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Spring comes to Seoul

Spring comes to Seoul every year around the end of February, and every year for the past one hundred years it has always come with new hope for the independence of Korea—as yet unfulfilled.
March 1 is a holiday in Korea. It marks the 3.1 (samil) movement for independence, which began on March 1, 1919. Actually, it began on February 8, 1919, with Korean students in Japan issuing a declaration of independence in Tokyo. It spread quickly to every part of Korea. In Seoul, in Tapgol Park, a popular place then as now for people to mull about and enjoy the spring air, on the morning of March 1, hundreds of students gathered together to push for independence. The movement was met by the Japanese authorities with violence and repression.

We have photos of these events thanks in part to one of my predecessors, Dr. Frank Schofield, a veterinarian who was a Canadian Presbyterian mission co-worker here, teaching medicine at Yonsei University. He went around Seoul with his camera, recording for poste…

Studying Korean

For the past few months I’ve been focused on learning Korean, first at the Green Language School and now at Yonsei University, so I feel compelled to make a few comments at this point about the frustrations (and joys) of learning this language.
First off, let me say something positive. Before the middle of the fifteenth century, Koreans used Chinese characters in their writing, something that was not always a good fit with the Korean language. But thanks to King Sejong, who instituted Hangul in 1446, Koreans have the most logical alphabet in the world with which to express themselves. Without it, learning Korean would be that much harder. So let me start off by saying, thank you, King Sejong!
Now for the frustrations. I've been at it for almost four months and i feel like I'm just about as confused now as I was on day one, perhaps even more so.

For one thing, there are two words for everything in Korean: one Chinese and one native Korean. This makes for much confusion! There are …

Christmas Greetings from Korea

I was sidelined by a really nasty winter cold, but I think I'm over it now. In between sniffles and Korean classes I was able to enjoy Christmas. Here are some photos from the Seoul Christmas festival on Cheonggyecheon stream near Seoul City Hall.

And let me try posting this video I made, though I don't guarantee that it will work.

On Christmas day I attended a special Christmas worship service at 우리 교회 near my house, which is a congregation that ministers specifically to divorced families. It was very meaningful.

Christmas greetings to all, and best wishes for the new year!

at the PROK

The relationship between the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the United Church of Canada goes back a long time—even before either church had been institutionally formed, back to 1898, when mission personnel from the Presbyterian Church in Canada first arrived in Korea. And since then the United Church has maintained a continuous presence in Korea through some of the most difficult times in Korean history—the long years of the Japanese occupation, the war years, the military dictatorships and the struggle for democracy.
My role here, first of all, is to embody that relationship just by my presence here on the ground, and secondly, to offer my gifts and skills to support the PROK in its ministry here in Korea and beyond.
The PROK is very committed to ecumenical partnerships as part of its core identity, working with partners both in Korea and abroad to respond to the needs of the world. This really hit home for me this year when I was attending the pre-assembly on Jeju Is…

PROK 103rd General Assembly, September 17-20

I arrived in Korea just in time to be whisked off to Jeju Island for the 103rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, which took place at the Haevichi Resort in Seogwipo-si. Actually, it started with the Pre-Assembly from September 14-17 under the theme Beyond Unification: Asia-Pacific Peace-Zone Consultation. Guests from partner churches in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America were invited to this consultation to engage with the PROK in discussion about the past, present, and future of the church on the path of the pilgrimage to peace. Discussions were lively and eye-opening, especially the theme presentation by Rev. Dr. Hiheon Kim on Embodying 'Mission and Ecumenism from the Margins' in Transformative Solidarity, which got the discussion rolling.

After the consultation we relocated to Haevichi to take part in the opening of the General Assembly, along with 666 Korean delegates from the 28 Presbyteries of the PROK.

Here I am, along with several…