One Hundred Years Old – And Still Growing!
by Envoy Joy Johns
An artist’s impression of the new Salvation Army Office Building in Seoul
THE year 2008 is an important one for The Salvation Army’s Korea Territory as it marks 100 years of ministry on the peninsula. A variety of special events is being arranged, the highlight of which will be the Territorial Centennial Congress in October.
Colonel and Mrs Robert and Annie Hoggard arrived in Seoul from England in October 1908 to ‘open fire’ for The Salvation Army. From such small beginnings there now are 719 officers (574 active, 145 retired) ministering in more than 250 corps and a similar number of community-centred services. The territory runs children’s homes, women’s homes, homes for the elderly, an HIV/Aids care and prevention programme, adult rehabilitation programmes, centres for the disabled, centres and services for the homeless and unemployed, counselling centres and a school. The Salvation Army Year Book 2008 reports that there are more than 40,000 senior soldiers (full Salvation Army members) in the territory – more than in the UK and Ireland and double the number in the whole of Australia.
A special logo has been devised for the centenary, with the English translation of the territorial motto based on Romans 16:13: ‘Filling the land with God’s hope’.
The Government of the Republic of Korea has given approval for a special postage stamp to be issued in celebration of the Salvation Army centenary. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Army’s work. Such approvals are rare, especially for a religious group or body.
|A stamp being issued to celebrate The Salvation Army’s centenary in Korea|
Fundraising is difficult in Korea, with public solicitation only allowed with Government approval. The annual Kettle Appeal is held each Christmas but this only goes so far towards funding the various social service ministries of the territory.
Over the past 30 years or so, much financial revenue has been gained through the renting of office space in the SAOB (Salvation Army Office Building). This rental income is the main source of the territory’s funding.
With the territory’s commitment to be financially self-supporting by the end of its centenary, a new building is being erected at Choong Chung Ro, on the perimeter of the main central business district of Seoul city – on the site of the former Seoul Girls’ Home and Ah Hyun Corps.
Once the building becomes operational, revenue gained will also assist in the commitment to become a ‘giving’ (financially independent) territory rather than a ‘receiving’ (grant aided) territory which receives financial assistance from the international Salvation Army.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the new building was conducted on 30 January 2008, with construction of the building now taking place.
|A leaflet explaining the centenary project to plant trees in North Korea|
|The centenary logo|
|Wah-woo-doh Hospital, North Korea, which The Salvation Army is helping to refurbish|
The history of the Korean nation during The Salvation Army’s time there is a troubled one. Soon after the pioneer officers arrived in 1908, the country was annexed by Japan. This was finalised in 1910 so that the country was under Japanese colonial rule until the end of the Second World War.
Liberation brought new problems, however, and the country was soon divided along the famous 38th Parallel. The regions were placed under temporary military rule by the United States (in the south) and Soviet (in the north) armies.
In 1948, with assistance from the United Nations, a presidential election was held in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), with Dr Rhee Syngman being elected president. In the northern area of the peninsula, the Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea, led by Kim, Il-sung was formed in February 1946 and, on 9 September 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was officially founded.
Thus the Korean peninsula was divided just north of the 38th parallel – the democratic Republic of Korea in the south and the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north.
In the early hours of Sunday 25 June 1950, North Korea attempted a forcible reunification of Korea by invading South Korea. This resulted in the bloody Korean conflict, which lasted three years.
After huge advances and retreats on both sides, the war eventually reached a stalemate and on 27 July 1953 an armistice was reached. No peace treaty has ever been signed and so the two countries remain, even today, technically at war.
Over recent years, though, there has been a cooling of animosity, with representatives from both countries meeting occasionally to try to work out plans and programmes of cooperation. On 4 October 2007 a huge step forward was taken when North Korea and South Korea signed an agreement ‘to pursue peace’ on the peninsula.
Prior to the division of the peninsula there were more than 70 Salvation Army corps in the northern area. Since the war, however, The Salvation Army has not been permitted to minister north of the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone). However, in September 2007 The Salvation Army in South Korea gained approval from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Unification and is now recognised as an NGO (non-governmental organisation) which can provide support to North Korea. It is one of very few organisations to be granted this recognition.
The way into the north was smoothed over with liberal use of yoghurt – a yoghurt processing plant put in place in the summer of 2004 to find a use for the region’s plentiful supply of goats’ milk was the first Salvation Army work in North Korea since the Korean war.
One of the projects now in progress is the planting of 12,000 chestnut trees in the Go-sung-goon area of Kangwon Province in North Korea. About 80 per cent of North Korea used to be forest but in the past 20 years, with economic and fuel crises, trees were claimed for energy and so great swathes of forest were lost.
Chestnut trees are easy to come by in the south and will help recover forest areas as well as providing another source of food. The harvesting of chestnut trees takes around five years following planting.
Assistance is also being provided for the Wah-woo-doh Hospital facility in Nampo, a city which was formerly home to a Salvation Army corps. Some 250 to 330 patients visit this centre each day but, of the 24 departments including inpatients and paediatrics, only 11 are actually operating.
The building itself is 60 years old and shows its age. The sanitary facilities are poor, beyond description. Supplies are meagre.
Now, thanks to the support of The Salvation Army, Wah-woo-doh Hospital is undergoing renovation and refurbishment and the Salvationists of South Korea are able to give a practical demonstration of their love and compassion for their neighbours in the north.
If the first 100 years of Salvation Army work in Korea has been a case of success against the odds, it is hoped that the next 100 years will see growth and harmony between Salvationists in the south and potential Salvationists in the north.
Envoy Joy Johns is private secretary to the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army’s Korea Territory