Christianity in Korea has come a long way. Small gestures throughout the years eventually led to religious freedom in Korea.
Social movements take time to gain strength so every little step matters. Similarly, it was difficult to improve the situation in Korea and go against the reign of the Japanese who were oppressing them. But the Korean population was relentless in winning and thus, there were many individuals who came together to support the cause of their people.
One such influential figure was Dong Suk-Kee, a highly respected Korean American missionary and Gospel preacher whose efforts have been remembered to this day within the religious history of Korea.
His story began when he was converted to Christianity in 1903 while working on a sugar plantation in Hawaii and was baptised in 1904. He studied Methodism and after receiving his diploma, he travelled back to Korea as a Methodist preacher in 1913.
Dong preached for the Methodist Church in Korea for 14 years before he returned to the United States. And during that time, Dong took on many roles in his career – this included being ordained as a provisional pastor, was named the sixth minister of the Naeli Kyuhae Church, became the eighth evangelist of the Namyang Church, to name a few.
It was in 1919 when fighting for Korea’s freedom became a big part of Dong’s life. He attended a rally in Pagoda Park and was arrested for participating in a national independence demonstration – the March 1 Independence Movement.
During the March 1st Movement, Dong was found often discussing the independence movement with both leaders of the movement – Kim Sae Won and Pak Hi Do. Dong had many connections in the states, which led him to become tasked with leading the meetings of the independence movement supporters. Many protests occurred during this time, which
resulted in a number of deaths and Dong’s whereabouts were unclear for almost a week after March 1st.
However, he was arrested on March 14. Once he was released, he resigned from the Namyang Church in 1920 and went on to serve in different churches over the years. In 1930, Dong founded the Church of Christ in Korea and upon returning to his native province of Hamgyeong Do, Dong began preaching the gospel for three weeks – converting 20 people during that time. He also established various schools to improve education within Korea and promote the establishment of indigenous Korean universities.
By 1940, he initiated seven churches in northern Korea and five in the southern region. He was also the man who founded the first congregation in Seoul and played an indispensable role during the early work in the nation’s southern parts.
Dong was conferred the Korean Presidential Award by the former president Kim Young-Sam in 1996 for his efforts and contributions made to the March 1 Independence Movement and even after his death in 1971, Dong will always be remembered as one of the most influential individuals who brought freedom to Korea.