Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Story of Chosun, Part 1

They say all of history is "His story." I agree with them. As I begin with you today an accounting of some of the major moments in Korea's past, I offer the accompanying encouragement that what I shall be sharing is not just the past. You will see how Korea was shaped and eventually prepared for the call of God on her life. Yes, the Gospel finally came to that land, and has produced in the South a harvest unimaginable.

But it took a long time for the Koreans to see their need and to reach out for something better than they had. Because of that long refusal and/or ignorance of the Good News, the pattern of independence followed by attacks and foreign domination and independence again, clung to this nation for thousands of years. Homer Hulbert, who will be our guide through most of this history, lived in the 19th - and wrote at the beginning of the 20th - century:

"Hulbert saw that Koreans of the nineteenth century were held captive by a small elite group of aristocratic bureaucrats whose vested interests lay in maintaining government by intrigue and corruption and in keeping the people as isolated as possible from the egalitarian influences of the West..."

That was true then, it was true through much of her history, and even to this day, a portion of the peninsula is dominated by an oligarchy. This particular dynasty of our day represents a foreign power. It is an alien government, a decidedly non-Korean turn of events. But all of that in good time.

For now, let's go back to the beginning, as far as we can anyway. Using Hulbert's classic 2-volume set, History of Korea, 1905, we begin.


Legend has it that Korea was founded by a "son of God", God being the creator "Whanung". This was supposed to have happened somewhere between the days of the flood and Abraham. So far we're not as distant from the truth as you might expect. Following the flood account in your Bible is the story of the beginning of nations, especially focusing on one Nimrod, the real man behind all the myths of ancient peoples. Korea's mythological wonder man is "Tan-gun." Tan-gun was born when Whanung breathed upon a woman who wanted a son. That sounds pretty Biblical too. (Did I mention that the woman had once been a bear?)

It is not Seoul but Pyongyang that is Korea's first capital. Today this city is North Korea's number one place. Tan-gun reigns there until about 1122 BC, around the time of the judges of Israel, then disappears from the earth. If long lives trouble you, remember that our Bible has a Methuselah.

The word "chosun" arises during this period. "Land of morning calm" will be the idea attached to the Korean peninsula. And it probably had its calm moments. But the name, historically, is as meaningful as Jerusalem, "city of peace." It's a great idea, and in the future the idea will be realized, but for now...

It is from China that Korea is to be given its first major endowments:leadership, poetry, manners, music, medicine, sorcery, silk culture, weaving. And many attempted take-overs.

For the next 1000 years, the area covering the two provinces nearest Pyongyang today is governed by one Kija and his descendants. Kija is the son of Li, who is the 2nd son of Wuyi, Emperor of China in the 1100's BC. Kija first becomes an advisor to Emperor Tajung, known as the "Nero" of China. Kija actually places himself in exile but later is granted permission by the Chinese government to set up a kingdom on the nearby peninsula. It is independent of China, yet China seems to have regretted the decision at times, and tries to bring it under its control. All these attempts are rebuffed by the growing people group in Chosun.

This Kija kingdom is the first recognizable dynasty. One dynasty will follow the other in Korea until South Korea forms a republic in the mid 20th century. The world is hoping for the end of dynasties altogether in Korea. Somehow the word hasn't gotten up North that dynastic power is not the most efficient way to deal with 21st century citizens.

That's where you and I can come in and change Korea's history. Heart-felt, gut-involved, loud persistent knocking on the door of Heaven. Jesus has let us know that that kind of prayer really does work. Will you join multitudes worldwide in this movement of true liberation?

Look for Bob Faulkner's home page on - There you will find a combination of love for the Scriptures and a desire for North Korean believers to have their needs met. There are nearly 300 blogs, over 200 Bible teaching MP3's, lists of resources, NK picture albums, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together! Contact me any time at

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Would love to fellowship with believers who respond.

No comments: