from Sok Hon Ham of Seoul Friends Meeting
to the Triennial of the Friends World Committee for Consultation
Sydney, Australia, August 18-25, 1973
FWCC Sydney Triennial Attachment VIII (Minute 509)
from Sok Hon Ham of Seoul Friends Meeting
Physically speaking, I am here in Seoul, but my heart is there with you. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you all. I am aware of your constant prayers for our tiny Friends' meeting here in Seoul, and your sincere efforts to support it and nourish it are greatly appreciated. Moreover, when this nation was placed under the! martial law last year and ensuing difficulties were tremendous, Friends all over the world did express their deep concerns directly or indirectly about the safety of myself and my family.
I have been very anxious to participate in the conference you are having now. In fact, I was even planning to attend this conference as soon as the Sigtuna meeting was over three years ago. At Sigtuna I had a few concerns in mind that could have appealed to you. However, mainly on account of the language barrier, I refrained myself from explaining what I had in mind. Therefore, I was anxious to attend this meeting. To my great joy, you invited me to represent the Seoul meeting, and with joy I was looking forward to this conference to share my concerns. To my great regret, however, various unfavourable conditions have made it impossible for me to go I am so much disappointed, and I imagine you are equally disappointed.
I cannot go because my wife is seriously ill. When I left here for Sigtuna three years ago, I was uncomfortable and uneasy as she was not well. She has been bed-ridden for so many years, and someone has to be at her bed-side twenty-four hours a day. Due to her and her long illness I have been re-evaluating the meaning of life. What is this to be husband and wife? What is illness? What is faith? I raise these questions in my heart again and again every day.
In addition to that, my intimate friends keep me from going. They are a handful of good people who are determined to keep their conscience free despite the curtailment of individual freedom. We manage to stay alive by comforting and encouraging each other. We are united, and bound together as self-appointed vanguard of the nation's conscience. They are afraid of having me outside the country even for a brief period of time. They need me here so badly, and I do not intend to make them unhappy.
The monthly magazine called 'Voice of the People' that I have been editing and publishing for the past three years urges me to give up the plan to join you. As for me, the magazine is a tiny, sickly baby undernourished, mistreated, and even tortured under these circumstances. Nevertheless, this is the one and only fortress of freedom under this government which lack reason and common sense.
Whenever I give birth to this child every month, I come to understand the feelings of a mother who has given birth to a malformed child or a mentally retarded baby; I could even sympathize with a virgin raped by rascals. All is in God's hand and Providence does not create evil; I am fully aware of it. But I am solely responsible for the publication of this magazine, and it would be unwise to leave the difficult task to some one else under these difficult circumstances.
For these reasons 'I have decided not to leave the country at this time. Some of my dear friends from New York came to see me, and urged me to go. Their love was genuine and their friendship was beautiful. They did comfort my heart that was sad and depressed. Their concerns made me to take up this pen and write this letter for you. Mr. Young Sang Chin shall share our concerns with you. I know I have disappointed you, and I feel bound to say a few words about what I have in mind.
St. Paul was determined to convert his own beloved people to God, and for this sole purpose he risked his own life. For this he was not afraid of being severed even from the love of Christ. Quoting the man from Tarsus, I would like to express my concerns and share them with you.
Many friends come to us and ask if there is anything we need. They would like to know how to help us. I cannot answer their questions. Sometimes I feel like saying why do you ask these questions to me. But, before saying so, I tend to blame myself. It is my fault that I have not shared my concerns with you. That pricks my own conscience. If you are my true friends, I should be able to talk about the things that we can be proud of. But that is not enough. I should be able to refer to the things that we should be ashamed of. Owing to my vain pride and the lack of faith, I have, so far, been unable to tell you about the things that all the Korean! s ought to be ashamed of.
I call this nation the "Queen of Sufferings" sometimes I call her the "Old Prostitute". Korea is the "World's Sewage" or its "Garbage Can".
My friends, Korea is the criminal hanging on the cross. America and Russia have torn us north and south; China and Japan have divided us east and west. We are the victim of the competitive struggles of powerful nations' nationalism. We are torn apart but this division is against our own will. We know we have to be united but we have no strength to unite ourselves. The power of evil is too enormous to be overcome.
We are the people being constantly tortured by political evils. Political evils are worldwide today. Both Democracy and Communism have pushed us into this valley of sufferings.
We are the puddle of degenerate civilizations. We know we have to create a new history but we fail to do so. The pollution of this world has degraded our youths and has corrupted them; they are groping in the darkness for light and salvation.
Of course, we bear this burden on our shoulders on account of our own sins. But this burden is not ours alone; it is the burden of the entire mankind. My friends, help us bear this burden on our shoulders.
Jesus called the Jewish people the salt of the earth, the city on top of the mountain, and the light of the world. To say the truth, the Jewish were the trash of history. Jesus might call the Korean people by these same expressions. But, in order to save this rotten fish of the world, the salt itself has to be melted. How can we possibly overcome this political evil called nationalism without sacrificing ourselves most willingly and most positively? To enlighten and guide the destiny of this civilization we must burn ourselves redemptively.
We must bear our burden, but there is no distinction between the man who bears the burden and the man who has forced the burden on his fellowman. There is no longer 'your country' or 'my country'. There is only one world. There is no longer any distinction between 'your God' and 'my God'. There is only one meaning.
My dear friends, in the midst of this turbulent stream of sufferings and tribulations I shout like a Macedonian: "Come over here and help us!"
As my wife cannot bear the pains of her illness all by herself my friends here cannot protect their own conscience by themselves and my magazine cannot stay alive by itself. We need your love. This "Queen of Sufferings" needs your comforts and wants to share her concerns with you.!
God bless and keep you.
(signed) Sok Hon Ham
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