Quick to Listen/Episode 50 | 25 min

The Rise and Struggle of South Korean Missionaries

How the East Asian church approaches missions 10 years after a devastating hostage crisis.
The Rise and Struggle of South Korean Missionaries

In the past few months, life has suddenly gotten worse for dozens of South Korean missionaries ministering in China. From CT’s report:

In the past few months, China has expelled dozens of South Korean missionaries from Jilin, a northeastern province that neighbors North Korea.

News media reported the raids, with estimates of the total expulsions ranging from 30 to 70.

“Chinese authorities raided the homes of the missionaries, citing a problem with their visas, and told them to leave,” one human rights activist and pastor told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He said that most were on tourist or student visas.

The majority of South Korean missionaries working in China serve North Korean defectors who cross the border. There are at least 500 officially registered South Korean missionaries in China, though this number could be as high as 2,000.

While missions took off in South Korea in the late 1970s—making the country the No. 2 missionary-sending country by 2006—its foreign presence has been on the decline in the last decade. In fact, 2017 marks 10 years since 23 South Korean church volunteers were abducted by the Taliban while traveling in Afghanistan on a medical aid trip. They were released 43 days later, but not before two of them were killed.

The trauma caused by the event didn’t shake the South Korean church’s resolve on missions, said Julie Ma, a theology professor at Oral Roberts University.

“Church leaders said they will still go forward with the gospel but with more caution and wisdom,” said Ma, one of the first South Korean missionaries in the Philippines. “I think this terrible experience taught the Korean church a lot of things.”

Ma joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli on Quick to Listen to discuss the rise and decline of South Korean missions, the consequences of the 2007 Taliban hostage situation, and what led her to become a missionary.

December
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Christianity Today
The Rise and Struggle of South Korean Missionaries