South Korea

How refreshing it was to be in the presence of leaders of faith are more interested in the needs of the poor and the call of Christ than in being "conformed to this world" and its shallow interests or reducing gospel concerns to a few hot-button social and sexual issues.
Jim Wallis 05-15-2015
pio3 /

pio3 /

The center of Christianity has dramatically shifted, and that means the agenda was very different from the northern and western agendas of the older white evangelicals in America and the issues they think most important. Korea could play a particular and convening role as a bridge between the churches of the global north and south.

In sharp and grateful contrast to the old ideologies of global North evangelicals, these global South evangelicals spent their time together wrestling with issues of global economic inequality, the realities of climate change, the imperatives of racial justice, and the need for Christians to wage peace instead of war. Since these are the issues that global evangelical and Pentecostal constituencies are facing in their own lives — and of course, the Bible addresses all of them as the central issues Christians need to confront today — the narrow, white American evangelical agenda had no interest in this global evangelical and Pentecostal forum. The fact is that they represent a different evangelical world.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem on May 25, 2014. Image courtesy Michae

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem on May 25, 2014. Image courtesy Michael Swan/Creative Commons.

Addressing journalists on his return from his intense five-day visit to South Korea late August 18, Pope Francis bantered with reporters and lightheartedly said he may only have “two or three” years left to live.

The 77-year-old pontiff covered a range of topics on the flight back to the Vatican—from war-torn Iraq and his desire to visit the U.S. next year to his personal health, hinting he may retire early.

He was asked how he lived with the immense popularity he has generated around the world, evident when crowds chanted his name on the streets of Rio de Janeiro during his first official visit to Brazil last year.

“I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am somebody,” he said. “Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then (go) to the house of the Father,” he said during an in-flight media conference.

Kathy Kelly 05-27-2014
Hang Dinh/

Jeju Island, South Korea. Hang Dinh/

Jeju Island, South Korea — For the past two weeks, I’ve been in the Republic of Korea (ROK), as a guest of peace activists living in Gangjeong Village on ROK’s Jeju Island. Gangjeong is one of the ROK’s smallest villages, yet activists here, in their struggle against the construction of a massive naval base, have inspired people around the world.  

Since 2007, activists have risked arrests, imprisonment, heavy fines, and wildly excessive use of police force to resist the desecration caused as mega-corporations like Samsung and Daelim build a base to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for their missions throughout Asia. The base fits the regional needs of the U.S. for a maritime military outpost that would enable it to continue developing its Asia Pivot strategy, gradually building towards and in the process provoking superpower conflict with China.  

“We don’t need this base,” says Bishop Kang, a Catholic prelate who vigorously supports the opposition.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim 03-18-2014
By U.S. Department of State from U.S., via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today marks Korean-American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae’s 500th day in a North Korean prison. Bae was arrested in November 2012 while leading a tourist group. State-run media reported that he was convicted of attempting to lead a religious anti-North Korean religious coup. He has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Bae is a reminder to all of us that Korea remains divided. Brothers and sisters are separated and friends are divided between the 38th parallel.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My mother and father were children during the Korean War, and my mother told me a few stories of how they had to flee during the war. She was a young child, one of eight. My grandmother would gather the children and walk for miles and miles making their way down into southern Korea. As they were fleeing one day, a bullet went through my grandmother’s thigh and created permanent damage to her leg. As a young child, I thought it was a wonderful war story of heroism and courage. I didn’t realize then the agony, fear, and suffering that my parents or my grandparents went through to keep safe and keep alive.

As the Korean War lingered on, it ended with the division of Korea at the 38th parallel. That division is a stark reminder of how a beautiful, lovely country can be filled with pain, sorrow, animosity, and suffering. The 38th parallel has kept family members and loved ones apart for almost 60 years. Many divided families are unable to reunite or unable to know if their relatives are still living and doing well. The heartbreak of living apart in their own country has brought lots of anger, tension, loss, and suffering.

In Korea, people have a term for such suffering: han. Han is a difficult word to translate into the English language. The best way to do so may be through ‘unjust suffering’ or ‘piercing of the heart.’

Grace Ji-Sun Kim 03-11-2014
Prayer ribbons hung on the wall in South Korea, meunierd /

Prayer ribbons hung on the wall in South Korea, meunierd /

Walls exist between U.S. and Mexico. A few years ago, I took a class to the Mexico-U.S. border through BorderLinks, an organization that provides educational experiences to connect divided communities, raise awareness about border and immigration policies and their impact, and inspires people to act for social transformation. We visited the metal wall that separates the United States from Mexico at Nogales, Mexico.

The walls went up in 1994.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), established in 1994, was supposed to help with trade and the economic status of Mexico. However, it failed to do this. It backfired and made the economic situation worse for the people of Mexico. Rich corporations and companies that benefited from the Free Trade Agreement as they were able to move their factories down to Mexico where the labor was cheap and profits higher. As the economy of Mexico suffered, more people made their way, without documents, to the United States to seek work so they could support their families.

In 2006, the United States responded with the Secure Fence Act. As President George W. Bush signed the bill, he stated, “This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform.” The act included provisions for the construction of physical barriers — walls — and the use of technology to these ends.

This wall is under constant surveillance to prevent people from entering into the U.S. illegally. Ironically, it is a wall built from the remaining metal landing scraps of the Gulf War. The border is highly militarized with patrols who treat migrants as “prisoners of war.” It symbolizes militarization, greed, xenophobia, hatred, pride, nonsense, and fear of the other, a reminder of wanting to protect what is yours and not sharing what God has given you. Walls continue to go up along the border as the people of the United States continue to fear that undocumented people will take away jobs. These fears may devastate the lives of the poor in both countries.

Roger Nam 10-12-2012
Michelle Gilders / Getty Images

South Korea, Demilitarized Zone, Large DMZ sign at the Third Tunnel of Aggression site. Michelle Gilders / Getty Images

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) between the two Koreas along with a group of students and faculty from George Fox University. As the most fortified border on the entire planet, the DMZ contains an arsenal of tanks, land mines, watchtowers, razor wires, artillery, and nearly two million armed troops ready to face off within a moment’s notice. Former President Bill Clinton described the DMZ as the “scariest place on earth,” a description more eerie coming from one of the few people in history to have had direct access to the “button.”

While observing the various sites within the DMZ, I thought about how the pacifist Quakers, who founded my school in 1885, would have reacted to such an experience.

Daniel Burke 09-04-2012
(Date unknown) RNS photo by Chris Sheridan

Gesturing enthusiastically, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon delivers a sermon. (Date unknown) RNS photo by Chris Sheridan

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, revered as a messiah within his Unification Church but regarded by many others as a vain and enigmatic man who blessed mass weddings, built a sprawling business empire and presided over a personality cult, died on Monday in South Korea. He was 92.

Moon had been in intensive care at a Seoul hospital since Aug. 7, according to his church. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, including kidney failure.

Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea, and rose from a home in which five siblings starved to death to become an ambitious man who harbored a lifelong hatred of communism, craved respect from the rich and powerful and professed a divine mandate to restore a fallen world. 

Min-Ah Cho 08-01-2012

Jeju Island, gnohz /

Faith leaders and others protest a planned military base on a South Korean island.

the Web Editors 04-23-2012
Lady Gaga in Germany, September 2009

Lady Gaga in Germany, September 2009

South Korean Christians are trying to pray away Lady Gaga.

According to AFP, a group of Christians gathered Sunday night to pray and protest Gaga’s concert, scheduled for April 27.

Cathleen Falsani 12-08-2011

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from the Daejeon Handbell Choir of South Korea - a quartet (!) of handbell players who impressively play all of the myriad parts while dressed in satin formalwear — without breaking a sweat.

Phew! Hallelujah indeed!

Jack Palmer 11-30-2011

If we look at what is happening this week – elections in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid effectiveness conference in South Korea, the continuing Arab Spring in Syria and beyond, World Aids Day Thursday – and in the coming weeks -- the U.N. climate change conference, COP17 -- we cannot pretend that these events have no impact on our lives here and now.

Every one of these events is a matter of justice. The citizens of Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo deserve the opportunity to express freely, without fear of intimidation or violence, how they believe their country should be governed. Having spent some time in the region, I believe that the people of the DRC deserve more than any other to live in a country where they are safe and secure.

How we assist other countries in their development is an issue of justice.

Jeannie Choi 03-11-2011

Budget Cuts. King Phillip IV. Japan. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

Jeannie Choi 12-10-2010

Hackers. Slow Motion. Snow. Here’s a little round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week:

  • Random Hacks of Kindness: a two-day competition of more than 1,000 software engineers solving problems that arise during humanitarian crises.
  • Restaurateur Jean-Gorges Vongerichten’s half-Korean wife, Maria Vongerichten, has a new PBS show called “The Kimchi Chronicles,” in which she eats her way through South Korea.
  • What happens when you put a slow-motion camera on a fast moving train? Watch.
  • Jim Wallis says it best: DREAMS should not be illegal.
Eugene Cho 12-01-2010

You need to watch this. In fact, you must watch this. Please watch this.

Duane Shank 11-30-2010
This past Sunday and Monday the news media published their first summaries of the documents they received from WikiLeaks which contained more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
Jeannie Choi 10-08-2010
Giving up on Washington. Afghanistan. Kimchi. Here's a little round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week:
LaVonne Neff 03-19-2010

Soon, they tell us, Congress will or will not pass a health-care bill. Detractors think universal health care will raise health-care costs, lower health-care outcomes, and dangerously increase the power of the federal government.

Ju Hong 03-15-2010

"Look at those illegals," my friend laughed, pointing at two Latino immigrants leaning against a fence nearby. I smiled and brushed it off, but inside, I was angry. I wondered what he would say if he knew that I'm also an "illegal."

Jeannie Choi 03-08-2010
This weekend I have the privilege of representing Sojourners magazine at the annual