The number of Catholics in South Korea has steadily increased 48.6 percent from 3,946,844 in 1999 to 5,866,510 in 2018. However, the year-to-year growth rate in Catholics has gradually slowed to below 1 percent. In 2000 and 2001, the Catholic population grew 3.2 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, before falling to the 2 percent range until 2009. The growth rate dropped to 1.7 percent in 2010 and briefly rebounded to 2.2 percent in 2014 due to Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea. But it again dived below 1 percent to reach 0.9 percent two years ago.
The ratio of Catholics in the nation’s total population rose from 8.3 percent to 11.1 percent in the 1999-2018 period. But their mass attendance rate, considered a key indicator of existing believers’ religious life, tumbled by more than 10 percentage points from 29.5 percent to 18.3 percent during the period.