Translation of the Bible into Korean

Click on each image
to enlarge it.

Suh Sang-Yoon was one of the Bible translators. He set up Korea's first Presbyterian church at a remote
village called Sorae in 1884.

Horace Underwood.

Photo of myself at his Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn taken in 2009. I was there in 1960 to attend a service to commemorate Horace Underwood's 100th birthday. He was born in 1859. Thus, he was 150 years old in 2009.

After taking over Siberia and Alaska, Russia was interested in extending its influence to warmer area of the world. Czar Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, and encouraged Russians to move the northern Chinese city of Harbin. Look at this map. Harbin is an excellent location for military operation toward the Korean peninsula.

  • In order to block this Russian ambition, British authorities sent two Scottish Presbyterian clergy men to a small town called Woochang just south of Harbin. There these two Scottish missionaries were interested in producing the Bible written in the Korean language, quite different from Chinese. They were initially interested in translating the King James version, but they could not find any Koreans who could read English. They decided to hire Koreans who could translate the Chinese Bible into Korean. They did.

    One of those translators came to Korea with the new Korean Bible to set up a church, but the Korean government would not allow him. His name was Suh Sang-Yoon. Suh had to settle down at a secluded farming village called Sorae, and set up a church. Click here for the first three church buildings.

  • In 1885, an American Presbyterian missionary came to Korea. His name was Horace Underwood. He came from the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York.
    1. The church building is still there. Here is
    2. another view.
    3. I was there in 2009.

    His elder brother, John Underwood, was one of the pioneers in American typewriter industry. Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his stories using this Underwood typewriter.

  • After hearing about this Presbyterian church at the village of Sorae, Horace Underwood bought a horse and went to the village. There he found out Koreans already had the Bible written in their own language. He then brought this Bible to the capital city of Seoul, and mass-produced using printing facilities available there.

    Thanks to the efforts made by Underwood and other American missionaries, the Korean Christian population started to grow, and grow rapidly.

  • Near Sorae, there is a beautiful beach called Kumipo. Underwood built his summer resort house there and bought some real estates at the Sorae village. He also met one hard-working man he could trust. This Korean man managed Underwood's properties. This man was my grandfather.

    In 1981, one of Korea's influential newspapers published a series of articles by Underwood's eldest grandson. In this article, he describes how his grandfather developed Kumipo as a resort area for American missionaries. Click here for a pdf file of the article if you wish to read the article in detail.

    In 2003, I met Horace Underwood's youngest grandson in Urbana (Illinois) and talked about those beautiful days in the past. We had a photo together.

    You may click here for my American connection I had before coming to the United States in 1954.

Sorae Church

After translating the Bible into Korean, those first Korean Christians came to the city of Shenyang with many Korean residents. They started holding regular Sunday services there. Then, they then decided to come to their homeland. They attempted to set up a church in the Korean city known today as Shin-Euijoo. However, the Western religion was strictly forbidden. They then had to move down to a secluded village of Sorae. Look at this map of 1945. The closest railroad station is was in Chang-yon. However, there was (still is) a tiger-infested mountain between them. Thus Sorae (red dot) was out of reach from government authorities. Since I spent eleven years of my life in this village, I can tell some stories no one else can.

  1. Those Christians came to Sorae in 1883, and stayed at extra rooms available at a rich man's house. The leader of this group was Suh Sang-Yoon who was one of the Bible translators. In 1884, Suh built his own house called it the Church of Sorae. Click here for the first church building.

    After new church buildings were built, this house was used by the church custodian. During my time (until 1946), the custodian was a carpenter named Kim Kwang-Hee. He was a crippled person, but was a very kind to everybody. He was particularly nice to me, nice enough for me to remember and mention his name at this time.

    A new wing was later added to this building.

  2. The second church building was built in 1905, and an additional wing was added later. Horace Underwood offered some money for this building project, but the villagers declined. However, Underwood was kind enough to donate five kerosene lamps. Two for men's section, and two for women's section, and one for pastor's podium.

    This building served as the Sorae church until a new "modern building was built in 1934. Even though church services were held in the new building, this old building was used frequently for small meetings, and was in good shape until I left Sorae in 1946. While this site under the control of the North Korean regime, efforts have been made in the South and in the United States to reproduce this building.

    My grandmother spent most of her time in this building to take care of church affairs, such as cleaning, preparing food for church meetings, and settling quarrels among the church members. How do I know? I was told by the villagers. My grandmother died one year before I was born.

    Am I exaggerating the role of my grandmother? I thinks it was 1940. Dr. Horace Horton Underwood, or Horace Underwood II bought a new Chrysler sedan. It was a nice-looking convertible. He drove his car to the grave of my grandmother to pay his respect for her. I was on his car (on my mother's lap), but I was too young to know what was going on at that time. Horace Underwood II is known to Koreans as Dr. Won Han-Kyung. He was the son of Horace Underwood who came to Korea as the first Presbyterian missionary in 1885. Click here a more detailed story.

    Sorae church of 1934.

    After a wedding ceremony (1944). My mother, grandfather, and other relatives are in this photo. The church's new building is in the background.

    My grandfather who loved me.

    There were four buildings on the campus of the Sorae Church.
    In addition to the three church buildings, those Christians built a school to enlighten the villagers.

  3. In 1934, the Christian population became strong enough to build a "modern" building for the church. Here again, the villagers wanted to construct this expensive structure from their own resources, but they did not know how expensive window glasses were. They had to make an appeal to the Underwood family in Seoul to get financing those glass plates.

    It had a big organ, and my mother was the organist. Yet, the Korean tradition prevailed. The church had two separate doors for men and women. They sat separately on the floor in the traditional way. The floor always had shiny mats.

    My grandfather was a landlord at that time. He contributed a large sum of money toward the construction cost of this new church building. As you can see, this building has many windows. Window glasses were very expensive at that time, and the Underwood family took care of the glass expenses. Here is an image of my grandfather.

    I am very happy to be able to draw the campus map of the Sorae Church. In addition to those three church buildings, there was an additional bundling for an elementary-level school. The Sorae Christians built this school before Japanese authorities built one of their elementary schools in the village. When I was a child, it was used as a kindergarten, and I attended this kindergarten.

    All those buildings were there when I left the village in 1946. The church had a tall wooden bell tower. The church custodian used to crank the bell by pulling down the rope every Sunday morning. Alas, during the Pacific war which started in December of 1941, Japanese authorities took away the bell. They needed steel and iron for the war.

    After losing the battle of Saipan in July of 1944, Japanese military planners started constructing military bases at possible landing spots for American troops. Since there were many American houses at the Kumipo beach (near Sorae), they thought Americans would come to this beach. They started building bunkers and gun positions from January of 1945.

    To Japanese during the Pacific War (1941-45), B29 bombers and Sherman tanks were among the most dreadful Americans weapons.
    In April of 1945, American troops occupied the island of Okinawa, and American landings on Japanese territories became imminent. Japanese military planners sent to Sorae one (reduced) battalion of about 200 combat troops. They were being trained to throw bombs against American Sherman tanks.

  4. These combat troops occupied the church campus, and the church members became angry. They burnt down the Japanese Shinto worship place. It was a grave incident according Japanese law and Japanese way of life. Yet, Japanese police remained quiet. They knew that the war would be over soon and decided not to be harsh on Koreans.

    Speaking of those combat troops, they were originally destined to Okinawa, but were diverted to Sorae after Okinawa fell. Most of the soldiers were Korean draftees. They told Sorae villagers that they would kill all Japanese at the first sign of American landing. In Sorae, Japan's war was over one month after Okinawa fell, or three months before August of 1945 when Japan formally surrendered.

    Soviet troops in 1945 were wearing uniforms these. I took this photo while visiting Moscow in 1990.

  5. After August 15, Stalin's Soviet troops came instead of Americans. How did this happen?

    During the period from August of 1945 to March of 1946 when the Soviet-backed communists confiscated all the lands, Koreans there enjoyed their freedom. The Christmas of 1945 was a great event. I was a young boy, and it was great to watch the Nativity (birth of Jesus) performed at the Sorae Church.

    King Herod was dressed like the Japanese emperor with his sword. The three wise men were dressed in their academic caps and gowns. You all know how those wise men are called in Korean: Dong-Bang Bak-Sa (PhD).

  6. Most of the Christians in Sorae came to the South during the period 1946-48. I am one of them.

Underwood's Chrysler Convertible

written (1996.8.11) converted to webpage (2013.7.12)

Three years ago, Japan's NHK TV showed a program about the wildlife status along the Korean demilitarized zone, including the line along the southern coast of Hwanghae Province. There is one battalion of the Korean Marine Corps stationed in the Baek-Nyun Island, and fishing boats from the South are frequently kidnapped by North Korean gunboats. The NHK TV team went very close to the cease-fire line, and looked toward the north. They were able to see with their naked eyes some of the landmarks I used to see when I was a child.

    Dr. Horace Underwood II is known as Dr. Won Han-Kyung to Koreans. He was born (1890) and died in Korea in 1951. As the president of CCC (now Yosei University) and as the top adviser to the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (1945-48), he was the key person for Korea's modernization. His father came to Korea as the first Presbyterian missionary. He had four sons who also made their contributions in Korea.
  • Yes, I spent my first eleven years in a small farming/fishing village on the southern coast of Hwanghae Province. It was 1939 or 40 when a high-nosed American man came to my house with a roofless car. He took members of my family and drove along unpaved country roads to a mountain place. I was hopelessly young at that time and did not know why my mother and other grown-ups were weeping.

    I later learned that the place was my grandmother's grave site, and the driver was Horace Underwood II known to Koreans as Dr. Won Han-Kyung. Dr. Won who was the founding president of Yonsei University. At that time, Yonsei was called Yonhee College by Koreans and Chosun Christian College (CCC) by Americans. Click here for more grandmother story.

  • I recall that Dr. Won had four sons. The eldest son is called Il-Han and he devoted his life to Yonsei University. In addition, he had two twin sons. One of them was called Yo-Han and had been a church minister in Korea until he passed away recently. I met him at Princeton in 1959 while he was spending a sabbatical year at Princeton Theological Seminary. When I met him, he knew my name and I was very happy.

    The other twin son was called Je-Han. I have his name in my telephone book as James Underwood (Tel: 716-948-9411). He was a church minister in a small town in Upstate New York. I called him in 1981 to tell him that his elder brother, Il-Han, was publishing a series of memoirs in Hankook Ilbo. From his memoirs, I found out the roofless car I was riding in 1939 or 40 was a Chrysler convertible.

    My photo with his youngest son
    (Urbana, Illinois, 2003).

  • His youngest son was called Deuk-Han was also born in Korea, and was sent back to the United States with his family. He was too young to fight during the war against Japan. After the war, he came to Korea as a soldier to help his father who was one of the top advisor to Lt. Gen. Hodge, the commander of the American Forces in Korea.

    During the Panmunjom cease-fire talks (1951-53), he worked with elder brother Il-Han as an interpreter. You will be interested to know that these Underwood brothers were the authors of the present NLL line. Click here for the story.

    The Underwood Hall is the first Yonsei University building. This building was financed by John T. Underwood and was dedicated to him. He was Horace Underwood's elder brother and was one of the pioneers of typewriter industry in the United States. Did you know this is a typewriter building. Have you seen an Underwood typewriter?
    Dr. Won Han-Kyung received his PhD degree in education from New York University. He was a scholar, but he was a quite venturous person. When I was talking to Je-Han, we talked about the stylish house he built near my childhood village. He was also very fond of building boats. He used one of his boats to "commute" between Seoul (Yang-Hwa-Jin) and his summer resort house in my childhood village. He lifted up one of his boats to the lake at the top of the Baek-du Mountain. According to Won Il-Han's memoirs, he was also fond of tiger-hunting.

    Dr. Won Han-kyung was both stylish and creative. I would say that he was quite similar to Richard Feynman (great American physicist with a very colorful personality ). Undoubtedly, his personality was transmitted to many of the early Yonsei graduates. They used to be somewhat different from stereotype Koreans. We used to use the word "Yondae Goendal" to describe them. Unfortunately we do not see those Goendals anymore. Yonsei is now talking about becoming a world-class elite university. Before achieving this goal, Yonsei should revive its traditional Goendalism.

    Dr. Won Han-Kyung's wife was assassinated by a group of communists in 1949, and Dr. Won died in Pusan in 1951. His father, known to us as Won Doo-Woo Moksa, came to Korea in 1985 as the first Presbyterian missionary. It is my understanding that the fourth generation Underwoods all came back to the United States.

    I now have an American car with the license plate saying "Sorae." I would love to drive this car to my grandmother's grave site. Unfortunately, the grave site is in the territory under the control of North Korean authorities.

  • Let us go back to the original question. Why did Dr. Won Han-Kyung drive his car to my grandmother's grave site? It is clear from his personality that he was interested in showing his new car to my grandma even though she was in her grave. What then was my grandma to him?. She was a nameless, ordinary, humble, and uneducated Korean lady just like your great grandmother. I will continue the story next time.

  • Follow-up (1996.8.14) converted to webpage (2013.7.12)

    Why did Dr. Underwood visit my grandmother's grave? As I said before, she was a very ordinary Korean woman. During the evenings, she was wearing thick glasses to read her "Un-moon" bible. She spent most of her daytime at the church known as "Sorae Kyohyoe" to Christian historians. Those historians say that this was Korea's first church and was established in 1884, but the Sorae villagers started conducting Sunday services from 1983. The first service was conducted on a sand beach near Sorae, and the minister was sitting on a Korean carpet called "Mungsuk". This historic Mungsuk was in my house until 1946.

    My grandmother had two sons, I am sitting between them in this photo of 1954 The statue of her first son is on the campus of Yonsei Medical School. He is known as Dr. Kim Myung-Sun among Korean medical doctors. Since he was 15 years older than my father, he was known as my grandfather among those who know me and know about him.

    Dr. Kim had one son and one daughter (elder). His son is my cousin. In March of 2013, he became 90 years old, and there was a birthday party in Washington, DC. I had a photo with him there.
    We both had the same grandmother. We are proud of her.

  • Let us get back to my grandmother. These days, women's role is well defined in churches. They do everything, and men only do politics. But at the time of my grandma, women had to stay home. They certainly were not allowed to tell men what to do. Thus, it is not difficult to guess what "revolutionary" role my grandmother played in Korea's first church. Then what strength did she have to set up a church organization? The answer is very simple. She was very kind and helpful to everybody.

    My grandparents were somewhat younger than the first Underwood, and their first son [Dr. Kim Myung-Sun who devoted his life to Severance Severance Medical College and Hospital] was seven years younger than the second Underwood, known to us as Dr. Won Han-Kyung. She undoubtedly was very kind to Dr. Won, and this was one of the reasons why he visited her grave. But the fundamental reason was her achievement in constructing the church congregation. She transformed the entire village of Sorae into a Christian village. Sorae used to be a very superstitious village, and that is the reason why the Moodang idea came to me when I was talking about Korean creativity.

    Remember this. Dr. Underwood visited my grandmother's grave not because she was kind to an American, although she was. He did it because she was very kind to her fellow Koreans. Indeed, he visited my grandmother in order to allow her grandson (myself) to say the following harsh words to some of the "world-class" physicists in Korea.

    Whenever I attend conferences these days, I meet many Americans and Europeans who tell me that they have been to Korea and that Korea's economy seems to be great. They say this because their entire expenses were paid by Korean taxpayers. When I ask them who invited them, they usually say "a short fellow with a bold head" or "short fellow named Kim but every Korean is Kim." On the other hand, those Korean hosts talk as if their American friends would visit their graves after they die. If they really want those Americans visit their graves, they should spend Korean taxpayers' money on Koreans and build a healthy Korean physics community, as in the case of my grandmother.

Rrhee gets What He wants from the United States.

written (2005.5.17) converted to webapge (2013.7.16)

During the tedious cease-fire negotiations (1951-53), one of the sticking issues was how the prisoners of war should be handled. There were many North Korean and Chinese POWs who did not go back to their communist countries. Americans wanted to let them stay in the South, but North Koreans wanted all of them back according the Geneva Convention on POWs.

    Korea's mutual defense treaty with the United States being signed in Seoul (September 1953). This was one of the biggest and sweetest packages Rhee obtained from the United States.
    The North had to give in, but insisted that a neutralist country be selected to examine the will of each editorial. They agreed to invite India to send a group of delegates who would examine the true intention of each of those who did not want to go back.

  • After this agreement was reached, President Rhee released 2,8000 non-communist POWs under his control, in violation of the agreement. By doing so, Rhee showed to Americans that he was in a position to seriously disrupt the cease-fire process Americans had worked out with the communist counterparts.

    The Eisenhower administration had to send a special envoy to Busan (capital city of Korea at that time) to find out what Rhee really wanted. Rhee set out three conditions: (1) to double the size of the Korean army equipped with U.S. arms, (2) financial commitment to construct an industrial base, (3) a written security guarantee in the form of mutual defense treaty.

    Americans accepted Rhee's terms and Rhee's promise not to jeopardize the cease-fire process. The cease-fire was signed on July 27, 1953. Rhee's Korean government did not participate in the process and did not sign the cease-fire documents. In the South, the cease-fire was a national disgrace.

    Click here to read what he said.
    North Korean authorities took a different view. There was a big victory celebration in Pyongyang on July 28, the day after the cease-fire agreement. Kim Il-Sung made a speech thanking all Koreans (in the North) for making great sacrifice for the "National Liberation War" which defeated invading American imperialists. The Pyongyang radio (my favorite station at that time) claimed the great People's army shot down 3,700 American aircrafts.

  • However, throughout the two-year-long negotiations, Americans got most of what they wanted. The only concession they made was about construction of new airfields. Americans initially insisted that no new airfields be constructed. This demand was not realistic, and was abandoned as a "major concession" to communists.

  • As for the cease-fire line, the communist side originally insisted on the 38th parallel, but gave in to the American demand that the line be the existing combat line. As for the line on the West Sea, North Korea was aware of their fishermen. They demanded the administrative line between Kyonggi and Hwanghae province. Americans initially agreed, but the Underwood brothers intervened.

    Two Underwood brothers (middle) were the authors of the NNL as an extension of the cease-fire line to the West Sea.
    I had a photo with one of them (tall with glasses) in 2003. The place was Urbana, IL, USA.
    This NLL is strikingly similar to the sea route they used to sail from Seoul to Kumipo on a boat build by their father in 1938. The father was the president of Yonhee College (Yonsei Univ.).
    My family used this route to come to the South in May of 1946. This map tells where the 38th parallel is. My house and Underwood's villa were in the red-dotted area.
    Horace Underwood was the first American missionary in Korea. He had his villa at the Kumipo beach near Sorae on the southern coast of Hwanghae Province. As I said many times before, I spent the first eleven years my life there. From the Island of Baeknyun, you can see Sorae's mountains. The communists wanted this island for their fishing purposes, but it was occupied by Korean marines at that time. The island was the South's intelligence base during the war.

  • Americans, tired of negotiations, were ready to give up this island, but two of the Underwood grandsons intervened. Horace Underwood had a son known to Koreans as Won Han-Kyung Baksa who devoted his entire life to Yonsei University. He had four sons. The eldest son was and still is Horace III, and the youngest son is Richard. These two sons speak Korean fluently and worked as interpreters during the cease-fire negotiations.

    They wanted to keep the Baeknyun Island on our side. The reason was simple. They could see their house in Kumipo from this island. The logic was even correct. The cease-fire line was agreed to be the combat line. The Baeknyun Island was under our military control. The Underwood brothers persuaded the chief American negotiator and thus General Mark Clark (the commander of the U.N. Forces) not to give up the island. They presented this map. This then was the American position.

    The cease-fire was signed on July 27 without an agreement on the line on the West Sea. From our point of view, there were no problems at that time. Americans maintained an absolute naval superiority over North Korea's bath-tub navy.

  • Even on this issue, Americans had their way. These days, we hear often about naval confrontations in that area, and North Koreans say different things about the cease-fire line in the sea.

    I am giving my final exam to students today (2005.5.17), and I will be making frequent conference trips during the summer. While attending a conference in Sweden next month, I will be making an excursion to a Russian city of Kaliningrad.

    This city used to be a German city called Koenigsburg before 1945. I am going there because I have a great respect for a philosopher named Immanuel Kant who spent his entire life there. After Stalin took over that place in 1945, as he did to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, he kicked out all Germans and sent Russians into that city. I am curious about how effective Stalin was in his human engineering.

    Stalin was interested in moving Koreans to Kazkhstan and Uzbechistan, and sending Russians into the Korean peninsula. Rhee Seungman and Kim Il-Sung, though sworn enemies, prevented this disaster.

More on Korean Independence

written (1996.9.17) converted to webpage (2013.7.20)

This is a photo of King Gojong (1884) of Korea. He was not a competent ruler, and was in the middle of fights between his father and his wife. Yet, he did everything he could to prevent his country falling into Japan. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, he remained as the only hope for the country. His death early in 1999 deeply saddened all Koreans. On his funeral day of March 1, 1919, Koreans spontaneously turned against Japanese occupiers. Koreans celebrate the first day of March every year as the Independence Day.
The first day of March in 1919 was King Gojong's funeral day, and the 3.1 up-rising has nothing to do with an American president. We say often this movement was inspired by Wilson's declaration of 14 points for world peace. Wilson mentions the independence of Poland, but not of Korea (under Japan) or of Vietnam (under France) in 14 his points.

    To Korean physicists, their American friends are much dearer to them than their Korean colleagues are, even though their dear high-nosed buddies do not remember their names.

  • If I start listing specific cases, the list will be endless. There is however one example which I have been planning to mention for sometime. We can all agree that the most creative work Koreans did was the creation of Hangeul. We are not saying that the research carried out by Sejong's academicians was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, but we are very close to saying so.

    Korean-language dictionaries usually carry all the names of the U.S. presidents, but they do not tell who King Sejong was. Do you know which book was the first Hangeul book which is still read widely? It is the Hangeul version of the Bible. This book contributed substantially in forcing Koreans to use Hangeul. Otherwise, we would still be writing government memoranda in Chinese. Then do you know who wrote the Hangeul Bible?

  • Most Koreans say God wrote the Hangeul version. This is a disgusting answer from the academic point of view. The prevailing view is that, if written by human beings, it was written by American missionaries, probably by the eldest Underwood. Many people also say that the Sorae church (Korea's first) was also built by Underwood. In 1984, Koreans went through the 100th anniversary of Korea's first Protestant church, and it was somewhat a noisy year. But they never clarified these two important issues (who built the church and who wrote the Bible), simply because it is contrary to the prevailing trend for Koreans to say Koreans did anything original.

  • Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church
    in Brooklyn (New York).

    Statue of Horace Underwood at
    Yonsei University in Seoul (Korea).

    When I attended a Sunday service held at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian church in Brooklyn (New York) 1960, the church was celebrating the 100th birth year of their most successful alumnus. His name was Horace Underwood who came to Korea in 1885. From this, we can compute Underwood's age when arrived. He was only 25 years old, not old enough to learn the Korean language to translate the Bible. Underwood's descendents never claimed their family's role in the Bible translation.

    On the other hand, Underwood understood clearly the importance of the Bible and made a important contribution toward the distribution of the book. His elder brother was one of the pioneers of typewriter industry, and some of you will remember seeing or using typewriters carrying the Underwood trade mark. As the desk-top PC is a derivative of main-frame computers, the desk-top typewriter was developed first as a derivative of big printing machines. For this reason, Underwood had a good sense of printing business and made a substantial contribution toward mass-production of the Korean Bible.

  • Before coming to Korea in 1885, Underwood spent one year in Japan in order to become familiar with Korea and Koreans. There he met a Korean named Lee Soo-Jung, who went to Japan in 1882 as a member of the Korean delegation headed by Park Young-Hyo. There he contacted Japanese Christians and stayed there.

    I now have with me a photo showing a white-dressed Lee Soo-Jung with about fifty black-dressed Japanese Christians. There he started translating the Bible into Korean. Soon after Underwood met Lee, he hastily printed what was available at that time. He printed the four Gospels of the New Testament in separate booklets.

  • When Underwood came to Sorae in 1885, he came with two pouches mounted on his horse. One of them contained medicines. The other contained Lee Soo-Jung's Gospel booklets. These booklets were in my childhood house in Sorae, and I saw them with my own eyes. The booklet size was about 12cm wide and 18cm high.

    Then the question is whether Lee Soo-Jung's booklets constituted the first edition of the Hangeul Bible? The answer is No. The first version was written in Hamkyung dialect. I will continue next time.

Japan's Strength and Weakness, and Ours

written (1996.10.19) converted to webpage (2013.7.20)

Whenever I talk with my Japanese colleagues and friends, I always say that Japanese are extremely creative but the trouble is that they do not know how creative they are. They then ask me how I know so well about Japan. My answer to them is very simple. I know about their strength and weakness because Koreans are exactly like Japanese.

Indeed, I have been talking about our weaknesses for sometime. Recently I have been talking about who translated the Bible into Korean. The fact is that we do not know and we do not care. The reason is that the work was carried out by Koreans.

  • In my previous article, I said the Gospel booklets Underwood brought to Korea was based on the translation carried out by Lee Soo-Jung in Japan. However, when Underwood came to Sorae in 1885, the villagers were already using the Bible written in Hangeul. The Sorae Bible then became the first Hangeul Bible. Then who wrote the Sorae Bible? Click here for the answer.

    In Cambridge (England) in 1993, I spent one evening with a young Korean student named Chang Heon-Young. He is now Dr. Chang and is at Yonsei Univ. in the Dept. of Astronomy. In 1993, he asked me why the first edition of the Korean Bible was written in Hamkyung dialect. I told him that I believed that the first edition was in Pyong-buk dialect but I could be wrong. I promised to him that I would do some research and produce the answer to his question.

  • Historians say that the Bible translation was carried out by John Ross and John Macintire from Scotland, who came to the Manchurian City of Woochang in 1872. Their effort was assisted by four Koreans named Kim Jin-Kee, Paik Hong-Joon, Lee Sung-Ha, and Lee Eun-Chan. Thus, the First Edition is often called the Ross Edition.

    Historians also say that the translation was done from Chinese to Korean. If those two Scottish missionaries were the true translators, why did they not translate from the King James Version instead from Chinese? If you are a normal Korean, you should raise the suspicion that those four Korean "assistants" did the real hard work of translation. If this was the case, we have the historical obligation to promote those four Koreans from the rank of "assistants" to "great translators."

  • The translation team was later joined by two brothers named Suh San-Yoon and Suh Kyung-Jo. The translation is one thing, but rewriting the translation into a literary work is another matter. Suh Sang-Yoon knew how to write. I now have with me the original King James Version, and am looking at Matthew Chapter Seven. Verse 7 says: ASK, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. Verse 8 says: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. I would then like to invite the Hangeul version of the same verses. You will then become convinced that Jesus spoke Korean when he was giving his sermons.

    Suh Sang-Yoon was one of the Bible translators. He came to the village of Sorae to set up Korea's first Presbyterian church at a remote.
    His brother, named Suh Kyung-Jo, served as the first pastor of this church.

  • The Suh brothers came to Sorae in 1883 and opened the Sorae Church. Prof. Min Kyung-Bae of Yonsei University wrote one of the most popular books on the history of Korean churches. He was born and raised in the town called Chang-Yon. Chang-Yon looks very close to Sorae in the map, but the two places were separated by a tiger-infested mountain. For this reason, Prof. Min thinks Suh Sang-Yoon was born in Sorae, and so states in his book. This is not true. To Sorae villagers, the Suh brothers were born in EuiJoo (Pyong-buk Province) because they came from there as Prof. Min says in his book. Min's book strongly indicates that the citizens of Euijoo were not friendly to Suh because he was not born there.

  • Then where is the true birth place of Suh Sang-Yoon? I now have with a book consisting of articles written by Sorae villagers who now live in Seoul. According to this book, the Suh brothers were originally merchants whose home base was located in Eastern Manchu, close to our Hamkyung Province. This is consistent with the fact that most of Koreans named Suh came from Hamkyung Province at that time. Suh Sang-Yoon spoke Hamkyung dialect, and this is the reason why the First Edition of the Hangeul Bible was written in Hamkyung dialect.

    I hope I answered the question which Dr. Chang Heon-Young raised in 1993. I have written many articles in the past, but this was the most difficult one to write, perhaps because I am not a professional historian. If our historians had enough sense, I would not have to go through this painful step. Korean historians never give any credit to any Koreans. They always praise foreigners. We often complain that Japanese are distorting our history. I watch Japanese TV programs carefully whenever they talk about us. Yes, there are some biased views, but Japanese in general give far more credit to Korean creativity than we do to ourselves.

  • On the issue of Koreans not listening to fellow Koreans, there is another serious problem: the question of who started the Korean War on June 25, 1950.
    Click here for for a story.

I have many other stories to tell. I will post them when I have time. Please come again.