From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Moderator Reflects on First-ever Visit to North Korea

Date 04 May 1996 16:06:01


96159      Moderator Reflects on First-ever Visit to North Korea 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--When General Assembly moderator Marj Carpenter worshiped 
on Easter with the Christian Community in North Korea (CCNK) in P'yongyang, 
it marked the first official visit of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
moderator to North Korea. 
     "We consider this an historic occasion," said the Rev. Kang Young Sop, 
moderator of the CCNK.  Kang represented the CCNK last year in Cincinnati 
when Christians from North and South Korea tied together a cross to 
symbolize their hope for the peaceful reunification of the Koreas.  
     Two Protestant churches and one Catholic church meet and worship 
publicly in P'yongyang, and an untold number of "house churches" meet 
underground in the still rigidly controlled North Korean society. 
     The Rev. Lee Song Bong led the Easter worship at one of the Protestant 
churches, which was celebrating its seventh anniversary.  The other 
Protestant church in P'yongyang is built on the site of a former 
Presbyterian church that was attended by the mother of the late North 
Korean dictator, General Kim Il Sung.   
     A Presbyterian mission school attended by Kim has been memorialized, 
and one of Kim's teachers there was the mother of the Rev. Syngman Rhee, 
associate director of the Worldwide Ministries Division in Louisville, who 
accompanied Carpenter on her trip. 
     During the service, Rhee and Carpenter presented Kang with a pulpit 
robe.  The service concluded with the singing of "God Be with You Till We 
Meet Again." 
     When she returned to the U.S., Carpenter reflected on her experience: 
     "An experience never to be forgotten was going into North Korea at 
Easter.  I've never been welcomed more royally than in that [P'yongyang] 
     "Our itinerary included many public buildings and memorials and a very 
impressive clean and caring maternity hospital with free care.  I 
especially enjoyed the unit where they were bringing preemies' up to full 
weight.  They had one of the cutest sets of triplet girls I've ever seen. 
     "We got to see the opening of the 14th April Spring Friendship Art 
Festival, which is a kind of family reunion of what was, and in some places 
still is, the remains of the communist bloc.  There were artists from 
Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, White Russia, Kazhakstan, Poland, Romania, 
Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Cuba and China, as well as Koreans from Japan, the 
U.S. and Canada. 
     "The North Korean portion of the progam included the two women who 
sang so beautifully at last year's General Assembly." 
     "The border between the Koreas was tense, but you couldn't tell it 
where we were.  The highlight was the church -- the faces of those faithful 
Christians -- their applause -- their joy at Easter -- their singing and 
their tears.   And as I walked out they reached out to shake hands or 
simply touch me as I went by. 
     "Once the seed of the Church of Jesus Christ is planted anywhere in 
the world, you never lose it.  Certainly not in North Korea." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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