1. History of Korean Quakers
By Bo-Kyom Jin
After the Korean War, some British and American Quakers came to
Korea for rehabilitation programs. After the overseas workers had left Korea, some of the Korean assistants of the programs held the first
Quaker Meeting in 1958 and some American Friends who worked at the international Cooperation Administration in Seoul supported
them. Meeting began with silent worship for thirty minutes, and
about an hour was given for study and fellowship.
FWCC encouraged Seoul Friends to build relationship with Japan
Yearly Meeting or with Honolulu MM and two of the Koreans
became Quakers whose membership belonged to Honolulu Meeting
in 1958. Historically, Japan and Korea have had a difficult
relationship since Korea was colonized and devastated by Japan. So it
was difficult for us to intervisit for some time. The same year, AFSC
energetically tried to bring some Koreans to the seminars and work
camps in Japan and Korean Friends began to participate in the
program. As the result of their visits, correspondence with Japanese
Friends began taking place. In 1961, FWCC began sponsoring some
visitors and Friends in residence in Korea and Seoul Friends
requested a direct and official relationship with FWCC. The Meeting
then had about thirty regular attenders and study programs were actively carried out and FWCC helped strengthen its links with
In 1964, with the help of overseas Friends, a meeting place for the
Seoul Friends was purchased after having had to change places of
worship ten times in 6 years.“Seoul Friends Meeting Monthly
Newsletter” was published in 1966. The Meeting decided to take up
the leper village in Tandong as its main service project. The visiting
Friends from Japan, USA, Australia and England, have strengthened
us very much.
Every Sunday, Bible study was led by Sok Hon Ham, who was a
widely recognized spiritual leader in Korea. In 1967, Seoul Meeting
became a Monthly Meeting under the care of the FWCC. The visit of
the Chairperson of FWCC, Douglas Steere and his wife Dorothy in
1967 and his public lecture at the YMCA with about one hundred
people in the audience meant a great deal in Quaker outreach. At the
same year, Sok Hon Ham left Korea for the USA to attend the
Greensboro Gathering and the tenth triennial meeting of FWCC.
After the meeting, he attended the Pacific Yearly Meeting, studied at
Pendle Hill and visited many Friends Meetings and Friends in the
United States and Japan. International Quaker contacts such as work
camps, travel and study abroad(at Pendle Hill or at Woodbrooke in
England), participation in Quaker conferences, an inter-visitation
program with Japanese Quakers, and numerous visiting friends
contributed greatly to nurturing Korean Friends during the 1970s and
1980s and are still an enriching experience to us.
In 1980, SMM was active having a study group, outreach activities
and raised a voice of conscience under the dictatorship of military
government. Under the leadership of Sok Hon Ham, Seoul MM
flourished with members and attenders at its height numbering close
to fifty. In 1988, a second floor was added to the meetinghouse to
meet the demand of the growing memberships. In 1990s, Seoul MM
went through a dark period after the demise of Sok Hon Ham.
Fortunately, since 2000, Seoul MM has revived some of its vitality.
2. State of the Meeting
Over the past year our number of members has decreased from 20 to
10. Some of the attenders are Americans who are married to Koreans In the past few years, a worshipping group began to meet regularly
and more than 10 F/friends continues to gather every week in Daejon
(a city 2 hours far from Seoul) They have established a vibrant,
worshipping and studying community. We used to have a retreat
annually but there were no retreats in 2007/8 because of the absence
of initiatives or the decrease of members. Vocal ministries are rare in
Seoul MM and sometimes I feel eager for vocal ministries in my
Meeting. In addition, the financial situation of SMM has gotten worse
mainly as monthly donations decreased.
Since 2007, AVP programs have been introduced by a Korean Friend
(Jonghee Lee) and co-facilitated by her and German Friends
(including Ute Caspers). Most of the participants were NGO activists.
A Direct Education workshop facilitated by George Leakey from the
USA was also held in Seoul last year.
We are planning a Korea version of Faith and Practice. I know you
have made your own Faith and Practice and hope that Australian
Friends will give some useful advice to us.
Last year we had quarterly gatherings named Family gatherings. The
intention is for us to invite our family members who are not Quakers
and sing together and share food and fellowship.
We have an annual gathering (business meeting and fellowship)
3. Committee activities
We have Peace Service committee, Learning committee, Outreach
committee, library and website committee, Facilities care committee,
Finance committee. Our committees are not fully functioning partly
due to shortage of manpower but we are thankful that we could
maintain this Meeting and carried out some service activities.
From the beginning of the Korean Quaker history, service work was
emphasized. As a first step, medicines were supplied to two
Tuberculosis patients beginning in 1961 for two years. Work camps
for orphans and the blind, In 1964, a house for leper patients was
built. Emergency food was supplied in 1960s. In 2003, the Meeting
participated in an anti Iraq War demonstration and actively raised
funds to help anti Iraq War activists’ organizations. The meeting now
supports Foreign Migrant Workers Center , Ssi-Al Women’s Center,
and the Anti-Mine Association. Since the Korean War, landmines that were buried during the war have become a threat to civilians but
those victims haven’t been cared enough by Korean government.
Our program consists of Business Meeting every 1st Sunday; George
Fox Journal reading 2nd Sunday; Pendle Hill pamphlet discussion
group every 3rd Sunday; Bible reading group every 4th Sunday.
4. Children in the Meeting
Child care issues emerged again during the 2008 annual meeting. At
present, a few children attend the Meeting irregularly and SMM is
going to assign F/fs to take care of them during the worship in case
5. International Contacts
Sister Meetings : Canberra/Australia, Kapiti/ New Zealand, JYM
Hosted 2005 AWPS Section Gathering. Korean Friends have
attended international Friends gatherings including Bhopal, India
gathering and Auckland and Dublin Triennials.
Epilogue :In December 2008, Seoul Friends had their annual meeting
to review the past year and to think about and plan 2009. We are
thankful that we could maintain this tiny meeting and that our
worshiping group is getting more active.