A new year, when so many conversations seem cyclical, reviewing the repetitive silliness in our nation’s capital, the redundant articles and analyses in media, the […]
This blog post is part of Mennonite Church USA’s Korean peninsula: Learn, Pray, Join initiative.
I am a child of war refugees, the grandson of internally displaced people. My parents were born near the Korea-China border, at the corner of the northwest Korean peninsula. After more than 35 years of colonization under imperial Japan and our liberation in August 1945, suddenly the United States and the Soviet Union drew the line on the Korean peninsula. The 38th parallel lines became a frontline for the emerging Cold War. That was the beginning of two Koreas. My parents came to the South as young children in that era.
Before the Korean War (1950-53), there were more Christians in the North. Pyongyang (yes, the capital city of North Korea) was once called New Jerusalem in the East. Around 1907, there was a great revival on the Korean peninsula, and Pyongyang was the center of this revival movement. Christianity was flourishing in the North.
However, when communists took over, many Christians in the North fled to the South. My mother’s family was one of these Christian refugees. My grandfather was an elder of the Presbyterian Church in the North, and later he became an ordained pastor of a church in the South. The Christians from the North had some painful experiences with new communist systems following the Korean War.
There was a strong anti-communist sentiment in the church. During the Korean War and ever since, this sentiment rapidly grew and was embedded into the Korean church. As with the Miracle of Han River (the rapid economic growth of South Korea), the growth of the Korean church was remarkable.
This is the context of my Korean Christianity. Although many of us memorized the verse that says “love your enemy,” it felt like this could not possibly apply to North Korea. They are “red” and “communist,” which is evil in this world.
A few weeks ago (just after PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games—what an amazing event!), my mother came to my house and stayed with us for a couple of days. One evening we watched the news together, which is usually not a wise choice. However, that night something happened. The news report was about the presidential envoy from South Korea to Pyongyang, North Korea.
[To read the full version of this post on MC USA’s Menno Snapshots blog, click here]
Kim, SeongHan lives in Chuncheon, South Korea, with his wife, HaeYoung, two daughters. They attend Jesus Heart Mennonite Church. They lived in Goshen, Indiana, and attended College Mennonite Church of Goshen while SeongHan was a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. SeongHan is a regional director for Korea InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
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