I am a Global Mission Intern, living in Seoul. I work with our partners in the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea in their ecumenical office.
I arrived on the 27th of August after a trip totaling 22 hours at the airport in Incheon, which is an adjacent city on the opposite side of the West Sea (a river). I was first received by Dr. John Egger, my North American counterpart from the United Church of Canada and then by Rev. JungHwan Lim who took me to my new apartment. All my hopes were exceeded in both the layout and location of my new home. It is located in the Hongdae District, home of Hongik University, where many local college students also reside.
I arrived a few weeks before the PROK General Assembly – their large annual meeting - so all the efforts of the office were oriented in that direction. There was not a lot for me to do, but I was able to help compose letters to our international counterparts in Germany, South Africa, and Canada among others. I dedicated my time to educating myself in the history of Korea. This included political occurrences, the sex-trafficking problem, but mostly the effort of the churches to formally end the Korean War with an official peace treaty (only an armistice was signed) and the hopeful reunification of the peninsula.
The Young Adult Volunteers from PCUSA arrived around the same time I did, and I spent a fair amount of time with them including a visit to the museum dedicated to the plight of “comfort women” - which refers to the painful history of the forced sex-workers during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 until the end of the Second World War. The relationship between the two nations remains strained to this day, and protests are staged outside the Japanese Embassy every Wednesday at noon in an effort for Japan to acknowledge the atrocities that were inflicted, but so far to little avail.
On the horizon, I am beginning a Korean language course arranged by my supervisor, Rev. Dr. Sungkook Park, beginning later this week. Once the language barrier is broken, there will be much more to come.
Thomas Smith IV serves with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK). His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.