HISTORYlane: REV S W KIM The First Korean Missionary to Sarawak

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Methodism was strongly rooted in South Korea in 1885. Before its 80th Anniversary the Korean Methodist Church had already started its missionary programme.

In 1963, there was a Conference for Asia Methodist Council in Port Dickson near Kuala Lumpur to discuss matters concerning changing the mission policy to Asian context. 126 participants took part with 94 representatives from 13 Asian countries and the rest from America. During the meeting, Rev Kim Yong Man, the Korean representative was so moved by the resolution that the Asian missionary task should be taken up by Asians that he would return to Korean and do something. His heart was warmed for the Chinese and the Ibans in Sarawak during the conference. He went home to appeal to the Korean Christians to become overseas missionaries.

In 1965,it was a great paradigm shift for the Methodist Church in Korea which was celebrating its 80th anniversary, to send out the first batch of 4 missionaries overseas, 3 missionaries to Pakistan while Rev Soung Wook KIM was sent to Malaysia. Rev Kim was burdened to serve the 200,000 Chinese in Sarawak when he responded to the calling.

Rev Soung Wook KIM (1923-2012) was born in Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. In 1933, he moved with his family to Jilin Province, China, where they stayed for about 13 years. While in China, he was trained in basic medical knowledge and truly built a strong bond with the Chinese people. In 1945, he returned to Seoul for his tertiary education. He graduated from the Chung-Ang University and did some medical practice after his graduation.

In 1952 he was called by God to do theology. Two years later, he married Lee Dung. After graduation he served two Methodist churches in Seoul until 1964.

Finally in 1965, he was sent by the First Methodist church in Korea, Cheng Dong Methodist Church, as a missionary and he was one of the first Korean Methodist overseas missionary.

On September 1965, the Kim family arrived in Sibu. They put up at the Hoover House at Island Road and later moved to the Methodist Theological School’s hostel. He studied local languages and visited churches in and around Sibu as a start. In 1966, he was posted to Binatang (now called “Bintangor”). He worked with Rev Wong You Leong and visited all the churches in that district. They travelled by boats, bicycle, motorcycle and others. He also taught at the Binatang Methodist School, and as a pastor to Kai Ngon Dong and Munoh Preaching Centre.

Recently, Rev Kim Hea Sun, Rev Kim’s eldest daughter, told the Methodist Messasge that she was then 11 years old. She entered secondary school the following year and had to take a long bus ride to the Government Secondary School. Her younger brothers and sisters studied in the Binatang Methodist Primary School. She said that because of the political unrest in Sarawak, due to conflicts between the communist rebels and the government, the Binatang Chinese lived in fear.

Rev Kim Hea Sun is now working for “Scranton Women’s Leadership Centre” which is under the American-Methodist Korean Womens’ Mission Foundation in 2007. She also cited an incident when her father unfortunately developed a very serious allergy after “contacting a tree” in Binatang. His body swelled unusually and as a result his health was badly affected. That was truly a traumatic episode of their life in Sarawak.

When the Korean Methodist Annual Conference expanded into three annual conferences, the General Conference which supported Rev Kim’s ministry in Sarawak reduced the budget . That caused financial constraints for the family and their mission work in Sarawak.

Finally after nine years in Sarawak, the family left in 1974. It was also a time when many Koreans migrated to America. Rev Kim moved to Indiana and served the Korean church there.

In 1976, he continued with his PhD studies while serving in Indianapolis.

In 1981, he obtained his doctorate degree at Drew University, New Jersey.

The following year, he was elected the President of the Korean Association in USA. He then served the Columbus Korean Methodist Church until he retired in 1988.

On 3 June 2012, Rev Kim rested in the Lord in USA. He had two daughters and a son.

Compiled by Menglei
Translated by Christina & KT Chew

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