▲ Rev. Jeong-ki Kim at his home at Josu Church, Jeju - Photo by Matt Collison
A Jeju pastor has told of the coast-to-coast pilgrimage he formed revealing the remarkable stories from the some of the island’s most turbulent times.
From the early beginnings of Christianity on Jeju to the tale of the island’s equivalent of Oskar Schindler and on to the Imperial Japanese involvement at Altre Airport, Rev. Jeong-ki Kim’s route offers a fascinating glimpse into the island’s unsettled past.
The two-and-a-half-day trek - or one day by car - is devised by the Presbytrian pastor of Josu church. The pastor's route is the subject of Jeju Christian Pilgrimage, a book he authored which recounts heroic and often tragic moments from key times in the island’s 20th Century history.
The first leg of the trail, from Geumseong to Josu, takes one day and begins at one of Jeju’s oldest protestant churches, Geumseong church.
It was built in 1908 upon the arrival of Lee Ki Poong, a missionary from Pyongyang who set up Seong-an Church, Jeju-si, in the same year.
▲ Hallim Church belltower by Rev. Kim, Jeong-ki
From Geumseong it’s a five-hour westerly walk along the coast, passing Hallim church, until the route moves inland for a two-hour trek to Josu.
Josu Church is the second oldest Christian place of worship on the island, having been established in 1932 by Lee do Jong, a student of Lee Ki Poong’s.
The site survived some turbulent times in its beginnings and was a Japanese military camp during World War Two.
Today it is home to Rev. Kim, who as well as being a pastor for 27 years, enjoys spending time here as a painter of fine arts.
He sold 10 of his artworks at the 4th Josu Biennalle, a programme of exhibitions and concerts held in May at the church site.
Some $35,000 was raised during the seven-day event, with the money going to a Himalaya college campus project which Rev. Kim helped set up.
His creative streak does not end with painting -he also drew up plans to redesign the grounds and has seen the church grow from the infancy of Rev. Lee do Jong’s time to today’s annual congregation of some 1,500 people.
▲ Rev. Lee Do Jong
Sadly, Rev. Lee was among the many victims of the April 3 killings from 1948 and an epitaph to him is located 5km from Josu Church following the route towards Moseulpo.
Further along is the site of the former Kangbyong Dae military camp, home to an 80-metre long church.
Rev. Kim included it on his route after discovering a previously unseen photograph of refugees of the Korean War gathered around the church in 1951.
Tales of survival in Jeju in times of conflict become a theme of the route, most notably in the story of another former pastor, Cho Namsoo, during the time of the 4.3 massacre.
Known locally as Jeju’s Schindler - in reference to the Steven Spielberg movie Schindler’s List - Rev. Kim says the pastor helped save the lives of up to three thousand Moseulpo residents through talks with the authorities.
Growing concerned for the safety of his congregation and wider community, the pastor persuaded many Moseulpo citizens to give their names to the authorities in return for amnesty, said Rev. Kim.
Rev. Kim said: “At first most people did not believe him, but a few people did believe. They went to the police station and were pardoned. Then Cho Namsoo gathered more and more names to give to the government office.
▲ Japanese aircraft at Altre by Rev. Kim, Jeong-ki
“I guess a total of two-three thousand people were released. We call him the Korean Schindler.”
Rev. Cho Namsoo’s remarkable story is documented at the Moseulpo church museum, one of the final stages of Rev. Kim’s trail.
While the last point of the pilgrimage trail stops at Moseulpo church, Rev. Kim has added one more stop to the itinerary, that of Altre Airport. By extending the route by 2km the trail ends at the hidden Japanese military airport, which became a major defence line for Japanese forces in the latter days of World War Two.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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