Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hermit Shmermit

fThe BBC has a "Korea of yesteryear" piece worthy of Marmot's Hole's own Robert Neff. This one is about a missionary named Robert Jermain Thomas who became an important Protestant martyr in 1866 when he decided to spread the gospel from the deck of an American merchant vessel, the ill-fated Sherman, which was most unwelcome in the Hermit Kingdom:
In 1866 Thomas joined an armed US trading boat bound for the Korean city of Pyongyang, intending to spread the gospel in a country with little contact with the outside world.

When the ship ran aground on a sandbank, Thomas began to throw his consignment of bibles onto the shore.

As uninvited trading boats were forbidden in Korea, Thomas was executed along with members of the crew as the country's first Protestant martyr.

However, the bibles he threw overboard were picked up by locals and are credited with fuelling a revival of Christianity in Korea fifty years later.
And thus began a Korean tradition of getting yourself killed by going into inhospitable territory that isn't quite socially ready to accept your proselytizing.

The BBC is reporting on this because Koreans have been flocking to the good reverend's chapel back in England.

Meanwhile, sometime during the Japanese colonial period, the Thomas Memorial Chapel was built on the site where the Sherman was attacked. Though it was destroyed in 1946 (Communists, you may have heard, aren't terribly fond of churches, them being opium-dispensers to the masses and all), the site is now the home of the Christian-organized Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (where I would totally consider teaching once I get my PhD, at least for a while, just for the bragging rights).

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