Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 4

Photo 1_A Memorial PhotoIn this Voice of the Martyrs guest blog series, Pastor Kim Sung Chul tells the intriguing story of Lee Su Jung, the man responsible for bringing Christianity to Korea–and the man who was martyred because of it.

The Korean government summoned the 30 students in Japan back to Korea to separate them from the rebellious power.  Christianity was severely prohibited by the Korean national law. From the political aspect, Lee Su Jung did not belong to the aggressive revolutionists who led the failed three-day coup d’état.  He was a political comrade with Min Young Ik, the nephew of the Last Empress, and faithfully carried out all official tasks in Japan. Therefore, he was not summoned and executed because he was disloyal to the government.  The only reasons for his summons and execution were that he believed in Christianity, preached the gospel to the students in Japan, and translated the Gospel of Mark into Korean.

Lee Su Jung found the most precious seed in the world when he flew to the south to look for the rice seed.  One day before his summons and execution Lee Su Jung’s brother came to Japan with ten thousand nyang (the ancient Korean currency) to bring him back to Korea.  Lee Su Jung told his brother he didn’t need the money and that he should return to Korea without him.  He told his brother that he had a very important thing to do in Japan. He said he had found a much better thing than the railroad, the telegraph or the steam ship for the people of Korea. He found the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

The Research Mission of Christians’ Biographies in Korea published a series of biographies about the martyrs in the Korean church.  In the first volume, the first martyr mentioned is Missionary Thomas. The second martyr mentioned, and the first Korean martyr in the biography is Lee Su Jung, a Man of Macedonia for Korea.  In the last part of the biography, Pastor Inagaki delivered these words of encouragement for the sake of Lee Su Jung:

He intended to return to Korea and to evangelize his people. However, the Korean Government did not understand his faithful passion for his country and its people. That is why he was summoned and martyred upon his arrival. He reminds me of the word that the Lord told the Apostle Paul on the way to Damascus: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” He also reminds me of the prayer of the first martyr, Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” who cried out with a loud voice and fell asleep. Lee Su Jung was a chosen instrument, indeed. He was a faithful servant of the Lord on the stage of Korea and Japan for a short period of time. He carried his own cross and preached the Gospel and fulfilled God’s command. A grain of mustard seed fell and rotted and bore abundant fruits.[1]

This concludes the four-part series on Lee Su Jung.

Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 1

Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 2

Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 3

About the Author 

The Rev. Kim Sung Chul 

CEO, ITC Inspirational Theatre Company

Former Professor, Theatre Department, Seoul Institute of the Arts

Former Guest Professor, English Department, Yonsei University

[1] Kim Jonah, The Biography of Martyrs in the Korean Church, (Seoul: The Research Mission of Christians’ Biographies in Korea, 1994), pp. 294-295.

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Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 3

Photo 1_A Memorial PhotoIn this Voice of the Martyrs guest blog series, Pastor Kim Sung Chul tells the intriguing story of Lee Su Jung, the man responsible for bringing Christianity to Korea–and the man who was martyred because of it.

Lee Su Jung was astonished at the words of Dr. Tsuda. After Lee Su Jung returned to his room, he started to read the Bible, Dr. Tsuda’s present, in awe and wonder.   Later that night, he dreamed a strange dream, in which two men came in his house carrying a bundle of books on their shoulders.  One man was very tall and the other was relatively short.  They unloaded the bundles at the feet of Lee Su Jung.  He thought it was very unusual and asked them, “What are these?” Both replied in one voice: “They are the books.” “What kind of books?” asked Lee.  They politely replied, “These are the books more precious than all the other books in Korea.”

The next day, Lee Su Jung decided to believe in Jesus.  Dr. Tsuda introduced him to Pastor Nagada of the Tokyo First Church.  Jung diligently studied Japanese, while also learning Christian doctrine under the special care of Pastor Nagada.  On April, 29 1883, Lee Su Jung was baptized by a missionary Knox and Pastor Yaskawa of the Shiva Church.  After he was baptized in May of 1883, he prayed in Korean and made a deep impression on the participants of the inter-denominational Christian meeting. Later, Pastor Uchimura Kanzo shared his recollections of Lee Su Jung’s prayer in his book, How Have I Become A Christian?:

One of the participants was from Korea.  He represented his hermit country as a member of his prestigious family.  He was baptized one week ago and attended the meeting in his country’s traditional clothes and in all his dignity.  He prayed in his own language and we could understand only one word at the end, Amen.  However, the prayer was uttered in unlimited power.  The fact he attended the meeting and that we could not understand his words made the scene similar to that of Pentecost.[1]

At once, Lee Su Jung became famous among the Japanese press and was flooded with requests for writing articles.  Additionally, Loomis the US Secretary for the Presbyterian Church and the American Bible Society in Japan, proposed that Lee Su Jung translate the Bible into Korean.  Using the Chinese and Japanese Bibles, he finished the first Korean translation of the Gospel of Mark in December of 1884 and published 1,000 copies in a printing house in Yokohama.  The Gospel of Mark in the New Testament translated by Lee Su Jung was done for both Korean intellectuals and the public.  It was the very gospel that Pastor Underwood and Methodist missionary Appenzeller held in their hands when they arrived at the port of Jemulpo, Incheon on April 5, 1885, Easter Sunday.  The first words of the Gospel as translated by Lee Su Jung were, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

In July and November of 1883, Lee Su Jung contributed his articles to various missionary magazines published in the United States.  In his articles, he made it clear that tens of thousands of Koreans lived as strangers without knowing the true way of God and without receiving the grace of the Lord.  He said that he would do his best to help any missionaries dispatched to Korea.  Pastor Underwood read his missionary letters and came to Korea with a missionary vision for Korea.  At first, he prepared to come to India, but on July 28, 1884, Pastor Underwood was officially appointed to be a missionary to Korea, sponsored by the US Northern Presbyterian Church.  He arrived in Yokohama, Japan on February 27 of the following year.  Lee Su Jung was the very person who taught Korean to both the tall and short man in his dream.

Later in 1884, the Gapsin Revolution occurred, which turned out to be a failed three-day coup d’état by the Korean aggressive revolutionists under the auspices of Japan.  At last, the Korean government required the return of all students and officials in Japan back to Korea.  On May 28, 1886, Lee Su Jung was also summoned to return immediately, but after returning, he was executed in Ulsa located in the Kyeongsang province.

Why was Lee Su Jung executed after returning to Korea?  What difference did his execution and faith have on the rest of Korea?  Read Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 4 here Monday to find out.

About the Author 

The Rev. Kim Sung Chul 

CEO, ITC Inspirational Theatre Company

Former Professor, Theatre Department, Seoul Institute of the Arts

Former Guest Professor, English Department, Yonsei University

[1] Su Jin Kim, The History of the Korean and Japanese Churches, (Seoul: The Christian Literature Society of Korea, 1989), p. 194.

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Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 2

Photo 1_A Memorial PhotoIn this Voice of the Martyrs guest blog series, Pastor Kim Sung Chul tells the intriguing story of Lee Su Jung, the man responsible for bringing Christianity to Korea–and the man who was martyred because of it. (Lee Su Jung is the man in white in the front row)

Lee Su Jung was born in Ok-gwa, which is part of Jeolla Province.  He took a high public office in the Korean government. There was a military coup d’état in 1882 called the Imo Incident, which started when the old-fashioned soldiers didn’t get paid for over 13 months.  During this military turmoil, Lee Su Jung saved the life of the Last Empress, by changing her clothes and disguising her as a court lady.  He carried her in a covered sedan chair out of the palace to Choong-ju, to a safer town in the south.

After the turmoil, Lee Su Jung was rewarded suitably for his achievements. King Go Jong endowed him with the title of the General Seollyak, which was a high-ranked position in the Korean government. When King Go Jong wanted to make his wish come true, Lee Su Jung requested that the King send him to Japan in order to look around and to learn its advanced civilization as a nonofficial member of the Second Tour Group to Japan.  He was eager to be a driving force for development in his homeland.  Prior to Korea, Japan opened itself to Western civilization and achieved its rapid development through the Yushin reformation.

An Jong Su was a member of the First Tour Group to Japan.  He brought back many books on agriculture and wrote the first modern book on agriculture, called Nong-Jeong-Shin-Pyeon (A New Agriculture Book).  When he heard that Lee Su Jung was leaving for Japan, he gave a precious piece of advice to his close friend.  He told him to visit Dr. Tsuda Sen, who was a specialist in agriculture.  The science of agriculture was cutting edge technology at the time.  In September 1882, Lee Su Jung sailed to Japan on a merchant ship called the Maiji-Maru. When he met the Japanese famous scholar in agriculture, Dr. Tsuda Sen presented him with a Chinese Bible.

Dr. Tsuda Sen originally went to Washington in 1867 as an officer of the Japanese feudal government, with other officials in order to purchase military ships from the United States.  He was amazed at how highly developed America was.  After a long consideration about the source of the driving power, Dr. Tsuda concluded that it came from Christianity. Then he sent his own daughter Tsuda Umeko at the age of eight to study in the States. Ten years later, his daughter was baptized by Pastor O. Perinchief on Easter at the Old Swiss Church.  Attending his daughter’s baptism, Dr. Tsuda made up his mind to be a Christian. He became a good and faithful one. These are his words when he presented the Bible to Lee Su Jung:

The light of Confucius is partial and could not shine to the dark places. However, the light of Jesus is like the sun and shines on every nook and cranny in Japan, the whole world, and the earth from this end to that.[1]

[1] YoonTae Oh, The History of the Korean Christianity, Vol. 4: Lee SuJung, The Forerunner, (Seoul: Publisher Hyesun, 1983), p. 59.

What effect did Dr. Tsuda’s words have on the life of Lee Su Jung?  Would Lee Su Jung dare to open the pages of this Bible? Read Lee Su Jung: A Man of Macedonia for Korea, Part 3 here Wednesday to find out.

About the Author 

The Rev. Kim Sung Chul 

CEO, ITC Inspirational Theatre Company

Former Professor, Theatre Department, Seoul Institute of the Arts

Former Guest Professor, English Department, Yonsei University

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