Christians Soul-Search Overseas Evangelism. The Korea Times


Seoul. August 29, 2007. The 41-day hostage ordeal has caused Korean Christian churches to reassess their evangelical missionary work overseas.

Changes in their programs are imminent, not only because the government will regulate such travel more strictly but also because the nation`s religious groups have learned they need to restrain from missionary work which is ``too passionate.`` The Christian Council of Korea said that Korean churches will abide by the government`s measure as the hostage release was effected on the condition of stopping sending Christian missionaries to the country. The council said in its statement, ``Korean Christianity will take the incident as a moment to reflect on itself. We`ll cooperate with the government and we promise to be cautious over missionary work in dangerous regions.`` The New York Times estimated the number of Korean missionaries overseas at 17,000, the second largest in the world following 46,000 from the U.S. ``Korean Christianity is much younger than that in Western countries, with only about a 120 year history. The young church means young and dynamic faith, and I believe this is the reason for such enthusiastic missionary work. Also, Korean Christianity is very missionary work-oriented,`` Rev. Sohn In-woong, head of the Korean National Association of Christian Pastors, told The Korea Times. Rev. Sohn said passion is good, but evangelizing can be problematic if done too enthusiastically. ``If enthusiasm is too strong, Christians try to evangelize in regions of different cultures and different religions without enough preparation and knowledge.`` He also said in Korea, each church tends to send missionaries and do aid work on its own, so Christian organizations have difficulty controlling them. Kang Seung-sam, director of the Korea World Missions Association, said Christian groups need to review missionary programs on the whole and establish systems to deal with dangerous situations. Once the hostages` safety was guaranteed, criticism is once again emerging about overseas missionary work in general, and in particular about Saemmul Community Church, which sent the hostages despite a government`s warning. ``Saemmul church has never tried to collect donations for the expenses spent for the negotiation and the release, and only people`s taxes were spent. Personally I don`t believe the government did not give a ransom to the kidnappers (but) a lot of taxes have already been spent and more will be, too,`` an Internet user ``papawolf`` said on his blog. In Japan, the government took legal action to get hostages pay all the cost incurred for their release, a Seoul professor said. He suggested that the government ask the Saemmul Church to pay the costs incurred as the church leaders had defied the government warning not to travel to such a dangerous country. If a ransom was paid, the church should also bear the cost because it was taken out of taxpayers` pockets, he said. Many other Internet users also claimed the church should cover expenses. ``The church, hostages` families, and related organizations should compensate intangible, mental damages and costs that all Koreans have suffered. People have paid attention to the abduction for more than a month, watching news and worrying until late at night. The whole nation has been exhausted, and who will compensate for that? All related figures should be punished,`` an Internet user ``heuksuson`` said on Daum.

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