Project Canterbury

 The English Church Mission in Corea:
Its Faith and Practice

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1917.


The work among Japanese in Corea differs very greatly from any other part of the work of the Church of England Mission in that country, and yet it matters so much to every other part of the work that to neglect it would be an absolutely vital mistake which would seriously injure the whole Mission. Those who have watched the growth of the work in Corea since its beginning are asked to remember also the needs of the Japanese work, not in order that it shall take the place in their hearts that the Corean work does--it will never do that--but that they may realize how vital it is not only for the missionaries not to neglect it, but also for those at home never to forget it in their prayers.

Relations between Japan and Corea.--The connection between Japan and Corea goes back many hundreds, and even thousands, of years. Chinese culture and Buddhism went to Japan through Corea, and at different times Japan sent military expeditions to conquer Corea. But although the most famous of these, under Hideyoshi in the sixteenth century, had great temporary success, the Japanese were in the end completely driven out again.

In modern times, when the Mission first started, Corea was under the suzerainty of China. But that passed and, after the great war with Russia in 1905, the already .growing Japanese influence in Corea became paramount, and in 1910 Japan definitely annexed Corea to her expanding Empire. Before the annexation the type of Japanese who went over to Corea was generally such as to accentuate the bitterness of feeling between the races. Since then relations have certainly improved, and a leading cause of the improvement was the first Governor-General of Corea (or Chosen as the Japanese now call it), Field-Marshal Viscount Terauchi, who has since become Premier of Japan.

In material things the Japanese administration of Corea has led to wonderful developments. Take one instance. During the later years of the old Corean government the Corean people gradually cut down all the trees in the country, except in inaccessible mountain districts; they cut down, too, all bushes and undergrowth, and even the very grass on the hillsides, for fuel for use in the severe winters. Gradually, owing to the absence of any system of reafforestation, the country gained the absolutely bare look so well known to residents and travellers. In the great rains the earth was washed off the hillsides, and much of the rice crop was destroyed every year. The Japanese have, however, undertaken a thorough and steadily extending system of reafforestation. They have a constant succession of arbor days and other devices, the children of the schools being taken out to plant trees. On one day in 1913, the latest occasion for which statistics are available, over 13,000,000 trees were planted.

In other matters, too, there has been greater material efficiency. Regulations have been issued gradually controlling and centralizing everything in the country. Not only education, which of course affects the Mission largely, but also religion has been regulated. It is worth saying a little more about this last. Each sect of every religion has had to be registered, and to choose a "superintendent" whom the Governor may consider responsible to himself for all that goes on in that sect. But the Governor's office required each superintendent (which, of course, in our case meant the Bishop) to write an account of his religion under three heads--(1) doctrine, (2) methods of propagation, (3) methods of organization. There was some trouble about the last point, because there is no neat constitution of the Church of England in black and white. Now that religions are all regulated, the Mission may not even move a catechist from one village to another without sending word of the change to the Governor's office in ten days.

Growth and organization of the work.--From the earliest days, when the Mission first tried to do any work among the immigrating' Japanese, it has been very greatly helped by the Church in Japan itself, and particularly by the Diocese of South Tokyo. The first regular work was, it is true, begun by Mr. Smart in Chemulpo, and, later, under the Rev. S. H. Cartwright, work began to grow in Seoul and Fusan. Moreover, one or two priests came over at different times from Japan to help for short periods. But it was not until the arrival of the Rev. A. L. Sharpe and the Rev. A. Shiozaki, both from South Tokyo, that work among the Japanese assumed a position of vital importance. With the annexation of the country to Japan the Japanese immigration largely increased, and among those who came over were increasing numbers of Christians of our Communion.

Mr. Sharpe made his head-quarters in Seoul, where Miss Elrington and Miss Grosjean were also at work. Later, Miss Elrington moved down to Fusan to help Mr, Shiozaki there. This Japanese priest has now worked in Fusan for seven years and has seen the Church there grow from a tiny handful to over a hundred, who are at present eagerly collecting money for the building of a proper church, the large church room, or rather set of rooms, used up to now being much too small for their requirements. Mr. Sharpe also organized the constantly increasing itinerating work which has gradually covered the whole of Corea.

The Japanese work in Chemulpo has from early days had the advantage of a regular church, S. Michael's being used not only for Corean services, but for English and Japanese services as well. Since the annexation by Japan the relative importance of Chemulpo has diminished and other ports have progressed. There is a tendency for this movement to be reflected in the Christian work there.

One of the stations up the main railway line from Fusan began to develop for us more rapidly than others, and after Miss Grosjean went to live there church rooms and, later, S. Francis' Mission House were built. Taikyu has thus grown into our fourth main station--the baby, but a very vigorous one.

This short history of the growth and organization of the Japanese work is necessary to show the difference in origin and style of expansion between the Japanese and the Corean work. For whereas the latter has gradually expanded from the centre of the west coast and still covers a certain area of the peninsula, the Japanese work, though largely in small scattered fragments, does cover the whole of Corea. For besides Fusan, Taikyu, Seoul, and Chemulpo there are some forty other towns, both large and small, where Japanese Christians live, and these forty are scattered over an area of 700 by 300 miles. For this area there are at present only two priests, generally one English and one Japanese, but at the time of writing both priests are Japanese. We have besides three English women workers, a Japanese catechist, one Japanese woman worker, and, it is hoped, that another (Miss Inaba) who used to work in Seoul will return before long from Japan.

This force is totally inadequate for its growing task and, moreover, it has had so far to depend entirely for its priests on getting help, more or less permanent, from Japan, proper. It is quite time that one or more priests from England should go out definitely for the Japanese work in Corea.

Present prospects.--There are many reasons which combine to make Corea one of the most hopeful places in which to work for Christ among the Japanese. When they come over to what is for them a great colony they come partly for trading, but mainly for administrative purposes, and two things happen. First, they leave behind them very largely the elderly members of the family, and often that means leaving behind the greatest hindrance to new ideas, especially new spiritual ideas. The old people, particularly the old women, in Japan cling to Buddhism, or at any rate have an anti-Christian bias .and wish to prevent the younger members of the family from becoming Christians. The great majority of Japanese of any education under forty years old have no religion at all and are pure agnostics, in spite of the official Shinto cult, the revival of certain Buddhist sects, and the new religion of Tenrikyo, which is a kind of Christian science. Moreover, many of the young people who come over to Corea for work get very lonely, and this loneliness, together with a keen desire for new knowledge of any kind, moves them to study Christianity and gives many wonderful openings.

But whatever the causes may be, the fact remains that a great blessing has been granted to the Japanese work of the Corean Mission, and, as far as can be seen, an increase of staff on that side of the work would mean a corresponding growth in the work. It should be remembered, too, that such movements cannot be depended upon to last, and the sooner the present chances can be seized the better. The war, of course, causes here as elsewhere much hindrance, but our prayers should be unceasing that directly the war is over this work may be much enlarged.

Work in the towns.--Most workers among the Japanese find it best to live in Japanese style houses, even in Corea, although they are by no means suited to the climate, because Japanese will come to such houses the more naturally. They are in most things a very conservative people, in spite of their rapid advance during the last sixty years, and like to take their own style of houses and clothes with them. The southern half of Corea is, therefore, likely in the end to be more Japanese in population than the northern half, the severity of the winter being far worse in the north. Near Fusan, for instance, the rivers generally remain open, but the large river near Seoul may be frozen over for two months, and the Yalu River, the great north-western boundary of the peninsula, is generally frozen over for four or five months every year.

There are some obvious differences between the way in which work has developed in Fusan and in Seoul, our two main centres. Fusan for many hundred years has been from time to time the chief point of contact between Japan and Corea and is very largely a Japanese town. Our Christians there are mainly of the trading classes and of a more settled type, not changing or moving about nearly as much as the official classes do. The work there has been constant and steady, it never advances startlingly, but never looks back, and is perhaps the best grounded work we have. The work in Seoul, on the other hand, has been chiefly among the official classes; it has had many ups and downs, at one time apparently quite in a backwater (to use Mr. Sharpe's expression at the time), and at another time rushing forward. In two years-recently there was a wonderful advance and a growth in that short time of 50 per cent. In Seoul there are three churches--one for English services, one for Corean, and one (S. Paul's) for Japanese, and the Japanese congregation has (at any rate on great festivals) outgrown its church and wants a bigger one.

In these places, with regular church buildings and regular congregations, the work among the women is very important, and it has been a great thing to have that side of the work constantly and energetically carried on both in Fusan and in Seoul. Miss Grosjean in Taikyu had the heroic task of carrying on the work for some time single-handed, both among men and women, with monthly visits from the priest at Fusan. There is now, however, a resident Japanese catechist at Taikyu. But among the scattered Christians elsewhere, and especially in the north where Miss Elrington's travelling energy has not been possible, the only regular work has been the periodic visits of the priest for Sacraments, with the addition of what little evangelistic work it is possible to put in, in a visit that only lasts one or, at the most, two nights. In the case of the more distant points that may be not more than twice a year--in the spring and in the autumn.

As the work in the towns where we already have church buildings grows every year, the time of the two priests ought to be given up entirely to that work. Extra priests are urgently needed for the scattered work. The result of such an increase would soon be the growth of the work in several of the other large towns. Long ago a site was purchased in Ping Yang, the northern capital, where we ought soon to build, and two ports--Mokpo in the south-west and Gensan on the east coast--are both in need of settled work. In the last two years the Bishop has twice gone all the way up to the Yalu River for small confirmations, and there are other unconfirmed Christians in the farthest north-east who are wishing for a worker who might be resident there long enough to prepare them for confirmation. There are now something like forty towns where we have Japanese Christians and this number steadily increases. Besides this, the work among Japanese living near our main Corean churches shows signs everywhere of springing into existence. The priests there can only work among the Japanese by interpretation at present. As new priests go out to the Mission now it will be more and more necessary for them to learn Japanese whatever their work may be. The Coreans are splendid linguists and all the school children are having to learn the Japanese language now, and learn it remarkably quickly. Knowledge of Japanese will become increasingly necessary for the whole Mission.

Dealing with Enquirers.--In order to bring some of the conditions of Japanese work home to the reader a few definite examples will be given, but it must not be forgotten that these are only the experiences of one worker and cannot cover the whole ground.

The two classes of enquirer that have been most conspicuous in Seoul in the last two years are, first, ladies of good position--wives, that is, of officials in the capital--and, secondly, young men and women. Christian work in the Japanese Empire to-day often presents striking similarities with the work in the early days of the Faith in the Roman Empire. One of these similarities is, in Seoul, the coming into the Church of the wives of high officials, the men themselves often being prevented by their official position from becoming Christians. In some cases they will study the Bible and other Christian books with some care, but they seldom give up their hearts and wills to the point of being converted, though at the same time they are very seldom unwilling for their wives to become Christian.

In Advent, 1915, twelve candidates for confirmation were presented to the Bishop, the largest at one time that the Mission had known. Five of these were young men, and they chose as their Christian names those of our Lord's first five disciples. Peter, the only one who was not a recent convert, was the son of Christian parents in Tokyo, and had been baptized in infancy. He was a clerk in the Bank of Corea. Andrew was a clerk in the meteorological office, James was a clerk in the local magistrate's office, John was in the post office, Philip in the telegraph office. These are a fair example of the kind of young men who come to enquire--young men who have for the most part been through secondary schools, done two years in the Army, and have left their families and come across to Corea to earn their living in Government employ, which is better paid in Corea than in Japan, Their coming to enquire is a relatively new development of the work in Seoul, but one that is likely to continue. Another recent example is that of a corporal from the military hospital two miles outside the city.

Last summer there came to the priest's house within one fortnight three young men. They had no connection with each other, and came on different evenings as enquirers. But a Japanese, if he does not know you and comes to call about some special object, partly through shyness and partly from a kind of politeness, generally takes a long" time to come to the point and will even finish a general conversation, make his adieu, and then as he gets to the door will say, "Oh! by the way," and then mention the particular subject he has come about. But very often you can learn a lot about him during the previous discursive conversation, and these three enquirers are mentioned just to show the kind of knowledge, world-wide knowledge, that the modern young man in Japan seeks to attain. One of them said during conversation, "Which do you think was the greater tragedy of the two, Hamlet or Macbeth?" He explained that, of course, he had read Shakespeare's plays, and not in English, but in Japanese. The second showed a similar knowledge of the German philosopher Nietsche, and the third wished to know which of Tolstoy's novels the priest preferred! Youths like these, however encyclopedic and undigested their reading may be, will not accept Christianity without question or without study. But often special care has to be taken that the study affects the heart and the will as well as the head.

Itinerating work among isolated Christians.--There is plenty to occupy the time of the present workers at headquarters all the year, but the priests have to go away twice a year for weeks at a time for country travelling. What happens on one of such journeys?

There is one through train each day from Seoul to Gensan, the most important port on the east coast. It stops at every station and consumes the whole day getting there. But as a rule the whole day's journey is not done at once, because at two places on the way there are individual Christians to be visited. One of them, the wife of the engineer of the line, tries in a small way to show to others what she has found so precious herself, and two people there have been admitted as catechumens. At another station on the line the station-master's wife is a communicant. At the port of Gensan itself we have one whole Christian family and two other individual Christians who were already Christians in Japan. The priest visits them to give them the Blessed Sacrament, and for their upbuilding in the Faith, and has baptized two of the children.

A description of this visit will give an idea of what happens elsewhere. The Christians come to the station, if possible, to meet the priest. It is a polite custom in Japan to meet visitors at the station when they arrive, and to go there again to see them off, and the railways make a really large sum by charging for admission to the platforms. Often on a country journey the priest puts up at one of the local Japanese inns. At some places he is invited to stay in a Christian's house, but often they think that they cannot provide sufficiently well for the foreigner, so they prefer him to go to the inn. He, however, always goes to the house if invited, because it gives greater opportunities.

Most Japanese inns are two-storied, and you generally get a room to yourself in the upper story, and that room is where you do everything--where you live, talk to your friends, eat your meals, and sleep at night. And often there you celebrate the Holy Mysteries the next morning for the Christians who come to join you there before you pass on to the next stage of your journey. Several times this solemn act in the early morning has crowned the effect that Christians meeting there has had on people connected with such inns. In particular, in the inn at Gensan, the proprietor, one of the porters, and one of the maids have all been drawn to enquire and to want to know more of the religion, which they have not heard preached, but have seen lived and shining out in the little group of Christians who assemble there from time to time for worship. But it must not be imagined that the natural surroundings are like anything you are accustomed to in England. For instance, when you first get to the inn you find neither bell nor knocker, but stand at the porch and shout until someone hears you. Then in the porch you must take off your boots, as all Japanese do on entering a house or even a church. If you arrive early in the evening you have your hot bath before your supper, and as for food, there are no knives or forks or bread and butter, nor milk, but an average meal will consist of rice boiled in Japanese fashion and eaten with chop-sticks, some raw fish, some seaweed, some soup (generally a fish soup), and some pickled vegetables. Except for the rice, the portion of each is strictly limited. And if the inn wants to do you well there will be a little very tough meat as well.

One of the differences in country travelling between the Japanese work and that in a Corean district is that the latter is in some defined area where porterage, and, perhaps, taking your servant with you, are not impossible or you may only be away from your house for a few days at a time. Travelling to visit the Japanese Christians involves hundreds of miles by train, so that the railway fare prevents you taking your servant with you. As you are away for weeks at a time, instead of days, and when away from the railway have to bicycle, the amount of luggage you can carry is strictly limited, and forbids you taking European food with you. Fortunately, the Japanese who are very clean people in many ways are very clean about their food, and it is possible for Europeans to live on it for a time without trouble.

In the Japanese inns there is very little furniture; no chairs, but only thin cushions on the floor; no tables, except small Japanese ones a few inches high, which have to be used as the only possible thing for an altar at the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. The priest takes with him the sacred vessels and linen, cross and candlesticks, a portable altar being beyond the compass of his luggage. Then at night, when the Christians and perhaps one or two enquirers have finished talking and have gone, a sleepy maid brings in and lays on the floor the bed, a sort of cross between a rug or mattress, never more than five feet long. Japanese pillows, too, like the food, take a great deal of getting used to.

Another difficulty in itinerating is that of language. Travelling between the towns by road it is often possible to go twenty or thirty miles without meeting a Japanese, and consequently it is easy to lose your way thoroughly if not able to talk Corean. But in ten years time, or probably less, so many of the Corean children will be able to talk Japanese as well that this difficulty will largely disappear.

From Gensan it is possible to continue by ship, and there are two little ports on the way north, to put in at for the night, with a Christian family in each. The sea voyage ends at the port of Seishin, which is of growing importance, and will eventually be the northern terminus of an east coast railway from Gensan. Either going to or returning from Seishin, it is sometimes possible to get a larger steamer that does the whole 200 miles in a day and a night. But the other way, in order to get in visits to two of the smaller intermediate ports, tiny coasting steamers must be used, on which the food is weird even compared to ordinary Japanese food, and these steamers take four and even five days to get to Seishin or back. But even on them there is generally someone who wants to ask about the Faith, and the time is not altogether wasted.

Ten miles south from Seishin is the town of Ranan, which has recently been made the head-quarters of a division of troops, and is consequently growing fast. We have a Christian family there which had been in Corea two years before we heard of them, or they of us. Two young children had not been baptized, the mother had had no chance to make her Communion, nor had her husband, who had been baptized in Japan, been able to get any preparation for Confirmation. Doubtless there are many similar cases elsewhere in Corea who will perhaps never be heard of until there is a priest set apart for the itinerating work, so that it can go on unceasingly and regular investigations be made. And such families are not lonely in the same way that our people are in the back blocks of Australia or on the Canadian prairie. And yet, the loneliness of nature is not so awful as the loneliness of a crowd, and a crowd that knows not God, where quite often there is no church or any outward sign of Christianity. Many of these scattered Christians stick to their daily prayers, both individual and family, in a most wonderful way, and we have tried, but with increasing difficulty as the work grows, to give them a chance to make their Communions twice a year.

And this shows the chief usefulness of a piece of work that the Japanese Church in Fusan has done, and done nobly now for several years. A monthly magazine of four pages is issued under recurring difficulties, chiefly financial, but with general success. Copies, of course, are taken in at the other main Church centres, whence monthly reports are printed in the magazine. But the most useful function it fulfils is to be a means of keeping the scattered Christians in touch with the centres, giving them regular Church news and spiritual reading.

In Seishin there are three Christian families, and, at the same time, three individuals who ought to be prepared for confirmation. Here, waiting for a ship on the return journey, often gives a day or two during which teaching can be given, but this wait cannot be relied on, and the only solution of the difficulty will be an extra priest for itinerating work. If anyone thinks the reiteration of the need for an extra priest wearisome let him turn the thought into a prayer for the speedy fulfilment of the need.

To the north of Seishin, bearing away from the coast, a new sixty mile railway is being built, to Hwainei, the large border town on the Tumen River where you cross over into the eastern district of Manchuria. But the engineering of the railway among the mountains is very difficult and in the meantime there is a light railway, practically without grading, which was used by the Japanese for their skirmishes with the Russians in that district during the Russian-Japanese War. The only trains running on this light railway are now single trollies built of planks, forming a flat square of about a yard each way, raised about a foot above the rails. There are a few seats which can be fitted on to these trollies, but as often as not they are all in use, and you have to travel without one. Japanese, of course, sit on the trollies in Japanese fashion with their legs tucked underneath them. But a European who can adopt that attitude on the soft matting in the room of a Japanese house, finds it too much on the boards of a trolley rocking about on rails. And when your legs are stuck out in front of you and a long time in the air makes you sleepy, your feet drop down gradually until one of them catches on the sleeper of the permanent way, and ankles have been broken before now in this way. This uncouth journey often takes thirteen hours for rather under sixty miles, as the only motive power is two coolies, Corean or Chinese, pushing behind with poles. And although a great pace is attained down hill the up grades are correspondingly slow. As there is no protection from the weather, a very bad day may mean having to put up for the night on the way, and at one point there is a high mountain pass where passengers have to detrain and walk for five miles. As far as the priest is concerned, all this is undertaken to get to one Christian, a youth in the Bank of Corea, in the border town of Hwainei. But remember, this, twice a year, gives him his only chance of receiving Communion or getting the help of a priest, who arrives pretty tired at 9 o'clock in the evening, talks from supper to midnight, gets up at 5 o'clock the next morning for a 6 o'clock Eucharist, and leaves again after breakfast, not to be seen again for six months. It is to be hoped that the worst of this journey is a thing of the past, and that the real railway from Seishin will soon be completed.

There are two other youths of our Church, one in the post office and one a clerk in the forest department, right away in the central mountains in the north of the peninsula, so far from any railhead that it would take a week to go and return, apart from the time taken from Seoul to railhead, and neither of them have ever yet been reached. Doing all we can, the work still goes on ahead of us, although the total number of Japanese Christians belonging to the diocese is still quite small, not yet 10 per cent, of our Corean Christians.

Conclusion.--We have no educational work among the Japanese. We help individual scholars in the Government schools, and with the present educational future in Corea anything else in that way would have to be of the nature of hostels rather than of Mission schools. But even in that form the question is not yet pressing.

As regards the training of catechists, both men and women, up to the present with one exception the supply has been sent to us from Japan. But we shall be much firmer on ,our feet if we can find people among our own Christians to be trained, even though for a long time to come they will have to be sent to Japan for training.

At the Synod, in 1916, when the organization of the diocese began to take constitutional shape, it was planned to organize the Japanese and Corean sides of the work, as far as possible, in similar ways, and as this organization develops it is hoped that it will help the four main churches to realize better that they are not isolated units, but ought to move forward together and also help as far as possible the scattered work.

As regards the Prayer Book, we use the revised Prayer Book of the Nippon Seikokwai in Japan. The spectacle of Japanese and Coreans worshipping together is at present rare, but it is hoped it may become more frequent. In Seoul we look forward, as one means to that end, to the building of the central church, or pro-cathedral. With all the many hopes and blessings that God has granted to our work among the Japanese in Corea we pray that He will guide the Church rightly in all questions as to the relations between the two peoples, and grant us a share in the ultimate conversion of both races to the Faith of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Project Canterbury