I have lived my life with just one thought. I wanted to bring about a world of peace, a world where there are no wars and where all humankind lives in love. Perhaps some may say, "How is it possible that you were thinking about peace even when you were a child?" Is it so astonishing that a child would dream of a peaceful world?
In 1920, when I was born, Korea was under forced occupation by Japan. Even after liberation in 1945, there came the Korean War, the Asian financial crisis, and numerous other difficult crises. For many years, the land of Korea has not been closely associated with peace. But these times of suffering and confusion were not matters related ony to Korea. The two world wars, the Vietnam War, and the wars in the Middle East show that people in the world continuously treat each other with enmity, point guns at each other, and bomb each other. Perhaps for people who experience these horrors of bloodied bodies and broken bones, peace has been something that could be imagined only in a dream. Peace, though, is not so difficult to accomplish. To begin with, we can find peace in the air we breathe, in the natural environment, and in the people around us.
As a child, I thought of the meadows as my home. As soon as I could wolf down my bowl of rice for breakfast, I would run out of the house and spend the entire day in the hills and streams. I could spend the day wandering about the forest with all the different birds and animals, eating herbs and wild berries, and I would never feel hungry. Even as a child, I knew that my mind and body were at ease anytime I went into the forest.
I would often fall asleep in the hills after playing there. My father would be forced to come find me. When I heard my father shouting in the distance, "Yong Myung! Yong Myung!? I couldn't help but smile, even as I slept. My name as a child was Yong Myung. The sound of his voice would awaken me, but I would pretend to still be asleep. He would hoist me onto his back and carry me home. That feeling I had as he carried me down the hill--feeling completely secure and able to let my heart be completely at ease--that was peace. That is how I first learned about peace, while being carried on my father's back.
The reason I loved the forest was also because all the peace in the world dwells there. Life forms in the forest do not fight each other. Of course, they eat one another and are eaten, but that is because they are hungry and need to sustain themselves. They do not fight out of enmity. Birds do not hate other birds. Animals do not hate other animals. Trees do not hate other trees. There needs to be an absence of enmity for peace to come. Human beings are the only ones who hate other members of the same species. People hate other people because their country is different, their religion is different, and their way of thinking is different.
I have been to almost two hundred countries. There were not many countries where I would land at the airport and think to myself. "This really is a peaceful and contented place." There were many places where, because of civil unrest, soldiers held their weapons high, guarding the airports and blocking the streets. The sound of gunfire could be heard day and night. Several times, I came close to losing my life in places where I went to talk about peace. In today's world, there is an endless series of conflicts and confrontations, large and small. Tens of millions suffer from hunger, with nothing to eat. Yet, trillions of dollars are spent on weapons. The money spent on guns and bombs alone would be enough to end hunger for everyone.
I have dedicated my life to building bridges of peace between countries that hate each other as enemies because of ideology and religion. I created forums where Muslims, Christians, and Jews could come together. I worked to reconcile the views of the United States and the Soviet Union when they were at odds with each other over Iraq. I have helped in the process of bringing reconciliation between North and South Korea. I did not do these things for money or fame. From the time I was old enough to know what was going on in the world, there has been only one objective for my life: that is for the world to live in peace, as one. I never wanted anything else. It has not been easy to live day and night for the purpose of peace, but that is the work that makes me most happy.
During the Cold War, we experienced the pain of having our world divided in two because of ideology. It seemed then that if only communism would disappear, peace would come. Yet, now that the cold war is past, we find even more conflicts. We are now fractured by race and religion. Many countries look across from their borders with suspicion and mistrust. As if that were not enough, we have situations within countries where people are divided by race, religion, or the regions where they were born. People think of each other as enemies across these lines of division and refuse to open their hearts to one another.
When we look at human history, we see that the most brutal and cruel wars were not those fought between nations but those between races. Among these, the worst were wars between ethnic groups where religion was used as a pretext. In the Bosnian civil war, one of the worst ethnic conflcts of the twentieth century, thousands, including many children, were brutally massacred. On September 11, 2001, thousands of innocent lives were lost as the World Trade Center buildings in New York were destroyed when passenger planes were crashed into them. Recently, too, in the Gaza Strip in Palestine as well as in southern Israel, hundreds have lost their lives as a result of that intense conflict. Homes have been destroyed, and people are living on the brink of death. All this is the grim result of conflicts between ethnic groups and between religions.
What makes people hate and kill each other like this? Of course, there are many reasons, but religious differences are almost always involved. This was true with the Gulf War. It is true with the Arab-Israeli conflict over control of Jerusalem. When racism uses religion as a pretext, the problem becomes extremely complex. The evil ghosts of the religious wars that we thought had ended in the Middle Ages continue to haunt us in the twenty-first century.
Behind this evil we find the machinations of politics, with its power and money. The responsibility of a leader, above all else, is to keep the peace. Yet leaders often seem to do the opposite and lead the world into confrontation and violence.
Leaders use the language of religion and nationalism to hide their selfish ambitions. Unless their hearts are set right, countries and nationalities will wander in confusion. Neither religion nor love of one's nation are evil in their essence. They are valuable if used to contribute to building a global human community. But when the claim is made that only a particular religion or ethic group is right and other religions and ethnic groups are treated with disdain and attacked, religion and love of nation lose their value. When a religion goes so far as to trample on others and treat other religions as worthless, it no longer embodies goodness. The same is true when love of nation is used to emphasize the righteousness of a person's own country over others.
The truth of the universe is that we must acknowledge each other. Even the smallest animals know this. Cats and dogs do not get along, but if you raise them in the same household, they embrace each other's offspring and are friendly toward each other. We see the same thing in plants. The vine that winds its way up a tree depends on the trunk to support it. The tree, however, does not say, "Hey, what do you think you're doing winding your way up my trunk?" The principle of the universe is for everyone to live together, for the sake of one another. Anyone who deviates from this principle faces certain ruin. If nationalities and religions continue to attack each other maliciously, humanity has no future. There will be an endless cycle of terror and warfare until one day we become extinct. But we are not without hope. Clearly there is hope.
I have lived my life without ever letting go of that hope and always kept alive the dream of peace. What I want is to wipe away completely the walls and fences that divide the world in myriad ways and to create a world of unity. I want to tear down the walls between religions and between races and fill in the gap between the rich and the poor. Once that is done, we can re-establish the world of peace that God created in the beginning. I am talking about a world where no one goes hungry and no one sheds tears. To heal a world where there is no hope, and which is lacking in love, we need to go back to the pure hearts that we had as children. To shed our desire to possess ever increasing amounts of material wealth and restore our beautiful essence as human beings, we need to go back to the principles of peace and the breath of love that we learned as we were being carried on our father's backs.
FOOD IS LOVE
The Joy of Giving Food to Others
I have very small eyes. I am told that when I was born, my mother wondered, "Does my baby have eyes, or not?" and spread my eyelids apart with her fingers. Then when I blinked, she said with joy, "Oh my, yes. He does have eyes, after all!" My eyes were so small that people often called me "Osan's Little Tiny Eyes," because my mother was from the village of Osan.
I cannot remember anyone saying, though, that my small eyes make me any less attractive. In fact, people who know something about physiognomy, the art of understanding a person's characteristics and fortune by studying facial features, say my small eyes give me the right disposition to be a religious leader. I think it is similar to the way a camera is able to focus on objects farther away as the aperture of its lens is reduced. A religious leader needs to be able to see farther into the future than do other people, and perhaps small eyes are an indication of such a quality. My nose is rather unusual as well. Just one look and it is obvious that this is the nose of a stubborn and determined man. There must be something to physiognomy, because when I look back on my life, these features of my face seem to parallel the way I have lived my life.
I was born at 2221 Sangsa Ri (village), Deokeon District, Jeongju Township, Pyongan Province, as the second son of Kyung Yu Moon of the Nampyung Moon clan and Kyung Gye Kim of the Yeonan Kim clan. I was born on the sixth day of the first lunar month in 1920, the year after the 1919 independence movement.
I was told that our family settled in the village of Sangsa Ri during the life of my great-grandfather. My paternal great-grandfather worked the farm himself, producing thousands of bushels of rice, and building the family fortune with his own hands. He never smoked or drank liquor, preferring instead to use that money to buy food to give to those in need. When he died, his last words were, "If you feed people from all the regions of Korea, then you will receive blessings from all those regions." So the guest room in our home was always full of people. Even people from other villages knew that if they came to our home, they could always count on being fed a good meal. My mother carried out her role of preparing food for all those people without ever complaining.
My great-grandfather was so active, he never wanted to rest. If he had some spare time he would use it to make pairs of straw footwear that he would then sell in the marketplace. When he grew old, in his merciful ways, he would buy several geese, let them go in the wild, and pray that all would be well with his descendants. He hired a teacher of Chinese characters to sit in the guest room of his home and provide free literacy lessons to the young people of the village.
The villagers gave him the honorific title "Sun Ok' (Jewel of Goodness) and referred to our home as 'a home that will be blessed."
By the time I was born and was growing up, much of the wealth that my great-grandfather had accumulated was gone, and our family had just enough to get by. The family tradition of feeding others was still alive, however, and we would feed others even if it meant there wouldn't be enough to feed our family members. The first thing I learned after I learned to walk was how to serve food to others.
During the Japanese occupation, many Koreans had their homes and land confiscated. As they escaped the country to Manchuria, where they hoped to build new lives for themselves, they would pass by our home on the main road that led to Seoncheon in North Pyongan Province. My mother always prepared food for the passersby, who came from all parts of Korea. If a beggar came to our home asking for food and my mother didn't react quickly enough, my father would pick up his meal and take it to the beggar. Perhaps because I was born into such a family, I too have spent much of my life feeding people. To me, giving people food is the most precious work. When I am eating and I see someone who has nothing to eat, it pains my heart and I cannot continue eating.
I will tell you something that happened when I was about eleven years old. It was toward the last of the year, and everyone in the village was busy preparing rice cakes for the New Year's feast. There was one neighbor family, though, that was so poor they had nothing to eat. I kept seeing their faces in my mind, and it made me so restless that I was walking around the house, wondering what to do. Finally, I picked up an eight-kilogram bag of rice and ran out of the house. I was in such a hurry to get the bag of rice out of the house that I didn't even tie the bag closed. I hoisted the bag onto my shoulders and held it tight as I ran along a steep, uphill path for about eight kilometers (five miles) to get to the neighbor's home. I was excited to think how good it would feel to give those people enough food so they could eat as much as they wanted.
The village mill was next to our home. The four walls of the mill house were well built, so that the crushed rice could not fall through the cracks. This meant that in the winter it was a good place to escape the wind and stay warm. If someone took some kindling from our home's furnace and started a small fire in the millhouse, it became warmer than an ondol heated room. (The ondol heating system from Korea warms the whole house by dispersing heat through channels beneath the floor.) Some of the beggars who traveled around the country would decide to spend the winter in that mill house. I was fascinated by the stories they had to tell about the world outside, and I found myself spending time with them every chance I got. My mother would bring my meals out to the mill house, and she would always bring enough for my beggar friends to eat as well. We would eat from the same dishes and share the same blankets at night. This is how I spent the winter. When spring came, they would leave for faraway places, and I could not wait for winter to come again so they would return to our home. Just because their bodies were poorly clothed did not mean that their hearts were ragged as well. They had a deep and warm love that showed. I gave them food, and they shared their love with me. The deep friendship and warmth they showed me back then continue to be a source of strength for me today.
As I go around the world and witness children suffering from hunger, I am always reminded of how my grandfather never missed a chance to share food with others.
FOOD IS LOVE
Being a Friend to All
Once I set my mind to do something, I have to put it into action immediately. Otherwise, I cannot sleep. As a child, I would sometimes get an idea during the night but be forced to wait until morning before acting on it. I would stay awake and make scratches on the wall to pass the time. This happened so often that I would almost dig a hole in the wall and chunks of dirt would pile up on the floor. I also couldn't sleep if I had been treated unfairly during the day. In such a case, I would get out of bed during the night, go to the culprit's home, and challenge him to come out and fight me. I am sure it must have been difficult for my parents to raise me.
I could not stand to see someone treated unjustly. Whenever there was a fight among the children in the village, I would involve myself as though I were responsible to see that justice was served in every situation. I would decide which child in the fight was in the wrong, and I would scold that child in a loud voice. Once I went to see the grandfather of a boy who was a bully in the neighborhood. I said to him, "Your grandson has done this and that wrong. Please take care of it."
I could be wild in my actions, but nevertheless I was a child with a big heart. I would sometimes visit my married older sister in the home of her husband's family and demand that they serve me rice cakes and chicken. The adults never disliked me for this because they could see that my heart was filled with a warm love.
I was particularly good at taking care of animals. When birds made a nest in a tree in front of our house, I dug a small waterhole for them to drink water. I also scattered some hulled millet from the storeroom on the ground for the birds to eat. At first, the birds would fly away whenever someone came close. They soon realized, however, that the person giving them food was someone who loved them, and they stopped flying away when I approached.
Once I thought I would try raising fish. So I caught some fish and put them in the waterhole. I also took a fistful of fish food and sprinkled it over the water. When I got up the next morning, though, I found that all the fish had died during the night. I was so looking forward to raising those fish. I stood there in astonishment, looking at them floating on top of the water. I remember that I cried all that day.
My father kept many bee colonies. He would take a large hive and fasten a basic foundation to the bottom of it. Then the bees would deposit their beeswax there to create a nest and store their honey. I was a curious child, and I wanted to see just how the bees built the hive. So I stuck my face into the middle of the hive and got myself stung severely by the bees, causing my entire face to swell tremendously.
I once took the foundations from the hive boxes and received a severe scolding from my father. Once the bees had finished building their hives, my father would take the foundations and stack them to one side. These foundations were covered with beeswax that could be used as fuel for lamps in place of oil. I took those expensive foundations, broke them up, and took them to homes that couldn't afford to buy oil for their lamps. It was an act of kindness, but I had done it without my father's permission, and so I was harshly reprimanded.
When I was twelve, we had very little in the way of games. The choices were a Parcheesi-like game called yute, a chess-like game called janggi, and card games. I always enjoyed it when many people would play together. During the day, I would like to play yute or fly my kite, and in the evenings I would make the rounds of the card games going on around the village. They were games where the winner picked up 120 won (Korean monetary unit) after each hand, and I could usually win at least once every three hands.
New Year's Eve and the first full moon of the new year were the days when the most gambling went on. On those days, the police would look the other way and never arrest anyone for gambling. I went to where grownups were gambling, took a nap during the night, and got them to deal me in for just three hands in the early morning, just as they were about to call it quits for the night. I took the money I had won, and bought food, toys, candy and gift packages for my friends and for poor children from all the surrounding villages. I didn't use the money for myself or to do anything bad. When my older sisters' husbands visited our home, I would ask permission and take money from their wallets. I would then use this money to buy sweets for children in need. I also bought them sweet syrup.
In any village it is natural that there are people who live well and those who don't. When I would see a child who had brought boiled millet to school for lunch, I couldn't eat my own better lunch of rice. So I would exchange my rice for his millet. I felt closer to the children from poor families than to those from rich families, and I wanted somehow to see to it that they didn't go hungry. This was a kind of game that I enjoyed most of all. I was still a child. but I felt that I wanted to be a friend to everyone. In fact, I wanted to be more than just friends; I wanted to have relationships where we could share our deepest hearts.
One of my uncles was a greedy man. His family owned a melon patch near the middle of the village, and every summer, when the melons were ripe and giving off a sweet fragrance, the village children would beg him to let them eat some. My uncle, though, set up a tent on the road next to the melon patch and sat there keeping guard, refusing to share even a single melon.
One day I went to him and asked, "Uncle, would it be all right if sometime I were to go to your patch and eat all the melon I want?" My uncle willingly answered, "Sure, that would be fine."
So I sent word to all the children that anyone wanting to eat melon should bring a burlap bag and gather in front of my house at midnight. At midnight I led them to my uncle's melon patch and told them, "I want all of you to pick a row of melons, and don't worry about anything." The children shouted with joy and ran into the melon patch. It took only a few minutes for several rows of melons to be picked clean. That night the hungry children of the village sat in a clover field and ate melons until their stomachs almost burst.
The next day there was big trouble. I went to my uncle's home and it was in pandemonium, like a beehive that had been poked. "You rascal," my uncle shouted at me. "Was this your doing? Are you the one who ruined my entire year's work of raising melons?"
No matter what he said, I wasn't going to back down. "Uncle, I said, "don't you remember? You told me I could eat all the melons I wanted. The village children wanted to eat melons, and their desire was my desire. Was it right for me to give them a melon each, or should I absolutely not have given them any?" When he heard this, my uncle said, "All right. You're right." That was the end of his anger.
FOOD IS LOVE
A Definite Compass for My Life
The Moon clan originated in Nampyung, near Naju, Cholla Province, a town about three hundred twenty kilometers (two hundred miles) south of Seoul, in the southwest region of the country. My great-great grandfather, Sung Hak Moon, had three sons. The youngest of these was my great-grandfather, who also had three sons: Chi Guk, Shin Guk and Yoon Guk. My grandfather, Chi Gook Moon, was the oldest of the three.
Grandfather Chi Gook Moon was illiterate, as he did not attend either a modern elementary school or the traditional village school. His power of concentration was so great, however, that he was able to recite the full text of the Korean translation of Sam Kuk Zhi (a popular, widely known novel about the three Kingdoms in Classical history) just by having listened to others read it to him. And it wasn't just Sam Kuk Zhi. When he heard someone tell an interesting story he could memorize it and retell it in exactly the same words. He could memorize anything after hearing it just once. My father took after him in this way; he could sing from memory the Christian hymnal, consisting of more than four hundred pages.
Grandfather followed the last words of his father to live his life with a spirit of giving, but he was not able to maintain the family fortune. This was because his youngest brother, my Great-uncle Yoon Guk Moon, borrowed money against the family's property and lost it all. Following this incident, members of the family went through some very hard times, but my grandfather and father never spoke ill of Great-uncle Yoon Guk. This was because they knew he had not lost the money by gambling or anything of that nature. Instead, he had sent the money to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, based in Shanghai, China. In those days, seventy thousand won was a large sum, and that was the amount that my great uncle donated to the independence movement.
Great-uncle Yoon Guk, a graduate of Pyongyang Seminary and a minister, was an intellectual who was fluent in English and well-versed in Chinese studies. He served as the responsible pastor for three churches, including Deok Heung Church in Deok Eon Myeon. He participated in the drafting of the 1919 Declaration of Independence, together with Nam Seon Choe.
When it was found, however, that three of the sixteen Christian leaders among the signatories were associated with Deok Heung Church, Great-uncle had his name removed from the list. Seung Heun Lee, one of the remaining signatories who worked with my great uncle in establishing the Osan School, asked Great-uncle Yoon Guk to take care of all his affairs in case the independence movement failed and he died at the hands of the Japanese colonial authorities.
On returning to our homeland, Great-uncle Yoon Guk printed thousands of Korean flags and handed them out to the people who poured into the streets to shout their support for Korean independence. He was arrested on March 8 as he led a demonstration on the hill behind the Alpo Meon administrative office. The demonstration in support of independence was attended by the principal, faculty, and some two thousand students of the Osan School, some three thousand Christians, and some four thousand other residents of the area. He was given a two-year prison sentence and was imprisoned in the Euiju prison, The following year he was released as part of a special pardon.
Even after his release, he could never stay long in one place, because of severe persecution by the Japanese police, and he was always on the run. He carried a large scar where the Japanese police had tortured him by stabbing him with a bamboo spear and carving out a piece of his flesh. He was speared in the legs and in the side of his ribs, but he said that he never gave in. When the Japanese found they couldn't break him, they offered him the position of county chief if he would pledge to stop participating in the independence movement. His response was to rebuke the Japanese police in a loud voice: "Do you think I would take on a position and work for you thieves?"
When I was about seven or eight years old, Great-uncle Yoon Guk was staying in our home for a short time and some members of the Korean independence army came to see him. They were low on funds and had traveled by night on foot through a heavy snowfall to reach our house. My father covered the heads of us children with a sleeping quilt so that we would not be awakened. I was already wide awake, and I lay there under the quilt, my eyes wide open, listening as best I could to the sounds of the adults talking. Though it was late, my mother killed a chicken and boiled some noodles to serve to the independence fighters.
To this day, I cannot forget the words that I heard Great-uncle Yoon Guk speak as I lay there under the quilt, holding my breath in excitement. "Even if you die," he said, "if you die for the sake of our country, you will be blessed." He continued, "Right now, we can see only darkness before us, but the bright morning is sure to come." Because of the effects of torture, he did not have full use of his body, but his voice resonated with strength.
I also remember thinking to myself then: "Why did such a wonderful person as Great-uncle have to go to prison? If only we were stronger than Japan, this wouldn't have happened."
Great-uncle Yoon Guk continued to roam about the country, avoiding persecution by the Japanese police, and it was not until 1966, while I was in Seoul, that I received news of him again. Great-uncle appeared in a dream to one of my younger cousins and told him, "I am buried in Jeongseon, Kangwon Province." We went to the address he gave in the dream and found that he had passed away nine years before that. We found only a grave mound covered with weeds. I had his remains reburied in Paju, Kyeonggi Province, near Seoul.
In the years following Korea's liberation from Japan in 1945, communists in North Korea killed Christian ministers and independence fighters indiscriminately. Great-uncle Yoon Guk, fearing his presence might cause harm to the family, escaped the communists by crossing south over the 38th parallel and settling in Jeongseon. No one in our family was aware of this. He supported himself in that remote mountain valley by selling calligraphy brushes. Later, we were told that he set up a traditional village school where he taught Chinese classics.
According to some of the former students, he often enoyed spontaneously composing poems in Chinese characters. His students transcribed and preserved some one hundred thirty of these, including the following:
SOUTH NORTH PEACE
The years have passed since I left home to come South
The flow of time speeds my hair to turn white
I would return North, but how can I?
What was intended as a short sojourn
has been prolonged
Wearing the long-sleaved ko-kemp clothing of summer
I fan myself with a silk fan
and consider what the autumn will bring
Peace between South and North draws near
Children waiting under the eaves,
You needn't worry so much.
Though separated from his family and living in Jeongseon, a land unfamiliar to him in every way, Great-uncle Yoon Guk's heart was filled with concerns for his country. Great-uncle also left this poetic verse:
When setting your goal in the beginning,
pledge yourself to a high standard.
Don't allow yourself
even the least bit of private desire.
My great-uncle's contributions to the independence movement were posthumously recognized by the Republic of Korea government in 1977 with a Presidential Award and in 1990 with the Order of Merit for National Foundation. Even now, I sometimes recite his poetic verses. They are infused with his steadfast love for his country, even in the face of extreme adversity.
Recently, as I have grown older, I think about Great-uncle Yoon Guk more often. Each phrase of his poetry expressing his heart of concern for his country penetrates into my heart. I have taught our members the song "Daehan Jiri Ga" (Song of Korean Geography), whose words were written by Great-uncle Yoon Guk himself. I enjoy singing this song with our members. When I sing this song, from Mount Baekdu to Mount Halla, I feel relieved of my burdens.
SONG OF KOREAN GEOGRAPHY
The peninsula of Korea in the East,
positioned among three countries.
North, the wide plains of Manchuria,
East, the deep and blue East Sea,
South, a sea of many islands,
West, the deep Yellow Sea.
Food in the seas on three sides,
Our treasure of all species of fish.
Mounty Mount Baekdu stands in the North,
Providing water to the Rivers of Amrok and Tuman,
Flowing into seas east and west,
Marking a clear border with the Soviets.
Mount Kumgang shines bright in the center,
A preserve for the world, pride of Korea.
Mount Halla rises above the blue South Sea,
A landmark for fisherman at sea.
Four plains of Daedong, Hangang, Geumgang and Jeonju
give our people food and clothing.
Four mines of Woonsan, Soonan, Gaecheon and Jaeryung
give us the treasures of the Earth.
Four cities of Kyungsung, Pyongyang, Daegu and Kaesung
shine over the land.
Four ports of Busan, Wonsan, Mokpo and Incheon
welcome foreign ships.
Railroads spread out from Kyungsung,
Connecting the two main lines, Kyung-Eui and Kyung-Bu,
Branch lines Kyung-Won and Honam run north and south,
Covering the peninsula.
Our cities tell us our history.
Pyongyang 2,000-year-old city of Dangun,
Kaesung, capitol of Koryo,
Kyungsung, 500-year-old capitol of Chosun,
Kyungju, 2,000 years of Shilla's culture
shines, origin of Pak Hyukkosai,
Chungchong has Buyo, the historic capitol of Paekche.
Sons of Korea pioneering the future,
The waves of civilization wash against our shores.
Come out of the hills,
and march forward in strength
to the world of the future!
FOOD IS LOVE
Stubborn Child that Never Gives Up
My father was not good at collecting debts, but if he borrowed money, he would honor the pledge to repay, even if it meant selling the family cow or even removing one of the pillars from our home and selling it at the market. He always said, "You can't change the truth with trickery. Anything that is true will not be dominated by a small trick. Anything that is the result of trickery won't go more than a few years before it is exposed."
My father was large in stature. He was so strong that he had no difficulty walking up a flight of stairs carrying a bag of rice on his shoulders. The fact that at age ninety I'm still able to travel around the world and carry on my work is a result of the physical strength I inherited from my father.
My mother, whose favorite Christian hymn was "Higher Ground," was also quite a strong woman. I take after her not only for her wide forehead and round face but for her straightforward and high-spirited personality as well. I have a stubborn streak, and there is no doubt I am my mother's child. When I was a child, I had the nickname "all-day crier." I earned this nickname because once I started to cry, I wouldn't stop for the entire day. When I cried, it would be so loud that people would think something terrible had happened. People sleeping in bed would come outside to see what was going on. Also, I didn't just cry sitting still. I would jump around the room, accidentially injuring myself, even bleeding, and creating an uproar. I had this kind of intense personality even when I was young.
Once my mind was made up, I would never back down, not even if it meant breaking a bone in my body. Of course, this was all before I became mature. When my mother would scold me for doing somethng wrong, I would talk back to her saying, "No. Absolutely not!" All I had to do was admit that I was wrong, but I would rather have died than let those words out of my mouth.
My mother, though, had quite a strong personality as well. She would strike me, and say, "You think you can get away with not answering your parent?" Once, she struck me so hard she knocked me down. Even after I got up, I wouldn't give in to her. She just stood in front of me crying loudly. Even then, I wouldn't admit that I was wrong.
My competitive spirit was as strong as my stubborness. I couldn't stand to lose in any situation. The adults in the village would say, "Osan's Little Tiny Eyes, once he decides to do something, he does it."
I don't remember how old I was when this happened: A boy gave me a bloody nose and ran away. For a month after that, I would go to his house every day and stand there, waiting for him to come out. The village adults were amazed to see me persist until finally his parents apologized to me. They even gave me a container full of rice cakes. This doesn't mean I was always trying to win with stubborn persistence. I also was much physically larger and stronger than other children my age. No child could beat me in arm wrestling. I once lost a wrestling match to a boy three years older than I was, and it made me so angry that I couldn't sit still. I went to a nearby mountain, stripped some bark from an acacia tree, and for the next six months I worked out on this tree every evening to become strong enough to defeat that child. At the end of six months, I challenged him to a rematch and managed to beat him.
Each generation in our family has had many children. I had one older brother, three older sisters, and three younger sisters. I actually had four other siblings who were born after Hyo Seon, the youngest sister, but they died at an early age. All in all my mother gave birth to thirteen children, but five did not survive. Her heart must have been deeply tormented Mother suffered a great deal to raise so many children in circumstances that were by no means plentiful. As a child I had many siblings. If these siblings got together with our first and second cousins, we could do anything. Much time has passed, however, and now I feel as though I am the only one remaining in the world.
I once visited North Korea for a short while, in 1991. I went to my hometown for the first time in forty-eight years and found that my mother and most of my siblings had passed away. Only one older sister and one younger sister remained. My older sister, who had been like a mother to me when I was a child, had become a grandmother of more than seventy years. My younger sister was older than sixty, and her face was covered with wrinkles.
When we were young, I teased my younger sister a lot. I would shout, "Hey, Hyo Seon, you're going to marry a guy with one eye." And she would come back with, "What makes you think you know that, Brother?" Then she would run up and tap me on the back with her tiny fists.
In the year she turned eighteen, Hyo Seon met a man with whom one of our aunts was trying to arrange her marriage. That morning she got up early, carefully combed her hair and powdered her face. She thoroughly cleaned our home inside and out and waited for her perspective groom to arrive. "Hyo Seon," I teased her, "you must really want to get married." This made her blush, and I still remember how beautiful she looked with the redness in her face showing through the white powder.
It has been almost twenty years since my visit to North Korea. My older sister, who wept so sorrowfully to see me, has since passed away, leaving just my younger sister. It fills me with such anguish. I feel as though my heart may melt away.
I was good with my hands, and I used to make clothes for myself. When it got cold, I would quickly knit myself a cap to wear. I was better at it than the women were, and I would give knitting tips to my older sisters. I once knitted a muffler for Hyo Seon.
My hands were as big and thick as a bear's paws, but I enjoyed needlework, and I would even make my own underwear. I would take some cloth off a roll, fold it in half, cut it to the right design, hem it, sew it up, and put it on. When I made a pair of traditional Korean socks for my mother this way, she expressed how much she liked them by saying, "Well, I thought Second Son was just fooling around, but these fit me perfectly."
In those days it was necessary to weave cotton cloth as a part of preparations for the marriage of a son or daughter. Mother would take cotton wool and place it on a spinning wheel to make the thread. This was called toggaengi in the dialect of Pyongan Province. She would set the width on the loom at twenty threads and make twelve pieces of cotton cloth, thirteen pieces of cotton cloth, and so on. Each time a child would marry, cotton cloth as soft and beautiful as processed cotton would be created through Mother's coarse hands. Her hands were incredibly quick. Others might weave three or four pieces of toggaengi fabric in a day, but Mother could weave as many as twenty. When she was in a hurry to complete the marriage preparations for one of my older sisters, she could weave an entire roll of fabric in a day. Mother had an impatient personality. Whenever she would set her mind to doing something, she would work quickly to get it done. I take after her in that way.
Since childhood, I have always enjoyed eating a wide variety of foods. As a child, I enjoyed eating corn, raw cucumber, raw potato, and raw beans. On a visit to my maternal relatives who lived about eight kilometers (five miles) away from our home, I noticed something round growing in the field. I asked what it was and was told it was jigwa, or sweet potato. Someone dug one up and cooked it in steam for me, so I ate it. It had such a delectable taste that I took a whole basketful of them and ate them all myself. From the following year, I couldn't keep myself away from my maternal relatives home for more than three days. I would shout out, "Mother, I'm going out for a while," run the whole distance to where they lived, and eat sweet potatoes.
Where we lived we had what we called "potato pass," or shortage, in May. We would survive the winter on potatoes, until spring came and we could start harvesting barley. May was a critical period, because if our store of potatoes was depeleted before the barley could be harvested, people began to starve. Surviving the time when potato stores were running low and the barley had not yet been harvested was similar to climbing a steep mountain pass, so we called it potato pass.
The barley we ate then was not the tasty, flat-grained barley that we see today. The grains were hard and more cylindrical in shape, but that was all right with us. We would soak the barley in water for about two days before cooking it. When we sat down to eat, I would press down on the barley with my spoon, trying to make it stick together. It was no use, though, because when I scooped it up in my spoon. it would just scatter like so much sand. I would mix it with gochujang (red pepper paste) and take a mouthful. As I chewed, the grains of barley would keep coming out between my teeth, so I had to keep my mouth tightly closed.
We also used to catch and eat tree frogs. In those days in rural areas, children would be fed tree frogs when they caught the measles and their faces became thin from the weight loss. We would catch three or four of these frogs that were big and had plenty of flesh on their fat legs. We would roast them wrapped in squash leaves, and they would be very tender and tasty, just as though they had been steamed in a rice cooker. Speaking of tasty, I can't leave out sparrow and pheasant meat, either. We would cook the lovely colored eggs of mountain birds and the waterfowl that would fly over the fields making a loud, gulping call. As I roamed the hills and fields, this is how I came to understand that there was an abundance of food in the natural environment given to us by God.
FOOD IS LOVE
Loving Nature to Learn from It
My personality was such that I had to know about everything that I could see. I couldn't just pass over something superficially. I would start thinking, "I wonder what the name of that mountain is. I wonder what's up there." I had to go see for myself. While still a child, I climbed to the tops of all the mountains that were in a five-mile radius of our home. I went everywhere, even beyond the mountains. That way, when I saw a mountain shining in the morning sunlight, I could have an image in my mind of what was on that mountain and I could gaze at it and feel comfort. I hated even to look at places I didn't know. I had to know about everything I could see, and even what was beyond. Otherwise, my mind was so restless that I couldn't endure it.
When I went to the mountains, I would touch all the flowers and trees. I wasn't satisfied just to look at things with my eyes; I had to touch the flowers, smell them, and even put them in my mouth and chew on them. I enjoyed the fragrances, the touch, and the tastes so much that I wouldn't have minded if someone had told me to stick my nose in the brush and keep it there the whole day. I loved nature so much that anytime I went outside, I would spend the day roaming the hills and fields and forget about having to go home. When my older sisters would go into the hills to gather wild vegetables, I would lead the way up the hill and pick the plants. Thanks to this experience, I knew a lot about many kinds of wild vegetables that taste good and are high in nutrition. It's important to get the correct rhythm to enjoy the wonderful flavor of sseumbagwi (a wildflower enjoyed by Koreans for their roots and leaves). You would mix it with red bean paste and put it in a bowl of gochujang bibimbap and it would have a wonderful flavor. When you eat sseumbagwi, you need to put it in your mouth and hold your breath for several seconds. This is the time it takes for the bitter taste to go away and for a different taste to come out.
I used to enjoy climbing trees as well. Mainly I climbed up and down a huge, two-hundred-year-old chestnut tree that was in our yard. I liked the view from the upper branches of that tree. I could see even beyond the entrance to the village. Once I was up there, I wouldn't want to come down. Sometimes I would be up in the tree until late at night, and the youngest of my older sisters would come out of the house and make a fuss over how dangerous it was and try to get me to come down.
"Yong Myung, please come down," she would say, "It's late, and you need to come in and go to bed."
"If I get sleepy, I can sleep up here."
It didn't matter what she said; I wouldn't budge from my branch in the chestnut tree. Finally, she would lose her temper and shout at me, "Hey, monkey! Get down here now!"
Maybe it's because I was born in the Year of the Monkey that I enjoyed climbing trees so much. When chestnut burrs hung in clusters from the branches, I would take a broken branch and jump up and down to knock them down. I remember this being a lot of fun. I feel sorry for children these days who don't grow up in the countryside and don't experience this kind of enjoyment.
The birds flying free in the sky were also objects of my curiosity. Once in a while some particularly pretty birds would come by, and I would study everything I could about them, noticing what the male looked like and what the female looked like. There were no books back then to tell me about the various kinds of trees, shrubs, and birds, so I had to examine each myself. Often I would miss my meals because I would be hiking around the mountains looking for the places where migratory birds went.
Once I climbed up and down a tree every morning and evening for several days to check on a magpie nest. I wanted to see how a magpie lays its eggs. I finally got to witness the magpie lay its eggs, and I became friends with the bird as well. The first few times it saw me, the magpie let out a loud squawk and made a big fuss when it saw me approach. Later, though, I could get close and it would remain still.
The insects in that area were also my friends. Every year, in late summer, a clear-toned cicada would sing in the upper branches of a persimmon tree that was right outside my room. Each summer, I would be grateful when the loud, irritating sounds of the other types of cicada that made noise all summer would suddenly stop and be replaced by the song of the clear-toned cicada. Its song let me know that the humid summer season would soon pass, with the cool autumn to follow.
Their sound went something like this: "sulu sulululululu!" Whenever I would hear the clear-toned cicada sing like this, I would look up into the persimmon tree and think, "Of course, as long as it's going to sing, it has to sing from a high place so that everyone in the village can hear it and be glad. Who could hear it if it went into a pit and sang?"
I soon realized that both the summer cicadas and the clear-toned cicadas were making sounds for love. Whether they were singing "Mem mem mem" or "sulu sulu," they were making sounds in order to attract their mates. Once I realized this, I couldn't help but laugh every time I heard an insect start singing. "Oh, you want love, don't you? Go ahead and sing, and find yourself a good mate." Gradually I learned how to be friends with everything in nature in a way that could share our hearts with each other.
The Yellow Sea Coast was only about four kilometers (two and a half miles) from our home. It was near enough that I could easily see it from any high place near our home. There was a series of water pools along the path to the sea, and a creek flowed between them. I would often dig around one of those pools smelling of stale water to catch eel and fresh water mud crab. I would poke around all sorts of places to catch differents kinds of water life, so I came to know where each kind lived. Eels by nature do not like to be visible, so they hide their long bodies in crab holes and other similar places. Often, though, they can't quite fit all of their bodies in the holes, so the ends of their tails remain sticking out. I could easily catch them, simply by grabbing the tail and pulling the eel out of its hole. If we had company in our home and they wanted to eat steamed eel, then it was nothing for me to run the three-mile round trip to the water pools and bring back about five eels. During summer vacations, I would often catch more than forty eels in a day.
But there was one chore I didn't like doing. Often, when my father would tell me to feed the cow, I would take it to the meadow of the neighboring village, where I would tie it up and run away. But after a while, I would start to worry about the cow. When I looked back, I could see it was still there, right where I had tied it. It just stayed there half the day, mooing and waiting for someone to come feed it. Hearing the cow mooing in the distance, I would feel sorry for it and think, "That cow! What am I going to do with it?" Maybe you can imagine how I felt to ignore the cow's mooing. Still, when I would go back to it late in the evening, it wouldn't be angry or try to gore me with its horns. Instead it seemed happy to see me. This made me realize that a person's perspective on a major objective in life should be like that of a cow. Bide your time with patience, and something good will come to you.
There was a dog in our home that I loved very much. It was so smart that when it came time for me to come home from school, it would run to meet me when I was still a long distance from home. Whenever it saw me, it acted happy. I would always pet it with my right hand. So, even if it happened to be on my left side, it would go around to my right side and rub its face against me, begging to be petted. Then I would take my right hand and pet it on its head and back. If I didn't, the dog would whine and run circles around me as I walked down the road. "You rascal," I would say. "You know about love, don't you? Do you like love?"
Animals know about love. Have you ever seen a mother hen sitting on her eggs until they hatch? The hen will keep her eyes open and stamp her foot on the ground so no one can go near her. I would go in and out of the chicken coop, knowing it would make the hen angry. When I would go into the coop, the hen would straighten her neck and try to threaten me. Instead of backing away, I would also act in a threatening manner toward the hen. After I went into the coop a few times, the hen would just pretend not to see me. But she would keep herself bristled up and her claws long and sharp. She looked like she wanted to swoosh over and attack me, but she couldn't move because of the eggs. So she just sat there in anguish. I would go near and touch her feathers, but she wouldn't budge.
It seemed that she was determined not to move from that spot until her eggs had hatched, even if it meant letting someone pluck all the feathers from her bosom. Because she is so steadfastly attached to her eggs through love, the hen has an authority that keeps even the rooster from doing whatever he wants. The hen commands complete authority over everything under heaven, as if to say, "I don't care who you are. You had better not disturb these eggs!"
There is also a demonstration of love when a pig gives birth to piglets. I followed a mother pig around so I could watch it give birth to its litter. At the moment of birth, the mother pig gives a push with a loud grunt and a piglet slips out into the ground. The pig lets out another loud grunt and a second piglet comes out. It is similar with cats and dogs. It made me very happy to see these little baby animals that hadn't even opened their eyes come into the world. I couldn't help but laugh with joy.
On the other hand, it gave me much anguish to witness the death of an animal. There was a slaughter house a little ways from the village. Once a cow was inside the slaughterhouse, a butcher would appear out of nowhere and strike the cow with an iron hammer about the size of a person's forearm. The cow would fall over. In the next moment, it would be stripped of its hide and its legs would be cut off. Life hangs on so desperately that the stumps remaining on the cow after its legs were cut off would continue to quiver. It brought tears to my eyes to watch this, and I cried out loud.
From when I was a child, I have had a certain peculiarity. I could know things that others didn't, as if I had some natural paranormal ability. If I said it was going to rain, then it would rain. I might be sitting in our home, and say, "The old man Mr. So-and-So in the next village doesn't feel well today." And it would always be right. From the time I was eight I was well known as a champion matchmaker. I only had to see photographs of a prospective bride and groom and I could tell everything. If I said, "This marriage is bad," and they went ahead and married anyway, they would inevitably break up later. I'm still doing that at age ninety, and now I can tell much about a person just seeing the way he sits or the way he laughs.
If I focused my thoughts, I could tell what my older sisters were doing at a particular moment. So, although my older sisters liked me, they also feared me. They felt that I knew all their secrets.
It may seem like I have some incredible paranormal power, but actually it isn't anything to be surprised about. Even ants, which we often think of as insignificant creatures, can tell when the rainy season is coming, and they go to where they can stay dry. People in tune with nature should be able to tell what is ahead for them. It's not such a difficult thing.
You can tell which way the wind is going to blow by carefully examining a magpie's nest. A magpie will put the entrance to its nest on the opposite side from the direction where the wind is going to blow. It will take twigs in its beak and weave them together in a complex fashion, and then pick up mud with its beak and plaster the top and bottom of the nest so that the rain doesn't get in It arranges the ends of the twigs so that they all face the same direction. Like a gutter on a roof, this makes the rain flow toward one place. Even magpies have such wisdom to help them survive, so wouldn't it be natural for people to have this type of ability as well?
If I were at a cow market with my father, I might say, "Father, don't buy this cow. A good cow should look good on the nape of its neck and have strong front hooves. It should have a firm buttocks and back. This cow isn't like that." Sure enough, that cow would not sell. My father would say, "How do you know all this?" and I would reply, "I've known that snce I was in Mother's womb," Of course, I wasn't serious. If you love cows, you can tell a lot about them.
The most powerful force in the world is love, and the most fearful thing is a mind and body united. If you quiet yourself and focus your mind there is a place deep down where the mind is able to settle. You need to let your mind go to that place. When you put your mind in that place and go to sleep, then when you awaken you will be extremely sensitive. That is the moment when you should turn away all extraneous thought and focus your consciousness. Then you will be able to communicate with everything.
If you don't believe me, try it right now. Each life form in the world seeks to connect itself with that which gives it the most love. So if you have something that you don't truly love, then your possession or dominion is false and you will be forced to give it up.
FOOD IS LOVE
Talking about the Universe with the Insects
Spending time in the forest cleanses the mind. The sound of leaves rustling in the wind, the sound of the wind blowing through the reeds, the sound of frogs croaking in the ponds. All you can hear are the sounds of nature, no extraneous thoughts enter the mind. If you empty your mind and receive nature into your entire being, there is no separation between you and nature. Nature comes into you, and you become completely one with nature. In the moment that the boundary between you and nature disappears, you feel a profound sense of joy. Then nature becomes you, and you become nature.
I have always treasured such experiences in my life. Even now, I close my eyes and enter a state in which I am one with nature. Some refer to this as anatman, or "not-self," but to me it is more than that, because nature enters and settles into the place that has been made empty. While in that state, I listen to the sounds that nature hands to me--the sounds of the pine trees, the sounds of the bugs--and we become friends. I could go to a village and know, without meeting anyone, the disposition of the minds of the people living there. I would go into the fields of the village and spend the night there, then listen to what the crops in the fields would tell me. I could see whether the crops were sad or happy and that would tell me the kind of people who lived there.
The reason I could be in jail in South Korea and in the United States, and even North Korea, and not feel lonely and isolated is that even in jail I could hear the sound of the wind blowing and talk to the bugs that were there with me.
You may ask, "What do you talk about with bugs?" Even the smallest grain of sand contains the principles of the world, and even a spec of dust floating in the air contains the harmony of the universe. Everything around us was given birth through a combination of forces so complex we cannot even imagine it. These forces are closely related to each other. Nothing in the universe was conceived outside the heart of God. The movement of just one leaf holds within it the breathing of the universe.
From childhood, I have had a gift of being able to resonate with the sounds of nature as I roam around the hills and meadows. Nature creates a single harmony and produces a sound that is magnificent and beautiful. No one tries to show off and no one is ignored; there is just a supreme harmony. Whenever I found myself in difficulty, nature comforted me; whenever I collapsed in despair, it raised me back up.
Children these days are raised in urban areas and don't have opportunities to become familiar with nature, but developing sensitivity to nature is actually more important than developing our knowledge. What is the purpose of providing a university education to a child who cannot feel nature in his bosom and whose sensitivities are dull? The person separated from nature can gather book knowledge here and there and then easily become an individualistic person who worships material goods.
We need to feel the difference between the sound of spring rain falling like a soft whisper and that of the autumn rain falling with pops and crackles. It is only the person who enjoys resonance with nature who can be said to have a true character. A dandelion blooming by the side of the road is more precious than all the gold in the world.
We need to have a heart that knows how to love nature and love people. Anyone who cannot love nature or love people is not capable of loving God. Everything in creation embodies God at the level of symbol, and human beings are substantial beings created in the image of God. Only a person who can love nature can love God.
I did not spend all my time roaming the hills and meadows and playing. I also worked hard helping my older brother run the farm. On a farm there are many tasks that must be done during a particular season. The rice paddies and fields need to be plowed. Rice seedlings need to be transplanted, and weeds need to be pulled. When one is pulling weeds, the most difficult task is to weed a field of millet. After the seeds are planted, the furrows need to be weeded at least three times, and this is backbreaking work. When we were finished, we couldn't straighten our backs for a while.
Sweet potatoes don't taste very good if they are planted in clay. They need to be planted in a mixture of one third clay and two thirds sand if they are going to produce the best tasting sweet potatoes. For corn, human excrement was the best fertilizer, so I would take my hands and break up all the solid excrement into small pieces. By helping out on the farm, I learned what was needed to make beans grow well, what kind of soil was best for soybeans, and what soil was best for red beans. I am a farmer's farmer.
Pyongan Province was among the first places in Korea to accept Christian culture. One noticeable influence was that the farmland was already arranged in straight lines in the 1930's and 1940's. To transplant rice seedlings, we would take a pole with twelve equally spaced markings to indicate where the rows would go and lay it across the width of the paddy. Then two people would move along the pole, each planting six rows of seedlings.
Later, when I came to the southern part of Korea, I saw that they would put a string across the paddy and have dozens of people splashing around in there. It seemed like a very inefficient way of doing it. I would spread my legs to twice the width of my shoulders so I could plant the seedlings more quickly. During the rice planting season, I was able to earn enough money to at least cover my own tuition.
FOOD IS LOVE
When I turned ten, my father had me attend a traditional school in our village, where an old man taught Chinese classics. At this school, all we had to do was memorize one booklet each day. I would focus myself and complete the memorization in a half hour. If I could stand in front of the schoolmaster and recite that day's lesson, then I was finished for the day. If the schoolmaster dozed off in the early afternoon, I would leave the school and go into the hills and meadows. The more time I spent in the hills, the more I knew where to find edible plants. Eventually, I was eating enough of these plants that I could go without lunch, and I stopped eating lunch at home.
At school, we read the Analects of Confucius and the work of Mencius, and we were taught Chinese characters I excelled at writing, and by the time I was twelve the schoolmaster had me making the model characters that other students would learn from. Actually, I wanted to attend a formal school, not the traditional village school. I felt I shouldn't be just memorizing Confucius and Mencius when others were building airplanes. This was April, and my father had already paid my full year's tuitiion in advance. Even though I knew this, I decided to quit the village school and worked to convince my father to send me to a formal school. I worked on convincing my grandfather and even my uncle. To transfer into elementary school, I had to take an exam. To study for this exam, I had to attend a preparatory school. I convinced one of my younger cousins to go with me, and we both entered the Wonbong, a private school to help us prepare for the exam to transfer into elementary school.
The next year, when I was fourteen, I passed the exam and transferred into third grade at Osan School. I had a late start, but I studied hard and was able to skip the fifth grade. Osan School was eight kilometers (five miles) from our home, but I never missed a day or was ever late for school. Each time I would climb a hill in the road, a group of students would be waiting for me. I would walk so quickly, though, that they would have a hard time keeping up. This is how I traveled that mountain road that was rumored to be a place where tigers sometimes appeared.
The Osan School was a nationalist school established by Yi Sung Hun, who was active in the independence movement. Not only was the Japanese language not taught, but students were actually forbidden to speak Japanese. I had a different opinion on this. I felt that we had to know our enemy if we were to defeat it. I took another transfer exam and entered the fourth grade of Jeongju Public Normal School. In public schools, all classes were conducted in Japanese, so I memorized katakana and hiragana the night before my first day of class. (Katakana and hiragana are the two different scripts used for writing the Japanese language.) I didn't know any Japanese, so I took all the textbooks from grades one through four and memorized them over the course of two weeks. This enabled me to start understanding the language.
From the time I graduated from grammar school, I was fluent in Japanese. On the day of my graduation, I volunteered to give a speech before a gathering of all the important people in Jeongju. Normally in that situation, the student is expected to speak about his gratitude for the support received from his teachers and the school. Instead, I referred to each of my teachers by name and critiqued them, pointing out problems in the way the school was run. I also spoke on our time in history and the kind of determination that people in responsible positions should make. I gave this rather critical speech entirely in Japanese.
"Japanese people should pack their bags as soon as possible and go back to Japan," I said. "This land was handed down to us by our ancestors, and all the future generations of our people must live here."
I said these things in front of the chief of police, the county chief, and town mayor. I was taking after the spirit of Great-uncle Yoon Guk Moon and saying things that no one else dared say. The audience was shocked. When I left the stage, I could see people's faces had turned pale.
Nothing happened to me that day, but there were problems later on. From that day, the Japanese police marked me as a person to be tracked and began watching me, making a nuisance of themselves. Later, when I was trying to go to Japan to continue my studies, the chief of police refused to place his stamp on a form that I needed, and this caused me some trouble. He regarded me as a dangerous person who should not be allowed to travel to Japan and refused to stamp the form for me. I had a big argument with him and finally convinced him to put the stamp on the form. Only then could I go to Japan.
('As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen'
the end of Chapter One: Food Is Love
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
Between Fear and Inspiration
As I grew older and more mature, I became preoccupied with the question, "What will I be when I grow up?" I enjoyed observing and studying nature, so I gave some thought to becoming a scientist. However, I changed my mind after I saw the tragedy of how people were plundered by the Japanese colonial authorities. They suffered so much that they could not even feed themselves. It didn't seem that becoming a scientist, even if it led to my winning a Nobel Prize, would be a way for me to wipe away the tears of suffering people.
I wanted to become a person that could take away the tears that flowed from people's eyes and the sorrow that was in their hearts. When I was lying in the forest listening to the songs of the birds, I would think, "The world needs to be made as warm and tender as those songs. I should become someone who makes people's lives as fragrant as flowers." I didn't know what career I should pursue to accomplish that, but I became convinced that I should be a person who could give happiness to people.
When I was ten our family converted to Christianity by the grace of Great-uncle Yoon Guk Moon, who was a minister and led a fervent life of faith. From then on, I attended church faithfully, without ever missing a week. If I arrived at service even a little late, I would be so ashamed that I could not even raise my face. I don't know what I could have understood at such a young age to inspire me to be this way, but God was already a huge presence in my life. I was spending more and more time wrestling with questions dealing with life and death, and the suffering and sorrows of human existence.
When I was twelve, I witnessed my great-grandfather's grave being moved. Normally, only adults in the clan would be allowed to attend such an occasion, but I wanted very much to see for myself what happened to people after they died. I eventually persuaded my parents to allow me to come along. When the grave was dug up and I saw his remains, I was overcome with shock and fear. While the adults opened the grave with solemn ceremony, all I saw was a scrawny skeleton. There was no trace of the features my father and mother had described to me. There was only the hideous sight of white bones.
It took me a while to get over the shock of seeing my great-grandfather's bones. I said to myself, "Great-grandfather must have looked just like us. Does this mean my parents, too, will turn into just a bunch of white bones after they die? Is this what will happen to me when I die? Everyone dies, but after we die, do we just lie there unable to think about anything? I couldn't get these questions out of my head.
Around that same time, a number of strange events occurred in our home. I have a vivid memory of one in particular. Each time our family wove cloth, we would take the snippets of thread from the loom and save them in an earthenware jar until we had enough to make a bolt of cloth. The cloth we made from these snippets, called yejang, was used to make ceremonial cloths used when a child in the family married. One night these snippets were found scattered all over the branches of an old chestnut tree in a neighboring village. They made the tree look like it had turned white. We couldn't understand who would have taken the snippets from the jar and carried them all the way to the chestnut tree, which was quite a distance from our home, and then spread them all over the tree. It didn't seem like something that could be done by human hands, and it frightened everyone in the village.
When I was sixteen, we experienced the tragedy of having five of my younger siblings die in a single year. No words could describe the heartbreak of our parents of losing five of their thirteen children in such a short time. Death seemed to spread. Other clan members lost their livestock. One family's cow suddenly died, though it had been in perfect health. At another home, several horses died, one after the other. At a third home, seven pigs died in one night.
The suffering of one family seemed connected to the suffering of the nation and of the world. I was increasingly troubled to see the wretched situation of the Korean people under Japan's tyrannical rule. People didn't have enough to eat. They were sometimes forced to take grass, tree bark, and whatever else they could find, and boil these for food. There seemed to be no end to wars around the world.
Then one day I read an article in a newspaper about the suicide of a middleschool student who was the same age as I. "Why did he die?" I asked myself. "What would drive a person to kill himself at such a young age?" I was devastated by this news, as if it had happened to someone who had been close to me. With the newspaper open to that article, I wept aloud for three days and nights. The tears kept coming and I couldn't make them stop.
I couldn't comprehend the series of strange events, or the fact that tragic events were happening to good people. Seeing the bones of my great-grandfather had inspired me to start asking questions about life and death, and the series of ununusual events in and around our home caused me to hang on to religion. The Word of God I was hearing in church, however, was not sufficient by itself to give me the clear answers I was seeking. To relieve the frustrations in my heart, I naturally began to immerse myself in prayer.
"Who am I? Where did I come from? What is the purpose of life? What happens to people when they die? Is there a world of the eternal soul? Does God really exist? Is God really all-powerful? If He is, why does He just stand by and watch the sorrows of the world? If God created the world, did He also create the suffering that is in the world? What will bring an end to Korea's tragic occupation by Japan? What is the meaning of the suffering of the Korean people? Why do human beings hate each other, fight, and start wars? My heart was filled with these serious and fundamental questions. No one could easily answer them for me, so my only option was to pray. Prayer helped me to find solace. Whenever, I laid out the anguishing problems in my heart to God, all my suffering and sorrow vanished and my heart felt at ease. I began spending more and more time in prayer, to the point that, eventually, I began praying through the night all the time. As a result I had a rare ane precious experience in which God answered my prayers. That day will always remain as the most cherished memory of my life---I day I can never forget.
It was the night before Easter in the year I turned sixteen. I was on Mount Myodu praying all night and begging God in tears for answers.
Why had He created a world so filled with sorrow and despair? Why was the all- knowing and all-powerful God leaving the world in such pain? What should I do for my tragic homeland? I wept in tears as I asked these questions repeatedly. Early Easter morning, after I had spent the entire night in prayer, Jesus appeared before me. He appeared in an instant, like a gust of wind, and said to me, "God is in great sorrow because of the pain of humankind. You must take on a special mission on earth having to do with Heaven's work."
That day, I saw clearly the sorrowful face of Jesus. I heard His voice clearly. The experience of witnessing the manifestation of Jesus caused my body to shake violently, like a quaking aspen's leaves trembling in a strong breeze. I was simultaneously overcome with fear so great I felt I might die and gratitude so profound I felt I might explode. Jesus spoke clearly about the work I would have to do. His words were extraordinary, having to do with saving humanity from its suffering and bringing joy to God.
My intial response was, "I can't do this. How can I do this? Why would you even give me a mission of such paramount importance?" I was truly afraid. I wanted somehow to avoid this mission, and I clung to the hem of his clothing and wept inconsolably.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
The More It Hurts,
the More You Should Love
I was thrown into extreme confusion, I couldn't open my heart to my parents and share my huge secret with them. But neither could I just keep it to myself. I was at a loss what to do. What was clear was that I had received a special mission from Heaven.
It was such a huge and tremendous responsibility. I shuddered in fear to think that I might not be able to handle it on my own. I clung to prayer even more than before, in an attempt to quiet my confused heart. But even this had no effect. No matter how much I tried, I could not free myself for even a moment from the memory of having met Jesus. My encounter with Jesus changed my life completely. His sorrowful expression was etched into my heart as if it had been branded there, and I could not think of anything else. From that day on, I immersed myself completely in the Word of God. At times, I was surrounded by endless darkness and filled with such pain that it was difficult to breathe. At other times, my heart was filled with joy, as though I were watching the morning sun rise above the horizon. In an effort to quiet my heart and my tears, I composed the following poem:
CROWN OF GLORY
When I doubt people, I feel pain.
When I judge people, it is unbearable.
When I hate people, there is no value to my existence.
Yet if I believe, I am deceived.
If I love, I am betrayed.
Suffering and grieving tonight, my heart in my hands,
Am I wrong?
Yes, I am wrong.
Even though we are deceived, still believe.
Though we are betrayed, still forgive.
Love competely, even those who hate you.
Wipe your tears away and welcome with a smile
Those who know nothing but deceit,
And those who betray without regret.
O. Master, the pain of loving,
Look at my hands.
Place your hand on my chest.
My heart is bursting, such agony.
But when I loved those who acted against me,
I brought victory.
If you have done the same things,
I will give you the Crown of Glory.
I experienced a series of days like these that led me into a deeper and deeper world of prayer. I embraced new words of truth that Jesus was giving me directly and let myself be completely captivated by God. I began to live an entirely different life. I had many things to think about, and I gradually became a boy of few words.
Anyone who follows the path of God must pursue his goal with his whole heart and total dedication. It requires a steadfastness of purpose. I am stubborn by birth, so I have always had plenty of tenacity. I used this God-given tenacity to overcome difficulties and follow the way that was given me. Anytime I began to waver, I steadied myself by remembering: "I received God's Word directly." It was not easy to choose this course, because it would require me to sacrifice the rest of my youth. At times, I felt I would rather avoid the path.
A wise person will place hope in the future and continue to move forward, no matter how difficult it may be. A foolish person, on the other hand, will throw away his future for the sake of immediate happiness. I, too, at times held foolish thoughts when I was still very young, but in the end I chose the path of the wise person. I gladly offered up my life in order to pursue the way God desired. I could not have run away if I tried; this was the only way I could have chosen. So why did God call me? Even now, at ninety years of age, I wonder every day why God called me. Of all the people in the world, why did He choose me? It wasn't because I had a particularly good appearance, or outstanding character, or deep conviction. I was just an unremarkable, stubborn, and foolish young boy. If God saw something in me, it must have been a sincere heart that sought Him with tears of love. Whatever the time or place, love is most important. God was searching for a person who would live with a heart of love and who, when faced with suffering, could cut off its effects with love. I was a boy in a rural village with nothing to show for myself. Even now, I insist uncompromisingly on sacrificing my life to live for God's love and nothing else.
There was nothing I could know on my own, so I took all my questions to God. I asked, "God do you really exist?" and that was how I came to know that He did, in fact, exist. I asked "God, do You have any cherished desires?" and this was how I came to know that He, too, had cherished desires. I asked Him, "God, do you need me?" and this was how I discovered that He had use for me.
On those days when my prayers and dedication connected to Heaven, Jesus appeared to me without fail and conveyed special messages. If I was earnest in my desire to know something, Jesus would appear with a gentle expression and give me answers of truth. His words were always on the mark, and they struck deep into my bosom like sharp arrows. These were not mere words; they were revelations about the creation of the universe that opened the door to a new world. When Jesus spoke, it seemed like a soft breeze, but I took His words to heart and prayed with an earnestness strong enough to uproot a tree. Gradually, I came into a new realization about God's purpose in creating the universe and His principles of creation.
During the summer of that year, I went on a pilgrimage around the country. I had no money, I would go to homes and ask to be fed. If I was lucky, I caught a ride on a truck. This was how I visited every corner of the country. Everywhere I went I saw that my homeland was a crucible of tears. There was no end to the sorrowful sighs of suffering from hungry people. Their woeful lamentations turned to tears that flowed like a river.
"This wretched history must end as quickly as possible," I told myself. "Our
people must not be left to suffer in sorrow and despair. Somehow, I need to find a way to go to Japan and to America so that I can let the world know the greatness of the Korean people."
Through this pilrimage, I was able to redouble my determination toward my future work.
As I clenched my two fists, my mind became totally folcused, and I could see clearly the path I had to follow in my life: "I absolutely will save our people and bring God's peace on this earth."
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
A Knife not Sharpened Grows Dull
After compelting grammar school, I moved to Seoul and lived alone in the Heuksok- Dong neighborhood while attending the Kyeongsung School of Commerce and Technology.
The winter in Seoul was extremely cold. It was normal for the temperature to fall to minus twenty degrees Celsius, and when it did, the Han River would freeze over. The house where I lived was on a ridge, and there was no running water. We drew our water from a well that was so deep it took more than ten arm-lengths of rope for the pail to reach the water below. The rope kept breaking, so I made a chain and attached it to the pail. Each time I brought water up, though, my hands would freeze to the chain and I could only keep them warm by blowing on them.
To fight the cold, I used my knitting talents. I made a sweater, thick socks, a cap and gloves. The hat was so stylish that when I wore it around town some people would think I was a woman.
I never heated my room, even on the coldest winter days, mainly because I didn't have the money to do so. I also felt that having a roof over my head when I slept meant that I was living in luxury compared to homeless people forced to find ways to keep themselves warm on the streets. One day, it was so cold I slept while holding a lightbulb against my body under the quilt, like a hot water bottle. During the night, I burned myself on the hot bulb, causing some skin to peel. Even now, when someone mentions Seoul, the first thing that comes to mind is how cold it was back then.
My meals consisted of a bowl of rice and never more than one side dish, whereas average Korean meals include up to twelve side dishes. It was always one meal, one dish. One side dish was enough. Even today, because of the habit I formed while living alone, I don't need many side dishes at my meals. I prefer to have just one side dish that is prepared well. When I see a meal that has been prepared with many side dishes, it only seems troublesome to me. I never ate lunch while attending school in Seoul. I became accustomed to eating just two meals a day while roaming around the hills as a child. I continued this lifestyle until I was nearly thirty.
My time in Seoul gave me a good understanding of how much work goes into managing a household.
I returned to Heuksok-Dong in the 1980's and was surprised to find the house where I once lived still standing. The room where I lived and the courtyard where I used to hang my laundry were still there. I was sad to see, though, that the well where I had to blow on my hands while pulling up pails of water was gone.
During my time in Heuksok-Dong, I adopted for myself the motto, "Before seeking to dominate the universe, first perfect your ability to dominate yourself." This means that to have the strength to save the nation and save the world, I first had to train my own body. I trained myself through prayer and meditation and through sports and exercise programs. As a result, I would not be swayed by hunger or any other emotion or desire of the physical body. Even when I ate a meal, I would say, "Rice, I want you to become the fertilizer for the work that I am preparing myself to do." I learned boxing, soccer and self-defense techniques. Because of this, although I have gained some weight since I was young, I still have the flexibility of a young person.
Kyeongsung School of Commerce and Technology had a policy that students would take turns cleaning their own classrooms. In my class, I decided to clean the classroom every day by myself. I did not do this as some kind of punishment. It was an expression of my desire that welled up naturally from within to love the school more than anyone else. In the beginning, others would try to help, but they could see I didn't appreciate this and preferred to do it alone. Eventually, my classmates decided, "Go ahead. Do it by youself." And so the cleaning became my job.
I was an usually quiet student. Unlike my classmates, I didn't engage in idle chatter, and I would often go an entire day without speaking a word. This may have been the reason that, although, I never engaged in physical violence, my classmates treated me with respect and were careful how they acted in my presence. If I went to the toilet and there was a line of students waiting their turn, they would immediately let me go first. If someone had a problem, I was frequently the one they sought out for advice.
I was very persistent in asking questions during class, there were more than a few teachers who were stumped by my questions. For example, when we were learning a new formula in mathematics or physics class, I would ask, "Who made this formula? Please explain it to us step by step so that I can understand it exactly," and refused to back down until I got clear answers. I was relentless with my teachers, digging deeper and deeper. I couldn't accept any principle in the world until I had taken it apart and figured it our for myself. I found myself wishing I had been the person to first discover such a beautiful formula. The stubborn character that had made me cry all night as a little boy was making itsappearance in my studies as well. Just as when I prayed, I poured myself completely into my studies and invested my full sincerity and dedication.
Any task we do requires sincerity and dedication, and not just for a day or two. It needs to be a continuous process. A knife used once and never sharpened turns dull. The same is true with sincerity and dediation. We need to continue our efforts on a daily basis with the thought that we are sharpening our blade daily. Whatever the task, if we continue the effort in this way, we eventually reach a mystical state. If you pick up a paintbrush and focus your sincerity and dedication on your hand and say to yourself, "A great spirit will come and help me," and concentrate your mind, you can create a wonderful painting that will inspire the world.
I dedicated myself to learning how to speak faster and more accurately than anyone else. I would go into a small anteroom where no one could hear me and practice tongue twisters out loud. I practiced pouring out what I wanted to say very quickly. Eventually, I was able to say ten words in the time that it took others to say just one. Even now, though I am old, I can speak very quickly. Some say that I speak so quickly that they have difficulty understanding me, but my heart is in such a hurry that I cannot bear to speak slowly. My mind is full of things I want to say. How can I slow down?
In that sense, I am very much like my grandfather, who enjoyed talking with people. Grandfather could go three or four hours talking to people in our home's guest room, explaining to them his views on the events of the day. I am the same way. When I am with people and there is good communication of heart, I completely lose track of time, and I don't know if night is falling or if the sun is rising. The words in my heart form an unstoppable flow. When I am like this, I don't want to eat; I just want to talk. It's difficult for the people who are listening, and beads of sweat begin to appear on their foreheads. Sweat is running down my face, too, as I continue talking, and they dare not ask to excuse themselves and leave. We often end up staying up all night together.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
A Key to Unlock a Great Secret
Just as I had climbed all the mountain peaks around my hometown, I explored every corner of Seoul. In those days there was a streetcar line that ran from one end of the city to another. The price of a ticket was just five jeon (One jeon is the equivalent of a penny), but I didn't want to spend that money and would walk all the way into the center of the city. On hot summer days, I would be dripping with sweat as I walked, and on frigid winter days I would walk almost at a run, as if piercing my way through a bitter arctic wind. I walked so quckly that I could go from Heuksok-Dong, across the Han River, to the Hwa Shin Department Store on Jong Ro in just forty-five minutes. Most people would take an hour and a half, so you can imagine how quickly I was walking.
I saved the price of a streetcar ticket and give the money to people who needed it more than I did. It was such a small amount it was embarrassing to give it, but I gave it with a heart the desired to give a fortune. I gave it with a prayer that this money would be a seed for the person to receive many blessings. Every April, my family would send me money for tuition. But I couldn't stand by and watch people around me who were in financial difficulty, so the money wouldn't even last to May.
Once, when I was on my way to school, I came across a person who was so sick he seemed about to die. I felt so bad for him I couldn't pass him by. I carried him on my back to a hospital about a mile and a quarter away. I had the money I intended to use to pay my tuition, so I paid the bill. However, once I paid the hospital, I had nothing left. In the following days the school repeatedly demanded I pay my tuition. My friends felt sorry for me and took up a collection for me. I can never forget the friends who helped me through that situation.
The giving and receiving of help is a relationship that is matched in heaven. You might not realize it at the time, but thinking back later, you may understand, "Oh, so that's why God sent me there at that time!" So if a person who needs your help suddenly appears before you, you should realize that Heaven sent you to that person to help him, and then do your best. If Heaven wants you to give the person ten units of help, it won't do if you only give him five. If Heaven says give him ten, you should give him a hundred. When helping someone, you should be ready, if necessary, to empty your wallet.
In Seoul, I came across baram ddok, a fluffy air-filled rice cake, for the first time in my life. These are colorful rice cakes made in a beautiful design. When I first saw one, I was amazed at how beautiful they looked. When I bit into one, however, I discovered they had no filling, only air. They just collapsed in my mouth.
This made me realize something about Seoul at that time. Seoul was just like an air-filled rice cake. I understood why people in Seoul were often thought of as misers by other Koreans. One the surface, Seoul seemed like a world filled with rich and important people. In reality, though, it was filled with poor people. Many beggars, clothed only in rags, lived under the Han River Bridge. I visited them, cut their hair for them, and shared my heart with them. Poor people have many tears. They have a lot of sorrow pent up in their hearts. I would just say a few words to someone, and he would break down in tears. Sometimes, one of them would hand me rice he had been given as he begged. He would hand it to me with hand caked in dirt. I never refused the food. I received it with a joyful heart.
I attended church every Sunday in my hometown, and I continued this practice in Seoul. Mainly, I attended the Myungsudae Jesus Church located in Heuksok-Dong and the Seobinggo Pentecostal Church that held services on a stretch of sand on the opposite shore of the Han River. On cold winter days, as I was walking across the frozen river to Seobinggo-Dong, the ice would make crackling sound under my feet.
At church I served as a Sunday School teacher. The children always enjoyed my interesting lessons. I am no longer as adept at telling jokes as I was when I was young, but back then I could tell funny stories. When I wept, they wept with me, and when I laughed, they laughed along with me. I was so popular with them that they would follow me around wherever I went.
Behind Myungsudae is Mount Seodal, also known as Mount Darma. I would often climb up on a large boulder on Mount Darma and spend the night in prayer. In hot weather and in cold, I immersed myself in prayer without missing a night. Once I entered into prayer, I would weep, and my nose would start to run. I would pray for hours over words I had received from God. His words were like coded messages, and I felt I needed to immerse myself even more deeply in prayer. Thinking back on it now, I realize that even then God had placed in my hands the key that unlocked the door to secrets. However, I wasn't able to open the door, because my prayers were insufficient. I was so preoccupied that, when I ate meals, it didn't feel as though I were eating.
At bedtime, I would close my eyes, but I couldn't fall asleep. Other students rooming in the same house didn't realize I was going up on the hill to pray. They must have felt I was somehow different, though, because they related to me with respect. Generally, we got along well, making each other laugh by telling funny stories.
I can relate well with anyone. If an old woman comes to me, I can be her friend. If children come, I can play with them. You can have communication of heart with anyone by relating to them with love.
Mrs. Ghi Wan Lee became close to me after she was inspired by my prayers during early morning services at the church. We maintained our friendship for more than fifty years, until she left this world at age eighty. Her younger sister, Mrs. Ghi Bong Lee, was always busy managing the rooming house, but she related to me with warmth. She would say she didn't feel right unless she could find something to do for me. She would try to give me extra side dishes for my meals. I didn't talk much and wasn't much fun, so I don't know why she would want to treat me so well. Sometime later, when the Japanese colonial police were holding me in the Kyeonggi Province Police Station, she brought me clothes and food. Even now it warms my heart to think of her.
There was also Mrs. Song who ran a small store near my rooming house. She helped me a lot during this time. She would say that anyone that lives away from his hometown is always hungry, and she would bring me items from her store that she had not been able to sell. It was a small store, and she barely made enough money to support herself, but she always took care of me with a kind heart.
One day, we held a service on a sandy stretch by the Han River. When it came time for lunch, everyone found a place to sit down and eat. I was in the habit of not eating lunch and didn't feel comfortable sitting there doing nothing while others ate. I quietly walked away from the group and found a place to sit on a pile of rocks. Mrs. Song saw me there and brought me two pieces of bread and some flavored ice. How grateful I felt! These were just one jeon apiece, and only four jeon in total, but I have never been able to forget the gratitude I felt in that moment.
I always remember when someone helps me, no matter how small it may be. Even now that I am ninety years old, I can recite from memory all the times that people helped me and what they did for me. I can never forget the people who did not hesitate to put themselves to great trouble on my behalf and generously gave me their blessings.
If I receive a favor, it is important to me that I repay it. If I cannot meet the person who did this for me, it is important for me to remember that person in my heart. I need to live with the sincere thought that I will repay the person by helping someone else.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
Like a Fireball Burning Hot
After graduating from the Kyeongsung Institute in 1942, I traveled to Japan to continue my studies. I went because I felt that I needed to have exact knowledge about Japan. On the train to Busan, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I covered myself with my coat and cried out loud. My nose ran and my face swelled up, I cried so much. It grieved me to think that I was leaving my country behind as it suffered under the yoke of colonial rule. I looked out the window as I wept, and I could see that the hills and rivers were weeping even more sorrowfully than I was. I saw with my own eyes the tears flowing from the grass and trees. Upon seeing this vision, I said, "I promise to the hills and streams of my homeland that I will return, carrying with me the liberation of my homeland. So don't cry, but wait for me."
I boarded the Busan to Shimonoseki ferry at two o'clock in the morning on April 1. There was a strong wind that night, but I could not leave the deck. I stayed there watching the lights of Busan became more and more distant. I stayed on deck until morning. On arriving in Tokyo, I entered Waseda Koutou Kougakko, a technical engineering school affiliated with Waseda University. I studied in the Electrical Engineering Department. I chose electrical engineering because I felt I could not establish a new religious philosophy without knowing modern engineering.
The invisible world of mathematics has something in common with religion. To do something great, a person needs to excel in powers of reasoning. Perhaps because of my large head, I was good at mathematics that others found difficult, and I enjoyed studying it. My head was so large it was difficult for me to find hats to fit. I had to go to the factory twice to have a hat tailor-made for me. The size of my head may also have something to do with my ability to focus on something and finish relatively quickly what might take others several years to complete.
During my studies in Japan, I peppered my teachers with questions, just as I had in Korea. Once I began asking questions, I would continue and continue. Some teachers would pretend not to see me and simply ignore me when I asked, "What do you think about this?" If I had any doubts about something, I couldn't be satisfied until I had pursued the matter all the way to the root. I wasn't deliverately trying to embarrass my teachers. I felt that, if I were going to study a subject, I should study it completely.
On my desk in the boarding house, I always had three Bibles lying open side by side. One was in Korean, one in Japanese, and one in English. I would read the same passages in three languages again and again. Each time I read a passage, I would underline verses and make notes in the margins until the pages of my Bibles became stained with black ink and difficult to read.
Soon after school began, I attended an event held by the Association of Korean Students to welcome new students from our country. There I sang a song from our homeland with great fervor, showing everyone my love for my country. The Japanese police were in attendance, and this was a time when Koreans were expected to assimilate themselves into Japanese culture. Nonetheless, I sang the Korean song with pride. Duk Mun Eom, who had entered the Department of Architectural Engineering that year, was deeply moved to hear me sing this song, and we became
During this time, Korean students who were enrolled in various schools in the Tokyo area had formed an underground independence movement. This was only natural, as our homeland was groaning in agony under Japanese colonial rule.
The movement grew in response to what the Japanese called "the Great East Asian War" (1937-1945). As the war intensified, Tokyo began conscripting Korean students as "student soldiers" and sending them to the front. The work of the underground independence movement was spurred on by such moves. We had extensive debates on what to do about Hirohito, the Japanese emperor. I took on a major position in the
movement. It involved working in close relationship with the Republic of Korea Provisional Government, located in Shanghai and headed by Kim Gu. My responsibilities in this position could have required me to give up my life. I did not hesitate, though, because I felt that, if I died, it would have been for a righteous cause.
There was a police station beside Waseda University. The Japanese police got wind of my work and kept a sharp eye on me. The police always knew when I was about to return home to Korea during school vacation and would follow me to the dock to make sure I left. I cannot even remember the number of times I was taken into custody by the police, beaten, tortured, and locked in a cell. Even under the worst torture, however, I refused to give them the information they sought.
The more they beat me, the bolder I became. Once I had a fight on the Yotsugawa Bridge with police who were chasing me. I ripped out a piece of the bridge railing and used it as a weapon in the fight. In those days, I was a ball of fire.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
Befriending Laborers by Sharing Their Suffering
Just as I had done in Seoul, I made it a point to go everywhere in Tokyo. When my friends would go to places such as Nikko to see the beautiful scenery, I would prefer to stay behind and walk through all the neighborhoods of Tokyo. I found that it was a city that looked fancy on the outside but was actually filled with impoverished people. Again, I gave all the money that I received from home to the poor people.
Back then everyone in Japan was hungry too. Among the Korean students there were many who were in financial difficulty. When I received my allotment of meal tickets each month I would give them all away to students who couldn't afford them and told them, "Eat, Eat all you want." I didn't worry about earning money. I could go anywhere and work as a day laborer and be fed. I enjoyed earning money and using the money to help pay the tuition of students who didn't have money. Helping others and giving them food to eat filled me with energy.
After I had given away all the money I had, I would work as a deliveryman using a bicycle-drawn cart. I went to every district of Tokyo with that cart. Once, in Ginza, with its dazzling lights, I was carrying a telephone pole on my cart and it turned over in the middle of an intersection. Everyone ran for their lives. Because of these kinds of experience I still know the geography of Tokyo like the back of my hand.
I was a laborer among laborers and a friend to laborers. Just like the laborers who smelled of sweat, I would go to the work sites and work until the sweat was pouring down my body. They were my brothers, and I didn't mind the terrible smells. I shared sleeping quilts with them that were so filthy that black lice crawled across them in a line formation. I didn't hesitate to grasp hands that were caked with dirt. Their sweat mixed with grime was filled with an irresistible warmth of heart. It was their warm hearts that I found so attractive.
Primarily I worked as a laborer at the Kawasaki steel mill and shipyard. In the shipyard there were barges used to haul coal. We would form teams of three laborers each and work until one o'clock in the morning to fill a barge with fifty -four kilos (a hundred twenty tons) of coal. We Koreans could do in one night what it took the Japanese three days to accomplish.
There were people at some work sites who extorted the blood and sweat of the laborers. Often these were the foreman who directly managed the laborers. They would take thirty percent of the money earned by the laborers they managed and keep it for themselves. The laborers were powerless to do anything about this. The foreman would exploit the weak but curry favor with those who were strong. I became so angry with one foreman that I finally went to him with two friends and demanded that he pay the workers their full wages.
"If you make someone work, then pay him exactly what he is owed," I told him.
He still refused, so we went to him a second day and even a third day. We were determined to keep up the pressure until he relented. Finally I kicked him and he even fell down. I usually am a quiet and passive person, but when I become angry the stubborn character of my younger years comes back.
The Kawasaki steel mill had vats used to store sulfuric acid. Workers would clean these by going into them and making the raw material flow out. The fumes from the sulfuric acid were extremely toxic, and a person could not remain inside for more than fifteen minutes. Even in such deplorable working conditions, the workers risked their lives in order to have food to eat. Food was that precious.
I was always hungry. I was careful, though, to never eat a meal for my own sake. I felt there needed to be a specific reason for me to eat a particular meal. So as I would sit down to each meal I would ask myself the reasons for my hunger. "Did I really work hard? Did I work for myself, or for a public purpose?" I would face a bowl of rice and tell it, "I am eating you so that I can do tasks that are more glorious and more for the public good than what I did yesterday." Then the rice would smile back at me with its approval. In those instances, the time spent eating a meal was mystical and joyful. When I didn't feel qualified to talk this way, I would skip the meal no matter how hungry I might be. As a result, there were not many days when I would have even two meals.
I didn't limit myself to two meals a day because I had a small appetite. In fact, once I began to eat there was no limit to the amount I could consume. I once ate eleven large bowls of udon (noodles) in one sitting. Another time I ate seven bowls of a dish consisting of chicken and a fried egg over rice. Despite this appetite I kept up my custom of not eating lunch and limiting myself to two meals a day until I was more than thirty years old.
The sensation of hunger is a type of nostalgia. I knew very well about the
nostalgia of hunger, but I believed it was the least I could do to sacrifice one meal a day for the sake of the world. I also never allowed myself to wear new clothes. No matter how cold it might get, I would not heat my room. When it was extremely cold I used a newspaper to cover myself; it felt as warm as a quilt made of silk. I am very familiar with the value of a sheet of newspaper.
At times I would simply go live for a while in an area of Shinagawa where poor people lived. I slept with them, using rags for cover. On warm sunny days, I picked lice from their hair and ate rice with them. There were many prostitutes on the streets of Shinagawa. I would listen to them tell me about themselves, and I became their best friend without ever drinking a drop of liquor. Some people claim they need to be drunk in order to speak candidly about what is on their mind, but that is just an excuse. When these women realized that I was sincere in my sympathy for them, even without drinking any liquor, they opened their hearts to me and told me their troubles.
I worked in many different jobs during my studies in Japan. I was a janitor in an office building. I wrote letters for illiterate people. I worked at various job sites and was a foreman. I was a fortune teller. When I needed money quickly, I wrote calligraphy and sold it. I never fell behind in my studies, however. I believed that all these things were part of my training process. I did all sorts of jobs and met all sorts of people. In the process I learned a lot about people. Because I had this kind of experience, I can now take one look at a person and have a good idea of what the person does for a living and whether he is a good person. I don't have to weigh various thoughts in my head, because my body will tell me first.
I still believe that to develop good character a person needs to experiences many difficulties before turning thirty. People need to go down into the crucible of despair at the bottom of human existence and experience what that is like. People need to experience new possibilities in the midst of hell. It is only when climbing out of the depths of despair and making a new determination that we can be reborn as people able to pioneer a new future.
We should not look only in one direction. We should look at both those who are in a high position and those lower. We should know to look east, west, south and north. To live a successful life depends on how well we see with our mind's eye. To see well with the mind's eye, we must have many different experiences and remember them. Even in the most difficult situations, we should maintain our composure, demonstrate warmth toward others, be self-reliant, and adapt well to any circumstance.
A person of good character must be accustomed to rising to a high position and then quickly falling to a low position. Most people are afraid of falling from a high position, so they do everything they can to preserve it. However, water that does not flow becomes stale. A person who rises to a high position must be able to go back down and wait for the time to come up again. When the opportunity comes, he can rise to a position even higher than before. This is the type of person who can acquire a greatness that is admired by many people and is a great leader. These are the experiences that a person should have before turning thirty.
Today I tell young people to experience everything they can in the world. They need to directly or indirectly experience everything in the world, as if they were devouring an encyclopedia. It is only then that they can form their own identity. A person's self-identity is his clear subjective nature. Once a person has the confidence to say, "I can go all around the country, and I will never come across a person who is capable of defeating me," then he is ready to take on any task and have the confidence to accomplish it successfully. When a person lives life in this way, he will be successful. Success is assured. This is the conclusion I arrived at while living as a beggar in Tokyo.
I shared meals and slept with laborers in Tokyo, shared the grief of hunger with beggars, learned the hard life, and earned my doctorate in the philosophy of suffering. Only then was I able to understand God's will as He works to bring salvation to humanity. It is important to become the king of suffering before age thirty. The way to gain the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven is to become the king of suffering.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
The Calm Sea of the Heart
Japan's situation in the war became increasingly desperate. In the urgent need to replenish the shrinking ranks of its military, it began giving early graduation to students and sending them to the war front. For this reason, I, too, graduated six months early.
Once my graduation date was set for September 30, 1943, I sent a telegram to my family saying "Will return on Konron Maru," giving the name of the ship I was scheduled to board in Shimonoseki for Busan. However, on the day I was to leave Tokyo for the trip back to Korea, I had a strange experience in which my feet stuck to the ground, preventing me from moving. As hard as I tried, I could not pick my feet up off the ground to go to the train at Tokyo station.
I told myself, "It must be that Heaven doesn't want me to board that ship." So I decided to stay in Japan a while longer and went with my friends to climb Mount Fuji. When I returned to Tokyo a few days later, I found the country in an uproar over news that the Konron Maru, the ship I was supposed to be on, had been sunk on its way to Busan. I was told that more than five hundred people including many university students had been killed. Konron Maru was a large ship in which Japan took great pride, but it had been sunk by an American torpedo.
When my mother heard the news that the ship her son was scheduled to board had been sunk, she immediately ran out of the house without even thinking to put on her shoes. She ran barefoot eight kilometers (five miles) to the train station and went directly to Busan. When she arrived at the Maritime Police Station in Busan, she discovered my name was not on the passenger manifest. The boarding house in Tokyo, however, told her that I had packed my bags and left. This put her in total confusion and agony. She just kept calling my name, not even realizing that she had large splinters in her bare feet.
I can easily imagine how she must have been beside herself with worry that something might have happened to her son. I can understand my mother's heart, but from the day I chose to follow God's path, I became a terrible son to her. I couldn't afford to let myself be tied down by personal emotions. So I had not sent word that I had not boarded the ship that had been sunk, even though I knew she would be deeply concerned for my safety.
Upon finally returning to Korea, I found nothing had changed. Japan's tyrannical rule was becoming worse by the day. The entire land was soaked in blood and tears. I returned to Heuksok-Dong in Seoul and attended the Myungsudae Church. I kept detailed diaries of all the new realizations that I had each day. On days when I had a great number of such realizations, I would fill an entire diary. I was receiving answers to many of the questions that I had struggled with over the years. It was as if my years of prayers and search for truth were being answered. It happened in a short time as if a ball of fire were passing through me.
During this time I had the realization, "The relationship between God and mankind is that of a father and his children, and God is deeply saddened to see their suffering." In this moment all the secrets of the universe were resolved in my mind. Suddenly, it was as if someone had turned on a movie projector. Everything that had happened since the time humankind broke God's commandment played out clearly before my eyes. Hot tears flowed continuously from my eyes. I fell to my knees and bowed my head to the floor. For the longest time, I couldn't get up. Just as when my father had carried my home on his back as a child, I laid my body
down in God's lap and let the tears flow. Nine years after my encounter with Jesus, my eyes had finally been opened to the true love of God.
God created Adam and Eve and sent them into this world to be fruitful, to multiply, and to bring about a world of peace where they would live. But they could not follow God's timetable. They commited fornication and bore two sons, Cain and Able. The children who were born from the fall did not trust each other and brought about an incident where one brother murdered the other. The peace of this world was shattered, sin covered the world, and God's sorrow began. Then humankind commited another terrible sin by killing Jesus, the Messiah. So the suffering that humanity experiences today is a process of atonement that it must pass through as
God's sorrow continues.
Jesus had appeared to me as a boy of sixteen because he wanted me to know the root of the original sin that humankind had commited and to bring about a world of peace where sin and the fall would no longer exist. I had received God's serious instructions to atone for the sin of humanity and bring about the world of peace that God had originally created. The world of peace that is God's desire is not someplace we go to after death. God wants this world, where we live now, to be the completely peaceful and happy world that He created in the beginning. God certainly did not send Adam and Eve into the world for them to suffer. I had to let the world know this incredible truth.
Having discovered the secrets of the creation of the universe, I felt my heart become like a calm ocean. My heart was filled with the Word of God. It felt as though it might explode, and my face was always shining with joy.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
"Please Don't Die"
I continue to devote myself to prayer, and I came to feel intuitively that the time had come for me to marry. Because I had decided to follow God's path, everything in my life had to be done in accordance with God's will. Once I came to know something through prayer, I had no choice but to follow. So I went to one of my aunts who had much experience in arranging marriages and asked her to introduce me to a suitable wife. This is how I met Seon Gil Choi, the daughter of a prominent
Christian family in Jeongju..
She was a well-raised woman from an upright family. She had attended only elementary school, but her character was so strong and her Christian faith so deep that she had been emprisoned at age sixteen for refusing to comply with a Japanese colonial requirement that all Koreans worship at Shinto shrines. I was told that I was the twenty-fourth man to be considered as her groom, so it seems she was very selective about whom she would marry.
Once I returned to Seoul, however, I forgot completely I had even met the woman. My plan after completing my studies in Japan had been to travel to Hailar, China, a city on the border between China, the Soviet Union, and Mongolia.
My school in Tokyo had arranged a job for me with the Manchuria Electric Company, and my plan was to work in Hailar for about three years while learning Russian, Chinese, and Mongolian. Just as I had earlier sought out a school that would teach me Japanese so that I could win over the Japanese, I wanted to go to this border city and learn a number of foreign languages as a way of preparing myself for the future.
It was becoming increasingly clear, however, that Japan was heading for defeat in the war. I decided that it would be better for me not to go to Manchuria. So I stopped by a branch office of the Manchuria Electric Company in Andong (present day Dandong) and submitted paperwork to cancel my job placement. I then headed for my hometown.
When I arrived, I found that the aunt whom I had asked to arrange my marriage was in great distress. Apparently, the woman I had met was refusing to consider anyone other than me as her partner and was causing great trouble for her family. My aunt took me by the arm and led me to the Choi family home.
I explained to Seon Gil Choi clearly about the kind of life I intended to lead, "Even if we marry now, you should be prepared to live without me for at least seven years," I told her.
"Why should I do that?" she responded.
I told her, "I have a task that is more important than family life right now. In fact, my reason for getting married has to do with my ability to carry out God's providence. Our marriage needs to develop beyond the family to the point where we can love the nation and all humanity. Now that you know that this is my intention, do you truly want to marry me?"
She responded with a firm voice: "It doesn't matter to me. After I met you, I
dreamed of a field of flowers in the moonlight. I am certain that you are my spouse sent from Heaven. I can endure any difficulty."
I was still concerned, and pressed her several times. Each time she sought to set my mind at ease, saying, "I am willing to do anything, as long as I am able to marry you. Don't worry about anything."
My future father-in-law suddenly passed away a week before our scheduled wedding date, so our wedding was delayed. We were finally able to hold our ceremony on May 4, 1944. Normally May is a time for beautiful spring days, but on our wedding day it rained heavily. Rev. Ho Bin Lee of the Jesus Church officiated. Later, after Korea's liberation from Japan, Rev. Lee would go to South Korea and establish an ecumenical seminary called the Jungang Seminary.
My wife and I began our married life in my boarding room in Heuksok-Dong. I truly loved her and took such good care of her that the mistress of the boarding house would say, "Oh, my, you must really love her, since you treat her as if you were handling an egg."
I got a job at the Kyeongsung branch of the Kashima Gumi Construction Company in Yongsan in order to support the family while also carrying out church work. Then, one day in October, the Japanese police suddenly stormed into our home.
"Do you know so-and-so of Waseda University?" they demanded. Without even giving me a chance to reply, they pulled me out of the house and took me to the Kyeonggi Province Police Station. I was being detained because one of my friends had been arrested for being a communist and had mentioned my name to his interrogators.
Once inside the police station, I was immediately subjected to torture. "You're a member of the Communist Party, aren't you? Weren't you working with that rascal while you were studying in Japan? Don't even bother trying to deny it. All we have to do is put in a call to Tokyo Police Headquarters and they will tell us everything. You can give us the list of the party members or die like a dog."
They beat me with a table and broke all four of its legs against my body, but I refused to give them the names of the people who had worked with me in Japan.
The Japanese police then went to where I was living with my wife, turned it upside down, and discovered my diaries. They brought the diaries to me and went through them page by page, demanding I tell them about the names they found. I denied everything, even though I knew they might kill me for my silence. The police stomped on me mercilessly with their spiked military boots until my body was as limp as if I were dead. Then they hung me from the ceiling and swung me back and forth. Like a slab of meat hanging in a butcher shop. I swung this way and that as they pushed me with a stick. Soon, blood filled my mouth and began dripping onto the cement floor below me. As soon as I lost consciousness they would pour a bucket of water over me. As soon as I regained consciousness the torture would begin again.
They held my nose and stuck the spout of a teakettle into my mouth, forcing me to swallow water. When my stomach became bloated with water they laid me face up on the floor, looking like a frog, and began stomping on my abdomen with their military boots. The water would be forced up my esophagus and I would vomit until everything turned black. On the days after I had been tortured this way my esophagus felt as though it was on fire. The pain was so great I could not bear to swallow a single mouthful of soup. I had no energy and would just lie face down on the floor, completely unable to move.
The war was coming to an end, and the Japanese police were desperate. They tortured me in ways words cannot describe. I endured, though, and never gave them the names of any of my friends. Even as I was going in and out of consciousness, I made sure not to give them what they wanted. Finally, tiring of torturing me, the Japanese police sent for my mother. When she arrived my legs were so swollen that I couldn't stand on my own. Two policeman had to put my arms over their shoulders and help me walk to the visiting room.
My mother had tears in her eyes even before she set eyes on me. "Endure just a little longer," she said. "I will somehow get you a lawyer. Please endure, and don't die before then."
My mother saw how my face was covered with blood, and she pleaded with me, "It doesn't matter how much good you are trying to do," she said, "It's more important that you keep yourself alive. No matter what happens, don't die."
I felt sorry for her. I would have liked to call out, "Mother," embrace her and cry out loud with her. I couldn't do that, though, because I knew perfectly well why the Japanese police had brought her there. My mother kept pleading with me not to die, but all I could do in return was blink my badly swollen and bloodied eyes.
During the time I was held in the Kyeonggi Province Police Station, it was Mrs. Gi Bong Lee, the mistress of the boarding house, who kept me supplied with food and clothing. She wept every time she visited me. I would comfort her, saying, "Endure a little longer. This era is coming to an end. Japan will be defeated soon. You don't need to cry." These were not empty words. God had given me this belief.
As soon as the police released me in February of the following year, I took all my diaries that had been stacked in the boarding house to the bank of the Han River. There I burned them so they would not cause any further trouble to my friends. If I had not done this, I knew the diaries could eventually be used by the police to harm others. My body did not recover easily from the torture. I had blood in my feces for quite a while. Mrs. Lee, the boarding house mistress, and her sister helped me to nurse my body back to health with great sincerity and dedication.
Finally, on August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from Japan. This was the day every Korean had been waiting for. It was a day of tremendous emotion. Shouts of "Mansei!" and people waving the Taegukgi (the first national flag for the whole of Korea) covered the entire peninsula.
I could not join in the festivities, however. My heart was deadly serious because I could foresee the terrible calamity that was about to befall the Korean peninsula. I went alone into a small anteroom and immersed myself in prayer. Soon after that, my fears were realized. Although liberated from Japanese rule, our homeland was cut in two at the 38th parallel. In the North, a communist regime that denied the existence of God came to power.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
A Command That Must Be Obeyed
Immediately following liberation, our country was in indescribable chaos. Daily necessities were difficult to come by, even for people with money. We ran out of rice in our home, so I set out for Paekchon, Hwanghae Province, a community north of Seoul and just south of the 38th parallel, to pick up some rice that had been purchased previously. On my way, though, I received a revelation that said, "Go across the 38th parallel! Find the people of God who are in the North." I immediately crossed the 38th parallel and headed for Pyongyang.
It had been only a month since our first son was born. I was concerned for my wife. I knew she would be anxiously waiting for me, but there was no time for me to return home before going north. God's commands are very serious, and they must be followed without reservation or hesitation. I took nothing with me except for the Bible that I had read dozens of times and had filled with underlined notes to myself in tiny letters the size of sesame seeds.
Refugees were already streaming south to escape communist rule. In particular, the Communist Party's rejection of religion meant that many Christians were heading south in search of the freedom to worship. The Communists branded religion as the opiate of the people and insisted that no one could have a religion. This was the place where I went, folllowing the call from Heaven. No minister would want to go into such a place, but I went there with my own two feet.
As the number of refugees heading south increased, the North began to tighten its border security. It was not easy for me to get across the 38th parallel. During the time it took me to walk forty-eight kilometers (thirty miles) to the border and until my arrival in Pyongyang, I never questioned why I had to go such a difficult course.
I arrived in Pyongyang on June 6. Christianity had set down its roots so deeply in this city that it was known as "the Jerusalem of the East." During their occupation, the Japanese had tried in several ways to supress Christianity. They forced its citizens to worship at Shinto shrines and even had them bow in the direction of the imperial palace in Tokyo, where the emperor lived. After arriving in Pyongyang, I began my evangelical work in the home of Choi Seob Rah, who lived in the Kyeongchang Ri neighborhood near Pyongyang's West Gate.
I began by taking care of the children in the neighborhood. I would tell them children's stories that illustrated Bible verses. They were children, but I spoke to them in the polite form of speech normally reserved for adults and did my best to take care of them. At the same time, I held out hope that someone would come to hear the new message that I had to convey. There were days when I would watch the front gate the whole day, hoping that someone would come.
Soon, people with sincere faith began coming to see me. I would speak to them through the night, teaching them the new message. It didn't matter who came. It could be a three-year-old child or a blind old woman with a bent back. I treated them all with love and respect. I bowed down in front of them and served them as though they had come from heaven. Even if my guests were old men and women, I would share with them late into the night.
I never said to myself, "Oh, I hate it when such old people come." Everyone is precious. Whether it is a man or a woman, young or old, everyone has the same precious value.
People listened to this twenty-six-year old young man talk to them about the Letter of Romans and the Book of Revelation. What they heard was different from what they had heard elsewhere, so gradually people hungry for the truth began to gather.
One young man would come every day and listen to me speak but would then leave without saying a word. This was Won Pil Kim. He became the first member of my spiritual family. He had graduated from Pyongyang Normal School and was working as a teacher. We took turns preparing the rice for meals, and this was how we formed the relationship of spiritual master and disciple.
Once I began lecturing on the Bible, I could not stop until members of the congregation excused themselves, saying they had other places to go. I preached with such passion that I would sweat all over my body. Sometimes I would take a break and go into a separate room where I was alone, take off my shirt, and wring the sweat out of it. It was like this not just during the summer but even in the cold of winter. That was how much energy I poured into my teaching.
For services, everyone dressed in clean white clothing. We sang the same hymns dozens of times in repetition, making it a very passionate service. Members of the congregation would be so moved and inspired that we would all begin to weep. People called us "the weeping church." When services ended, members of the congregation testified about the grace they had received during the service. During these testimonies we felt intoxicated by grace. It was as though our bodies were floating up to heaven.
Many people in our church had spiritual experiences. Some would go into trances, some would prophesy, some would speak in tongues, some would interpret. Sometimes a person who did not belong to our church yet would be in the congregation. Another congregant would go up to him with eyes closed and tap him on the shoulder. Then that person would suddenly begin praying a tearful prayer of repentance. In such instances, the hot fire of the Holy Spirit would pass through our gathering. When the Holy Spirit did its work, people were cured of chronic illnesses, as thoroughly as though they had never existed. A rumor began to circulate that someone had eaten some of my leftover rice and been cured of an abdominal condition. People began to say, "The food at that church has medicinal effects," and many people began to wait for me to finish eating, hoping to eat any rice I might leave.
As such spiritual phenomena became known, our congregation grew, and soon we had so many people that we could not close the doors. Grandmother Sung Do Ji and Grandmother Se Hyun Ok came to the church because they each had a dream in which they were told, "A young spiritual teacher has come from the South and is now across from Mansudae (the central square of Pyongyang) so go meet him." No one evangelized them. They simply came to the address that they were given in their dreams. When they arrived they were happy to see that I was the person they had heard about in their dreams. I only had to see their faces to understand why they had come. When I answered their questions, without first asking them what they wanted to know, they were beside themselves with joy and surprise.
I taught the word of God through stories about my own experiences. Perhaps for this reason, many people found they were able to receive clear answers to questions they had never been able to get answered previously. Some believers from large churches in the city converted to our church after hearing me preach. In one instance, fifteen core members of the Jangsujae Church, the most prominent church in Pyongyang, came to our church as a group, causing members of the elders' board of that church to lodge a strong protest against us.
Mrs. In Ju Kim's father-in-law was a well-known elder in Pyongyang. The family home was directly adjacent to the church that her father-in-law attended. Yet, instead of attending that church she secretly attended ours. To leave her home without her in-laws knowing, she would go to the back of the house, climb up onto one of the large earthenware jars, and then climb over the fence. She did this when she was pregnant, and the fence she climbed was two or three times the height of a normal person. It took courage for her to do that. Eventually, she received severe persecution from her father-in-law. I would know when this was happening. On days when I would feel a strong pain in my heart, I would send someone to Mrs. Kim's home. As they stood outside her home they could hear her being beaten severely by her father-in-law. He would beat her so severely that she would shed tears of blood. She would say later, though, that the knowledge that our members were standing outside the gate praying for her would take away her pain.
"Teacher, how did you know I was being beaten?" she would later ask me. "When our members are at the gate, my pain goes away, and my father-in-law finds that it takes much more energy for him to beat me. Why is that?"
Her in-laws beat her and even tied her to a post, but they still could not stop her from coming to our church. Finally, her family members came to our church and started beating me. They tore my clothing and made my face swell up, but I never struck them back. I knew that doing so would only make the situation even more difficult for Mrs. Kim.
As more people from large churches around Pyongyang began attending our services, the ministers of these established churches became jealous and complained about us to the police. The communist authorities considered religion to be a thorn in their side and were looking for excuses to suppress it. They jumped on the opportunity given to them by these ministers and took me into custody. On August 11, 1946, I was charged with coming from the South for the purpose of espionage and imprisoned in the Dae-Dong Security Station. I was falsely accused of being sent to the North by South Korean President Syngman Rhee as part of an attempt to take over the North.
They even brought in a Soviet interrogator, but they could not establish that I had committed any crime. Finally, after three months, they found me not guilty and released me, but by this time my body was in terrible shape. I had lost so much blood while being tortured that my life was in grave danger. The members of my church took me in and cared for me. They risked their lives for me, without expecting anything in return.
Once I recovered I resumed my evangelical work. Within a year our congregation had become quite large. The established churches would not leave us alone. More and more members of their congregations began attending our services.
Finally, some eighty ministers took action by writing letters to the police. On February 22, 1948, I was again taken into custody by communist authorities. I was charged with being a spy for Syngman Rhee and with disturbing the social order. I was taken away in handcuffs. Three days later my head was shaved and I was placed in a prison cell. I still remember how it felt to watch my hair, which I had grown during the time I was leading the church, fall to the floor. I also remember the face of the man, a Mr. Lee, who cut my hair.
In prison the autorities beat me endlessly and demanded that I confess my crimes. I endured, though. Even as I was vomiting blood and seemed on the verge of death, I never let myself lose consciousness. Sometimes the pain would be so great I would bend over at the waist. Without thinking, I found myself praying, "God, save me." In the next moment, though, I caught myself and prayed with confidence, "God, don't worry about me. Sun Myung Moon is not dead yet. I won't let myself die in such a miserable way as this."
I was right. It was not yet time for me to die. There was a mountain of tasks before me that I had to accomplish. I had a mission. I was not someone so weak as to be beaten into submission by something as trivial as torture.
Each time I collapsed from the torture I would endure by telling myself, "I am being beaten for the sake of the Korean people. I am shedding tears as a way of shouldering the pain of our people." When the torture was so severe that it took me to the verge of losing consciousness, I would invariably hear the voice of God. In the moments when my life seemed about to end, God would appear to me. My body still carries several scars that I received then. The flesh that was gouged from my body and the blood that was lost have been replaced, but the pain of that experience remains with me in these scars. I have often looked at these scars and told myself, "Because you carry these scars, you must succeed."
I was scheduled to go to trial on April 3, the fortieth day of my imprisonment. This was delayed by four days, however, and my trial was held April 7. Many of the most famous ministers in North Korea came to the courtroom and accused me of all manner of crimes. The Communist Party also scorned me, saying religion was the opiate of the people. Members of our congregation stood to one side and wept sorrowfully. They wept as though their child or husband had passed away.
I did not shed tears, however. I had members who would weep for me with such sorrow that they were engulfed in grief, so I did not feel lonely as I traveled Heaven's path. I was not facing misfortune, so I felt I should not weep. As I left the courthouse after my sentencing I raised my shackled hands and shook them as a sign to our members. The shackles made a clanging sound that sounded to me like bells. That day I was taken to the Pyongyang Prison.
I did not fear life in prison. It was not as if this were the first tume for me. Also, there was a hierarchy among the prisoners in each cell, and I was quite good at becoming friends with the head prisoner at the top of this hierarchy. All I had to do was exchange a few words and any head prisoner would quickly become my friend. When we have a heart of love we can open anyone's heart.
After I had been in the cell, sitting in the farthest corner, for a few days, the head prisoner moved me to a higher position. I wanted to sit in a tiny corner next to the toilet, but he kept insisting that I move to a higher position in the cell. No matter how much I refused, he insisted.
After making friends with the head prisoner, I looked carefully at each person in the cell. A person's face tells everything about him. "Oh, your face is this way, so you must be this way?" "Your face is such a way, so you must have such a trait."
The prisoners were surprised to find how much I could tell them about themselves by reading their facial features. In their minds they didn't like the fact that a person they were seeing for the first time was able to tell so much about them, but they had to acknowledge that I was describing them correctly. I was able to open my heart and share with everyone, so in prison, too, I had friends. I became friends with a murderer. It was an unjust imprisonment for me, but it was a meaningful period of training. Any period of trial in this world has important meaning.
In prison even the lice can be friends. It was extremely cold in the prison. Lice would crawl in single file along the seams of our prison clothes. When we took the lice and put them together, they would attach themselves to each other and become like a tiny round ball. We would roll these, similar to the way horsedung beetles roll balls of dung, and the lice would do everything they could to stay together. Lice have a character of digging in, and they would put their heads together so that only their back ends were sticking out. We had a lot of fun in the cell watching this.
No one likes lice or fleas. In prison, though, even lice and fleas become important partners for conversation. The moment you set your eyes on a bedbug or flea, some realization flashes in your mind, and it is important that you not let this pass without notice. We never know when, or through what means, God will speak to us. So we need to be mindful to examine carefully even things like bedbugs and fleas.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
A Grain of Rice Is Greater Than the Earth
On May 20, three months after being placed in Pyongyang Prison, I moved to Heungnam Prison. I felt indignation and also shame before Heaven. I was tied to a thief, so I could not escape. We were taken by vehicle on a route that took seventeen hours. As I looked out the window a powerful feeling of grief welled up inside me. It seemed incredible to me that I would have to travel this winding road along rivers and through valleys as a prisoner. Heungnam Prison was a concentration camp for special laborers working in the Heungnam Nitrogen Fertilizer Factory. During the next two years and five months I underwent hard compulsory labor. Compulsory labor was a practice that North Korea learned from the Soviet Union. The Soviet government could not simply kill members of the bourgeoisie and other people who were not communists, because the world was watching and they needed to be mindful of world opinion. So it came up with the punishment of compulsory labor. People who were exploited in this way were forced to continue working until they died of exhaustion.
Noth Korean communists copied the Soviet system and sentenced all prisoners to three years of compulsory labor. In reality, the prisoners would actually die from labor before their terms were up.
Our days began at 4:30 in the morning. We were made to line up in formation on the field, and our bodies and clothing were inspected for contraband items. We took off all our clothing, and each item was thoroughly inspected. Each piece of clothing would be beaten for so long that even the last spec of dust would not remain. The entire process took at least two hours. Heungnam was on the seacoast, and in the winter the wind was as painful as a knife as it cut into our naked bodies.
When the inspection was over, we would be fed an awful meal. Then we would walk four kilometers (two and a half miles) to the fertilizer factory. We were marched four abreast, were made to hold the hand of a person next to us, and could not even hold our heads up. Guards armed with rifles and pistols surrounded us. Anyone who caused his row to start falling behind, or failed to hold on to the hand of the prisoner next to him, was beaten severly for trying to escape.
In the winter the snow would be deeper than a person's height. On cold winter mornings when we were marched through snow as deep as we were tall, my head would start feeling as though it were spinning. The frozen road was extremely slippery, and the cold wind blew so ferociously it made the hair on our heads stand up straight. We had no energy, even after eating breakfast, and our knees kept collapsing beneath us. Still we had to make our way to the job site, even if it meant dragging our exhausted legs along the way. As I made my way along this road that took us to the edge of consciousness, I kept reminding myself that I belonged to Heaven.
At the factory there was a mound of a substance that we referred to as "ammonia." In reality, it probably was ammonium sulphate, a common form of fertilizer. It would come in by conveyor belt and looked like a white waterfall as it fell off the belt onto the mound below. It was quite hot when it first came off the belt, and fumes rose from it even in the middle of winter. Quickly it would cool and become as solid as ice.
Our job was to dig the fertilizer out of the mound with shovels and put it into straw bags. We referred to this mound that was over twenty meters (sixty-five feet) high as "the fertilizer mountain." Eight to nine hundred people were digging away at the fertilizer in a large space, making it appear as though we were trying to cut the mountain in half.
We were organized in teams of ten, and each team was responsible to fill and load thirteen hundred bags a day. So each person had to fill one hundred thirty bags. If a team failed to meet its quota, its meal rations were cut in half. Everyone worked as if his life depended on making the quota.
To help us carry the bags of fertilizer as efficiently as possible we made needles out of steel wire and used these to tie the bags after they had been filled. We would put a piece of wire on a rail track that ran along the floor of the factory. The wire was flattened by having one of the small rail cars used for hauling materials run over it, and then it could be used as a needle.
The open holes in the bags, we used shards of glass that we got by breaking factory windows. The guards must have felt sorry to see their prisoners working under harsh conditions because they never stopped us from breaking windows in the factory. Once I broke a tooth while trying to cut a piece of wire. Even now you can see that one of my front teeth is broken. This remains with me as an unforgettable momento of Heungnam Prison.
Everyone grew thin under the pressure of hard labor. I was the exception. I was able to maintain my weight at around seventy-two kilos (one hundred and sixty pounds), making me an object of envy for the other prisoners. I always excelled in physical strength. On one occasion, though, I became extremely ill with symptoms similar to tuberculosis. I had these symptoms for nearly a month. However, I did not miss even a day of work at the factory. I knew that if I were absent, other prisoners would be held responsible for my share of the work.
People called me "the man like a steel rod" because of my strength. I could endure even the most difficult work. Prison and compulsory labor were not such a big problem for me. No matter how fierce the beating or terrible the environment, a person can endure if he carries a definite purpose in his heart.
Prisoners were also exposed to sulfuric acid, which was used in the manufacture of ammonium sulfate. When I worked at the Kawasaki steel mill in Japan I witnessed several instances in which a person cleaning vats used to store sulphuric acid had died from the effects of acid poisoning. The situation in Heungnam was far worse. Exposure to sulfuric acid was so harmful that it would cause hair loss and sores on our skin that oozed liquid. Most people who worked in the factory would begin vomiting blood and die after six months. We would wear rubber pieces on our fingers for protection, but the acid would quickly wear through these. The acid fumes would also eat through our clothing, making them useless and our skin would break and bleed. In some cases, the bone would become visible. We had to continue working without so much as a day's rest, even when our sores were bleeding and oozing pus.
Our meal rations consisted of less rice than it took to fill two small bowls. There were no side dishes, but we were given a soup that was radish greens in salt water. The soup was so salty it made our throats burn, but the rice was so hard we couldn't eat it without washing it down with the soup. No one ever left even a single drop of the soup. When we received our bowl of rice, prisoners would put all the rice into their mouths at once. Having eaten their own rice, they would look around, stretching their necks sometimes to watch how the others ate. Sometimes someone would put his spoon in someone else's soup bowl, and there would be a fight.
One minister who was with me in Heungnam once said to me, "Let me have just one bean, and I will give you two cows after we get out of here." People were so desperate that if a prisoner died at mealtime, the others would dig out any rice still in his mouth and eat it themselves.
The pain of hunger can only be known by those who have experienced it. When a person is hungry, a mere grain of rice becomes very precious. Even now, it makes me tense just to think of Heungnam. It's hard to believe that a single grain of rice can give such stimulation to the body, but when you are hungry you have such a longing for food that it makes you cry. When a person has a full stomach the world seems big, but to a hungry person a grain of rice is bigger than the earth. A grain of rice takes on enormous value to someone who is hungry.
Beginning with my first day in prison I made it a habit to take half of my ration of rice and give it to my fellow prisoners, keeping only half for myself, I trained myself this way for three weeks and then ate the whole ration. This made me think that I was eating enough rice for two people, which made it easier to endure the hunger.
Life in that prison was so terrible that it cannot even be imagined by someone who did not experience it. Half the prisoners would die within a year, so almost every day we had to watch as dead bodies were carried out the back gate in a wooden box. We would work so hard, and our only hope for leaving was a dead body in that wooden casket. Even for a merciless and cruel regime, what they did to us clearly went beyond all boundaries of humanity. All those bags of fertilizer filled with the tears and grief of the prisoners were loaded onto ships and taken to the Soviet Union.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
Heungnam Prison in the Snow
The most valued possession in the prison after food was a needle and thread. Our clothes would wear out and be torn during the hard labor, but it was difficult to get a needle and thread to mend them. After a while prisoners began to look like beggars in rags. It was very important to mend the holes in our clothes in order to block, even a little, the cold winter winds. A small piece of cloth found lying on the road was extremely valuable. Even if the cloth were covered with cow dung, the prisoners would fight each other to try to pick it up.
Once as I was carrying the bags of fertilizer I discovered a needle stuck in one of the bags. It must have been left there accidentially when the bag was made. From that time on, I became the tailor of Heungnam Prison. It was such a joy to find that needle. Every day I mended pants and knee breeches for other prisoners.
Even in the middle of winter it was so hot inside the fertilizer factory that we
would sweat. So you can imagine how unbearable it was during the summer. Not even once, however, did I roll up my pants and let my shins show. Even during the hottest part of the summer I kept my pant legs tied in the traditional Korean fashion. Others would take off their pants and work in their underwear, but I kept myself properly dressed.
When we finished work our bodies would be covered with sweat and fertilizer dust, and most prisoners would take off their clothes and wash themselves in the filthy water that flowed from the factory. I, however, never washed myself where others could see my body. Instead, I would save half of the single cup of water we were rationed each day, then get up early in the morning while the others still slept to wipe myself off with a small piece of cloth dipped in that half cup of water. I also used this time early in the morning to focus my spirit and pray. I considered my body to be precious, and I didn't want to causually expose it to others.
The prison cell held thirty-six people, and I took a small corner next to the toilet. In this space no one would step over me, but nobody wanted this space. We called it a toilet, but actually it was only a small earthenware jar without even a lid. Fluid would overflow from the toilet in the summer and it would freeze in the winter. There is no describing the putrid smell that came from it. the prisoners often experienced diarrhea because of the salty soup and hard rice balls that we ate every day.
I would be sitting by the toilet and hear someone say, "Oh, my stomach." The person would make his way to the toilet in quick short steps. As soon as he exposed his bottom, the diarrhea would come shooting out. Because I was next to the toilet I was often splashed. Even during the night, when everyone was asleep, sometimes someone would have abdominal pain. When I heard people yelping in pain as they were being stepped on, I would know that someone was making his way to the toilet and I would get up and press myself against the corner. If I was asleep and did not hear him coming, I would suffer the consequences. In order to endure this impossible situation, I even tried to think of these sights and sounds as some form of art. Still I kept the spot by the toilet as mine for the entire time.
"Why do you choose to stay there?" other prisoners would ask. I would answer, "This is where I feel most comfortable." I wasn't just saying this. This was indeed the place where my heart felt most at ease.
My prisoner number was 596. People called me "Number five nine six." On nights when I couldn't sleep, I would stare at the ceiling and repeat this number to myself over and over. (5 is uh, 9 is guh, 6 is ryuk) If I said it quickly, it sounded very much like eogul, a Korean word used to describe the feeling of injustice. I truly had been imprisoned unjustly.
The Communist Party initiated dokbohoi, or meetings where newspapers or other books and policy materials were read aloud, as a way of studying and learning communist propaganda. Also, we had to write letters of gratitude to Kim Il Sung. The Security Department kept a close watch on our every move. Every day we were told to write letters of gratitude saying that we had learned, but I never wrote even a single page of these.
We were supposed to write something like this: "Our Father Kim Il Sung, out of his love for us, gives us food to eat each day, gives us meals with meat, and lets us lead such a wonderful life. I am so grateful." I could not write anything of the sort. Even if I were looking death in the face, I could not submit such letters to the aetheistic Communist Party. Instead of writing them I worked ten times harder than the others in order to survive in the prison. The only way I could get away with not writing these letters was if I were the number one prisoner. Because of this effort I became the best prisoner and even received an award from a Communist Party official.
My mother visited me many times while I was in prison. There was no direct transportation from Jeongju to Heungnam. She had to take a train to Seoul, where she would change to a train on the Seoul to Wonsan line. The trip would take her more than twenty grueling hours.
Before starting out she would go to great trouble to prepare misutkaru, or powdered rice, for me, so that her son, who had been imprisoned in the prime of his life, would have something to eat. To make this powder she would gather rice from our relatives and even distant relatives of my older sisters' husbands. When she came to the prison visiting room and saw me standing on the other side of the glass, she would immediately begin to shed tears. She was a strong woman, but the sight of her son undergoing such suffering made her weak.
My mother handed me the pair of silk trousers that I had worn on my wedding day. The prison uniform I was wearing had been threadbare, and my skin showed through the material. However, instead of wearing the silk trousers, I gave them to another prisoner. As for the mitsutkaru that she had gone into debt to prepare, I gave it all away right there as she watched. My mother had invested her full heart and dedication into preparing clothing and food for her son, and she was heartbroken to see me giving away these things, without keeping anything for myself.
"Mother," I said to her, "I am not just the son of some man named Moon. Before I am a son of the Moon clan, I am a son of the Republic of Korea. And even before that I am a son of the world, and a son of heaven and earth. I think it is right for me to love these things first, and only after that follow your words and love you. I am not the son of some small-minded person. Please conduct yourself in a manner befitting your son."
My words were as cold as ice to her, and it hurt so much for me to watch her weep that I felt as though my heart would be torn apart. I missed her so much that I sometimes would wake up in the middle of the night thinking of her, but this was all the more reason for me not to succumb to my emotions. I was a person doing the work of God. It was more important for me to clothe just one more person a little more warmly and to fill his stomach with a little more food than it was for me to be concerned about my personal relationship with my mother.
Even while in prison I enjoyed taking whatever time I could find to talk with people. There were always people around me who wanted to listen to what I had to say. Even in the hunger and cold of prison life there was warmth in sharing with people with whom I had an affinity of heart. The relationships formed in Heungnam left me with twelve people who were both compatriots and as close as family to me, with whom I could spend the rest of my life. Among them was a famous minister who had served as president of the Association of Christian Churches in Korea's five northern provinces. These were people with whom I shared intense emotions in situations where our lives were on the line, and this made them closer to me than my own flesh and blood. Their being there gave my prison experience meaning.
I would pray three times each day for the people who had helped me and for the members of my congregation in Pyongyang, calling out each one by name. When I did I always felt that I needed to repay a thousand-fold the people who would slip me a handful of food they had hidden in their clothing.
MY HEART FLOWS WITH A RIVER OF TEARS
U.N. Forces Open the Prison Gate
The Korean War had begun while I was imprisoned in Heungnam. Three days after it started, the South Korean military handed over the capital of Seoul and retreated farther south. Then sixteen nations, with the United States in the lead, formed a United Nations force and intervened in the Korean War. U.S. forces landed at Incheon and pushed toward Wonsan, a major industrial city in North Korea.
It was only natural for the Heungnam prison and factory to be targets for U.S. aerial bombing operations. When the bombing began the prison guards would leave the prisoners and go into bomb shelters. They weren't concerned whether we lived or died. One day Jesus appeared right before me with a tearful face. This gave me a strong premonition so I shouted, "Everyone stay within twelve meters of me!" Soon after that a huge bomb exploded just twelve meters from where I stood. The prisoners who had stayed close to me survived.
As the bombing became more intense, guards began executing prisoners. They called out the prisoners' numbers and told them to come with three days' food rations and a shovel. The prisoners assumed they were being moved to another prison, but in reality they were marched into the mountains, made to dig a hole, and then buried there. Prisoners were being called out in order of the length of their sentences, with those with the longest sentences being called first. I realized that my turn would come the next day.
The night before my scheduled execution the bombs fell like rain in the monsoon season. It was October 13. 1950, and the U.S. forces, having succeeded in the Incheon landing, had come up the peninsula to take Pyongyang and were now pressing against Heungnam with full force that night, with B29 bombers in the lead. The bombing was so intense that it seemed all of Heungnam had been turned into a sea of fire. The high walls around the prison began to fall and the guards ran for their lives. Finally the gate of that prison that had kept us in that place opened. At around two o'clock in the morning on the next day, I walked calmly out of Heungnam Prison with dignity.
I had been imprisoned for two years and eight months in Heungnam and Pyongyang, so I was a terrible sight. My underwear and outerwear were in tatters. Dressed in those rags, instead of going to my hometown, I headed to Pyongyang with a group of people who had followed me in prison. Some chose to come with me instead of going in search of their wives and children. I could imagine how my mother must be crying every day out of concern for my welfare, but it was more important that I look after the members of my congregation in Pyongyang.
On the way the Pyongyang we could see clearly how North Korea had prepared for this war. Major cities were all connected by two-lane roads that could be used for military purposes in an emergency. Many of the bridges had been constructed with enough cement to let them withstand the weight of thirty-ton tanks. The fertilizer that the prisoners in Heungnam Prison had risked their lives to put into bags was sent to the Soviet Union in exchange for outdated but still lethal weaponry that was then deployed along the 38th parallel.
As soon as I arrived in Pyongyang I went in search of the members who were with me before my incarceration. I needed to find out where they were and what their situation was. They had been scattered by the war, but I felt responsible to find them and help them figure out a way to carry on their lives. I didn't know where they might be living, so my only option was to search the city of Pyongyang from one corner to the other.
After a week of searching I had found only three or four people. I had saved some powdered rice I received while still in prison, so I mixed it with water to make rice cake to share with them. On the trip from Heungnam I staved off my hunger with one or two potatoes that were frozen solid. I had not touched the rice powder. It made me feel full just to watch them eagerly eat the rice cake.
I stayed in Pyongyang for forty days looking for anyone I could think of, whether young or old. In the end I never did find out what happened to most of them. But they have never been erased from my heart.
On the night of December 2, I began walking south. Won Pil Kim and I followed behind a long line of refugees that extended about twelve kilometers (seven and a half miles). We even took with us a man who could not walk properly. He had been among those who followed me in Heungnam Prison. His family name was Pak. He had been released before me. When I found him in his home, all the other members of his family had left for the South. He was alone in the house with a broken leg. I placed him on a bicycle and took him with me.
The North Korean army had already recaptured the flat roads for military use, so we traveled across frozen rice paddies heading south as quickly as we could. The Chinese army was not far behind us, but it was difficult to move quickly when we had someone with us who could not walk. Half the time the road was so bad that I carried him on my back and someone else pushed the empty bicycle along. He kept saying he didn't want to be a burden to me and tried several times to take his own life. I convinced him to go on, sometimes scolding him loudly, and we stayed together until the end.
We were refugees on the run who still had to eat. We went into homes whose inhabitants had headed south before us and searched for rice or any other food that might have been left behind. We boiled anything we found, whether it was rice, barley or potatoes. We were barely able to stay alive this way. There were no rice bowls and we had to use pieces of wood as chopsticks, but the food tasted good. The Bible says, "Blessed are the poor," doesn't it? We could eat anything
that made our stomachs growl with satisfaction. Even a humble piece of barley cake tasted so good that we would not have felt jealous of a king's meal. No matter how hungry I might be, I always made sure to stop eating before the others. This way they could eat a little more themselves.
After walking a long distance, we were approaching the northern bank of the Imjin River. Somehow I felt it was important that we cross the river quickly and that we didn't have a moment to spare. I felt strongly that we had to get over this obstacle for us to stay alive. I pushed Wom Pil Kim mercilessly. Kim was young and he would fall asleep as we walked, but I kept forcing him on and pulling the bicycle. We covered thirty-two kilometers (twenty miles) that night and reached the bank of the Imjin River. Fortunately, the river was frozen solid. We followed some refugees in front of us across the river. A long line of refugees stretched out behind us. As soon as we had crossed the river, however, the U.N. forces closed the crossing and stopped letting people across. Had we arrived at the river even a few minutes later, we would not have been able to cross.
After we had crossed, Won Pil Kim looked back at the road we had come on and asked, "How did you know the river crossing was about to be closed?"
"Somehow I just knew." I said. "This kind of thing happens often to anyone who takes the path of Heaven. People often don't know that salvation is just beyond the next obstacle. We didn't have a single moment to waste, and if necessary I would have grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and pulled you across."
Won Pil Kim seemed moved by my words, but my heart was uneasy. When we arrived at the point where the 38th parallel divided the peninsula in two, I placed one foot in South Korea and one foot in North Korea and began to pray.
"For now, we are pushed southward like this, but soon I will return to the North. I will gather the forces of the free world behind me to liberate North Korea and unite North and South."
This was how I prayed during the entire time we walked along with the refugees.
('As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen'
the end of Chapter Two:
My Heart Flows with a River of Tears
'As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen'
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
You Are My Spiritual Teacher
After crossing the Imjin River, we traveled by way of Seoul, Wonju, and Kyungju to Busan. We arrived finally on January 27, 1951. Busan was filled with refugees from the North. It felt like the whole country had gathered there. Any accomodation fit to live in was filled already. Our tiny place had barely enough room to sit. Our only option was to go into the woods at night, keeping warm as best we could, and then return to the city by day to look for food.
My hair, which was kept short during my prison time, had now grown back. My trousers, mended from the inside with cotton from a sleeping quilt, had become threadbare. My clothes were saturated so fully with an oily grime that raindrops in heavy rain were not absorbed into the cloth but simply rolled off.
Almost nothing was left of the soles of my shoes, although the upper part was mostly still there. I might as well have been walking barefoot. The fact was simply that I was the lowest of the low, a beggar among beggars. There was no work to be had, and we had no money in our pockets. The only way we could eat was to beg.
Yet, even while begging for food, I maintained my dignity. If someone refused to help, I would say in a clear and confident voice, "Listen. If you do not help people like us who are in need, you will have great difficulties if you hope to receive blessings in the future!" People would give when faced with such thoughts. We took the food we gathered this way to a flat area where we all could sit together. Dozens of people like us ate in such places. We had nothing and even had to beg for food, but a warm friendship always flowed among us.
Once in the middle of a day like this, suddenly I heard someone shout, "Look here! How long has it been?"
I turned to see standing before me Duk Mun Eom, a friend from my days in Japan. Duk Mun Eom had become my friend for life back then after having been so moved by a patriotic song I sang. Today he is one of Korea's most prominent architects, having designed the Sejong Cultural Center and the Lotte Hotel.
"Let's go," he said, as he embraced me in my wretched clothes. "Let's go to my home."
By that time, Duk Mun Eom had married. He lived together with his family in a single room. To make room for me, he hung a quilt down the middle of that room, dividing it, with one side for me. On the other he slept with his wife and two children.
"Now," he said, "tell me about your life lately. I always wondered where you were and what you might be doing. We were close friends," he said, "but you have always been more than a friend to me. Did you know that I always held you in great respect?"
Up to that point, I had never shared my heart candidly with any of my friends. In Japan, I went so far as to hide the fact that I often read the Bible. If someone came into my room when I was reading, I would quickly put the Bible away. But in the home of Duk Mun Eom, I shared my story for the first time. I spoke throughout the night. I told him of my encounter with God, crossing the 38th parallel, starting a church, and surviving Heungnam Prison. My story took a full three days to tell. When I finished, Duk Mun Eom stood and knelt down before me in a full ceremonial bow.
"What are you doing?" I asked in shock and surprise. I grabbed his hand and tried to stop him, but it was no use. I could not.
"From this moment on," said Duk Mun Eom, "you are my great spiritual teacher. This bow is my greeting to you as my teacher, so please accept it."
He has been with me ever since, both as my friend and as my disciple. Soon after this I found a job on Pier 4 in Busan harbor. I worked only at night. With my pay I bought bean porridge at Choryang Station. The hot porridge was sold with a rag wrapped around the container to keep it hot. I always held the porridge container against my body for more than one hour before eating it. This helped to warm my body, which froze from working throughout the long cold night.
I found lodging in a shelter for laborers located in the Choryang neighborhood. My room was so small that I could not lie down, even diagonally, without my feet pressing against the wall. But this was the room where I sharpened a pencil and solemnly wrote the first draft of Wolli Wonbon (the original version of the Divine Principle). I was financially destitute, but this was of no importance to me. Even living in a slum, there is nothing a determined soul cannot do. All we need
is the will.
Won Pil Kim had just turned twenty. He did all sorts of jobs. He worked in a restaurant and brought home the scorched rice that couldn't be served to customers. We ate this together. Because of his gift for drawing, he soon got a job with the U.S. military as a painter.
Eventually, he and I climbed up to Boemnetgol in Beomil-Dong and built a house. Because this area was near a cemetary, there was nothing nearby except a rocky ravine. We had no land we could call our own, so we leveled a section of the steep slope and built a home there. We didn't even have a shovel! We borrowed a small shovel from someone's kitchen and returned it before the owner realized it was missing. Won Pil Kim and I broke rocks, dug the earth, and carried up gravel. We mixed mud and straw to make bricks, then stacked them up to make the walls. We got some empty ration boxes from an American base, flattened them out, and used them as a roof. We laid down a sheet of black plastic for the floor.
Even simple huts are built better than this. Ours was built against a boulder, so a big piece of rock stuck up in the middle of the room. Our only possessions were the small desk that sat behind that rock and Won Pil Kim's easel. When it rained, a spring would bubble up inside our room. How romantic to hear the sound of the water flowing beneath us where we sat! In the morning, after sleeping in this unheated room with a leaking roof and water still flowing below, we would arise with runny noses. Even so, we still were happy for our small space where we could lie down and put our minds at ease. The surroundings were miserable, but we were filled with hope from living on the path of God's will.
Each morning, when Won Pil Kim went to work at the Army base, I accompanied him to the bottom of the hill. When he returned home in the evening, I went out to welcome him home. The remainder of my time I spent writing the Wolli Wonbon. Our room always had plenty of sharpened pencils. Even when there was no rice in the rice jar, we always had pencils.
Won Pil Kim helped in many ways, both materially and spiritually. Through this I could concentrate on my writing. Even when exhausted from a full day's work, he followed me around, looking for ways to help. I was getting so little sleep those days that I could fall asleep anywhere. Sometimes I even fell asleep on the toilet. Won Pil Kim followed me to the toilet to make sure I was all right.
But that was not all. He wanted so much to contribute even a little to the book I was writing. He began to draw portraits for American soldiers, and in this way he earned money to keep me supplied with pencils. At the time, it was popular among American soldiers to have a portrait drawn of their wife or girlfriend before returning to America. Won Pil Kim glued sheets of silk on wooden frames, painted the portraits and sold them for four dollars each.
I felt grateful for his dedication. I sat beside him when he painted and did all I could to help him. While he was away at his job on the American base, I would put the glue on the silk, cut the wood for frames, and put them together. Before he came home I washed his brushes and bought the paints he needed. After coming home he would take a 4B pencil and draw the portrait. At first, he was drawing only one or two, but soon word of his work spread. He became so well known among the soldiers that he was drawing twenty and thirty at a time. It got to where our home was filled with portraits, and we had trouble finding room to sleep at night.
As the workload increased, I started to do more than just help on the sidelines. Won Pil drew outlines of the faces, and I colored the lips and clothing. From the money we earned together, we bought pencils and drawing materials and spent the rest for witnessing. It is important to record God's words in writing, but even more important is to tell people about His will.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
The Crazy, Handsome Man by the Well
When we built the mud-walled house and began the church in Beomnetgol, there were only three people to hear me preach. For me, however, I was not talking to just those three people. I thought to myself, "Though they cannot be seen, I am preaching to thousands, even tens of thousands." I envisioned as I preached that all humanity was in attendance. These three people sat before me while I conveyed the words of the Principle in a loud booming voice.
There was a well in front on our house. Soon a rumor began to spread among those who came to take water from that well that a crazy man lived in the house with the mud walls. They fetched their water and peered into this ramshackle mud house to see a man in wretched clothing speaking like he was shouting commands to the whole world. It is only natural that people began to whisper among themselves. I preached that heaven and earth would be turned upside down and Korea would unite the world.
Rumors about me soon spread beyond those using the well to those at the bottom of the hill. Perhaps these rumors are what brought people coming out of curiosity to see the crazy man living next to the well. Among these curious ones were students from a nearby seminary as well as a group of professors from the prestigious Ewha Womens University. The rumors also became embellished to say that I was a handsome man with good stature, so middle-aged women began to climb the hill to see me as a way to pass the time.
On the day I finished writing Wolli Wonbon, I put my pencil down and prayed, "The moment has come for me to evangelize. Please send me the saints to whom I may give witness." After this, I then went out to the well. It was May 10, late spring. I was wearing traditional Korean trousers with cotton lining and an old jacket, sweating in the heat. I caught sight of a young woman wiping the sweat from her brow as she struggled up the hill toward the well.
I spoke to her saying, "God has been giving you tremendous love for the past seven years." She jumped backward in surprise. It had been seven years since she had decided to dedicate her life to God.
"My name is Hyun Shil Kang," she said. "I am an evangelist at the Beom Cheon Church that sits in the neighborhood at the bottom of this hill. I heard there is a crazy man living here, so I have come here to witness to him."
This was how she greeted me. I invited her into our house. She looked around the squalid room, making plain how very strange she found it. Eventually her eyes settled on my desk, "Why do you have so many pencils?" she asked.
"Until this morning," I replied, "I was writing a book that reveals the principles of the universe. I think God has sent you here so that you can learn about these principle from me."
"What?" she demanded, "I am here because I heard there is a crazy man living here who needs to be witnessed to."
I handed her a cushion to sit on, and I sat down as well. The spring water made its trickling sound as it flowed beneath us.
"In the future, Korea will play its role at the pinnacle of the world," I said. "People will regret that they could not be born as Koreans." She clearly thought I was speaking nonsense.
"Just as Elijah appeared in the person of John the Baptist," I continued, "Jesus will come in the flesh to Korea."
This made her angry.
"I'm sure Jesus will have better places to come than a place so wretched as Korea," she retorted.
Then she said, "Have you ever read the Book of Revelation? I have ...
I interrupted her mid-sentence, saying, "You want to say you have studied at the Goryo Theological Seminary?"
"How did you know that?" she demanded.
"Do you think I would have waited for you without knowing even that about you? You said you came here to witness to me. Please, then, teach me."
Hyun Shil Kang was clearly knowledgeable in theology. She quoted Bible texts to me one after another in an effort to attack my views. She continued to challenge me strongly as I kept responding to each of her challenges with answers in a strong and clear voice. Our debate continued so long that it began to grow dark, so I stood up and cooked dinner. The only thing we had besides rice was some overripe kimchi (Kimchi is cabbage fermented often with red peppers or with other ingredients, very common to Korean cuisine.) Nevertheless, we sat there with the sound of water trickling below and shared this food before resuming our debate.
She came back the next day and the day after that, each time to continue our debate. In the end she chose to devote her life to the principle I teach.
Later that year, on a windy November day, my wife showed up at the door of the Beomnetgol hut. There standing with her was a seven-year-old boy, my son, who was born the year I left home. I had left that day simply to go pick up some rice but went to Pyongyang instead. The years had passed, and now he had grown into a young boy. I could not bring myself to look him in the eye, nor could I reach out to stroke his face and embrace him in joy. I just stood there like a stone statue, frozen in place, speechless.
My wife did not have to say a word. I felt the pain and suffering this poor mother and child had to experience in the midst of a war. Even before this visit, I knew where they were living and what their situation was, but I was not yet to the point where I could take care of my family. I knew this, and I had asked her several times, "Please trust me and wait just a little longer."
When the time was right, I planned to go get them. But in this situation, as they stood in the door, the right time had not yet come. The hut, our church, was small and shabby. A number of members ate there and lived there with me to study God's Word. I could not bring my family there.
My wife took a look around the hut, expressed great disappointment, and turned to leave. She and my son set off back down the steep path.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
A Church with No Denomination
Koreans have a saying that a person insulted by others lives a long time. If I were to live in proportion to the number of insults I've received, I could live another hundred years. Also, my stomach has been filled not with food but with insults, so you could say that my stomach is the most full of anyone's. People from the established churches who had opposed me and thrown stones at me when I started a church in Pyongyang resumed their persecution, this time in Busan. Even before we had properly begun our church, they set out to give us trouble. Words like "heretic" and "pseudo" were placed in front of my name so often that they seemed to become part of my name. Indeed, the name Sun Myung Moon came to be synonymous with heresy and pseudo religion. It's hard to even hear my name mentioned without these words.
By 1953, the persecution became extreme. We closed the hut in Busan and moved first to Daegu and then to Seoul. In May of the following year, we rented a house in Seoul's Bukhak-Dong neighborhood, located near Jangchoongdan Park, and hung out a sign that read "Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity."
We chose this name to signify that we belonged to no denomination, and we certainly had no plans to create a new one. World Christianity refers to all Christianity worldwide and both past and present. Unification reveals our purpose of oneness, and Holy Spirit is used to denote harmony between the spiritual and physical worlds built on the love of the father-son relationship at the center. Our name is meant to say, "The spiritual world, centering on God, is with us."
In particular, unification represents my purpose to bring about God's ideal world. Unification is not union. Union is when two things come together. Unification is when two become one. "Unification Church" became our commonly known name later, but it was given to us by others. In the beginning university students referred to us as "the Seoul Church."
I do not like using the word kyohoi in its common usage to mean church. But I like its meaning from the original Chinese characters. Kyo means "to teach," and hoi means "gathering." The Korean word means literally, "gathering for teaching." The word for religion, jongkyo, is composed of two Chinese characters meaning "central" and "teaching," respectively.
When the word church means a gathering where spiritual fundamentals are taught, it has a good meaning. But the meaning of the word kyohoi does not provide any reason for people to share with each other. People in general do not use the word kyohoi with that meaning.
I did not want to place ourselves in this separatist type of category. My hope was for the rise of a church without a denomination. True religion tries to save the nation, even if it must sacrifice its own religious body to do so; it tries to save the world, even at the cost of sacrificing its nation; and it tries to save humanity, even if this means sacrificing the world. By this understanding there can never be a time when the denomination takes precedence.
It was necessary to hang out a church sign, but in my heart I was ready to take it down at any time. As soon as a person hangs a sign that says "church," he is making a distinction between church and not church. Taking something that is one and dividing it into two is not right. This was not my dream. It is not the path I chose to travel. If I need to take down that sign to save the nation or the world, I am ready to do so at any time.
Our sign hung near the front entrance. It would have looked better if we had hung it someplace high, but the eaves on the house came down very low, giving us no good spot to place a sign. In the end, we hung it about as high as the height of a child. In fact, some children in the neighborhood took down our sign, played with it, and broke it in two. Because of its historical significance, we could not throw it away. We attached the two pieces back together with wire and nailed it more securely to the front. Perhaps because our sign was treated with such disrespect, our church also received humiliating treatment beyond description.
The eaves were so low that people had to duck their heads in order to pass through the entrance. The room was about eight feet square, and it was so cramped that when six of us would pray we might bump foreheads with each other. People in the neighborhood laughed at our sign. They made fun of us, asking what kind of world unification we dreamt of in that tiny little house that "you have to crawl to get into." They didn't try to find out why we had chosen such a name. They simply looked at us as if we were crazy.
This did not bother us, however. In Busan, we had begged for food to sustain ourselves, and now we had a room in which to hold services. We had nothing to fear. For a suit, I took a pair of U.S. army fatigues and dyed them black. I wore these with black rubber shoes. Even if others sought to belittle us, in our hearts we were more dignified than anyone.
People who attended called one another shikku, or family member. We were intoxicated with love. Anyone who came there could see what I was doing and hear what I was saying. We were connected by an invisible cord of love that let us communicate with God. A woman would be at home preparing rice and suddenly run off to the church. Someone else would say she was going to change into a new dress and then run off to the church in her old dress with holes in it. If a woman's in-laws shaved her hair to keep her from going to the church, she would go with her bald head.
As our members increased, we began to evangelize on university campuses. In the 1950's university students were highly regarded as intellectuals in Korean society. We began by working near the gates of Ewha Womans University and Yonsei University. Soon a sizable number of students were spending time at our church.
Professor Yoon Young Yang, who taught music at Ewha, and Professor Choong Hwa Han, who was the dormitory master, came to our church. Many students also came, but they did not come just one or two at a time. Dozens came, and their numbers grew in geometric progression. This surprised the established churches and us as well.
Within two months after we began our campus evangelical work, our congregation exploded in size, primarily with students from Ewha and Yonsei. The rate of growth was incredible. It was as if a spring breeze had blown through and changed the hearts of the students all in a moment. Dozens of Ewha students packed up their belongings and moved out of the dormitory. This happened on a single day. If someone tried to stop them, they would say, "Why? Why are you trying to stop me? If you want to stop me, you'll have to kill me. Kill me!" They even came out by climbing the walls around the building. I tried to stop them, but it was no use. They did not want to be in their clean school; they wanted to be in our little church that smelled of dirty feet. There was nothing anyone could do about it.
Finally Dean Hwal Ran Kim (Helen Kim) sent Professor Young Oon Kim of the Department of Religious Social Welfare to our church. Professor Kim had studied theology in Canada and was a theologian in whom Ewha held great hope for the future. Dean Kim chose Professor Kim because her specialty was theology, and she assumed she could develop a definitive critique of our theology that could be used to finally stop this influx of students. But a week after meeting me, this special representative, Professor Kim, joined our church and became one of our most enthusiastic members. This gave us even more credibility among the other professors and students at Ewha. Our membership numbers snowballed.
The situation grew out of control, and established churches resumed their accusations that we were stealing their members. This seemed unfair to me. I never told anyone to listen to my sermons or attend our church. If I chased people out the front door, they would come in the back. If I locked the doors, they would climb over the fence. I was powerless to stop them. The people most perplexed by this were the administrators of Yonsei and Ewha, who in turn were supported by
Christian foundations. They could not stand by and do nothing as their students and faculty went swarming to some other religious group.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
Two Universities Expel Students and Professors
Yonsei University and Ewha Womans University were embroiled in crisis and finally chose a measure that had never been used before and has never been used since. Ewha fired five professors, including Professor Young Oon Kim, and expelled fourteen students. The expelled students included five in the graduating class. Yonsei also fired one professor and expelled two students.
The school chaplain of Ewha tried advising the students, "You can attend that church after you graduate. That way, no harm will come to the school." But it was of no use. It had the opposite effect.
The expelled students protested vehemently. "There are many aetheists in our school," they said. "And we even have the children of traditional shamans attending our school. How can the school justify expelling us and following the hypocrisy of this double standard?"
The school, however, stood fast. It simply repeated its position: "We are a private school and a Christian school. We have the right to expel any student we choose."
When the media got word of the incident, one newspaper carried an editorial titled, "Expulsion is Wrong in a Country with Religious Freedom." This situation soon became a topic for debate among the general public.
Ewha, since it was supported by a Christian foundation in Canada, was concerned that its support would be cut if it became known that large numbers of its students attended a church declared to be heretical. In those days, Ewha held chapel three times a week, took attendance, and submitted these attendance records to mission headquarters.
After the students were expelled and the professors fired, public opinion began to turn in our favor. Ewha, in an effort to counter this trend, began a campaign of false rumors too vile to repeat. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the more vile the rumor, the more people revel in believing and repeating it as true. These false rumors began to feed on themselves, and soon they took on a life of their own. Our church suffered from this for more than a year.
I did not want the problem to grow out of control like this. I did not want to cause problems. I tried to convince the students and professors to lead simple, quiet lives of faith. I explained that there was no need for them to leave the dormitories and cause such public trouble. But they were adamant. "Why do you tell us not to come here?" they asked. "We wish to receive the same grace as everyone else." In the end, they were forced to leave their schools. I was not comfortable with this.
After being forced from their schools, the students went as a group to a prayer hall on Mount Samgak on the outskirts of Seoul. They went to seek comfort for their wounded hearts. They had been kicked out of their schools, their families were angry with them, and their friends no longer wished to meet them. They had no place to go. They fasted and spent their entire time praying with such emotion that their eyes filled with tears and their noses ran. Soon, some began to speak in tongues. It is true that God appears when we are on the verge of despair and desperation. The students who were expelled from their schools and cast out by their families and society found God in the prayer hall on Mount Samgak.
I went to Mount Samgak and gave food and comfort to the students who had become emaciated from fasting. It is bad enough that you've been unjustly expelled," I explained. "Please do not fast also. If your conscience is clear over what you have done, then being insulted for it is not dishonorable. Do not be discouraged, but wait for your time."
Five of those students who were seniors later transferred into Sook-myung Women's University. But the damage was already done.
This incident played a decisive role and was the turning point in gaining me a profoundly negative reputation. Newspaper reports began to read as if evil acts committed by various religions were done by us. People who at first reacted to the rumors with "Could it be true?" now began to say, "It's true."
It hurt to be subjected to such unfair treatment. The injustice was so intense that it made me angry. I wanted to shout out in rebuttal, but I did not speak out or attempt to fight. We had too much else to accomplish and had no time to waste in fighting.
I believed that such misunderstandings and hatred would dissolve in time and that we should not use our energy to be overly concerned about them. I pretended not to hear people say, "Sun Myung Moon should be struck by lightning," or the Christian ministers who prayed for my death.
But instead of dying down, the rumors grew even more outrageous with each passing day. It felt as if the whole world had united in pointing fingers of accusation at me. Even in the heat of the Heungnam fertilizer factory, I refused to let others see even my shins,yet now rumors had it that I danced naked in our church. Soon people who came to our church for the first time looked at me witheyes that seemed to say, "Are you the one who takes off his clothes and dances?"
I knew better than anyone that it would take time for such misunderstandings to go away, so I never tried to argue with them, saying, "I'm not like that." We cannot know someone without meeting the person, yet there were so many who did not hesitate to curse me without ever having met me. I knew it was useless to battle against such people, so I endured in silence.
The Yonsei-Ewha incident forced our church to the brink of destruction. The image of "pseudo religion," or "cult," became inseparably identified with my name, and all established churches joined together to call for the government to prosecute me.
On July 4, 1955, the police raided our church and took me and four members--Won Pil Kim, Hyo Young Eu, Hyo Min Eu, and Hyo Won Eu--into custody. Ministers and elders of the established churches joined hands with secular authorities in writing letters calling for our church to be closed. These four members, who had been with me from the beginning, were forced to stay in prison with me.
The matter did not end there. The police investigated my background and came up with a charge of draft evasion. But this, too, was egregious. By the time I escaped the North Korean death camp to head south, I was already beyond the age of compulsive military service. Still they charged me with draft evasion.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
New Buds Grow on Scorched Branches
The detectives of the Special Intelligence Section of the Office of Public Order who raided our church and took me into custody brought me to the Chung Bu Police Station. I was outraged to be charged with draft evasion but said nothing. I had a mouth to speak, but I was never given the chance to say a word.
Some saw my silence in the face of unjust treatment and called me "spineless." I endured this sort of name-calling in silence as well, believing that this too must be a path that has been given to me. If this is the path I must follow to reach my objective, then there was nothing I could do about it. Because I followed such a clear path, I could not be defeated. The more I was attacked, the more care I took to act more honorably than anyone.
Once I made this decision in my heart, the police had no control over me. When the detective was writing his report, I was guiding him how to write it.
"Why don't you include this content," I would say. "And up here, you need to write it this way." He did as I said. Each phrase that I told him to write was correct, but when the detective put them all together, he found that they led him to the opposite conclusion from what he had intended. He became angry and tore up the report.
On July 13, 1955, on the sixth day of incarceration in Chung Bu Police Station, I was placed in prison once again. This time, it was the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul. I was shackled, but I was neither ashamed nor sorrowful. Life in prison was no obstacle for me. It might serve as a motivation to stimulate a heart of great anger, but it was never an obstacle in my path. For me, it was a way to gather additional capital for my future activities. I overcame life in prison by telling myself, "I am not someone to die in prison. I cannot die. This is only a springboard for me to take a great leap toward the world of liberation."
It is the rule in the world, and the law of heaven, that that which is evil will fall and that which is good will rise up. Even if I must go into a dung heap, I will not fail if I maintain a pure heart. As I was being led away in shackles, some women passed by, looked at me askance and twisted their faces in disapproval. They exuded the feeling that I was grotesque even to look at, because they believed I was the leader of a sex cult. But I was neither afraid nor ashamed. Even if filthy words were used to harrass me and our church, I would not be shaken.
Of course, I had normal feelings. Outwardly, I maintained my dignity, but there were many times when I felt stifled and sorrowful to the marrow of my bones. Each time I felt my heart weaken, I endured by telling myself, "I am not someone to just die in prison. I will stand again. I am certain of this." I redoubled my determination, saying, "I am taking all the pain into myself. I am carrying the entire burden for our church."
One could easily expect that my imprisonment would mean the end of our church, with all members going their separate ways. Instead, members came to visit me every day. In some cases, they even fought over who would come to see me first. Visitations were allowed only after 8 a.m., but members would line up and wait outside the prison gate from early in the morning. The more people cursed me,the more isolated my situation became, the more people would line up to visit me, encourage me, and shed tears for me.
I did not even greet them with great emotion. In fact, I would rebuff them, saying things like: "Why do you come and make such a fuss?" Still, they followed me in tears. This was their expression of faith and love. They were not attached to me because I knew how to speak smoothly or eloquently. They liked me because they knew about the love that lay deep in my heart. Our members recognized my true heart. Even if I should die, I will never be able to forget the members who followed me even as I was forced to stand shackled in court. I always remember their expressions as they sobbed to see me sitting at the defendant's table.
The guards at the prison were amazed. "How does this man make those people become so crazy?" they wondered as they saw our members flock to the prison. "He is not their husband, and they are not his wife. He's not their son. How can they be so devoted to him?"
In at least one case, a guard commented, "We heard that Moon was a dictator and exploited people, but it is so clear that this is not true." This guard became a member and followed our way.
Finally, after I was three months in bondage, the court found me not guilty and I was released. On the day of my release, the chief warden and all the prison section chiefs gave me a formal sendoff. Within three months, all became part of our Unification family. The reason their hearts turned toward me was simple. Once they could see me up close, they realized I was not at all the person portrayed by the rumors they'd heard. As it turned out, the false rumors circulating in society actually helped our evangelical efforts.
When I had been led away by the police, all media and society had made a huge fuss. But when I was found not guilty and released, they were silent. The only report on my not-guilty verdict and release was a three-line story in an inconspicuous corner of the newspaper that read, "Reverend Moon not guilty, released." The vile rumors that had put the whole country in an uproar had all been false, but this information was completely buried. Our members protested, saying, "Reverend Moon, this is unjust. It makes us so angry, we can't stand it." They wept in front of me, but I remained silent and quieted them.
I never forgot the pain I experienced when harrassed and subjected to all those false accusations. I endured, even when so many people stood against me that I felt like there was no inch left for me to stand in all of Korea. The sorrow I felt from this time has remained with me in a corner of my heart.
I might be a tree that is buffeted by the wind and rain and scorched by fire, but I would never be a tree that burns and dies. Even a branch that has been scorched will have new buds when the spring comes. If I continue on my way with humility and strong conviction, the day will surely come when the world will understand the value of what I do.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
We Are Trained by Our Wounds
People rejected the new expression of truth I preached, calling it heresy. Jesus, born in the land of Judaism, likewise was accused of heresy and was thus crucified. By comparison, my persecution was not nearly as painful or unjust. I could endure any amount of pain placed on my body. The charge of heresy against our church, however, was most unjust and more difficult for me.
Some theologians who studied our church in its early days described our teachings as original and systematic. Some were prepared to accept them. This means that the magnitude of the heresy controversy surrounding our church was based on more than just theology. It had more to do with issues of power.
Most of our members had attended other churches before joining our church. This was a big reason our church was treated as an enemy by established churches. When Professor Yoon Young Yang, one of the Ewha professors, joined our church, she was taken to the police station to be interrogated. There she discovered that some eighty Christian ministers had written letters to the authorities criticizing our church. It was not the case that we had done something wrong. Rather, we were seen as posing a threat to the power of certain people and institutions.
It was their vague feelings of fear and their extreme factionalism that drove them in their efforts to suppress our church.
People from many religious groups were attracted to our church and its new teachings. I would say to our members, "Why did you come here? Go back to your churches," and almost threaten them as I tried to chase them away. But they would soon return. The people who flocked to see me would not listen to anyone. They wouldn't listen to their teachers or their parents. They wanted to hear me speak. I wasn't paying them or feeding them, but they believed in what I taught and kept coming to me.
The reason was that I opened a way for them to resolve their frustrations. Before I knew the truth, I, too, was frustrated. I was frustrated when I looked up to heaven and when I looked at the people around me. This is why I could understand the frustrations of the people who came to our church. They had questions about life, and they could not find answers. The word of God I conveyed answered their questions with clarity. Young people who sought me out found answers in the words that I spoke. They wanted to come to our church and join me on my spiritual journey, no matter how difficult it might be.
I am the person who finds the way and opens it. I guide people along the path to heal broken families and rebuild the society, nation and world so that we can finally return to God. People who come to me understand this. They want to go with me in search of God. How can people find fault with this? All we were doing was going in search of God, and for this we were subjected to all manner of persecution and criticism.
Unfortunately, during the period when our church was involved in the heresy controversy, my wife made matters even more difficult for me. After our meeting in Busan, she and her relatives began to demand that either I quit the church immediately and start life with her and our son or else give her a divorce. They even came to Seodaemun Prison during my incarceration there to put the divorce papers before me, demanding I place my stamp on them. I know how important marriage is in the effort to establish God's peaceful world, so I endured their demands in silence.
She also subjected members of our church to horrible abuse. Personally I could endure. I did not mind her insults and wreckless treatment of me, but it was difficult for me to stand by and watch her offensive behavior toward our members. She stormed into our church at all hours to curse our members, destroy church property, and take items that belonged to the church. She even threw water containing human feces at members. When she came, it was impossible for us to hold worship services. In the end, as soon as I came out of Seodaemun Prison, I acceded to the demands of her family and placed my stamp on the divorce document. I was pushed into a divorce against my own principles.
When I think of my former wife today, my heart goes out to her. The influence of her own family, which was strongly Christian, and the leadership of Korea's established churches had much to do with her behaving the way she did. She was so clear and firm in her commitment before we married. The way she changed gives us a lesson on how much we need to fear the power of social prejudice and established concepts.
I experienced both the sorrow of divorce and being branded a heretic. But I did not bend. These were things I had to endure on my path to redeem the original sin of humanity, the things I had to endure to move forward on the path toward God's Kingdom. It is darkest before the dawn. I overcame the darkness by clinging to God and praying to Him. Other than the fleeting moments that I would spend in sleep, all my available time was spent in prayer.
INTERNAL RICHES THROUGH STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING
A Sincere Heart Is Most Important
I reemerged into the world after three months, having been found not guilty. I realized more than ever that I owed a tremendous debt to God. To repay this debt, I searched for a place where our church could begin again from the beginning. I did not, however, pray by saying, "God, build us a church." I never complained about or felt ashamed of, the small and humble church building we were using up until that time. I was grateful to have a place to pray. I never wished for a large or comfortable place.
Nevertheless, we needed a place where our members could gather and offer services, so we took out a loan of two million won and purchased a house in poor repair on a hillside in Cheongpa-Dong. It was one of many houses categorized then as "enemy property," meaning that it had been vacant since being abandoned by Japanese who left Korea at the time of our nation's liberation. It was a small house with only about sixty-five square meters (seven hundred square feet) of floor space. It was at the end of a long and narrow alleyway. Approaching the house was like going through a long, dark tunnel. All the pillars and walls were covered with dirt, which made us wonder what had been going on there before we arrived. I worked with the young people of our church for four days with a lye solution to scrub off the dirt.
After our move to Cheongpa-Dong church, I could hardly sleep. I would sit on the floor of the main bedroom crouched over in prayer until three or four in the morning. I might take a nap until five, but then I would get up and start the day's activities. I continued this lifesyle for seven years. Even though I was getting only one or two hours of sleep a day, I never felt sleepy during the day. My eyes shown brightly, like the morning star. I never felt tired.
My mind was full of things to do that I did not want to even waste time eating. Instead of having people take time to set a table for my meals, I ate on the floor and crouched over my food to eat it. "Pour out your dedication! Pour it out, even if you are sleepy! Pour it out until you are exhausted!" I kept repeating these phrases to myself. I prayed in the midst of continued opposition and false accusatons with the thought that I was planting seeds that would someday reap a bountiful harvest. If the harvest could not be reaped in Korea, then I was confident that it would be reaped elsewhere in the world.
A year after my release from prison, our church had four hundred members. As I prayed I would call out their names one by one. Their faces would pass through my mind even before I called their names. Some would be crying, some laughing. In my prayers, I could tell how each person was doing, including whether they were suffering from illness.
Sometimes, as I called out their names in prayer, I would get an inspiration that a particular person would come to the church that day. The person would come, without fail. When I would go to someone who had appeared sick to me in my prayer and ask, "Are you sick?" the person would confirm it. Members were amazed that I would know without being told that they were sick. Each time they asked, "How do you do that?" I would answer with a simple smile.
Something similar happened as we were preparing for a Holy Blessing Ceremony. Before the ceremony, I asked every bride and groom candidate whether they had maintained their chastity. When I asked one particular groom candidate, he answered in a loud voice that he had remained pure. I asked him a second time, and he again assured me he had. I asked him a third time, and again he gave the same answer.
I looked at him straight in the eye and said, "You did your military service in Hwacheon, Kangwon Province, didn't you?" This time he answered "Yes" in a voice filled with fear.
"You received some time off, and as you were coming to Seoul you stopped at an inn, didn't you? And that night you had illicit sex with a woman wearing a red skirt. I know exactly what you did. Why do you lie?"
I became angry at the man and chased him out of the Blessing ceremony venue. If a person keeps his heart's eyes open, he can see even what is hidden.
Some were attracted to our church more because of such paranormal phenomena than because of the teachings. Many people think that spiritual powers are most important. The phenomena often called miracles, however, tend to confuse people in the society at large. A faith that relies on unexplained or miraculous occurences is not a healthy faith. All sin must be restored through redemption. It cannot be done by relying on spiritual powers. As our church began to mature, I stopped talking to members about the things that I was seeing with my heart's eyes.
Membership continued to grow. Whether I faced dozens of people or hundreds, I acted the same way, as if there were only one. I would listen whenever a person wanted to tell me about his or her personal situation. Whether it was an old woman or a young man, I would listen with dedication, as if this were the only person I had to deal with. Each member would say, "No one in Korea listens to what I have to say as well as Reverend Moon." A grandmother might start by telling me how she got married and eventually tell me about her husband's illnesses.
I enjoy listening to other people talk about themselves. When people open up to me and talk about themselves, I don't even realize the passing of time. I listen to them for ten, even twenty hours. People who want to talk have a sense of urgency. They are looking for solutions to their problems. So I feel that I need to listen to them with my full dedication. That is the way to love their life and repay the debt that I owe for my life. The most important thing is to think of life as precious. In the same way that I listened with sincerity to what others had to say, I also shared with them my sincere heart and fervor, and I would pray for them in tears.
How often I prayed in tears through the night! Tears saturated the floor boards when I prayed, with no chance to dry.
Later, while I was in the United States, I received word that church members were planning to remodel the Cheongpa-Dong church. With great urgency I sent a telegram telling them to stop work on the church building immediately. Yes, this church embodies an irrecoverable period in my personal history, but more important than that, it testifies directly to the history of our church. No matter how wonderfully it might have been refurbished, what good could come of it if our history were destroyed? What matters is not some beautiful exterior but the secret life of tears that dwells within that building. It may not be up to a certain standard, but it embodies a tradition, and therein lies its value. People who cannot respect their own tradition are destined to fail.
There is history carved into the pilllars of the Cheongpa-Dong church. When I look at a particular pillar, I am reminded of a time when I clung to that pillar and wept over a particular matter. To see that pillar where I wept makes me weep again. To see a door frame that is a little crooked reminds me of the past. Now, though, the old floor boards are all gone. The floor boards where I bent over in prayer and shed so many tears are gone, and the traces of those tears are also gone. What I need are the memories of that pain. It doesn't matter if the external style or appearance is old. Much time has passed, and now we have many churches that are well built. But for me, I would rather go to the small house on the hill in Cheongpa-Dong and pray. I feel more comfortable there.
I have lived my entire life praying and preaching, but even now I tremble when I stand before a group of people. This is because to stand in such a position and speak about public matters can mean that many lives will be saved or that many will be lost. It is a matter of utmost importance to me that I can lead the people who hear my words onto the path of life. These are the moments when I draw a clear line on the crossroads between life and death.
Even now, I do not organize my sermons in advance. I am concerned that doing so might allow my own private objections to enter into the content. With such preparation I may be able to show off how much knowledge I have stored in my head but not pour out my earnest and passionate heart. During this time, before I appeared in public, I always offered my dedication by spending at least ten hours in prayer. This is the way I set my roots down deeply. Even if the leaves on a mighty tree are a little bug eaten, the tree remains healthy if its roots are deep. My words may be a little awkward at times, but everything will be all right as long as a sincere heart is there.
In the early time of our church I wore an old U.S. military jacket and fatigues dyed black and preached with such fervor that I dripped with sweat and tears. Not a day went by without my weeping out loud. My heart would fill with emotion, and tears would pour from my eyes and stream down my face. Those were times my spirit seemed on the verge of leaving my body. I felt as though I were on the verge of death. My clothes were soaked with sweat, and beads of sweat rolled down from my head.
In the days of the Cheongpa-Dong church, everyone went through difficult times, but Hyo Won Eu endured particular difficulty. He suffered an illness in his lungs, and although it was difficult for him, still he lectured our church's teachings eighteen hours a day for three years and eight months. We could not afford to eat well. We ate barley instead of rice and sustained ourselves with two meals a day. Our only side dish was raw kimchi that was left to ferment for only one night.
Hyo Won Eu liked to eat small salted shrimp. He placed a container of these small shrimp in one corner of the room, and once in a while he would go over with a pair of chopsticks and eat a few. That was how he endured through those difficult days. It pained my heart to see Hyo Won Eu lying exhausted on the floor, hungry and tired. I wanted to give him salted conch, but this was much too expensive for us in those days. It still pains me to think of how hard he worked, trying to record my words that flowed like a waterfall, even as he was ill.
Aided by the hard work and sacrifice of members, the church grew steadily. The Sunghwa Students Association was formed for middle and high school students. They were inspired to take the lunches their mothers prepared for them and give them up so our pioneer missionaries could eat. On their own initiative, the students created a list to take turns providing their lunches in this way. The evangelists who had to eat the lunch of the student knew that the student would be missing lunch that day and go hungry, and so they would eat the lunch in tears. The students' expression of dedication was even more impressive than the lunch itself, and we all redoubled our determination to accomplish the will of God, even if we had to sacrifice our lives.
Though times were difficult, we sent missionaries out to many parts of the country. Despite the members' humble desire, the cascade of vile rumors made it difficult for them to feel open to say they were from the Unification Church. They would go into neighborhoods and clean streets and help out in homes that needed it. In the evenings, our missionaries would hold literacy classes and tell people about the Word of God. They would serve people in this way for several months and build up trust. As a result, our church continued to grow. I have not forgotten these members who, though they wanted very much to go to college, chose instead to remain with me and dedicate themselves to the work of the church.
('As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen'
end of Chapter Three:
Internal Riches Through Struggles and Suffering
What manner of child becomes
H e a v e n ' s F a t h e r i n g
o f p e a c e o n e a r t h ...
K n o w a m a n by h i s l i f e
'As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen'
Chapter One: Food Is Love
What I Learned about Peace
while Being Carried on My Father's Back