Korean Revivals and Missions

At the first meeting of the National Presbyterian Church on September 17, 1907, the Presbytery formed the Foreign Mission Board of the Korean Church and immediately set aside one of its seven graduating pastors as the first missionary.[1] Pastor Yi Ki-Poog was sent to the island of Chejoo off the coast of Korea as a missionary. In 1908, another of the seven, Han Suk Jin, was sent to Japan.[2] Thereby, the Korean church established its first mission board less than 25 years since Protestant missionaries entered the country. Charles Clark reports that the self-government of the church led to this institution. Therefore, the adoption of the Nevius Method by the missionaries influenced the mission of the Korean national church. The revival empowered the world missions movement:

When the revival waves hit the PCK [Presbyterian Church of Korean] between 1903 and 1907, this missionary church, like the Jerusalem church, was well equipped for crossing geographical and cultural borders. This was the reason that when the General Assembly called for missionaries for the mission to China in 1912, all the delegates of the Assembly volunteered to go.[3]

This early missions movement lasted until 1945.[4] Between 1900 and 1945, the church produced one hundred forty-six diaspora missionaries, and at least nine family units as well as medical volunteers were sent to China.

The Korean Board initially sent missionaries to diaspora Koreans throughout the Pacific Rim: Manchuria, Siberia, Japan, Hawaii and Mexico.[5] Missionaries were sent to Manchuria prior to 1907, since many Koreans had fled their homeland in search of work and to escape war. The work their lasted till the end of World War II, in 1945,[6] no doubt ending because of the communist takeover. Whether Manchuria or Mexico, the Korean missionaries planted churches.

Chejoo Island was considered a foreign county by the Koreans. In 1907, Yi Ki-Poog was sent there. By 1913, after much tribulation, he reported 410 adherents, by 1934, thirty churches.[7] In 1912, the mission board elected to send its first cross-cultural missionaries into China among the Chinese. In 1913, Pak Tai Ro, Sa Pyung Soon and Kim Yung Hoon, having already learned Chinese at home, crossed the Yellow Sea into the Laiyang station, one hundred miles inland from Tsingtao. They were instructed to plant churches according to the Nevius Method.[8] Unfortunately, the first missionaries could not handle to the tough conditions and jealousy among the Chinese churches.[9] Rather than close the mission, the Koreans elected to return. In 1918, three new missionary units were sent to the country; their acclimation was smoother and their results were better. Consequently, the American mission ceded more territory for the Koreans to minister.[10] In 1921, with the addition of Lee family, another station was opened in Jimo. In 1923, they opened a medical clinic. By 1933, the Shantung mission had 1324 adherents with 1041 communicants.[11] Also in 1933, the Korean mission opened the Laiyang Presbytery with forty churches.[12] The mission continued to minister successfully until 1937 when civil war broke out. Given the growth of the church, one is left to wonder what impact the Korean Mission made on the Shantung Revival (1925-1937) or visa versa. More research is needed here.

In 1937, Pang Hyo-won returned to Korea to be succeeded by his son, Pang Ji-il. The story of Pang Ji-il’s perseverance in Shantung is inspiring. He was not forced out of China by the communists until March 15, 1957, at least seven years after the western missionaries fled, and six years after the heroic Bill Wallace was martyred by the Chinese.[13]

[1]Ibid., 145.

[2]Hwal-young Kim, “From Asia to Asia: A History of Cross-Cultural Missionary Work of the Presbyterian Church in Korea (Hapdong), 1959-1992” (D.Miss. diss., Reformed Theological Seminary, 1993), 39. Emphasis added. 

[3]Ibid., 30.

[4]Jang Yun Cho, “Factors Contributing to the Development of the Modern Korean Missions Movement: A Historical Analysis” (Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002), 15.

[5]Ibid., 40-1.

[6]Ibid., 41-3.

[7]Kim, “From Asia to Asia,”38.

[8]Clark, Korean Church and Nevius Methods, 161.

[9]Charles A. Clark, “The Korean Missionaries in Shantung,” in Henry T. Hodgkin, ed. China Mission Year Book 1925 (Shanghai: Christian Literature Society, 1925), 224-5

[10]Ibid., 225-7.

[11]Cho, “Development of Modern Korean Missions Movement,” 49.

[12]Kim, “From Asia to Asia,” 50.

[13]Ibid., 51-4; cf. William R. Estep, Whole Gospel-Whole World: The Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention 1845-1995, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 282.

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