Korea Mission: Members Celebrate 50 Years with Service, Music
By David A. Peck, South Korea Public Affairs Missionary
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established the Korea Mission in the Land of the Morning Calm on July 1, 1962, under President Gail E. Carr, then 32 years of age. When the mission was established there were approximately 1,000 members. Fifty years later, there are three missions in Korea and the membership has risen to more than 83,000.
To mark the 50-year anniversary, each stake and district of the Church in South Korea was engaged in service projects, which included such events as blood donations by currently serving missionaries; making kimchi (a staple in the Korean diet) in conjunction with the Seoul Food Bank and a government welfare office to provide food for the poor; purchasing of Yun Tan (a coal product) and delivering it to the needy to provide heat for the winter months; and environmental clean-up projects. More than 1,250 members of the Church carried out these projects.
On November 12, 2012, Elder Michael T. Ringwood of the Seventy and President of the Asia North Area, made a presentation to Bong-Seok Kang, deputy minister, and Tae Seo Kang, director of religious affairs in the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism for the Republic of Korea. Elder Ringwood explained about the activities of the Church in Korea over the 50 years since the establishment of the Korea Mission and expressed appreciation for the cordial relationship the government of Korea has with the Church. He then presented the deputy minister a small statue of the family. As in the Church, families are highly valued in the Korean culture.
On November 18, more than 400 members and friends of the Church in Seoul attended a special devotional. The friends of the Church included Father Yonghae Kim, who is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church in Korea, and Mr. Nam-Soo Pak, a representative of United Religions Initiative of Korea. The evening included professional-level instrumental and vocal music, including a rendition of “A Child’s Prayer” performed with strings, flute, and piano. Speakers included Brent Christensen, Seoul Korea Mission president; David A. Peck, public affairs missionary; and former mission presidents and Church leaders Elder In Sang Han (who served also in the Quorum of the Seventy from 1991 to 1996), Mu Kwang Hong, and Dong Hwan Lee. The Rev. Yonghae Kim also made short congratulatory remarks.
LDS servicemen first brought the gospel to Korea during the Korean conflict in the early 1950s. In 1955, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated Korea for the preaching of the gospel, and in 1956 the first missionaries arrived from the North Far East Mission headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Though the number of missionaries was small, just 10, they began to have much success bringing souls to Christ.
Nearly all of these early missionaries contracted hepatitis at one point during their service in Korea. Mission President Paul Andrus met with the elders, intending to close missionary efforts in Korea and send the missionaries back to Japan. During the meeting with the missionaries each in turn expressed his love for the Saints in Korea. One elder was quoted as saying, “President, when you called me to come to Korea you said I had a work to do here. I want to stay. If I die, I die here.” President Andrus relented and agreed to let the missionaries stay but told them if he received further reports of sickness, he would have to close the area. There were no subsequent reports of illness.
The progress of the Church in Korea has been steady.