KOREAN ORTHODOX MISSION
[Reprinted from "Word of the Church", July 2000 issue,
The official Publication of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Printed with the blessing
of His Grace Archbishop Hilarion]
Archbishop Hilarion, Fr. Justin Kang, and Mr. Evgeny (from the
left), at Yonghwa, Samchuk-si, Kangwon-do, the east coast of
I pray that the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with
you. I give thanks to God who made this trip possible and gave me an
opportunity to talk to you in Australia.
I thank all of you, and especially express my heartfelt thanks to
His Eminence, Archbishop Hilarion and to brother Evgeny Pervuhin, who
supported my travel.
Thesedays, in Far East Asia, the political, economic, social, cultural
and religious situation is rapidly changing. Thus, the world's mass
communication is focused on the Korean peninsula.
You may have heard of the Pyongyang summit meeting of President
Kim of South Korea and North Korean Leader, Kim. After half a century
of cold and tragic separation, now the first historical step towards
peace and reunification has been taken. The second summit meeting is
expected to be held during spring of next year in Seoul.
Now let me briefly talk about Korean Christianity. The Korean Roman
Catholic Church has 3 million believers, 20 bishops, 1 cardinal, and
10,000 priests, nus, and monks. Korean Protestants have 10 million believers
and more than 50,000 clergymen and missionaries. The Anglican Church
has about 50,000 believers, three bishops, and 100 priests. Though the
Anglican Church is small in size, it does considerable pioneering work
for development of Korean society. The Greek Orthodox Church have 1,000
believers, 1 bishop and 7 priests. Other Koreans believe in Buddhism,
Confucianism, and traditional Korean religions. Almost all Koreans naturally
do not like materialistic atheism.
Recently, North Korea invited Pope John Paul II to visit, and a
Korean newspaper reported that the Vatican is contemplating this now.
Last year, President Kim met the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II and
invited him to Korea.
This is the second invitation from Korea, as he had been invited
before by a Korean Protestant church association. However, Moscow did
not reply to this invitation. The Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew
has visited Korea twice. He met the ex-President Kim, who is a Protestant
believer. But the present President Kim who is Roman Catholic rejected
Constantinople's request for a meeting.
Last April, Moscow Patriarch Alexei II visited Japan to ordain a new
metroplitan for the Japanese Orthodox Church, Daniel. Very recently,
I have heard that Moscow and Constantinople have agreed to cooperate
on the Korean Orthodox mission. They will build a Greek Orthodox cathedral
in the city of Daejon (located in the middle of Korea, with a population
of 1.2 million) and will conduct missionary work there in collaboration
with each other. In July of this year, Russian President Putin visited
North Korea. During these days, belongings of the Romanov royal house
and Russian Orthodox Icons are being exhibited at the Duksu Palace in
This sequence of actions by political and church leaders shows that
they are working to increase their influence, advantages, and jurisdiction
over the Korean peninsula.
When North and South Korea will go ahead increasingly with sporting,
cultural, and economic exchanges, the Roman Catholics and Protestants
will rapidly send missionaries to the North. I doubt whether the North
will becom like the former Soviet Union, which, after its collapse,
has been inundated by western religion and culture.
I believe that the most important and unique mission of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in Korea is to spread the
spirituality of the early Church Fathers and the Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy.
These things are very much needed in present-day Korean Christianity.
I believe that not only unbelievers, but many heterodox Christians will
come to our Church to learn the true and sublime Christian beliefs which
have been handed down directly from the Apostles.
Out Korean ROCOR mission in Korea is very small community. We do
not have a church in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, having no political,
organizational or economic power. We have only one small wooden building
(St. Anna Church consecrated by His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion). There
are about 100 believers all over the nation, including those who are
preparing to be baptised. We have one priest, one subdeacon and one
reader. The financial situation is difficult and we have red figures
in our finances. However, for the sake of the future harvest of the
Gospel, we sow the seed of the Good News and care for its growth. We
have strong confidence that God is with us.
For example, when we needed money to publish out book, called The
Eastern Orthodox Church - Its History and Theology, a non-Christian
donated 7,000 U.S. dollars. So, we were able to print 2,000 copies.
This book was selected as "This Year's Book" in the field
of religion by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in 1996, as a result
of which the Korean government purchased 400 copies and distributed
them to all the national libraries in Korea. Another non-Orthodox believers
financially supported the publication of 3,000 copies of another small
book on Orthodoxy.
The construction of St. Anna Church was also supported by a few Protestant
I have introduced the spirituality, theology, history, and tradition
of the Russian Orthodox Church at invited lectures for Roman Catholic,
Protestant, and Anglican Church groups more than 15 times. Our non-Orthodox
Christian friends understand the ROCOR very well and have supported
us. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Greek Orthodox community in
Due to the poor situation of the ROCOR mission in Korea, one priest
left us and went to a Greek Orthodox community in order to get a salary.
Many candidates for the priesthood and monaticism have left us, seeing
We are inspired, however, by reading the book of Esther in the Old Testament
and by praying and contemplating.
Recently, God sent us a few new able young men who, I believe, will
follow the holy call and will become good candidates for the priesthood.
Also, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Korean government has
formally approved our KOM (Korean Orthodox Mission) community by Korean
law as an organization performing better cultural interchange between
Korea and Russia.
Up to now, we have twice opened a mission office, by monthly rent, in
Seoul in the course of three years from 1994 to 1997 and once in Samchuk
city, in the east coast of Korea, until a few months ago. Due to financial
difficulties we have closed the office.
But, we still run our ROCOR mission office in St. Anna Church, and we
are making additional space available for the office by our own labours
and with the help of hired workers.
To effectively continue the mission in Korea, a mission center and church
building are necessary. These will allow Orthodox believers to join
together for the Divine Liturgy, surrounded by icons, and to experience
the spirituality of the Church Father interiorly.
On the Korean peninsula, we expect that the east coast will become the
center of international interchange. Our St. Anna Church is located
in Samchuk city, which is 33 kilometers south of the port of Donghae,
the largest port on the east coast. This port is now the center of the
interchange between North Korea and South Korea. And interchange with
the Russian Primorskiy Krai and Chinese Hunchun are increasing now.
The Japanese Tsuruga sea route will be connected to the Donghae port.
This port is still under development, and it can be reached by direct
highway from Seoul, while and airport is located within a distance of
40 minutes. A railroad will also be constructed to connect with North
We hope to build a beautiful Orthodox Church here. Prices in the central
area are high, while in the suburbs they are low, but it seems that
prices will become higher.
If we can manage to build a church in Donghae, the ROCOR will newly
recognized in Korea and many new people will come to our church.
Since Seoul is a very expensive capital city, we hope for now to open
a mission office there instead of a church, renting on a deposit basis,
if possible. We believe that it is our lifelong duty to undertake missionary
work not only in Seoul and South Korea, but also in Pyongyang (the capital
of North Korea), Nazin, the Sunbong area of North Korea, and also the
northeast region of China (Harbin) and Russia (Primorskiy Krai). We
hope and pray to do our mission in far east Asia.
But first, we need to build a church in Donghae city and a mission office
We need financial support.
Dear brothers and sisters, please pray for us and help us to build a
monumental ROCOR church in Donghae city, on the east coast of Korea,
which is very near to Hassanskiy raion, Ussuriisk, and Harbin. Let us
construct a church, a holy task of praise to our Lord!
Very recently, we experienced several miraculous occurrences. Let me
introduce three of them to you.
First, a few months ago, we received a package by post from Hong Kong
containing seven very old Russian Orthodox style icons. We don't know
who sent them. What a miracle and grace-filled event! We believe that
our Lord sent the icons through an angel from Heaven.
Second, one day I needed to to to Seoul, but I found that I had only
15 dollars in my pocket, whereas I needed at least 70 dollars for diesel
oil, the highway passage fare, eating and loding. After driving 2 km
from the church to enter the big road, I stopped to fasten my seat belt
and said to myself, "How good it would be if I had a thousand dollars!"
Actually, I needed that amount of money at that time. Not a minute passed
when a postman on a red motorcycle came to me and asked me to sign for
a cheque. I was surprised.
God had heard my words! I exclaimed and said, "O thank You, my
Lord!" The amount sent to me was exactly 1,000 dollars. I immediately
went to a bank to pay the delayed taxes, interest, and then proceeded
to Seoul in a comfortable and thankful state of mind.
Finally, the third miracle concerns a big mountain fire in our east
coast area which continued for about a week. The mountains here are
almost bare now and the colours red, and they say that it will take
30 years for nature to recover.
Five nearby houses, within 100 meters, were completely burned. Though
a few embers flew onto our church building, our church remained unburned.
Every neighbour says that this is a true miracle. We give thanks to
our Lord and the Theotokos.
I have faith that our Lord will provide us with a beautiful and magnificent
ROCOR church in Donghae and a mission center in Seoul. Also we believe
that our Lord will help us to publish Orthodox books continuously.
Ocasionally I have been ridiculed by being called a "beggar priest",
a "bogus priest", or a "poor priest". I have been
socially isolated with tremendous economic suffering.
St. Paul's following words from his letters to the Corinthians and Romans
have been of great consolation and encouragement. Let me finish my speech
by quoting them:
"To this very moment we go hungry and thirsty; we are clothed in
rags; we are beated; we wander from place to place; we wear ourselves
out with hard work. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted,
we endure; when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words. We
are no more than this world's garbage; we are the scum of the earth
to this very moment!" (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).
"No, in all things we have complete victory through Him Who loved
us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither
death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers,
neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the
world below - there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able
to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus
our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).
May God the Father, Christ Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit give
you grace, mercy, and peace. Amen.
FROM THE EDITOR:
Anyone wishing to contribute to the Korean Orthodox Mission may send
donations to the Diocesan Office in Croydon, or directly to Fr. Justin
Kang at the following address:
KOREAN ORTHODOX MISSION
451-1, Yonghwa, Geunduk-myon,
Samchok-si, Kangwon-do, Korea
Tel : +82-33-573-5210
Fax : +82-33-573-5289