Renaissance a Method of Missions. As in the case of Japan, Korea received the impulse of the new era from without. Secular or religious, the new movement was missionary in its nature. Japan received her impulse from America; Korea in turn from Japan; China from the combined pressure of all the foreign powers; India chiefly from Britain; Turkey from the Balkans and the powers of Europe. In the same way Europe received her first impulse from Asia, Italy from Greece, and the northern nations of Europe received the inspiration of the renaissance from Italy. The world was made for missions, for service. Freely we have received ; let us freely give.
Survey of the Past. Let us first of all rapidly survey Korea’s past history and the conditions that obtained under the old era. We will then be in a position to study the present political reconstruction and note its probable results. The people are the product of centuries of oppression, with all the virtues and vices of this condition. A representative Korean described their characteristics as those of patience, resignation, gentleness, docility, good nature, and improvidence. They are hospitable, affectionate, sympathetic. Indeed, Korea is called the ” Land of Sympathy. The people are rich in their capacity for friendship, poetic, lovers of nature, bright, with distinct literary gifts, but suffering from the result of centuries of relative idleness with no incentive to work. In the old days why should a man work, only to have his property seized by the government or to be cast into jail to pay the debts of his improvident relatives? The faults of the Koreans are, as in the case of the Japanese, sociological rather than biological; they are the result of their environment. Under a stable government, with the people compelled to work, and able to retain the rewards of their labor, the conditions will rapidly improve.
Governmental Corruption and Extortion. The former government of Korea almost beggars description. The writer cannot do better than to state conditions as they were told to him by an earnest Christian patriot, himself a Korean, who was an official under the old regime. He states that the former government for the last forty years was almost destitute of every good principle. The Emperor, kindly but weak, corrupt, and selfish, did everything to ruin the country. Money was extorted from the rich. False charges were preferred against them, they were cast into jail, tortured to extort some confession, and released only on payment of a large bribe or fine. All the offices were sold and every office had its price. Extortion was common. No Korean felt safe with regard to life and property. Many died in prison. Had even part of the money thus extorted been de-voted to the development of public works, or to the general welfare, it might have been pardonable, but practically all of it went into the pockets of the officials. The Emperor stole from the rich within reach of the capital, the governors extorted from the prominent men of their provinces, while petty officials seized whatever was left. The condition of the peasants and the farmers was most pitiable. If a man was found with a yoke of oxen or a little property, he could be seized for the debts of all his profligate relatives; or the officials would forcibly confer upon him some empty title like that of ” Royal Grave Keeper,” and compel him to sell his oxen or his property to pay for his title, until finally there were more grave keepers than graves to keep. There could be no patriotism under such a government and such an Emperor. The old government, this Korean official stated, was the worst in Asia, and as bad as that of Turkey.’
Low Economic Condition. Economically, the country was left poor, bankrupt, and in debt. Daily wages ran from ten to twenty cents. Almost every man was in debt, and rates of interest were from ten to twelve per cent. a month two decades ago. This has now fallen to from one to four per cent. a month, and is growing less. Labor was considered degrading. Superstition prevented the opening up of mines and the development of the country. Disease was rife, owing to filthy and insanitary conditions.
Japan Obtains Control. Having reviewed the de-pressing conditions that were found under the old era, we are now in a position to observe the present political reconstruction under the Japanese government, and to forecast its probable results. This proverbial ” Land of the Morning Calm” and of peaceful improvidence, has become in recent centuries the storm center of the Far East. Lying between Japan, Manchuria, and China, it has been at once the buffer and the battle-ground of the surrounding states. Korea has been increasingly the bone of contention between China and japan on the one hand and between Russia and Japan on the other. China looked upon her as her ancient vassal and rightful possession. Japan saw in Korea her base upon the mainland and the most favorable opening for her rapidly extending population, which, in self-preservation must find some outlet. It seemed imperative to Japan that sooner or later she must possess this long-coveted prize. The Old Emperor, Yi Hiung, who had been the thirty-first in the direct line of succession from the founder of the dynasty which stretched back to 1392, had ascended the throne in 1864. Immediately after the Russo-Japanese war, Japan’s first act was to occupy Korea by establishing a virtual protectorate. In 1905 Japan sent there her ablest statesman as Resident-General, who had done so much to shape her own wise policy, Marquis, later Prince Ito. Failing to recognize that the control of Japan was inevitable, the old Emperor turned his palace into a place of intrigue against the Japanese. The climax was reached in 1907 when the Emperor sent a delegation to the International Conference at the Hague to secure the interference of Western nations in the affairs of Korea. Pathetic as was their plea, the Hague commissioners could not receive the Korean emissaries. At last, on July 18, 1907, the Emperor was compelled to affix his signature to an imperial decree announcing the transfer of the throne to the Crown Prince of Korea. A storm of protest at once broke from patriotic Koreans. But Japanese troops quelled the disturbance. On July 24 the corrupt Korean official, Yi Wan Yong, under the authority of Marquis Ito, signed an agreement at the Japanese residency declaring that ” the government of Korea shall follow the directions of the Resident-General.” Under the wise guidance of Prince Ito reforms were rapidly inaugurated, but Japan felt that she did not have a free hand and finally annexed Korea on August 23, 1910.
Conditions Under Japanese Rule. As we recall these dates we observe how recent and how rapid has been Japan’s extension of her complete control over the hermit nation.” It also convinces us that the thorough reconstruction of Korea is inevitable. No unprejudiced person can deny that under Japanese rule Korea has made remarkable material progress. On every hand new and substantial buildings are rising. There has been a new census of the population showing that it now totals 13,299,699. An accurate land survey is being undertaken. The government has been reconstructed, finances have been placed upon a firm footing, peace and security have been guaranteed to the merchants and farmers. There has been a rapid development in the construction of railways, which now extend over 600 miles. Post-offices, telegraphs, and telephones are being extended. The trade of Korea is increasing. The exports have doubled within five years. Agricultural tools and superior seeds and young plants are being distributed to some of the farmers. Agricultural schools are also being opened in each province. An efficient school system has been organized. The government has opened or subsidized 173 schools with 20,121 pupils. Though it is true that education is still backward, the number of children attending school has trebled in three years. The Korean people, despite the galling discipline of a foreign yoke, are growing stronger and more prosperous, as well as more unified and patriotic. At the same time it is impossible not to sympathize with the natural, patriotic aspirations of the Korean people. It is true that their material conditions have improved, and true also that this new national consciousness and strong feeling of patriotism has arisen chiefly since the fall of the old and corrupt régime. Nevertheless, how would the people of America like to be reformed and improved by a conquering nation? How hard it must have been for a patriotic Israelite to see any possible providential good in being subjected to a foreign yoke and to a power which had less religious enlightenment than his own !
Improvements Introduced. Japan is introducing into Korea her own efficient methods in sanitation, in fisheries, and in forestry, the last being sorely needed upon the bare, denuded hills of the peninsula. The death-rate is being steadily reduced under Japanese medical science. The system of justice and of judicial procedure introduced by the government of Japan is also a great improvement over the methods in vogue during the old era in Korea.
New Material Opportunities. We may now fore-cast the probable effects of the Japanese occupation of Korea. New material ambitions will be created for the people of the country. Already new opportunities in business have opened up with the Japanese occupation. With greater security to trade many of the Koreans are beginning to make money, and what they make is now their own. An increasing number of positions have also been offered to Koreans in the Japanese government service. Farmers also are now more prosperous.
New Intellectual and Moral Standards. New intellectual and moral standards will be introduced. Wider horizons will be opened up before the people, who, no longer isolated and stagnant, will take their place in the knowledge and enterprise and broader interests of the world.
Danger of Secular Drift. But the occupation of Japan will bring with it not only material advantages but grave dangers as well. The material and apparently successful civilization of Japan will be introduced, and the vein of materialism which we have found running through the national life of Japan will naturally extend throughout the governing service in Korea. In fact it has already done so.
Inadequate School Provision. It is to be feared that the education introduced by Japan will be both secular and insufficient. It is to be said in defense of Japan that she has had but a short time to improve conditions in Korea, and that it is too soon to judge of her educational program, but government education in Korea has not kept pace with the material developments. When the writer was last in Korea only about two and a half per cent. of the income of the government was spent upon education, while in the Philippines more than one sixth of the total income was spent for this great object. As against 20,121 in the Korean government schools, the government in the Philippines had in 1910-11 over 600,000 or thirty times as many in a population only about half that of Korea. If the government education introduced by Japan is both secular and insufficient, this constitutes a special call for foreign missions to pro-vide secondary and higher education for the people, and to supplement the secular education given by Japan by the spiritual emphasis which missions can give.
Unique Opening for Christian Effort. Not only is there a unique opportunity offered to-day in the matter of education in Korea. There is another fact also in our favor. In Japan, China, and India native patriotism tends to bring about a reaction against all Western influence, religion included, in favor of the older form of national religions. In Korea, however, the tendency of patriotism is toward a welcoming of all Western influence. Consequently, if the Japanese government grants the people real religious liberty Christianity will have a better chance in Korea than in the larger countries about it.
Peril of the Social Evil. Japan may not only introduce into Korea the danger of its own materialism and its secular education, but also of the social evil which is so widespread in Japan itself. The brilliantly lighted ” red light district” of the Yoshiwara stands out plainly on the hillside of Seoul. Soon after the Japanese entered Korea there were to be found twice as many immoral women among the 27,000 Japanese then in the capital as there were Korean women in the same corrupt trade among the 300,000 Koreans. But unfortunately since the Japanese occupation this evil has spread among the Koreans also. In fact, in every Japanese colony and con-cession throughout the East the social evil will be found in disproportionate excess. In some Chinese cities, for instance; where they are making a heroic fight against opium, the Japanese concessions are doing a thriving business in their opium dens and immoral houses. It is greatly to be regretted that the social evil so prevalent in Japan is likely to be ex-tended to her colonial possessions also.
Call for Spiritual Service. In a word, we may look to Japan to supply thoroughly and sufficiently the material needs of Korea. It is for us to help her in things spiritual. And this help will be welcomed by the best Christian and non-Christian leaders of Japan, as it has been in Japan itself.
Religious Problem. Having reviewed briefly the political reconstruction and its probable results and dangers, let us examine the religious life of Korea under the old era and the new. In the old era the country was almost bankrupt religiously. Korea, like China and Japan, has had three religions. Confucianism and Buddhism have been common to all three lands. Taoism in China, Shinto in Japan, and Shamanism in Korea have codified and nationalized the primitive nature-worship of the three countries.’ Religion had come to a low ebb in Korea before the entrance of Christianity, and the people seemed in-different and irreligious. Confucianism had resulted in agnosticism, Buddhism in pessimism, Shamanism in superstition. But Korea’s wonderful response to Christianity in the last two decades has made her famous throughout the world, and proved that the fault was not in the people but in their environment, not in their lack of religious capacity but in their old religions.
Vast World of Demons. Dr. George Heber Jones says: ” In Korean belief, earth, air, and sea are peopled by demons. They haunt every umbrageous tree, shady ravine, crystal spring, and mountain crest; by road and river, in north, south, east, and west they abound, making malignant sport out of human destinies. They waylay the traveler as he leaves home, walking beside him, dancing in front of him, whirring over his head, crying out upon him from earth and air and water. They are numbered by thousands of billions. They touch the Korean at every point of his life, keeping him under the yoke of bondage from birth to death.”
Model Christian Development. Christianity in Korea has been characterized by its rapid growth and its apostolic zeal. In self-support, self-expansion, and self-government it has furnished in many respects a model for all mission fields. The Church in Korea has been a witnessing Church, a praying Church, a Bible-studying Church, and a giving Church.
A Transformed City. In order to realize the characteristics of Christianity in Korea let us observe the changes which it has wrought in a single typical city. Ping Yang was the worst city in all Korea. When Mr. Thomas came from China with a quantity of Christian Scriptures in 1866, in the ill-fated vessel Sherman, he and all the crew were killed by the inhabitants of this city. Later on other missionaries were driven out. In 1894 came the war between China and Japan, and after the terror and suffering caused by the decisive battle of Ping Yang, the self-denying medical labors of Dr. Hall and the good news of peace brought by Dr. Moffett and others revealed to the people the true nature of the Christian religion. At that time, only twenty years ago, the first seven converts in this city were baptized.
Wonderful Church Life. One Sunday in 1911 the writer attended an ordination service in the Central Church at Ping Yang. What changes had taken place in these twenty years! Instead of seven men, there is now a Christian community of over 33,000 in this one station. Instead of the little room, eight by twelve feet square, which formed the original church, here was a great building crowded by 1,500 Christians on a rainy Sunday. Instead of one little church, forty-two congregations have branched off from, this mother church, each with its nucleus of members from the original congregation. As against a pittance of a few pence formerly given out of their poverty, over $30,000 was contributed last year by the poor Christians of this section, who built their own churches, supported their pastors, and sent the gospel far and wide to others. Instead of seven men, a whole church is now witnessing to an apostolic gospel, nine tenths of the workers receiving no salary. In this city, which first received Chinese religion and culture three thousand years ago, the writer saw the first Korean native Christian missionary sent to China, supported by the Koreans themselves, and heard the suggestion of the next one being sent to Japan.
Biblical Simplicity and Service. But the most striking thing about these Christians is not their numbers but the apostolic simplicity of their lives. The Scriptures-are studied as in the days of old. Instead of a children’s Sunday-school, the whole church comes in a body to study the Bible. At the afternoon service ten churches were all well filled in this city of 50,000 people. At the mid-week prayer-meeting eight hundred were in attendance at one church and a prayer-meeting was announced for five o’clock every morning during the week following. We saw a hundred laymen giving up Saturday afternoon to prepare themselves to teach the Bible to their classes on the following day. Some two hundred special Bible training conferences were held in this station during the year, attended by upward of 10,000 Christians. Many walk from fifty to one hundred miles to attend, and pay all their own expenses. Apart from one paid helper for each missionary to assist in traveling work and supervision, practically all the work is self-supporting, while the majority of those who conduct the Sunday services receive no pay.
Personal Witnessing. When we asked one of the missionaries how many of the Christians witnessed for Christ, he said about 100 percent. He added that the gospel was still ” good news” in Korea, and the people try to tell it to all they meet. If a man spends the night in an inn without telling the message to all the inmates, he feels he has been guilty of missing a great opportunity. We saw a young student whose diary showed 3,400 interviews during the year. He ministers to a little church without salary. One day he confessed with shame to the missionary that he had only spoken to four persons about Christ that day. One year the Christians tried to reach a million souls with the message, and carried the story into almost every house in the district.
General Spirit of Zeal. We have spoken somewhat at length of Christianity in Ping Yang, but this city is typical of others in Korea. Many other instances of the marked growth of Christianity might be added. In Korea as a whole 94 per cent. of the workers are supported by Korean money, and receive no financial aid whatever from abroad. About 40 per cent, of the Christians have been enrolled in, training classes for Christian workers, to train the rank and file of the laity for active and intelligent Christian service for the evangelization of their own country. One class of 250 members pledged more than 2,500 days of Christian service during the year. The Christians of Korea purchased themselves in one year more than 400,000 copies of Mark’s Gospel to distribute among their non-Christian neighbors.
Apostolic Evangelization. The Christian life of Korea in its simplicity, its zeal, its power, and its love, carries us back to apostolic times, and puts our conventional coldness of the West to shame. In one denomination in America 350 ministers and 50,000 members in one section of the Eastern States showed a net gain for a year of only seventy-nine members. During the same year fifteen overworked missionaries and one Korean pastor and their members gathered in 10,600 souls, or about 660 for each ordained man. When the writer looked up the statistics for the Church in Korea, after thirteen years’ absence in India, he found it had gained 1,000 per cent. When he was in Korea last he found that an average of one new congregation was added every day during that year.
Sacrificial Giving. The Christians of Korea are apostolic in their giving as well as in their witness and in the study of the Word. One poor man gladly lived on one meal a day and gave $500 in two years toward the building of his church. The missionary found another man drawing his own plow instead of an ox. When questioned he said, ” Oh, it’s great; it’s good exercise and I enjoy it.” The missionary finally learned, however, that he had sold his only ox to give money to the church, and was cheerfully drawing the family plow himself. Wonderful little Korea! Land of suffering and of service. May her lamps be kept burning and her loins girded till she becomes an example to the world, and gives us back the gospel for an age of doubt!
Breakdown of Old Standards. The causes of the remarkable and rapid growth of Christianity in Korea are not difficult to trace. Negatively, on the one hand, there was the breakdown of the old standards of life, political, economic, social, and religious. The old system, engendered and supported by the old faiths and chained to the past had hopelessly failed. As Dr. Jones says : ” Misgovernment and oppression had reduced the people to despair. . . The people were tired out, weary, and disheartened with the barrenness of pagan beliefs and religions. Morally they were decrepit and moribund. Into the gloomy, chilly atmosphere of their moral life came the gospel of Jesus Christ, with its radiant promises of better things, and the Koreans turned as instinctively to it as the flower to the sunshine. There has been a lack of competition with Christianity which has given to Christian forces virtually a monopoly of the field.”
Welcome to Christian Light and Cheer. Positively, the entrance of Christianity, with its message of light and life, met the need of the people. It was the one ray of hope which drew out their whole faith, and the Christians of Korea threw themselves single heartedly into the Christian life.
Needs of the New Era. We have spoken of the political reconstruction of the country and of its religious transformation. In closing let us think of the needs of the new era, and recall the warning afforded by Japan. We remember how the rapid success in Japan was followed by a period of reaction. It is impossible to predict that there will not be some such reaction in Korea itself. Does history furnish the example of any country which has been won easily and quickly and which has remained a strong and vital source of Christianity with strong missionary zeal? Are there not signs of a possible reaction in Korea it-self ?
To Forestall Other Interests. Formerly Christianity alone held the field of interest. From now on it will have formidable competitors. Modern civilization with all its variety and complexity, its assumption of superiority, its new opportunities and allurements, its material standards and rewards, comes to appeal to impulses that never could be gratified before. There is danger lest the distractions of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things, entering in, choke the Word, so that it becomes unfruitful. Under the old régime patriots turned toward Christianity as the one hope of saving the country, but they now find that Japan has come to stay, and that they must adjust themselves to existing conditions, however bitterly they may resent them.
Deeper Basis of Education. Is Korea prepared to meet such a period of reaction if it should occur? Her people, not highly educated, are by nature as the result of environment in a childlike and naïve stage. They have never had to oppose great national obstacles, such as the caste system of India, government opposition, and a literati class like that of China, or the strong currents of agnosticism and intellectual doubt that have swept japan. True, they have been purified by affliction and suffering, but they have not yet been tested to the full. We must deepen and strengthen the foundations in Korea before the superstructure is extended too rapidly. Is there not need to-day of a wider emphasis upon education, all the more because the government, in its financial stringency, has been somewhat backward in developing it? Should not a Christian university be speedily established in Korea, with a unified and coordinated system of Christian education related to it, as was recommended in the recent conference of the Continuation Committee held in Korea in 1913?
More Fully Trained Leaders. Is-there not need also of developing a more highly educated and specially trained leadership for the Korean Church ? They have set an example to the world in voluntary service, but there will be need of educated Christian leaders who can cope with the men who will receive higher secular education in japan. Fortunately, the Korean students at present studying in Japan are being brought under the helpful influence of the Christian Student Movement. Is there not need also of a wider work of philanthropy and social service, together with all the broad and ramified applications of Christianity to the people of the nation, to enable them to meet the demands of the new era?
Four Lines of Reenforcement. Is there not a need in Korea today to accept the warning afforded by Japan in emphasizing the four points mentioned in our last chapter, which might have prevented the reaction which took place in that country, namely, to avoid denationalizing and Westernizing the converts, to develop a stronger intellectual life and apologetic literature, to emphasize essential and historic Christianity without insistence upon narrow theological formula, and to seek the wider applications of Christianity to social and national problems, as well as placing stress upon individual salvation? God grant that as the work in Korea is deepened and broadened that land may not lose the apostolic zeal and fervor for which it has become rightly celebrated throughout the world !
Well-Deserved Help. Thus we see that Korea calls today for a broad and deep and varied Christianity, as well as for the early message of the simple gospel. Now is the time to help Korea. The brave fight she has already made, the brilliant victories she has already won, and her glad willingness for self-support, entitle her to receive at our hands the help which she needs from without.
Men Who Guarantee the Future. We do not wish to close this chapter with a pessimistic note of warning. The work in Korea is still wonderfully successful. The promise of the future lies in the teaching of men who have been raised up out of great suffering, and who have become strong, fervid witnesses for the gospel. In closing, in order to show the contrast between the old era and the new and the effect of Christianity in the lives of the people, let us glance at a typical group of young men who suffered under the cruelty of the old Emperor, and who are leaders in the regeneration of Korea under the new régime. Such men are the best guarantee for the future of Korea.
Rise and Fall of Reform Party. These young men had been members of the new ” Independence Party,” working together for the long-needed reforms in their corrupt government. Educated in America, or in mission schools in which Western learning, with its new ideas of liberty, the worth of the individual, and modern theories of government, was taught, they were striving for the regeneration of Korea. The In-dependence Party sought to reform the entire government in accordance with the ideas of modern civilizetion. For a time this party was in power and reforms were rapidly introduced, but the reactionaries soon gained the upper hand over the Emperor. The palace gates suddenly opened, and armed police and hired members of the pedlers’ gild rushed out, and carried some forty of the choicest spirits of the reform party into prison, while the others fled.
Dr. Rhee an Active Spirit. Among those captured was Dr. Rhee, or Yi Seung Man, who had been a member of the Imperial Privy Council while the Independence Party was in power. Dr. Rhee was born of an old Confucian family of scholars. When English began to be introduced, he joined the mission school in order to learn it, but as a proud and self-sufficient Confucian boy he came to the school with great suspicion, fearing the influence of some foreign drug, disliking the compulsory chapel, the absence of idols and all that he had been accustomed to associate with religion. He learned English, however, and along with it, at first unconsciously, a world of new ideas, centering in the word ” liberty.” On leaving the school, apparently untouched religiously, he threw himself into a movement to reform his country. There was a short period when everything seemed hopeful; then the blow fell, the Emperor and his associates turned against the reform movement, and in a moment all was changed.
Prison Experiences. No words can describe their prison. Besides being frequently tortured to extort confessions or to incriminate others, the prisoners were herded like cattle in a foul pen. In dirt, covered with vermin, with unspeakable sanitary conditions, they were living in a stifling atmosphere, and were never allowed to leave the robin. They were crowded in with coarse criminals and outlaws. Those who were not fast in galling stocks were often unable to lie down, unless they lay one upon another, because of the crowd in that stifling room. They were cruelly treated by the keepers and by the professional criminals. The food, disgusting and often decaying, was torn from the weaker men by the stronger criminals. The torture to which the political prisoners were subjected was agony. Mr. Kim had his leg broken. After each period of torture Dr. Rhee was bound hand and foot in painful stocks. For seven months he could not lie down, and seven long years in all this gifted man, since an M.A. of Harvard, and a Ph.D. of Princeton, spent in this horrible prison. Unprotected from the winter’s cold or summer’s heat, in the pain of torture, and in the filth of that dark prison, he longed for death. Some of his friends were killed, and he wondered when his turn would come. In a newspaper smuggled into the prison from the city he read the announcement of his own death. He was convinced that it had been determined upon by the authorities, and it was now only a matter of hours. Yes, he was to die, but after that, what? Where was he going? Confucianism offered him no hope, Buddhism no certainty, and he could not accept the debasing superstitions of Shamanism. In despair he turned to Christianity as his only hope, and recalled much of the teaching he had heard in the mission school of a loving heavenly Father, of a compassionate Savior, of the forgiveness of sins, and of hope for the future.
He Becomes a Seeker. He felt convicted of sin in that he had rejected Christ in the mission school, through his pride and hardness of heart, and in that he had bitterly and openly criticized Christ, but he dimly remembered some verse that said if a man would repent God would forgive. In his agony he turned, helpless and undone, to God. He knew not how to pray, but bowing his head as well as he could in the wooden stocks, he cried with breaking heart, ” Oh God, save my country, save my soul.” It was all he could say, but in that broken cry the young patriot found God. It was the first prayer he had ever offered.
Conversion and Work. He sent a message to his father, through a released prisoner, not to mourn his loss as he was soon to die, but to send him a New Testament, such as he had read in the mission school. At last it was smuggled in. In the filthy cell one prisoner stood guard at the door to give warning of the approach of the keeper, while another held open the Testament before this young man bound in the stocks. Here on the brink of eternity, a famished soul, he thirstily drank in the truth. As soon as he found the light himself, he began to tell the good news to the miserable group in his prison cell. One by one he pleaded with every hardened criminal in the place, and many were touched. Dr. Rhee witnessed not only to the prisoners, but to the jailer himself. At last he also believed, and later was baptized with all his house.
” The Hall of Blessing.” Dr. Rhee had been sentenced to prison for life, but after the jailer’s conversion he was transferred to a larger and more comfortable cell, where he had access to a greater number of prisoners. He gathered together a class of thirteen boys and taught them to read. Another adult class of forty members was formed, and the jailer himself attended daily. A continual revival went on in that prison, and the men who were there perfected in suffering have come to be leaders in the regeneration of Korea. Many of them are prominent in Christian work. Some five centuries before some one had ironically named the prison ” The Hall of Blessing “; and under the alchemy of the gospel it did indeed become a place of blessing to all these men. They were like the writer of the Ephesians, ” in chains ” yet ” in heavenly places.” Some forty in all were converted, and others were won after they left the prison.
Yi Sang Jai. Among the group in prison was the old veteran Korean statesman, Yi Sang Jai. He had been secretary of the Korean Legation at Washing-ton for many years. On his return to Korea he bought a copy of the New Testament. Joining the new Independence Party, he became its Vice-President, and later the Secretary of the Imperial Cabinet of Korea. _In the new party he vigorously opposed Christianity, which was advocated by the reformers, ridiculing its supernatural element, and holding proudly to his position as a Confucian scholar of the old school. As the leader of the party left for America, still advocating Christianity, he said to the old scholar, ” You will yet remember Christ, in prison.” The words came back to him like a prophecy, when, two years later, he with a score of his friends was thrown into prison and tortured. Some were killed, but most of all it harrowed the old man’s . soul to see his son tortured before his eyes. Sometimes the prisoners were whipped with a hundred blows, and at other times their limbs were twisted almost to the breaking point. Dr. Rhee, a member of the party who had now been converted, visited the old man in his cell and told him of Christ, but the latter boldly resisted him to his face. In fact he was the chief opponent of the Christian religion in the prison, with the wealth of his Confucian scholarship to back him.
Saved to Serve. Gradually his opposition began to break down, a sense of his own sin came over him like a flood, and he felt suddenly that Jesus was his Savior. No sooner had he yielded his life to Christ than he became as strong an advocate as he had previously been an enemy of the truth. Today this gray-haired old man is the Religious Work Director of the Seoul Young Men’s Christian Association. He fairly radiates love. A tireless personal worker, an incessant witness for Christ, and a powerful public speaker, scarcely a week passes without this man getting definite converts or inquirers. Probably no men are doing more for the regeneration of Korea than this little band of liberated prisoners ” made perfect through suffering.” Theirs is the spirit of Ugo Bassi, who, dying for Italy, wrote on his prison cell,
“Hère Ugo Bassi endured, somewhat glad of heart at knowing himself innocent.”