On assignment in South Korea several months ago, News Editor Edward E. Plowman visited with a number of evangelical missionaries and nationals (both clergy and lay leaders). He quizzed them about the increasing church-state unrest. Some spoke freely about their own part in the dissent movement. Among them: a prominent constitutional lawyer who was ousted from the national assembly (congress) and jailed in a political crackdown by President Park Chung Hee. The attorney is a local leader of two international evangelical outreach organizations.
The following story, written by Plowman, is based on his interviews and research, on subsequent reports filed byCHRISTIANITY TODAYcorrespondents, and on accounts published by Religious News Service. In accord with national custom, last names of Koreans mentioned in the story appear first.
A year ago it was common for dissenters against the policies of South Korean president Park Chung Hee, even the dissenters in the Christian community, to be written off by their fellow Christians as Marxists or Marxist sympathizers. Not any longer. Among recent developments:
• The staunchly conservative 16,000-member Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Seoul issued a statement demanding in effect the release of persons jailed for dissent (they include clergy and evangelists), the lifting of restrictive decrees under which they were jailed, and a return to freedom of speech and press;
• Earlier, representing hundreds of thousands of Christians, ten prominent Protestant leaders who had not spoken out before sent to Park a statement with similar demands (the leaders, risking a death penalty, included Methodist bishop Yun Chang Duk, President Chi Dong Shik of the Korean Evangelical Church, Moderator Uyu Ho Joon of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and Young Nak’s pastor emeritus, Han Kyung Chik (see photo)—a Park friend who prayed at the funeral of Park’s slain wife last summer);
• At an outdoor protest mass attended by about 15,000, Catholic bishop Kim Chae Deok addressed some sharp words to Park, after which several thousand attempted to stage a demonstration but were beaten back by police (many of the faithful were chanting for the release of Bishop Tji [or Chi] Hak Soun, arrested last August for giving money to a student group working for Park’s removal);
• On the eve of President Ford’s visit to Korea in November, scores of missionaries “out of deep involvement with our people” asked Ford to press for the release of political prisoners and the scrapping of Park’s martial-law constitution;
• American Methodist missionary George Ogle, a veteran of nearly twenty years, was deported last month for his identity with people in the dissent movement and with relatives of prisoners.
Ogle’s ouster may have had the opposite effect from what Park intended. Many church leaders and groups were moved to speak out against the government for the first time, and the tides of popular sentiment are now running vigrously against Park. Officials of the National Council of Churches of Korea voiced their concern. Leaders of the “Tong Hap” Presbyterian Church of Korea (representing 2,700 churches with 620,000 constituents) issued a declaration reaffirming a call of the denomination’s general assembly in September for amnesty for political prisoners (the assembly also spoke out against corruption in government). The leaders asked that Ogle’s deportation be rescinded, labeling it as another example of “the violation and inhuman handling of human rights.”
More revealingly, the Tong Hap leaders urged “that the continued, covert surveillance of religious activities which causes an atmosphere of fear be stopped immediately.” The group further urged “the restoration of a free democratic society where there is no suppression of creative, conscientious, and constructive criticism, because our church has received a prophetic mission from God.”
Ogle, a worker among low-income people and a university lecturer, was under heavy government pressure for weeks prior to his eviction. At an October prayer meeting in a Christian center he suggested those attending should pray for eight non-Christian prisoners given the death penalty for their dissident activities. Afterward, he was interrogated by authorities for nineteen hours and was asked to sign a statement promising not to criticize the Park government. He refused. On December 11 he received a standing ovation at the annual conference of the 310,000-member Korean Methodist Church; the delegates issued a statement of support for his ministry and lashed out at Park’s repressive policies. On December 14 he was hustled aboard an airliner. His wife and four children remained behind for the time being. A few days later Ogle told his story to a congressional committee in Washington.
A long-time missionary leader says Ogle has wide evangelical support even from many who feel Christians should not speak out on controversial public issues. But, observes the leader, missionaries are still divided over whether it is wiser to protest some injustices less in order to remain and utilize the many important freedoms still enjoyed by Christians: the freedom to evangelize, to assemble, to worship, and to nourish the church. “At what point,” he asks, “does the Christian’s duty to criticize a government for injustice become important enough to jeopardize these other freedoms?”
That question may or may not have figured in a serious schism at last month’s conference of the Methodist Church. Observers blame the split on a number of factors, including a power struggle, regional differences, and theological issues. Both warring factions had elected bishops, but reports were still sketchy this month. The schism occurred three days after Ogle’s appearance.
President Park’s troubles can be traced to 1972 when he proclaimed martial law, threw out the constitution, placed his opponents under arrest, and suspended political activity and freedom of speech and press. Next he introduced a new constitution giving him unlimited powers and tenure. He said the moves were necessary to safeguard against threats from North Korea and to hasten the coming of prosperity. Many Christians were among those who went along with his arguments.
Student demonstrations, however, broke out in late 1973, no doubt reminding Park of the student activities that led to the downfall of Syngman Rhee in 1960. (Rhee’s son is a scholar who resides in New York City. He recently joined with other Koreans in America in issuing a stinging rebuke to Park.)
Park responded to the demonstrations with a series of emergency decrees last year banning such protests and even the mere suggestion of a return to the old constitution. Penalties included fifteen-year prison terms and death.
Of more than 1,000 arrested, some 200 were convicted in closed military trials. They included former South Korean president Yun Po Sun, a Christian; Bishop Tji; Presbyterian pastors Park Hyung Kyu of Seoul and Kwon HoKyong; Yonsei University Seminary dean Kim Chan Kook; slum pastor Kim Dae Jung; Presbyterian evangelists Chin Hong Kim and Kim Tong-Wan; Chairman Suh Chang Suk and other officers of the Korean Students Christian Federation; and the nation’s leading poet, Kim Cha Ha, a Catholic. The elderly Yun was placed on probation but the others were given long prison sentences.
The day before Campus Crusade’s Explo ’74 opened, a young friend of poet Kim was given a death sentence for possession of a Japanese book on revolution in modern Asia.
Following the showdown letters signed by Pastor Han and the others last fall, Park lifted the decrees but said he would not release anyone arrested under them. Yet the spectrum of dissent ranges from Marxists on the left to evangelical Christians on the right (many of whom feel Park’s policies are weakening the nation and playing into the hands of the Communists), and with so much opposition by the Christians now, Park—who practices no faith—may soon decide to grant amnesty to most of the offenders.
Of South Korea’s 33 million population, 3.4 million are Protestants and 850,000 are Catholics. More than half the Protestants are Presbyterians who are scattered among four large Presbyterian denominations and several smaller ones, the result of a number of schisms—mostly over theology and ecumenical relationships—dating from about 1951. Another large body is the 202,000-member Korea Holiness Church, affiliated with OMS International, which last fall dedicated the largest, most modern seminary facility in Asia.
Christianity was introduced into Korea by Koreans. In the 1780s a band of Koreans in China embraced the Catholic faith, and one of them returned to spread the faith in his own land. Catholic missionaries followed in the 1800s, and despite waves of bloody persecution, 17,500 Catholics were on hand when the first Protestant missionary, physician Horace Allen, arrived in 1884. Eight years earlier a group of Koreans were converted in Manchuria by Scottish Presbyterians. They helped the Scots translate the New Testament, then smuggled copies into their homeland. One convert led to Christ most of his village north of Seoul, and he gathered together a congregation of nearly 100 the year before Allen’s arrival. Christianity has spread rapidly in Korea ever since.
With the Japanese gone after World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States failed to come to terms on Korea’s future, and the nation was divided. As Communists became more repressive in the north many Christians fled south. Among them was Pastor Han who with a handful of refugees built Young Nak into the world’s largest Presbyterian congregation.
Han was seated near Park at last spring’s annual national prayer breakfast as Pastor Sang Keun Lee of the First Presbyterian Church of Taegu directed some poignant points to the president. Sang said three patterns prevail in church-state relationships throughout the world: oppression of religion by the government, domination of the government by religion, and cooperation between the two for the good of all. “I wish you to become the Constantine, the Great of Korea,” he told Park.
DEAR JULIANNE, YOUR LETTER GOT THROUGH
Julianne Holland, 13, an eighth grader who attends St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, wanted to do her part for Jesus at Christmas. Without informing her parents, she addressed a letter to Jesus in care of the local post office. It landed on the desk of Presbyterian Donald L. Orner, 62, director of customer services at the postal center in Harrisburg.
“Dear friend,” wrote Julianne. “I am 13 years old. And you must think I’m weird for writing a letter to Jesus when everyone knows it wouldn’t get anywhere. But I wanted to give you a message.
“Every Christmas all people think about is getting presents. But that’s not the reason at all. I think Christmas means getting all your friends together and having a good time because Jesus is born, and that’s just the beginning of all the beautiful things he did for us. By being born he let love into the world, he let blind people see, let crippled people walk.… So for this Christmas don’t think about your presents. Just think about Jesus and all he did and try to spread the real spirit of Christmas.”
“We have no mail route to heaven, but I am sure that [Jesus] is aware of what you wrote, just as surely as if we had been able to deliver it to him. He knows our thoughts, our feelings, and … every thought and all the love in every line of your beautiful letter flowed out across all the miles that no mailman could ever travel and touched his heart.
“Perhaps, too, Julianne, some of those who ask for presents are really asking for love, but to know they are loved they need some physical object to show it.… You said your letter wouldn’t get anywhere—it touched my heart, and be assured, Julianne, he knows. May you have a happy Christmas, and God bless you.”
Somehow a reporter found out about the letters, and the Associated Press flashed the story around the world. Many newspapers ran the account, among them the Los Angeles Times, which featured it on the front page.
Upon A Midnight Drear
Churches sustained heavy losses as Cyclone Tracy stormed across northern Australia on Christmas Eve, virtually destroying Darwin (population 45,000) and leaving more than forty dead and 40,000 homeless. Churches destroyed or severely damaged include Christ Church Cathedral, the United Church (also ravaged and looted by vandals), and a Baptist church, all of Darwin. Also destroyed were St. Peter’s Church of England, the United Church, and a Baptist church in the Nightcliffe-Casuarina area. An Aborigines mission facility lay in ruins.
Among those who died were the wife and infant daughter of New Zealander Brian Williams, executive secretary of the United Church.
Three-fourths of the population was evacuated, but most pastors and other church workers stayed behind to help with clean-up and relief efforts. Post-Christmas services found some congregations sharing their battered, roofless facilities with congregations that had lost all.
Mcintire: At The Bank, On The Brink
Separatist leader Carl McIntire at the last minute was able to stave off forfeiture of his Cape Canaveral, Florida, complex with delivery last month of a $1 million check from “the bank of Heaven.” He bought the land and buildings (including a 200-room motel, a convention center, an office building, and a 300-acre parcel earmarked for condominium development) in 1971 with a $54,000 down payment, and he had made no further payments on the renegotiated $14.5 million price until last month. The balance is due over the next seven years, with the next big payment due in 1976. Under an agreement, the $1 million will enable McIntire to keep the Shelton College and Bible-conference center portion of the property even if he defaults on the balance.
McIntire says he wants to push ahead with construction of a twenty-acre, twenty-six-story replica of Solomon’s Temple as a tourist attraction.
The New Jersey minister is still not out of the woods. He indicates that nearly half of the $1 million was in short-term loans, and he has launched an appeal to raise this amount.
In an unrelated action, McIntire agreed in an out-of-court settlement to return $113,838 to elderly invalid James Scott of Wilmington, Delaware. McIntire, who got the money two years ago in exchange for an unfulfilled pledge to provide lifetime care for Scott, paid $18,838 in cash on the settlement, with the remainder due in installments over the next three years.
Many McIntire watchers wonder how long he can keep things going. At 68, he shows no signs of slowing down, and there is no heir apparent on the scene. He retains the position he has held for forty-one years as pastor of the mother Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingswood, New Jersey, as head of Shelton College (half the faculty resigned last summer in protest against non-payment of salaries) and Faith Seminary in suburban Philadelphia (struggling to survive a recent schism and mortgage troubles), and as prime mover of the International Council of Christian Churches, made up of more than 200 mostly small, separatist groups.
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