This is the second round of Korea Q&A. If you want to see the first few questions asked and answered, you can check them out here. Some of your questions were really good and tough! I enlisted the help of my friend, William. He’s a Korean Air Force chaplain, and he was gracious in helping me answer some of the more difficult questions posed. If you’re curious about Korea, please drop a question in the comments below or on Facebook, LinkedIn comments, and I’ll try to work them into a future blog Q&A on Korea.
Gina asks: What is the population of where you and your family are living? Answer: We live in the city of Asan. The population is a little more than 300,000. I work about 15 minutes away at US Army Group (USAG) Humphreys which is in the city of Pyeongtaek. It’s a bit bigger with 500,000 inhabitants. Technically, we live just outside of Asan city in a little community called Dunpo-Myeon. The population here is about 6,000. There are lots of rice paddy farms around us. I routinely dodge tractors and farmers coming back and forth to work.
Elaine asks: How many fled North Korea and do they still have family there? Answer: According to the BBC, around 1,000 North Koreans escape each year. It’s a dangerous and harrowing process for North Koreans. The easier path is usually through China, but it’s still extremely difficult. If the Chinese catch refugees, they send them back to North Korea. Punishment awaits. Sadly, some families are divided during the process. Some family members escape to freedom while others are caught and sent back. According to the BBC, approximately 33,000 North Koreans have escaped the totalitarian state over the past 70 years. Out of a country of 25 million, that’s a very small number of North Koreans who’ve made it out of the country. A few weeks ago, South Korea elected the first North Korean defector to its parliament.
Danny asks: How much of the culture is blended into the different denominations? My friend Chaplain William Woo (Korean Air Force) answers: It’s possible Christianity was first introduced to Korea as early as 668 due to trade routes connecting China and Korea. Christianity took root in orea not through missionaries but by a group of progressive scholars who studied western books imported from China. These scholars studied Roman Catholic books translated in ancient Chinese and came to faith during the 1700s. Christianity during the Chosun Dynasty was blended with Confucianism, because Confucian scholars were the ones studying the Bible. Early Korean believers decided to cease the commemorative rite for ancestors because they viewed it as contrary to biblical teaching. This led to widespread persecution of believers in the 1790s. Protestant Christianity in Korea began with the arrival missionaries in the 1870s. Presbyterian missionaries were the most prevalent protestants to minister to Koreans. The Korean Protestant Church is significantly impacted by churches in the United States, primarily because most protestant churches trace their heritage to US missionary organizations. Korean protestants deny most Confucian rites including the commemorative rites for ancestors. The Korean Protestant Church has helped transition Korea from old traditions to modern traditions. For example, Korean protestants pray in the early morning (every morning 0530-0630) and hold Friday night services weekly from 2100-2200.