Religious-Ideological Competition and Development in Cold War Cities

Religious-Ideological Competition and Development in Cold War Cities: Seoul, Berlin & Pyongyang

Jin-Heon Jung (Research Fellow & the Seoul Lab Coordinator, MPI MMG)


This project focuses on Seoul as the capital of a divided nation that is still technically at war. Desire, fear, and ignorance of reunification are omnipresent. Preceding discussions about Seoul in the world city framework have paid relatively less attention to this geopolitical context. It is crucial to take into account that Seoul has been transformed by the competition between the South and North Korean states that have constantly claimed their capitals, i.e., Seoul and Pyongyang, as the legitimate “Korean” national capital, by demonstrating both spiritual and material superiorities over the other. In Seoul, under the military dictatorship that drove rapid industrialization and urbanization, Korean megachurches began emerging. This causal relationship between the state-led urbanization and the growth of megachurches will be reinvestigated in light of the particular Korean urban theologies that emerged in the context of the national division.

This project consists of mainly two stages; first, I would like to analyze the ways in which Korean evangelical megachurches have cooperated and negotiated with state power by in part nurturing the division of morality and spirituality (which is both similar to and different from American fundamentalism), and by examining how such religious-ideological aspirations continue or shift in envisioning a reunified nation-state; and second, with the findings from the project described above, this research proposes to compare Seoul with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and Berlin, the capital of reunified Germany, in order to better investigate the relationship between the Cold War history and religious-ideological imagination and discourses in the processes of legitimizing/redesigning national capitals.