SOUTH KOREA - Korean Christians Embrace AI

J. Froese

The word of God is reaching the ears of South Korean Christians through chatbots. Online church services using artificial intelligence are rapidly becoming an essential part of worship in Korea, where Christianity is the biggest religion, as tens of thousands turn to chatbots and audio bibles for spiritual sustenance. 

This year, local start-ups have launched generative AI bible study and prayer service apps, which in particular pull in young Protestants. 

Pastors have welcomed the time the technology frees up for them to take care of their flock, who account for about a fifth of South Korea’s 52mn population. But they are also conscious of the need to maintain the human touch and have cautioned against relying too much on the latest technology for religious activities. 

Awake Corp, the developer of ChatGPT-based bible chatbot service Ask Jesus—now rebranded as Meadow—has since its launch in March attracted about 50,000 users, including 10,000 from outside Korea. 

The service responds to inquiries on spiritual matters and day-to-day issues with bible verses, interpretations and prayers.

The app has generated interest from churches and pastors, who use Awake’s AI-driven WeBible web service to write sermons. When a pastor asks about a certain section of the Bible, the service can offer detailed explanations, identify main messages and points of reflection, and suggest a title for the sermon.

Meadow is based on Open AI’s ChatGPT technology but Awake has trained its chatbot with its own vast theological database and used prompt engineering—optimizing textual input to communicate effectively with large language models—to prevent AI “hallucinations,” which is a phenomenon wherein a large language model creates inaccurate output. A committee composed of pastors continuously reviews the accuracy of the chatbot’s answers.

Korean churches are also relying on an AI-backed audio bible platform, Biblely, developed by start-up Voiselah, for their missionary work. Biblely has created audio bibles recorded with pastors from about 50 churches, using generative AI technology trained on each pastor’s voice.

“[Churchgoers] believe their pastor read the bibles aloud from the beginning to the end for recording,” he said.

-www.ft.com, 22 October 2023

Commentary

South Korea is unique among East Asian countries; of it’s nearly 51 million inhabitants, nearly 28% consider themselves Christians. In terms of income and development, they are head and shoulders above the rest of the continent, with a per capita GDP of $56,700. In terms of technology adoption, they’re a lot more like their island neighbor Japan than continental Asia. Thus, it’s not surprising to see Korean Christians embracing AI.

While the explosion of AI (artificial intelligence, especially “large language models”) may give us some pause, we realize that in many ways it is just another tool like computers, word processors, spell check, and Bible search programs. As such, we are not surprised to see adoption of this technology by busy young pastors. 

To be clear, we at Midnight Call do not use any such AI. If we were to publish anything from AI, we would clearly label it as such, just as we quote and attribute other authors from books, commentaries, and news articles. -By J. Froese

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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