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[Feature]Korean Immigrants In America⑩

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작성자 minjok 작성일02-01-18 00:00 조회2,056회 댓글0건

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Chapter Ten: THE ROLE OF IMMIGRANT CHURCH


sunwoohakwon.jpg As soon as the 1882 Treaty between Korea and the United States was ratified by the United States on January 9, 1883, the American Minister L.H. Foote was sent to Korea. Following the Minister, several American Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries also arrived in Korea. Dr. and Mrs. Horace Allen and Dr. W.B. Scranton and his mother, Mrs. Mary F. Scranton, and Rev. H.G. Appenzeller were sent by the Methodist Church.

Mr. Paik, father of Myong-son and Mary whom we have interviewed, taught Korean to Rev. Underwood in Korea before he brought his family to Hawaii in 1905. Like the Paik family, there were large numbers of Christians among the early Korean immigrants. With such tradition, now three out of four of the Korean American population, estimated about 1,000,000, consider themselves Christians.

As explained earlier, Korea has been a Confucian oriented society for centuries, and the Christian briefs brought by those American missionaries has challenged the traditional establishment. The Confucianist, particularly of those Neo-Confucianists, interpreted the Christian doctrine of god, creation of the universe, and salvation of man was not much different from Buddhist doctrine. Those Confucianists believed that both the Christian doctrines and the Buddhist doctrines were egotistic self-seeking doctrines. The Confucian view of man and society starts with the family but the Christian idea of man and his society finds the meaning of the individual self in voluntary commitment to the will of Almighty and Absolute God. The idea of personal salvation branches out from this concept. Because of such interpretation, the Confucian view and the Christian view confronted each other. One could not, therefore, have both, but must make a choice. That was a dilemma which the Korean Christians confronted in early days. Who and how could make an easy choice between the two? Not the noble class which was dominated by the Confucian doctrine--which serves the aristocrats well, but the commoners who were oriented with native Shamanism. Shamanism contained a supernatural character, and the concept of Christian supernaturalism did not create any contradiction in their minds. For instance, they saw no contradiction between their concept of Hananim--the celestial god of the Heavenly Kingdom which they all believed and the Christian concept of God. The large numbers of Korean Christians today probably understand their god as a god of fear who would strike the wicked with lightening or visit other harsh punishments upon them and reward the good things according to their merits. The concept of God’s love is rather remote from many of them. We hear the evangelists’ preaching about “the punishment of evils,” or “destroy the enemy” more often than about love and understanding toward one’s fellow man. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not in the vocabularies among those who are out to get “their enemies.” Enlightened Christian doctrine has had, however, influence on the primitive Shamanism among the Korean Christians as we witnessed later.

One of the interviewees commented about an incident in Hawaii. Rev. Lim Jung-soo was one of the early immigrant preachers and had a community church in Kohala. According to Mrs. Lim Wha-yun, one Sunday afternoon, Rev. Lim was sitting at the dining room table after services. “A group of ‘bad people’ the dark natives told us that the church must stop. They didn’t like for my husband to be preaching.” Mrs. Lim said. “My husband replied, ‘if only you would hear my sermon, I’m sure you would want me to continue.’” Rev. Lim didn’t convince them. The visitors replied, “No, we don’t want to. If you do not stop, we will kill you.” Rev. Lim was as resolute as the “bad people” knowing that the members of his congregation were all Christians with good standing before they came to Hawaii and would support his stance. They could not compromise. “The bad people” beat him up and threw him down and kicked him. Mrs. Lim recalled, “But the Lord was with him. A Chinese preacher on horseback happened along and came to his aid, and called the police.”

Considering that the early Korean immigrants arrived ill-prepared to face the realities of life in a culture totally alien to them, they preserved and survived as denigrated non-persons and as a minority among minorities in a white society these traits reveal something of their underlying spiritual strength. Almost immediately upon arrival in Hawaii, they established mission or churches.

In November 1903, a group of Koreans negotiated for a place of worship with the superintendent of a Methodist mission. As a result of the negotiation, they organized the Korean Evangelical Society. The Koreans held church services in a rented house until April, 1905 when the Society received regular church status. John W. Wadman, superintendent of the Hawaii Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church is credited as having contributed greatly to the growth of the Korean immigrant church in Hawaii. He resigned in 1914.

Rev. Lim Jung-soo, according to Mrs. Lim, was one of the evangelists who travelled on horseback to preach the gospel to Korean groups on various plantations in Hawaii. Another interviewee said that Dr. Syngman Rhee, former president of the Republic of Korea, as an active Methodist, was instrumental in having established the first boarding school for girls and, later one for boys in Hawaii with the help from the Methodist board. Dr. Rhee appointed himself principal and director. Unfortunately, his unyielding autocratic manner and rambunctious personality clashed with the superintendent and eventually Dr. Rhee split from the Methodist group and established his own Korean Christian Church in Honolulu. It continues to exist today.
Only one or two persons out of the more than 80 persons we interviewed were members of the church. As a matter of fact, several of the interviewees were ministers, including Lim Jung-soo, Kim Hyong-sik, Kim Sarah, Kim Sung-nak, Whang Sa-sun, and two local preachers--Choy Nung-yik and Yang Choo-eun.

Unlike other Asian American groups, the church has been the center of all community activities for the Korean American communities in the early days as well as today situation. Therefore, the church has been playing a major role in their immigrant life as far as the Koreans have been concerned.

Why did this happen? Besides a spiritual need for the development of churches, the Koreans had other unmet basic needs which might be considered psychological, social, economic, and political in nature. The psychological need to establish their identity as persons was a pressing need in face of the daily mounting racial prejudices which they and their children were experiencing. The early Koreans stressed Korean-ness as well as being good, faithful, strong Christians. The churches served as a place for Christian communion as well as a place where Korean traditions and culture were perpetuated; a place where the Korean language could be used and taught to their children; a place where the children could read the Bible and sing the hymns along with their parents. One could not explain the feeling of rejuvenation during the church service unless he or she experienced it attending a service after six days of working as a school boy, house boy, or janitor year after year. One became a “someboy” on Sunday after being a “nobody” for six days. The satisfaction of social needs fell right into place. The early immigrants envisioned the possibility of creating a better place with justice for all in a Christian setting.

The church was not only the center for social meetings of the compatriots who gave comfort and consolation which they could not get at their work places, but it was a haven for the oppressed people, a refuge for the tired, and it also served as a center for their economic activities.

Most of them were employed, although there were a few small shop keepers and they exchanged information about the employment situation. They found jobs for their friends and promoted better jobs for themselves and their friends. They really needed each other. Unlike the Chinese group, for example, there were very few cooperative business activities among the early Korean immigrants. Kim Bros. of Reedley and S.&K Produce of Los Angeles were two exceptional cases.

The church was also the center of political activities. Those early Korean immigrants were all patriots who wished to see Korea become an independent country someday. They seriously observed important national ceremonies like the March the First Commemoration each year. They supported the Korean Provisional Government in China and paid their dues to respective political groups like we are paying our income tax today.

Therefore, the church ministers were not only the spiritual leaders, but were recognized community and political leaders as well. For instance, Min Chan-ho, Lee Dae-wi, Whang Sa-yong, Whang Sa-sun, Liem Chang-yong (Channing), Kim Taek, Kim Sung-nak, etc. have been recognized as community leaders in the Korean American communities.

The role of the church in the Korean American community has a close historical relationship with the very first immigration ship which left Korea. That first ship left Korea on December 22, 1902 and arrived in Honolulu on January 13, 1903 filled with Christians. Barely half the 101 passengers on the ship were from Rev. Jones Yondong Church in Inchon. Ever since that time, Christians occupied the major portion of the Korean American population. As a result, the Christian population dominated the entire immigration numbers.

The Korean Methodist Church of San Francisco was the first Methodist church on the mainland for the Korean immigrants. There were more Koreans in San Francisco than any other city and the KNA headquarters was located there as well. The church grew out of the Korean Evangelical Society in October, 1905. Mr. Mun Hyung-ho conducted church services for one year until another evangelist, Pang Wha-jung, succeeded him in July 1906. But the church was not expanded until Mr. Yang chu-sam came. Rev. Yang was on his way to Divinity School at Vanderbilt University from Korea when he saw his countrymen struggling under such adverse conditions that he postponed his advance studies and ministered to the Koreans. A rented three-story building on Oak Street became their multi-purpose building. It was the center of Korean activities of San Francisco Korean community.

Rev. Lee Dae-wi was appointed pastor on August 5, 1911 and the Korean Methodist Episcopal Church South was dedicated. It remained until June 1928 when the present church on Powell Street was built and consecrated with Rev. Whang Sa-sun as pastor. The church was, however, not able to support the minister full time so Rev. Whang had to work in a tailoring business in order to continue his minister’s position. Rev. Whang told us:
I rented a shop and worked many, many years until I retired. I can tailor very nicely and if I have a pattern, I can make suits, but most of my job was alteration.

Rev. Whang understood the American society better than most of his compatriots, and he wanted to help them to adjust to life in America.
Q. Was there any discrimination?
A. Yes. American people saw us as different and they didn’t have much respect for the Oriental.

Q. How did they discriminate against you?

A. For instance, jobs. I wasn’t able to get a job in post office or factories. At that time, it was impossible to get a city job. That is why it was very hard to live in the cities.

Q. So the only job open to you was tailoring and cleaning at your own shop because you couldn’t get other jobs.

A. Yes. Foreigners in America have a very hard life.

Q. When you saw the discrimination, did you want to go back to Korea?

A. No. The Japanese had control and it was like prison life in Korea. In 1921 about 4,000 Koreans were killed in an earthquake in Japan. Koreans and Japanese don’t get along.

Rev. Whang served the same church from 1928 to 1941. He felt that the church needed a new leadership for the younger generation and arranged to invite a young pastor who was just finishing his theological training at Drew University--Rev. Kim Ha-tae. It was the only Korean church which served the San Francisco Korean community until the 1950’s when a Presbyterian church was organized. A similar situation existed in Oakland, Chicago, and New York about this time. The Oakland Korean Methodist Church started under the leadership of Rev. Whang Sa-yong, elder brother of Whang Sa-sun, and Mr. Yim Chong-ku who was still in the seminary was invited to serve the group. After Mr. Yim’s ordination, the church was officially recognized by the Methodist Episcopal Mission in March 1929. In 1939, the church purchased a building and dedicated it as a place of worship in December of the same year. In Chicago, the Korean Methodist Church was organized by a small group of Koreans who began to worship in a residence. It had remained as a small inactive group until 1924 when the group was recognized as a Methodist Mission by the Methodist Board of Missions. In 1936, they purchased a church building and its membership has increased steadily. In New York, a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Yim Jon-soon, organized the Korean Methodist Mission. In 1923 a church building was dedicated and in 1927 the congregation moved to a larger building. The church has been active in ministering to its members who have been largely short-term visitors and the students in the city.

In Los Angeles the situation, however, was somewhat different. A retired missionary, Mrs. Sherman, opened a residential mission center in March 1904 with assistance from a Methodist church. The center had evening classes in Bible study and English for Korean immigrants and services were conducted on Sunday until June, 1910.

After this, a number of Korean preachers served the mission but it became inactive. By October 1930, the Korean Methodist Church of Los Angeles was officially established, not by a Korean but by Rev. Davids, an American preacher. Rev. Whang Sa-yong was invited to serve the church soon after that. And much like the situation in San Francisco, Rev. Whang Sa-yong retired and moved to Honolulu. The church invited a brilliant young minister, Chiang Key-hyung, for the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. For the first time, the church had a bi-lingual minister to serve the second generation congregation.

Besides the Methodist church, there was a Presbyterian church which also served the Korean community in Los Angeles. According to Mrs. Chung He-kyong of Los Angeles, the Korean Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles began in 1918. She came to Los Angeles in 1916 as the picture bride of Mr. Chung In-young who had gone to Hawaii in 1904. Mrs. Chung said that the church started with the members of a social club--Chinae-hoe under the leadership of Rev. Hong Chi-bum, a brother-in-law of Rev. Min Chan-ho. There were about 40 to 50 people in the congregation which lasted until 1922 when Rev. Hong moved out of the church with about 20 followers due to a difference in opinion among the church leaders.

Rev. Hong was soon invited to the Methodist church and the remainder of the Presbyterian church met without a minister. The determined congregation worked hard to recover their strength and the congregation again increased to about 40 by 1925. A small group of the officers of the church went to see and appeal to the Presbyterian church headquarters for official recognition. The Los Angeles Presbytery responded happily and sent Dr. Preacher and two other delegates from the office to meet with the Korean congregation. It so happened that there were about 50 people attending when these official delegates came to see them at one Sunday service.

Dr. Preacher said to the congregation that if they have that many worshippers, then an official recognition is in order. The Korean Presbyterian Church was officially established on the spot. Mr. Cho Sung-hwa was ordained as a presbyter. From that time on, the congregation saved money for a church building. They bought a house as a worship place for $3,000 down and made 19 monthly payments thereafter. In 1927, Rev. Kim Jung-soo, who came to America to attend a Sunday School Convention from Korea, was invited to stay as a minister. Later Rev. Kim resigned his position and started an independent church of his own which was primarily to care for the elders in Los Angeles. The church was again left without a minister.

In 1937, Rev. Kim Sung-nak was invited to minister to the Presbyterian church as a national mission worker by the Los Angeles Presbytery. Rev. Kim, then was building a pioneering church in a slum area, Pyongyang, while teaching a course in philosophy at Soongsil Christian College. Because of his patriotic activities and pioneering in a slum church, he was under constant surveillance by the Japanese police.

The Korean Presbyterian Church was sharing a Black church building on Denker Street when Rev. Kim arrived. There were about 1,000 Koreans living in Los Angeles. Rev. Kim recalled:
When we arrived...there were three Korean churches in Los Angeles and the Korean community was so small, and didn’t need three churches, so I thought of creating a single Korean community church. At that time, Rev. Whang Sa-yong worked with the Methodist. The Presbyterian Church was without a minister. I was to fill it. I really thought one church would serve the community best.

Dr. Kim didn’t get much support from anyone. He was disappointed, but had to meet his assignment for his church. He felt that the church needed a building. He started efforts to raise funds for a church building. He recalled, “I spoke, my wife sang, and since we didn’t have a car, we took the street car to everywhere with our infant daughter two months old. We made a total of 76 appearances.” He remembered that it was customary to get paid $5 for preaching, but he told the host church to send the contribution to the Presbyterian headquarters to add to the Korean church building fund instead of paying him. They all sent in more than just $5 but about $50. The Vermont Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Rev. Kim recalled, sent in the largest contribution of $500.00. By Thanksgiving, the foundation was laid and the next year, Easter, 1938, the Korean Presbyterian Church on West Jefferson Boulevard was dedicated. It became a source of pride of the Korean community and has remained as a historical site there. This was the first Korean Presbyterian Church to be owned by Koreans. It is still the only Korean owned Presbyterian church according to Dr. Kim. Dr. Kim is not only a recognized church leader but also a well-known educator, and a community leader. He was one of the five who were invited to Korea by the American Military Government in 1945 immediately following its liberation from the occupation of Japan.

What sort of Christian influence was there upon the individual life? How did the Christians behave differently from the non-Christians? How serious were they about their beliefs? How did the concepts they upheld guide their daily living in America? Our next story of the Paik family should reveal some of the pioneers’ efforts to live as Christians and why the church played the center role among the Korean immigrants in those early days.

The Paik family left Pong-yang for Hawaii in 1905, because the Japanese soldiers came into the village. “Everybody was scared to death.” Mary Paik lee said. She recalled that everyone in the village was so frightened they just left the village. They walked miles to Inchon Harbor where two American ships were recruiting Korean laborers for Hawaii sugar plantations. Mary said, “God helped, and it was a blessing.”

Mary and her brother, Myong-son, were baptized by Rev. Samuel Moffitt before she left Korea. As a matter of fact, her grandparents were one of the first converts by Rev. Moffitt. Her father became an evangelist, and she was the third generation of the Christian family. We know the family had a strong Christian background even before they arrived in America. How, then, did the blessed event turn out? Mary recalled from her father’s story: “Well, we worked from dawn to dusk out in the sugar cane field for 50 cents a day.” It was hard work, too. The family had to work one year in order to pay off their boat fare according to their labor contract. They couldn’t do anything about the contract because she said, “Here we had to leave our village empty-handed, no jobs, no money, no place to go. What were we to do? So they felt they were lucky to find someone who offered them some kind of job opportunity. Most of them, of course, were not aware of the contents of the labor contract.

After a year in Hawaii the Paik family managed to get to San Francisco in 1906. An incident occurred at the gangplank when the Paik family came off the boat. Mary said: “A lot of white men were standing around the gangplank when we came down. One guy stuck his foot out, like this, and kicked up my mother’s skirt. He spit on my face and I asked my father, ‘Why did we come to such a place? I want to go home to Korea.’” Mr. Paik said to the young child, “I’ll tell you later.”

After they got on the train to Riverside where the father was to find a job on the farm, the father told a story to Mary which has been impressed on her mind for a long time. Her father said, “When Dr. Gale and Rev. Moffitt went to Pyong-yang, the Korean boys ran after them and threw rocks at them and called them ‘white devils’ because they looked different, dressed different. They were bigger than we are and they had light hair and blue eyes; they looked peculiar. If you don’t know and something is unfamiliar you just act that way. That’s human nature. It is same everywhere.”

Mary recalled that her father was a beautiful person. He kept reminding his children that Koreans didn’t treat the American missionaries any better than the white people treated the Korean immigrants. So he told his children that they are here to stay no matter what the white people do; just determine to learn and show that you are just as good as they are and you"ll be respected. He drilled that into Mary and the rest of the children and it made a big impression. Mary said, “As I grew older, I appreciated that more than anything else.”

Q. What did your parents do in Riverside?
A. In those days, the only thing opened to Orientals was picking oranges, lemons, walnuts--farm works. We were not even allowed to do housework because white people thought of us as ‘dirty chinks’, you know. Of course, they didn’t know about Korea. We were all ‘chinks’, smelly and dirty chinks.

In 1906 we were not allowed to live amongst the white people so we went way out of town across the railroad tracks and there were little chicken shacks laid in circles like this, and I didn’t know what it was but later I found out that these shacks had been built for the Chinese coolies who built the Southern Pacific Railroad.

They were there in the 1850’s so the lumber had shrunk so that the spaces between was one or two inches, no windows, no shelves, no nothing. Just one little room for entire family.

Q. Did it have a floor?

A. It had a floor but just rough lumber with the splinters.
...After railroads were built it was abandoned, it just stood there, it was never painted or anything and there was a pump about 20 feet away in the middle of the circle that was shared by everybody.

Q. What kind of furnishings did the shacks have?

A. Nothing. It was just an empty chicken shack. It was dusty and dirty.

My father got a bale of hay and put it down on the floor. We’d spread anything over it and that was the bed. I never slept on a spring-bed until I was 16 years old when I went on a school girl job at Hollister for my first year at high school.

They had hard years but her father never complained about being poor and the children didn’t know they were poor. They were poor but the home was a happy home. When they first went to school, the school children laughed at them because their clothes were so poor. They were made out of flour sacks, salt bags, and sugar bags. They were just sacks. Just plain, unbleached muslin which are so fashionable today. Mary said, “So I would crochet edgings and insertions on those to make it look a little better.” During those years all they had to eat was one little biscuit and water three times a day for one whole year. She recalled, “To me that one year, at that time, seemed like 10 years... We almost died.” Yet, because of her father’s faith in God, she said, “We never complained and we always gave thanks to God.” She remembers that frequently she was irritated by her father’s attitude--“Thank God for all our blessings,” and she used to grumble to herself, “What blessings are you talking about?”

The Paik children were always busy picking greens--mustard, dandelion, and other growing things in the field, and every Saturday from the slaughter house picking those “meats”--the heart, liver, kidneys, entrails, and trips which were considered unfit for human consumption. Mrs. Paik had to prepare for some 30 Korean farm laborers and those free food stuffs were a great help. Mary said, “My mother was cooking for all those men and she had to have it. I would run like the chickens and pile up all the stuff and help mother clean it. That’s how we existed or we would have starved to death.”

It wasn’t just his children Mr. Paik had inspired to have faith in God and be patient in hardships, but all his fellow Korean workers on the farm. After all, some 30 Korean men had an intimate fellowship with the family and was influenced by them. It had been well known among the Koreans that the Paik family was a model family, all due to the father’s beautiful personality as Mary stated.

Not only numerous churches near the farms and plantations served the Korean immigrant workers there, but the church ministers together with the representative of the Korean National Association were always ready to help those immigrants who arrived on the mainland. Everyone who landed in San Francisco in early days had testified to that fact. For instance, 16 year old Kim Jin-sung arrived in San Francisco in 1916 and recalled his experience.

Q. Did you know anyone in San Francisco?
A. No. I was pretty lucky that there was a Korean National Association. The KNA headquarters was in San Francisco.

Q. Did you stay in San Francisco very long?

A. About three days. Then I followed a lady who came with me to Los Angeles. I didn’t know where to go.

Q. Where did you stay in Los Angeles?

A. The Koreans had a little house up on Olive Street. In fact, the Korean church people ran the place. On Sundays, we had church service.

Q. What denomination?

A. I think it was Methodist. This was the place where Koreans who had no place to go. Upstairs, there were some rooms where you could sleep, a little room downstairs to cook meals. This way, you could get by cheaply.

When those who worked on the farm visited their friends in the city they stayed there as well as the people who worked in the city. It was the center to get together for the Koreans in Los Angeles. Wherever the Korean immigrants travelled, there always was a place to worship, if not an actually organized church. Joan Ahn remembers that her mother started a church in her parlor in Lompoc, California. She said, “My mother opened a church in her living room and the Koreans came to worship together. ..Rev. Yim Jung-gu, Kay’s father, came from San Francisco to preach every other Sunday.”

There were no big churches. About ten families were all they had.
As Joan recalled, “I guess the biggest congregation we ever had in all the places was about 40 people.” Once the congregation stabilized, they found a building on N Street for a church. Then they brought in a regular minister. He was not only a preacher on Sunday but a teacher on weekdays. He taught the Korean language to the children. Joan said, “My mother used to do a lot of visiting. When they weren’t at church she would visit them and make sure they would be at church on the following Sunday.” Her mother also did a great deal of political work too. She helped Dr. Rhee Syngman a lot, Joan remembered.
Q. I remember that your family has always been God faring, so to speak.

A. By God fearing, they had great faith in Him and in the good old Lord. With that faith, we have gone a long ways, yeah! We somehow came up, somehow managed to save a few dollars and paid everybody back my husband’s debts. Remember he was flat broke when we got married. ..We all paid back his debts. They also were surprised to get back money which they thought they’d never get back. You know when people are so hard up, you don’t figure you get back. We were more than they were happy, see?

Indeed, the early Korean immigrants visualized a better world with justice for all in a Christian setting in spite of all the hardships and pains they had gone through. They refused to be a burden to society and wanted to contribute to it with a positive attitude as the members of the Paik family demonstrated. They were creating a new society whether they realized or not, not just for themselves, Koreans, but for all the people in this land. “White people didn’t treat us like real people,” recalled Joan, but we know now that the Korean immigrants surely upheld their dignity and pride of man. They were able to do all this because “from Tangun period on we have a very honest people, proud and courageous people in Korea. Our history is 4,000 years old.” Said Rev. Whang Sa-sun, “Look at Western civilization, how about Europeans, but ours is 4,000 years. Japan borrowed everything from Korea. We are proud people.”

With her culture and history, and Christian background, they had to be good.
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