Korean SDA Mission 1917 and 2017 Compared


Koot van Wyk (DLitt et Phil; ThD)


         Understanding the present state of the two Koreas is so complicated that it took me nearly twenty years to get to the bottom of it. By living in both Japan and South Korea I learned a lot about the situation on the peninsula.

         Korea is currently divided into South and North in 2017 by the 38 line or DMZ. They are not on speaking terms although they speak perfectly Korean on both sides and have both Korean cultures that are, in the words of the North Korean Han-sol Kim interview on Youtube “we have lots in common and the things that we share are more than the things that separate us”. He said in perfect excellent North Korean English.

         North Korea is an engine with definitely three pistons but since the Iran deal can include now also two more pistons so that it is maybe five. They are North Korea, Russia, China, Iran and Syria. Their participation differs in time and period and when one stands back another takes their place or a new one emerge and the others are in the backseat position. Militaristically, nuclear, missile parts and economically they all share alike.

         The romantic “moonlight concept” of president Moon, to use newspapers words, is the hope of every South Korean but the five piston engine makes this endeavor almost impossible. Satisfying one piston is not going to solve the issue. Especially when there is no secret by some other pistons that they do not want an unification on the peninsula.

         South Korea is an engine with at least three pistons: South Korea, USA and Japan. They cooperate with security issues and military as well as economically. To list the minimum. For South Koreans unification is a prime issue.

         It is online that Iran last year end tested a missile with North Korean parts in it. Thus the Pentagon. Is Iran testing their nuclear development program that they could not do any longer on Iran soil due to the Iran deal now on North Korean backyards for badly needed cash due to sanctions strapping of North Korea? No answer. The country is not like South Korea, an open book for anyone to read. Reclusive, turtle approach, data controlling and foreigner stalking there. That is what the youtube videos of visitors there all are saying.

         My interest here is not politics and never has been. Politics is just the stage on which religion takes place. In order to think religiously for the future of South Korean or North Korean religion, I need to look at the reality on the ground.

         The current situation in North Korea is that reportedly, tourists cannot have their Bible left in the Hotel room or they will get a 10 year labor camp sentence. Incarceration. I am reminded that either Lenin or Marx considered religion as the opium of the masses. I am also reminded by M. N. Rothbard in his 2009 article on Marx as “Religious Eschatologist” that Marx wanted to make Utopia happen instead of waiting for communism to develop in an evolutionary way. He expected that “The evil of the world must proceed to its height before, in one great complete root-and-branch upheaval, it would be swept away.…” Now the question of us in 2017 is: who is the evil?

         Communism is not popular in the world. The masses are tired of standing in long lines to get their daily foodstamp rations of bread and milk in order to survive hunger.

         Religion in North Korea is apparently there in a church that Kim Jung-Il built for the Russian Orthodox engineers that were in Pyongyang with their families. The Japan Times reported that two Korean priests were sent to Moscow for training. So how many crosses can one find in North Korea of Seventh-day Adventist churches? Can General Conference visit there and attend their meetings? All over the country?

        In South Korea there are Seventh-day Adventist churches in abundance. There is no scarcity of religion. So far the government has not yet interfere with religion but there are signs on the horizon that they will interfere with the religious stance of religion, force them to accept the unwanted or doing things that is against their own beliefs. LGBTQH and equality of woman to the absolute are two of such issues that can cause upheaval in religion in this country also as it is doing in the USA, in Europe and elsewhere so far. All about the UN accepted equity principle of transgender tolerance advocated first at that level in 2006 and 2007 in Germany also. Everyone is an “it” until they decide whether they want to be a female or a male or not. World legal jurisprudence on these skew matters is going to create persecution for religion since it cannot tolerate this stance.

Korean mission SDA 2017.jpeg

         It was not always so depressing for religion on the Korean Peninsula as it is currently in 2017. Especially for the eager of South Korean to build hospitals, churches, schools, universities, medical clinics based on religion and religious perspectives as ultimate happiness, for North Koreans. But who is blocking? Pistons.

         Charlie Chaplin said in the Youtube video on the Great Dictator, a satire on Hitler: “Dictators free themselves but enslave the people”. I did not say it, Charlie said it and who will say he is lying in 1942 in that movie?

         From a 1934 Sabbath School lesson quarterly that is online on the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School site there is a lesson on the Holy Spirit by A. T. Robinson. He provided a map of the whole Korean Peninsula. Churches are all over Korea in the North and South in equal measure. In the North at Soonan there is a School Library to be built in 1928. Wonder if it is still there? Since 1953 we have never heard of it again. All built with the vested rights of the Seventh-day Adventist church in that part of the world.

korea SDA mission 1917 to 1934.jpeg

Now I come to Word of God in Acts 17:26-27

“and He [God] made from one [nation, originally when He created the World with Adam and Eve] every nation of mankind [after the Flood in 2692 BCE when they were dispersed at Babel with confusion of languages, a miracle by God to create separate entitites] to live on all the face of the earth, having determined [by God] appointed times [1953-2017] and the boundaries of their habitation [below or above the 38 line]. Why? Answer in Acts 17:27


“that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us”.


         The real role of nations is to provide opportunity for their citizens to seek God, find Him and live fully for Him. Not for political icons, idols, humans, but for God but respect their overseers and rulers as long as they do not expect from them to contradict their faith to God.

What God is going to accomplish through president Moon and the tango with president Trump and Xi remains to be seen. Seventh-day Adventists have their own agenda of hope in line with Acts 17:27.



1) See online the Sabbathschool network of Seventh-day Adventists site and at their archive download the 1934 Quarterly by A. T. Robinson on the Holy Spirit. In the explanation of the 13th Sabbath offering for Japan and Korea in that year, it listed the amounts that the General Conference Sabbath School donated to Japan and Korea for 1917; 1924; 1928 and 1934. There is also a map of the “Japanese Empire” and dots in both Japan and Korea indicated all the churches and institutions existing in what is today both South and North Korea. It is possible to show in South Korea some remnants of these dots but one wonders what can be shown in North Korea? There was a school at Soonan that was getting a new library due to the funds given in 1928. That is in current North Korea.

The Newspapers indicated that American Tourists who by accident left their Bible in the Hotel Room were arrested and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for trying to endanger the government system.


2) M. N. Rothbard, “Karl Marx as Religious Eschatologist” (10 September 2009). Time http://www.mediationsjournal.org/articles/marxism-and-eschatology-reconsidered