An interesting account of the work of the Lord. It should stir prayer for the opening of a door for the gospel in N. Korea.
There are approximately 75 million Korean speaking people in the world. Most of them live on the Korean peninsula which is strategically located between China, Japan, and Russia. The country is divided along the 38th parallel into South and North Korea. South Korea will be the main subject of this article, but North Korea is fascinating to think about as well, because recent diplomatic and commercial activity indicate that North Korea may once again be opening to contact with the rest of the world and, one would hope, to the spread of the gospel as well.
South Korea has a population of about 46 million. The land area is only 38,000 square miles which makes it only 1/100th the land area of Canada. As well, 85% of the land is mountainous, unsuitable for agriculture. There are very few natural resources: some coal, limestone for making cement, and tungsten. Koreas greatest resource is its people – they are energetic, ambitious, and outgoing. Education is highly valued, and the literacy rate is almost 100%. For a country so short of resources and devastated by war just 50 years ago, there has been an amazing economic achievement with the economy ranking 11th in the world.
The Koreans have long been animists believing in a spirit world, but not specifically believing in God. The average Korean would likely say that there is a god out there, that there is an afterlife, and that we will arrive at the right destination if we do the best we can. The challenge of life is to be in harmony with the spirit world. This is achieved by good and righteous behavior according to them.
When they hear the gospel clearly preached there is generally an immediate interest, because it is intriguing to think of a loving God who wants them to be in Heaven with Himself. There is an admiration for the person of Christ, His unselfishness touches them. In reality however, the road to salvation is strewn with many obstacles, such as their belief that good works can merit salvation, or that religious observance, whether it be Buddhist, Christian, or Confucian is enough to atone for human sin before a holy God. Twenty-five percent of the population is nominally Christian. Some of the largest church congregations in the world are found in Korea with one charismatic group claiming 750,000. The main protestant denomination is Presbyterian. There is huge Bible printing industry in Korea, probably the biggest in the world. The Bible is even printed in Braille, which takes many large volumes for the 66 books of our Bible.
In the midst of this cultural, religious, and economic hive of activity, the gospel has gone forth attended with blessing in the salvation of precious souls. A number of missionaries have come and gone from Korea over the years. At present there are perhaps one or two American believers who live in Korea, seeking to encourage the assemblies. In the main, the work has been done by the Koreans themselves. They have preached the gospel and sought to carry out the scriptural pattern of the New Testament assembly. They report 150 assemblies over the whole of South Korea. Some of these would be numerically weak while others, especially in the big cities, would be larger. What you would see if you visited a Korean assembly on the Lords Day morning would be men and women sitting in a circle on the floor with the bread and the cup on a small table in the midst. The sisters would be covered, brethren would be taking part audibly. Many of the hymns would be recognizable by the tunes. The emblems would go round, and after that a word of ministry is usual. From time to time there will be a special series, either in the gospel or ministry for the Lords people.
We should be deeply encouraged by what has been done for the Lord. How thrilling it is to meet our beloved brethren and sisters and to see the grace of God manifested in their faces and in their lives! They love to sing hymns, and often the conversation turns to the one great uniting fact of Gods wondrous grace to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For many years there has been a very active publishing work carried on in Korea. This work has supported the spread of the gospel and the truth of Christians gathering in the Lords Name.
The Koreans are praying fervently that a door for the spread of the gospel will open in North Korea. The gospel went forth in the north years ago, but for the past 55 years the door has been closed. The South Korean believers are also sending out missionaries of their own to China, Viet Nam, the Philippines, and Cambodia. There are 26 assembly gatherings of Koreans in northern China, pioneered by assembly believers from south Korea. It would seem that the Lord of the harvest is finding His laborers for the great harvest field in places unexpected by us.
Possibly there will be some great surprises in a soon-coming day, when we learn how God was working in the hearts of men and women in this world even in our own day and age.
In closing let us not forget the many Koreans in our midst. Over the years thousands have left their country to live in North America. At a recent conference the writer counted 40 Korean believers in the audience. They are spread all over the continent, and thankfully, there are a good number in assembly fellowship. They need our friendship, our fellowship, and our help. The language barrier is there, no doubt about it, but by visiting in the homes and in the halls, great fellowship can be enjoyed. There is a wealth of very sound literature in the Korean language for evangelism and for the edification of believers.
“Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9).