Korea ( South Korea, Republic of Korea)
The Republic of Korea
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The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, occupies the southern half of Asia’s Korean Peninsula. It is surrounded on three sides by the Sea of Japan (east), Yellow Sea (west) and the Korea Straight lies between the southern tip of Korea and Japan. The border on the north, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, roughly corresponds with the 38th Parallel, the ceasefire line established at the end of the Korean War (1950-53). The area of South Korea is almost 100,000 sq km (38,000 sq miles) with a population of near 47 million.
The kingdom of Korea was dominated by either China or Japan for many centuries and was finally annexed by Japan in 1910. After Japan’s defeat at the end of the Second World War, Korea was divided between a northern Soviet zone and a southern zone under United States control. In 1950 communist North Korea invaded South Korea. While the war ended in a stalemate in 1953 hostilities between the two nations remains to this day. Following the Korean War South Korea entered into a period of economic development which has raised the standard of living that was once similar to the poorest African nations to a present economy that is on par with some of the economies of the European Union. Technological and scientific advancements are, regionally, second only to Japan.
While the economy in Korea has boomed in recent decades the religious life of the Korean people has declined. 52.5% of the population claims no religious affiliation. Buddhism accounts for the largest segment of the population (24%) and Confucianism has a small minority at 1.5% of the population. Christianity accounts for 21% of the population.
The Stone-Campbell Movement has a unique presence in Korea which can be traced back nearly 75 years. The first missionaries of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Korea were Mr. and Mrs. Michael Shelly who arrived in Korea in 1932. However, health problems soon forced them to return to Oregon. The first sustainable work of missionaries was done by John and Waneta Chase. John Chase was a member of the first graduating class of Cincinnati (Ohio) Bible Seminary in 1925 and eventually went to Japan to work with the Cunningham Mission. By 1936 the Chases heard the call from Korea and moved to begin evangelization on the Korean Peninsula. Also about that same year Chase began a Bible Institute, sometimes call the Church of Christ Seminary. Chase soon came into contact with three young men, Nak So Sung, Suk Kee Dong and Sang Hyun Chae.
The story of these three men gives a good example of how God can work in the lives of people in many ways. Nak So Sung was an officer in the Salvation Army but decided to begin a simple “Church of Christ” at Buyo. In 1930 he went to Japan and there met several missionaries, including the Chases. In their company he became impressed with the plea of the New Testament Church and decided to cast his lot with the Stone-Campbell or Restoration Movement. Ministering for a time with a Korean church in Yokahama he returned to Korea in 1931 and ministered with a number of congregations in the ensuing years and started the Pilun-Dong Church of Christ. He also taught at the Church of Christ Seminary until his death in 1964. His son, Soo Kyung Sung, followed him into the ministry.
Suk Kee Dong studied theology in American beginning about 1904 and was ordained to the Methodist ministry. After returning to Korea he became involved in the independence movement against Japan and was arrested for his activities. After his release he returned to the United States in 1927 and studied at Cincinnati (Ohio) Bible Seminary. Returning to Korea he began at least seven congregations in the Hamkyung Province, including the Nesoo-Dong Church of Christ in Seoul in 1940. During the Korean War he once more went to the United States and this time became affiliated with the a cappella Churches of Christ and from then on was active in sending non-instrumental missionaries to Korea. He died in the United States in 1972.
The third young man was Sang Hyun Chae. Heavily involved in the Korean independence movement Chae was arrested by the Japanese police and served prison terms for translating the Declaration of Independence. He escaped into China and studied there with the hope of going to America for further education. In China he was arrested again and forced to return to Korea. He then graduated from a Methodist seminary and ministered with several congregations and wrote for and edited a Methodist magazine. In 1936 he met John Chase and after much discussion and learning he became a part of the Restoration Movement. He began to start congregations based upon the principles of the New Testament and also taught at the Church of Christ Seminary. With the advent of the Second World War Japan began to force the Korean Christians to worship the Japanese shrines, closed the Bible colleges and seminaries, expelled the missionaries and continued to persecute the church. Chae refused the idol worship and he and his family of nine children were forced to go underground, as were many churches. Following the liberation of Korea by the United States in 1945 Chae became an advisor to the occupying government for a short time, and later returned to the ministry. When the communist forces of North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950 Sang Hyun Chae was captured and forced to march to North Korea. He was never heard from again. Because of his lifetime of service to the church and his extreme sacrifice, almost to the point of starvation of himself and his family, he earned the nickname of the “one hundred patches preacher” owing to the number of patches on his suit. As a result of Chae’s martyrdom his son, Yoon Kwon Chae followed in his father’s footsteps and became a minister and leader of the Korean Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
In 1939 the Chases were joined by John J. Hill and family. By 1943 the Korean Religious Report listed six churches and 909 members. At one point the Japanese government sought to force all denominations into one group known as the Association of Japanese Christian Churches. Later those who joined were forced to worship at the Japanese shrines or be imprisoned. Also during the war all foreign missionaries were expelled from Korea and the churches were ordered closed. However, during this time three of the congregations survived and at the close of the war were able to resume the evangelization of Korea. The number of students in the school increased to thirty and soon there were nine churches. The heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Korea tried to unite all of the Christians in Korea under the one name, one Bible and one plan of salvation and to this end published “The Declaration of Unity of all Churches of Christ” in 1946 calling for unity. The time was not right for such a call to unity. The Chase and Hill families also returned to Korea in this time. Several preachers came from the north, disgusted with the divisions of the church, and began to work with the churches in the south.
However, this window of growth was soon closed with the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. Many church buildings were destroyed and many preachers were captured and killed by the Communists, including Sang Hyun Chae. But the trials and persecution of the Korean church only served to strengthen their resolve and served as a spring board for greater things, particularly for the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. In the four years of destruction and persecution of the Korean War the number of churches grew from nine to seventy-five, with many meeting in tents. An orphanage was built on the site of the former mission building in Seoul, which had been destroyed. This later became Bupyung Christian Children’s Home. The seminary reopened and in 1955 came to be known as Seoul Bible Seminary. Several other missionaries from the United States came to Korea in this era. However, some difficulties between the missionaries and the Korean preachers reduced their effectiveness. Also in 1955 the Korea Christian Churches and Churches of Christ Preachers’ Association was formed and by 1967 their conference became an annual event. Later the name was changed to the Conference of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
It was also in this era following the Korean War that the American a cappella Churches of Christ became involved in Korea focusing on evangelism through relief and education. Some men who had served as soldiers in Korea served as catalysts for opening a new work in Korea. Suk Kee Dong became the Korean contact for the a cappella Churches and missionaries in the United States. Dale Richardson went to Korea in 1954 and began churches and orphanages. Haskell Chesshir followed and bought a large tract of land in the Kimpo area upon which was built Korea Christian College (also known as Christ Theological College). Soon there were as many as seventeen congregations in eight cities. Bill Ramsey was another American missionary in Korea, beginning in 1961, who later founded the Winter School in Seoul. In 1977 Malcolm Parsley began a World Radio program from Seoul and since then Parsley has been responsible for planting more than fifty congregations. The Bible Correspondence Courses have been another important tool of evangelism in Korea with more than 150,000 having been enrolled.In 1983 the a cappella Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ agreed to a partial merger with both sides deciding to have one conference and one convention.
In 1959 and 1960 South Korea again went through upheaval with the military coup against President Sung Man Lee. But for the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ it was seen as a time of new beginning. Following studies in the United States Yoon Kwoon Chae returned to Korea in 1961 and soon began work with the Korea Christian Mission. In 1963 he began a Bible Correspondence School and in 1964 began Hwanwon (Restoration) Christian Publishing. He also ministered to refugees. Seoul Bible Seminary reopened in 1963 after being closed for a period of about four years and Chae also began teaching in the seminary. In 1965 he went to the southern part of the city of Seoul and began Korea Christian Seminary which opened with 57 students. The two schools merged in 1981. Brother Chae has served the school as president and chancellor for many years. In 1999 the name was changed to Seoul Christian University and a Graduate School was added. Dr. Kang Pyung Lee is the current president.
Hansung Bible Seminary was begun by American missionary John Hill in 1959 in the Taejon area. The seminary grew and later moved to the Yunsan area. While it produced many effective workers and able preachers for the southern part of Korea there were many court battles concerning the property and operation of the seminary and it was eventually sold. Many of the graduates of this school have united together and are known as the General Assembly or Assembly of Churches of Christ. American Richard Lash went to Korea in 1964 and established several churches and together with Sung Man Chang began a vocational college in 1964. It eventually came to be known as Kyungnam Junior College of Engineering and now as Dongsuh University in the Pusan area.
Bupyung Christian Children’s Home was one of three orphanages connected with the Christian Churches; the others were in Taejon and Inchon. Taejon eventually merged with Bupyung but was forced to close in 1985. With a loss in leadership the children’s home in Inchon was also lost. Seeing the need to care for forgotten children, in 1966 Mrs. Geon Chae began to gather abandoned children from around Towon-Gong, where her husband Yoon Kwon was ministering. Her efforts led to the beginning of Geon Christian Children’s Home which has since raised hundreds of homeless children. Geon Chae died in 1981; the home is now under the care of Kook Ja Chae.
In addition to the a cappella Church of Christ radio broadcasts the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Korea have also made extensive use of radio in Korea. American Bill Elis works in broadcasting in the Pusan area. In Seoul several have worked with radio broadcasting that reaches many young people locally and is heard as far away as North Korea, China and Russia.
Braille Bible School, Prison and Military Evangelism and additional social service outreaches are supported by the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Korea. The Braille Bible School is operated by Yoon Kwoon Chae with Han-jung Woong as the editor. Brother Chae also oversees the support of many chaplains for Korean prisons which has seen the conversion of hundreds of convicts. Crusades are conducted at Korean military compounds resulting in hundreds of baptisms. Brother Beck of Korea Christian Mission has charge of this work. The Australian Churches of Christ through Neville Muir of World Opportunities International has a ministry with the deaf of Korea. The Korean Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have also sent missionaries to Brazil, Peru, Chile, New Guinea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Russia, Turkey, Kenya, Tanzania and others. They are poised for work in North Korea when the doors are open.
In addition to the work being done by Dr. Yoon Kwon Chae’s Korea Christian Gospel Mission there are several other ministries and international missionaries which have a focus in Korea. Among those are C.Y. and Patricia Kim of Christ Reaching Asia Mission Worldwide (CRAM). The Kims are involved in prison ministry and providing educational scholarships for the children of Korean ministers in South Korea. They also have ties to a medical clinic and kindergarten program in North Korea.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada enjoy a historic relationship with Christians in Korea through the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and financially support the National Council of Churches in Korea. Hyo-Jung Kim, a native of Seoul has worked with the Presbyterian Church in Korea under the Disciples’ Division of Overseas Ministries and the United Church Board of World Missions. In the United States there are an estimated thirty-five Korean Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ).
At present there are an estimated 500 congregations of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Korea. Among this number are about one hundred a cappella Churches of Christ and about sixty congregations which are known as the Assembly of Christian Churches. These sixty congregations do not participate in the Conference of Churches/Christian Convention.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
A Short History of Korean Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Yoon Kwon Chae, published in Korea 1997, revised 2003. In Korean and English. This book is available from Dr. Chae, CPO Box 1728, Seoul, Korea 100.
Chasing the truth: the patches of the one hundred patches preacher, Christian Junshik Chae (grandson), unpublished master’s thesis, Emmanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, TN, 1996.
While not a national office Dr. Yoon Kwon Chae’s Korean Christian Gospel Mission is an umbrella organization through which contact can be made for much of the activity of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Korea can be made.
Contact can be made through:
Dr. and Mrs. Yoon Kwon Chae
Central P.O. Box 1728
Seoul Korea 100
In the United States contact:
Mr. and Mrs. Lester LeMay
P.O. Box 25886
Tempe, AZ 85285-5886
Telephone: (480) 730-1231
For Christian Churches and Churches of Christ contact Korea Christian Gospel Mission listed above.
A cappella Churches of Christ
San 200-1, Hwagok 6-Dong, Gangseo-Gu
Seoul, South Korea 157-016
(Seoul Christian University shares a fraternal relationship with Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Dong Suh University and Kyung Nam College of Engineering, Pusan
There are two High Schools in Seoul:
Eekwang Automobile High School
Dung Chon Junior High School
A cappella Churches of Christ
Korean Institute of Biblical Studies, Seoul
Bible Correspondence Course Winter Bible School, Seoul
Christian Training School, Seoul
Korea Christian College (Christ Theological University)
Mok Il Dong Bible Study Center, Seoul
Three children’s homes and a number of nursery schools, military evangelism, prison ministry, radio ministry, and a Braille Bible School are under the auspices of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
A cappella Churches of Christ
WOI Deaf Ministries
363-20 Hapchong Dong
Mapo Ku Seoul, Korea
Hankil (One Way) magazine published monthly from Korean Christian Mission
Hwanwon (Restoration) magazine published bi-monthly by Hwanwon and Taekwang Publishing House.
Christ Reaching Asia Mission Worldwide (CRAM)
C.Y. and Patricia Kim
P.O. Box 563
Bedford, IN 47421
Telephone: (812) 275-6476
Korea Christian Church Convention
The Cho Seung Mi Ballet Company is a Christian missionary ballet company with the goal of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. There are strong ties between the ballet company and the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Korea.