The Korean War and messianic groups: Two cases in contrast

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael Barkun


Unification church Olive tree movement

Subject Categories

History of Religions of Eastern Origins


The Unification Church poses a question related to the disaster causation model, because it did not grow to any significant degree during the first decade following the start of the Korean War that was undoubtedly the most disastrous event to Koreans in the 20th century.

The present dissertation examines the Unification Church, using the above-mentioned causation model in conjunction with a distinction between coterie and movement; and this examination proceeds mainly in a diachronic and contextual description.

Out of this examination, emerges a reason why the Korean War did not significantly help the Unification Church but the Olive Tree Movement, in terms of their membership growth: that is, that the founder of the Unification Church could not secure sufficient means for reaching his potential audience during the post-War period in the face of the existing Christian communities that were fast regrouping themselves with the help from the Western relief networks. The Unification Church's failure to reach its potential audience came from its delayed "sanitizing" of a deviant ceremony. If this ceremony had been "sanitized" on time, then the group might have had a better chance to become a mass movement during the 1950s. This point becomes clear especially when we compare the Unification Church with the Olive Tree Movement.


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