155

Hanicokr. (2017). Hanicokr. http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/678355.html

Jason strother. (2017). The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/05/south-korea-christians-election/525606/

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