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