South Korea is often described as a Christian success story. From humble beginnings, Christianity endured persecution and political division to become the largest religion in South Korea.
In October this year, 20 NextGen youth from diverse cultural backgrounds will travel to South Korea to learn about the history, traditions and culture of the Korean church.
The trip is a joint program between UnitingWorld, the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Korean Methodist Church and the synod’s Intercultural Unit.
Christianity was first introduced to Korea in the 17th century by returning diplomats who came in contact with Roman Catholicism during their travels. But Catholicism was outlawed by the Joseon nobility and their systematic persecution of Catholics resulted in the deaths of an estimated 8000 Koreans.
Christianity later became a source of resistance during the Japanese occupation (1910 – 1945) and many Christian leaders were imprisoned for refusing to worship the Japanese Emperor.
Through the efforts of Protestant missionaries and churches, Christianity began to grow rapidly throughout the latter half of the 20th century and it is now the largest religion in the country. Approximately 30 per cent of the population identify themselves as Christians, followed by Buddhists (23 per cent).
South Korea also sends a large number of missionaries to evangelise overseas, second only behind the US.
The Korean churches are at the forefront of many social welfare programs in the country. During the trip, the young people will visit Seoul and Busan and witness the churches’ mission outreach projects. They will also experience worship in Korean churches, some of which are home to thousands of congregation members.
Upon their return to Australia, the travellers will share their experiences and insights with the rest of the synod.
Intercultural unit director Rev Swee-Ann Koh asked congregations to encourage young people in their churches to apply for the trip.
“This program will enable NextGen young people to connect and learn from those in South Korean Christian churches,” Mr Koh said.
“They will have the opportunity to share with the rapidly growing church in South Korea the multicultural nature of the Uniting Church and their faith journeys.
“Contextual learning is about mutual relationship and respect. It encourages each other to learn about the partner’s ministry context in order to discern God’s mission in and between the peoples.”
The participants will be accompanied by five adult leaders who will provide pastoral support.
The trip will run from 26 October to 6 November. For more information contact Swee-Ann Koh at firstname.lastname@example.org