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In 1973, the first Templeton Prize was given to Mother Teresa. In 2023, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this award. Over the next 52 weeks, we will highlight each of our laureates and reflect on their impact on the world. From humanitarians and saints to philosophers, theoretical physicists, and one king, the Templeton Prize has honored extraordinary people. Together, they have pushed the boundaries of our understanding of the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it, making this (we humbly think) the world’s most interesting prize. 

Kyung-Chik Han was a Korean philosopher and theologian whose life and work left an indelible mark on the fields of philosophy, ethics, and spirituality. Born on March 11, 1927, in South Korea, Han dedicated his life to fostering a deeper understanding of spirituality in the modern world and rejuvenating faith in Christianity in South Korea.

Han studied philosophy and theology at Soongsil University, a private Christian University in South Korea. He later pursued additional education at the College of Emporia and Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States, immersing himself in Western philosophical thought while remaining deeply rooted in his Eastern heritage.

Kyung-Chik Han subsequently became the founder of Seoul’s 60,000-member Young Nak Presbyterian Church, which at one point was the largest Presbyterian church in the world. At the heart of Han’s work was the concept of “spiritual humanism.” He argued that spirituality, rooted in an individual’s inner self, could serve as a unifying force that transcends religious boundaries. Han believed that by cultivating a deep sense of spirituality, individuals could tap into their inherent humanity and develop a profound connection with others and the world around them. This, in turn, could inspire ethical action and contribute to the well-being of society.

Above all, Kyung-Chik Han was awarded the Templeton Prize in honor of his fervent work for refugees and the poor, which epitomized the growth of Christianity in South Korea and led to the formation of 500 churches around the world, and his humility. His experience as a survivor of war and political oppression made him one of his country’s most respected religious leaders.

  • Kyung-Chik Han receiving the Prize from HRH Prince Philip

A Templeton Prize ceremony in honor of Kyung-Chik Han was held at The Schauspielhaus in Berlin. Bishop Kruse, Cardinal Sterzinsky, and former Governing Mayor of Berlin Mr. Eberhard Diepgen spoke at the event. The ceremony was attended by many special guests including prominent CEOs and their partners, members of the Focolare Movement, and Templeton family members. 

“Through his works, Reverend Han has changed his native land Korea. By establishing a Presbyterian congregation in South Korea he provided a spiritual home for many thousands of Koreans, a place of inner retreat and a source of strength.”

– Mr. Eberhard Diepgen

“The laureate of the Templeton Foundation is the best proof that if one has confidence in God success is certain to come because when we read the history of Rev Han we shall see that he tried time and again the impossible, things that normal calculations would say impossible to carry out.”

– Dr. Otto von Habsburg

Still Curious?

Learn more about Kyung-Chik Han here.