As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen
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 when I saw the trajedy
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 who 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 peoples lives
as fragrant as flowers."
I didn't know what career I should pursue
to accomplish that, but I became convinced
that I should become a person
that 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 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?"
Everyone dies, but after we die,
do we just lie there unable to think about anything?"
I couldn't get the questions out of my head.
Around the 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 clothes
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 decribe
the heartbreak of our parents
in losing five of their thirteen children
in such a short time. Death seemed to spread.
Other clan members lost their livestock.
Our family's cow suddenly died
though it had been in perfect health.
At another home,
several horses died, one after another.
At the third home, seven pigs died in one night.
The suffering of one family seemed connected
to the suffering of the nation and the world.
I was increasingly troubled
to see the wretched situation of the Korean people
under Japanese 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 middle school student
who was about 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, inspired me
to start asking questions about life and death, and
the series of unusual 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 emerse 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 this 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 fundamental
and serious 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 and precious experience
in which God answered my prayers.
That day will always remain
as the most cherished memory of my life---
a 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
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
Early Easter morning,
after I had spent the entire night in prayer,
Jesus apeared 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 that I thought 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 initial 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.
The More It Hurts,
The More You Should Love
I was thrown into confusion.
open my heart to my parents
my huge secret with them.
could I just keep it to myself.
I was at a loss over what to do.
What was clear was that
I had received
a special mission from Heaven.
such a huge and tremendous
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
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,
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 head in my hands
Am I wrong?
Yes I am wrong.
Even though we are deceived,
Though we are betrayed,
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 gadually 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.
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
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
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.
"God, do you have any cherished desies?"
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 earnestness
strong enough to uproot a tree.
I came into a new revelation
about God's purpose
in creating the universe
and His principles of creation.
During the summer of that year,
on a pilrimmage 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 soon 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 pilgrimage,
I was able to redouble my determination
toward my future work.
As I clenched my two fists,
my mind became totally focused,
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."
A Knife Not Sharpened
After completing grammar school,
I moved to Seoul, and lived alone
in Heukok-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 arms-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,
would think I was a woman.
I never heated my room,
even on the coldest winter days,
I didn't have the money to do so.
I also felt that having a roof
over my head when I slept
meant 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 light bulb
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.
when someone mentions Seoul,
the first thing that comes to mind
was how cold it was back then.
My meals consisted of a bowl or 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.
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
was still there.
I was sad to see, though, that the well
where I had to blow on my hands
while pulling up pails of the water
During my time in Heuksok-Dong,
I adopted for myself the motto,
"Before seeking to dominate the universe,
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
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.
of Commerce and Technology
had a policy
that the 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 yourself."
And so the cleaning became my job.
I was an unusually 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,
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 for advice.
I was very persistent
in asking questions during class,
and there were more than a few teachers
who were stumped by my questions.
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 its appearance
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.
is true with sincerity and dedication.
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 artist 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.
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.
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.
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 yeon
(the one yeon is the equivalent of a penny)
but I didn't want to spend that money
and I 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 on a run,
as if piercing my way
through a bitter arctic wind.
I walked so quickly that I could go
across the Han River,
to the Hwa Shin Department Store
on Jong Ro
in just forty-five minutes.
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 gave 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
that 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.
my family would send me money
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.
once I paid the bill 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,
so that's why God sent me there
at that time!"
So, if a person who needs your help
suddenly appears before you,
you shoud realize that Heaven sent you
to that person to help him,
and then do your best.
If Heaven wants you
to give that person ten units of help,
it won't do if you only give him five.
If Heaven says to 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 barram 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 wonderful they looked.
When I bit into one, however,
I discoverd 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 understand why people in Seoul
were often thought of as misers
by other Koreans.
On 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.
one of them would hand me rice
he had been given as he begged.
He would hand it to me
with hands 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.
I attended the Myungsudae Jesus Church,
located in Heuksok-Dong
and the Seobbingo 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
the ice would make crackling sounds
under my feet.
I served as a Sunday School teacher.
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 coded secrets.
However, I wasn't able to open the door,
because my prayers were insufficient.
I was so preoccupied that,
when I ate my meals
I didn't feel as though I were eating.
At bedtime, I would close my eyes,
but I couldn't fall asleep.
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 women 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. Gi Wan Lee became close to me
after she was inspired by my prayers
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. Gi Bong Lee,
was always busy
managing the rooming house,
but she related with 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.
when the Japanese colonial police
were holding me
in the Kyeonggi Province Police Station,
she brought me clothes and food.
it warms my heart to think of her.
There was also a Mrs. Song
who ran a small store
near my rooming house.
She helped me a lot during this time.
She would say that anyone
who lives away from his hometown
is alway 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 I 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.
remember when someone helps me,
no matter how small it may be.
Even now that I am ninty 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 that person
by helping someone else.
Like a Fireball Burning Hot
from Kyeongsung Institute in 1942,
I traveled to Japan to continue my studies.
I went because I felt 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 outloud.
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
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 as 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 to find hats that 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
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 deliberately 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 Bible
became stained with black ink
and difficult to read.
Soon after school began,
I attended an event held by
the Association of Korean Students
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.
I sang the Korean song with pride.
Duk Mun Eom, who had entered
the Department of Agriculture that year,
was deeply moved to hear me sing this song,
and we became lifelong friends.
During this time, Korean students
who were enrolled in various schools
in the Tokyo area,
had formed an underground
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
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
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,
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.
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 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.
everyone in Japan was hungry too.
Among the Korean students
there were many
who were in financial difficulty.
When I received
an 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.
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 around ran for their lives.
Because of these kinds of experiences
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
with an irresistable 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
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.
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
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 I 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 younger years
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,
to never eat a meal for my own sake.
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 started 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.
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 are many prostitutes
on the streets of Shinagawa.
I would listen to them tell me
and I became their best friends
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.
at various jobsites and was a foreman.
I was a fortune teller.
When I needed more 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
about 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 experience 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 discover
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 higher 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 most difficult situations
we should maintain our composure
demonstrate warmth toward others,
and adapt well toward any circumstance.
A person of good character
must be accustomed
to rising to a high postion
quickly falling to a low position.
are afraid of falling from a high position.
so they do
everything they can to preserve it.
water that does not flow becomes stale.
A person who rises to a high postion
must be able to go back down
and wait for the time to come up again.
When the opportunity comes,
he can rise
to an even higher positon 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,
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 accomplish it successfully.
When a person lives life in this way,
he will be successful. Success is assured.
This is the conclusion that 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.
to gain the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven
is to become a king of suffering.
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 that my name
was not on the passenger manifest.
The boarding house in Tokyo, however,
told her than 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 to 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 every 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 me 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.
commited another terrible sin
by killing Jesus, the Messiah.
So the suffering
that humanity experiences today
is a process of atonement that it must
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 orignial 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 sins 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.
Please Don't Die
I continued 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 about my life had to be done
in accordance with God's will.
Once I came to know something
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,
of a prominent Christian family
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 imprisoned 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.
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
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 the 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.
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 I pressed her several times.
she sought to set my mind at ease,
"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.
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.
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
"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 Kahima Gumi Construction Company
in order to support my family
while I also carried out church work.
Then, one day in October
the Japanese police
suddenly stormed into our home.
"Do you know so-and-so
of the 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, arent' 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 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
They brought the diaries to me
and went through them page by page,
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.
blood filled my mouth and began
dripping onto the cement floor
Each time I lost consciousness
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 tea kettle
into my mouth, forcing me to swallow.
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.
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 mouthfull 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
any of the names 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.
had to put their arms over my 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,
please don't die."
I felt sorry for her.
I would have like 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 Keonggi 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 that they would not cause
any further trouble to my friends.
If I had not done this,
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 "Mansea!"
and people waving the Taegukgi
(the first national flag for the whole of Korea)
covered the entire peninsula.
I could not join 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 emersed myself in prayer.
Soon after that my fears were realized.
Although liberated from Japanese rule,
was cut in two at the 38th parallel.
In the North,
a communist regime
that denied the existence of God
came to power.
That Must Be Obeyed
Immediately following liberation,
our country was in indescribale 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 the 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.
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.
Refugess were already streaming south
to escape communist rule.
the Communist Party's rejection of religion
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
following the call from Heaven.
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
(thrity 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 suppress Christianity.
The 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 Pyongyag's West Gate.
I began by taking care
of the children in the neighborhood.
I would tell them children's story's
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 all 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 an old, blind 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 woman, young or old,
everyone has the same precious value.
to this twent-six-year-old young man
talk to them about the Letter to the Romans
and the Book of Revelations.
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
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 ring 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.
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.
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 Sprit
would pass through our gathering.
When the Holy Sprit did its work
people were cured of chronic illnesses,
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 the at the 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 sprititual phenomena
our congregation grew, and soon
we had so many people
that we could not close the doors.
Grandmother Seung 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 Pyungyang)
go and 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
that they had never been able
to get answered previously.
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
came to our church as a group,
of the elders' board of that church
to launch a strong protest against us.
Mrs. In Ju Kim's father-in-law
was a well-known elder in Pyungyang.
The family home was directly adjacent
to the church that
her father-in-law attended.
instead of attending that church,
whe secretly attended ours.
To leave her home
without her in-laws knowing,
she would go to the back of the house,
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.
she received severe persecution
from her father-in-law.
He would beat her so severly
that she would shed tears of blood.
She would say later, though,
that the knowledge
that our members were standing
outside of the gate praying for her
would take away her pain.
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 a lot 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
more difficult for Mrs. Kim.
As more people
from large churches aroung Pyongyang
began attending our services,
the ministers of these established churches
and compained about us to the police.
The commuist 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
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.
some eighty ministers took action
by writing letters to the police.
On February 22, 1948,
I was agains taken into custody
by the 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 on the floor.
I also remember the face of the man,
a Mr. Lee, who cut my hair.
the authorities beat me endlessly
and demanded that I confess my crimes.
I endured, though.
Even when I was vomitting 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
to be beaten into submission
by something as trivial as torture.
Each time I collapsed from the torture
I would tell 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 August 3,
the fortieth day of my emprisonment.
This was delayed by four days, however,
and my trial was held on April 7.
the most famous ministers in North Korea
came to my trial 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 all 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 was the first time 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
by reading their facial features.
In their minds
they didn't like the fact that
a person who was seeing them 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 the 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 your prison clothes.
When we took the lice and put them together,
they would 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 everthing 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 bedbugs and fleas.
A Grain of Rice
Is Greater Than the Earth
On May 20,
three month after being placed
in Pyongyang Prison,
I was 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.
was a concentration camp for special laborers
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 Union could not simply kill
members of the bourgeoisie
and other poeple who were not Communists,
because the world was watching and
they needed to be mindful of public 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.
North Korean Communists copied
the Soviet system and sentenced all prisoners
to three years of compulsory labor.
the prisoners would usually die from the 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 carefully inspected.
Each piece of clothing
would be beaten for so long
that even the last speck of dust
would not remain.
The entire process to at least two hours.
Heungnam was on the seacoast,
and in the winter the wind
wasas painful as a knife
as it cut into our naked bodies.
When the inspecton 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 matched four abreast,
were made to
hold the hand of the person next to us,
and could not even hold our heads up.
Guards armed with rifles and pistols
Anyone who caused his row
to start falling behind,
or failed to hold onto the hand
of the person next to him,
was beaten severly for trying to escape.
In winter the snow
would be deeper than a person's height.
On cold winter mornings,
when we were marched through snow
a deep as we were tall,
my head would start feeling as though
it were spinning.
The frozen road was extemely 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 the 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 substance
that we referred to as "ammonia".
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 the 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.
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 arail 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,
then it could be used as a needle.
To 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 factory 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 unforgetable memento
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 sulphuric acid,
which was used
in the manufacture of ammonium sulphate.
When I worked at the Kawasaki steel mill
I witnessed several instances
in which a person cleaning vats
used to store sulphuric acid
had died from the effect of the acid poisoning.
The situation in Heungnam was far worse.
Exposure to sulphuric acid
wa so harmful
that it would cause hair loss
and sores on our kin that oozed liquid.
Most people who worked in the factory
would begin vomiting blood
and die after about six months.
We would wear rubber pieces on our fingers
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 a 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 salwater.
The soup was so salty it made our throats burn,
but the rice was so hard we could not 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
into someone else's soup bowl,
and there would be a fight.
who was with me in Heugnam
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 person 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 to just think
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
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
were carried out the back gate
in a wooden box.
We would work so hard,
and our only hope for leaving
was as 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
the tears and grief of the prisoners
were loaded onto ships
and taken to the Soviet Union.
Heungnam Prison in the Snow
The most valued possession
in 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
prisoner 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
Even if the cloth
were covered with cow dung,
the prisoners would fight each other
to try to pick it up.
as I was carrying the bags of fertilizer
a needle stuck to one of the bags.
It must have been left there accidentally
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.
I mended pants and knee breeches
for the 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 in the sumer.
Not even once, however,
did I roll up my pants and
let my shins show.
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 underwar,
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.
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 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 morning
to focus my spirit and pray.
I considered my body to be precious,
and I didn't want to
casually 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 cam 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,
would have an abdominal pain.
When I heard people yelping in pain
as they were being steps 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 my own for the entire time.
"Why did 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 oh, 9 is guh, and 6 is ryuk.)
If I said it quickly,
it sounded very much like eugul,
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
Also, we had to write letters
of gratitude to Kim Il Sung.
The Security Detachment
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 singe 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 awared
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 setting out
she would go to the great trouble
to prepare misutkaru, or powdered rice,
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 other relatives and even the 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,
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 become threadbare, and my skin
showed through the material.
instead of wearing the silk trousers,
I gave them to another prisoner.
As for the misutkaru
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
Before I am a son of the Moon clan,
I am the son of the Republic of Korea.
And even before that
I am the son of the world,
and a son of heaven and earth.
I think it is right
for me to love those 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 betorn apart.
I mised her so much
that sometimes I 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 relationsips formed in Heungnam
left me with twelve people
who were both compatriots
and as close as family to me,
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
where our lives were on the line,
and this made them closer to me
than my own flesh and blood.
There 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
in my congregation in Pyongyang,
calling out each one by name.
When I did
I always felt that I needed to repay
the people who would slip me
a handful of food
they had hidden in their clothing.
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 farter south.
Then sixteen nations,
with the United States in the lead,
formed a United Natons 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.
Jesus appeared right before me
with a tearful face.
This gave me a strong premoition
so I shouted,
"Everyone stay witin twelve meters of me!"
Soon after that a huge bomb exploded
just twelve meters from where I stood.
who had stayed close to me
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.
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 sentence
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 succeded in the Incheon landing,
had come up the peninsula
to take Pyongyang
and were now pressing
with full force that night,
with B29 bombers in the lead.
The bombing was so intense
that it seeemed all of Heungnam
had been turned into a sea of fire.
The high walls around the prison
that had kept us in that place
At around two o'clock
in the morning on the next day,
I walked calmly out of Heungnam Prison
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 the prison.
Some chose to go 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
On the way to 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 thrity-ton tanks.
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 found only three or four people.
I had saved some powdered rice
I received while 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 wa 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
but the food tasted good.
The Bible says,
"Blessed are the poor," doesn't it?
We could eat anything
that made our stomachs growl
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.
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
we didn't have a moment to spare.
I felt strongly that
we had to get over this obstacle
for us to tay alive.
I pushed Won 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
As soon as we had crossed the river,
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 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
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.
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 wass how I had prayed
during the entire time
we walked along with the refugees.
(End of Chapter Two)