North and South Korea
The First Protestant Missionary To Korea

North Korea

In one recent year only 120 tourists visited North Korea which has been under a Communist government since the Korean war in the 1950’s (officially the war never ended, but a border was imposed splitting the country and many families in half).

Every tourist has a guide who takes them to certain ‘tourist’ spots. The tourists are not allowed to go where they want to and are monitored at all times. North Korea is the number one country in the world for persecution of Christians. Christians face torture and often execution unless they renounce Christ and worship their new ‘Great Leader’ in 2012.

In North Korea Christians face torture and often execution unless they renounce Christ
In North Korea Christians face torture and often execution unless they renounce Christ. A report emerged how a group of fugitive Christians who were hiding in ditches in the countryside were caught and one by one were run over by a stream roller, feet first.

In the past few years reports have emerged that around two million North Koreans have died from starvation.

From a very early age the children are taught to sing great songs about their ‘Great Leader.’ North Korea actually has a dead ‘Great Leader’ called Kim Il-Sung who died in July 1994 and who ruled for nearly 50 years. Kim Jong-il was his son who recently died and his son is now the present day leader.

Pray for North Korea

  • 1. Pray that God will break Communism in North Korea like He did in the USSR.
  • 2. Pray for the secret believers who face torture and execution if discovered.
  • 3. Pray that the Holy Spirit will move upon people’s hearts and reveal Jesus to them.
  • 4. Pray for labourers to be trained up who will be ready to go when Communism falls, and it is only a matter of time.
  • 5. Pray that God will raise up more people to pray for North Korea.
  • 6. Ask God that the nations will be His inheritance (Psalm 2:8).
  • 7. Pray that the antennas blocking various transmissions of radio, TV (they only have one state channel) etc. will be put out of action or that Christian material will come in via the airwaves or by other means.

    Ask yourself what you would do if you were living in North Korea under Communist rule? How would you feel living in such harsh conditions without a freedom of speech and no hope for the future?

    ‘With God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26.

  • South Korea

    South Korea now has the biggest church in the world. Dr David Yongi Cho has a church of over one million members. Some churches can seat 10,000 people. Some churches have seven services a day. We give glory to God.

    South Korea is the 2nd largest missionary sending nation in the world
    South Korea is the 2nd largest missionary sending nation in the world. They know how to pray and many churches hold prayer meeting at 5am throughout the week, which is common practice.

    Scattered across Korea are 'prayer mountains' where people go to pray often in a secluded hut where many will fast and beseech God. Some prayer mountains are like conference centres which churches use for retreats etc.

    The First Protestant Missionary to Korea

    Robert Jermain Thomas was born in Rhayadar South Wales (UK) in 1839. His dad was a minister in Hanover Church in Llanover near Abergervenny from 1848-1884. At 15 Thomas was made a member of the church and soon began to preach. On June 4th 1863, he was ordained at Hanover Church to be a missionary with the London Missionary Society. By this time Thomas had mastered nearly all the European languages and had studied medicine for 18 months with a Dr Waterman and spent five years at London University. Four weeks later Thomas and his young bride Caroline embarked for China at Gravesend and during the first week of December they arrived at Shanghai.

    Sadly after four months Caroline died and due to stress and deep grief Thomas resigned from the Mission Society. He went to Peking (now Beijing) and became a lecturer in English and Chinese. In 1865 Thomas met two Korean traders (Korea at this time was the Hermit Kingdom and had no contact with outsiders) who told him that there were about 50,000 Catholic converts who were instructed by eleven priests and met in houses. These traders had crosses and rosaries but no Bibles, so he offered to go back to Korea with them, taking Chinese Scriptures. To be able to go he became an agent for the National Bible Society of Scotland who paid for his travelling expenses.
    Sadly after four months Caroline died and due to stress and deep grief Thomas resigned from the Mission Society

    On 4th September 1865 he went to Korea from Chefoo and he quickly picked up the language. Thomas was heavily disguised and those he sold Bibles risked being decapitated if discovered. Thomas wrote that "they (Koreans) were very hostile to foreigners but by a little chat in their own language I could persuade them to accept a book or two." He left after four months.

    Many Koreans visited Thomas on the ship and received the Bible
    In 1866 there was a serious uprising in Korea and many Roman Catholic converts were massacred as well as some priests. The French dispatched an admiral as nine French priests had been murdered. The admiral looked for an interpreter and so Thomas was employed. On a particular stop, supplies were brought on board and the admiral sailed on leaving Thomas behind. Thomas then got employment as a translator on an armed American merchant-marine schooner called the General Sherman.

    Many Koreans visited Thomas on the ship and received a Bible. 'The Rev. Thomas Story' by a Korean, Oh Moon Whan includes several eyewitness accounts by some of these Koreans. "There were occasions when the ship was in danger of tipping over due to so many Koreans being aboard. At Poh-ri alone, more than 500 Bibles were handed out." This shows how dedicated Thomas was to evangelism.

    They sailed up the river to Pyongyang (which is now North Korea’s capital) but were warned to leave as they did not want foreign trade, but the captain opened fire much to Thomas’ horror. The chief of police Lee Hyon Ik boarded the vessel, and was kidnapped and his official seal was taken from him. Only after seeing the Governor would the chief be released and this was relayed in a letter written in Chinese by Thomas from orders of the captain. The boat continued to sail up river while angry crowds lined the shore demanding the chief’s release.

    Then the army was called out who fired cannons against the ship. By this time the ship had floated onto a sandbank as the tide was going out. Fire rafts were sent out towards the ship. Thomas opened his case of Bibles and started to throw them to those who lined the shore whist shouting, "Jesus, Jesus."

    Frantically gave out the Bibles until he was captured
    Whang Myong Dae, a 20-year old youth, witnessed this act. He was so impressed with Thomas that he later embraced Jesus becoming a founding member of a church near Pyongyang. In his 80's, Whang attended services at the Jo-wang-ri church (Dae-dong-gun) near Dae-dong-gang." Thomas with his clothes on fire leapt overboard with his few remaining Bibles and swam to the bank and frantically gave out the Bibles until he was captured and taken before the governor. All 24 crew members and the owner of the ship a Mr Preston were executed. Thomas humbly knelt down and begged the executioner to accept the last red Bible from him. Thomas shut his eyes and prayed, the executioner hesitated, but then had to do his duty and so Thomas was beheaded at only 27 years of age. Some accounts stated that Thomas was knifed through the heart and that most of the crew were beaten to death by the angry mob.

    After many weeks the executioner was greatly troubled in his mind and had in fact picked up the Bible and taken it home with him. The soldier was full of regret and remorse as Thomas' martyrdom made a deep impression on his mind. After many weeks Thomas’ body with the rest of his companions were buried on the island of Sook Syum.

    A few days after the execution an edict was issued threatening the arrest for any person who was found in possession of such books (the Bible). Many were thrown away but some people gathered them up and the pages were used as wallpaper. After time curiosity arose and the texts were read which were on the walls of people’s homes and as the Holy Spirit gave revelation, the Koreans gradually came to believe in Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. In time a Presbyterian congregation was formed.

    Koreans gradually came to believe in Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour

    The 1904 revival broke out in Moriah Chapel Loughor
    In June 1871, a U.S. naval force attacked and captured five forts to punish the "natives for depredations on Americans," particularly for murdering the crew of the General Sherman and burning the schooner, and for later firing on other American "small boats taking soundings up the Salee River."

    The 1904 revival broke out in Moriah Chapel, Loughor, South Wales (UK). It swept through the valleys and sparked off a revival in parts of India as well as other places. Word came to Pyongyang and the Koreans were hungry for some of the fire, and so a week of fasting and prayer was set aside for the church in Pyongyang. The church wanted God to come and touch their community but nothing happened!

    Then the church elder came to the front and publicly confessed that he had been misusing money that had been entrusted into his care. An outpouring of public repentance began, and many people queued until the following morning to confess sin. The revival had begun. A policeman confessed that he had come to spy and a woman confessed adultery and her husband publicly forgave her. Eventually an old man went to the front and confessed that he had been the one who had killed Thomas, nearly 40 years before. This old man's son eventually became an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and the revival began to spread to other churches.

    In 1932 near the site where Thomas Jermain Robert had been martyred, in Pyongyang (now North Korea) the Thomas Memorial Church was erected at the place of his martyrdom by Korean Christians.
    The revival
    had begun

    To translate the Scriptures into Korean Mission Year Book of this British Congregational Church for 1868

    "Missionary work was the grand purpose of his (Rev. Robert Jermain Thomas) life. He made every labour subservient to this noble end. To act as an interpreter to the French expedition was only subordinate to higher purposes, or else he would not have left Chefoo in a merchant vessel instead of staying for the expedition. The fact is he wanted to go to Korea by some means in order to perfect his knowledge in the language, so as to be able translate the Scriptures into that language, and establish a Protestant Mission in that dark land."

    The church that sent Rev. Thomas, Hanover in Llanover is still there today. I visited it in 2001, where sadly there are only 4 or 5 members but there are a few pictures of Rev. Thomas on the chapel walls and other interesting information available to look at, in the small chapel.
    To establish a Protestant Mission in that dark land

    Many Koreans still come and visit
    Many Koreans still come and visit the church to see where the great missionary came from. In 2001 a Korean Choir visited South Wales (UK) to honour the land to which they owe so much to and presented the chapel with a beautiful vase. I saw the choir in concert in Cardiff and they were superb. They performed a drama in traditional Korean costume. If you go to this web site you can see a picture of Thomas and the church that was in North Korea. www.annibynwyr.org/saesneg/rjthomas.htm

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