As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen

The Autobiography






Between Fear and Inspiration


(Page 46)

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.


(Page 47)


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.


(Page 48)


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.


(Page 49)


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

for answers.


(Page 50)


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


(Page 51)


I was thrown into confusion.

I couldn't

open my heart to my parents

and share

my huge secret with them.

But neither

could I just keep it to myself.

I was at a loss over what to do.

What was clear was that

I had received

a special mission from Heaven.


It was

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

At times,

I was surrounded by endless darkness

and filled with such pain

that it was difficult to breathe.

At other times,

my heart was filled with joy,

as though

I were watching the morning sun

rise above the horizon.

In an effort

to quiet my heart and my tears,

I composed the following poem:


(Page 52)






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,

still believe.

Though we are betrayed,

still forgive. 

Love completely,

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.



(Page 53)


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.

At times,

I felt I would rather avoid the path.


A wise person

will place hope in the future

and continue to move forward

no matter how difficult it may be.

A foolish person, on the other hand,

will throw away his future

for the sake of immediate happiness.

I too at times held foolish thoughts

when I was still very young,

but in the end

I chose the path of the wise person.

I gladly offered up my life

in order to pursue the way God desired.

I could not have run away if I tried;

this was the only way I could have chosen.

So, why did God call me?

Even now, at ninety years of age,

I wonder every day why God called me.

Of all the people in the world,

why did He choose me?

It wasn't because

I had a particularly

good appearance,

or outstanding character,

or deep conviction.

I was just an unremarkable,

stubborn and foolish young boy.

If God saw something in me,

it must have been a sincere heart

that sought Him with tears of love.

Whatever the time or place,

love is most important.

God was searching for a person

who would live with a heart of love

and who,

when faced with suffering

could cut off  its effects with love.


(Page 54)


I was a boy in a rural village

with nothing to show for myself.

Even now, I insist uncompromisingly

on sacrificing my life to live

for God's Love and nothing else.


There was nothing

I could know on my own,

so I took all my questions to God.

I asked, "God, do you really exist?"

and that was how I came to know

that He did, in fact, exist.

I asked,

"God, do you have any cherished 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,

I went

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.


(Page 55)


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

Grows Dull


(Page 56)


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,

some people

would think I was a woman.


I never heated my room,

even on the coldest winter days,

mainly because

I didn't have the money to do so.

I also felt that having a roof

over my head when I slept

meant 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.


(Page 57)


During the night,

I burned myself on the hot bulb,

causing some skin to peel.

Even now,

when someone mentions Seoul,

the first thing that comes to mind

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.


I returned

to Heuksok Dong in the 1980's

and was surprised to find the house

where I once lived still standing.

The room where I lived

and the courtyard

where I used to hang my laundry

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

was gone.


During my time in Heuksok-Dong,

I adopted for myself the motto,

"Before seeking to dominate the universe,

first perfect

your ability to dominate yourself."

This means that to have the strength

to save the nation and save the world,

I first had to train my own body.

I trained myself

through prayer and meditation

and through

sports and exercise programs.

As a result,

I would not be swayed by hunger

or any other emotion or desire

of the physical body.


(Page 58)


Even when I ate a meal, I would say,

"Rice, I want you to become the fertilizer

for the work

that I am preparing myself to do."

I learned boxing,

soccer, and self-defense techniques.

Because of this,

although I have gained some weight

since I was young,

I still have the flexibility

of a young person.


Kyeongsung School

of Commerce and Technology

had a policy

that 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.

For example,

when we were learning a new formula

in mathematics or physics class,

I would ask, "Who made this formula?

Please explain it to us step by step

so that I can understand it exactly,"

and refused to back down

until I got clear answers.

I was relentless with my teachers,

digging deeper and deeper.

I couldn't accept any principle

in the world

until I had taken it apart

and figured it our for myself.


(Page 59)


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.

The same

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.


(Page 69)


I am the same way.

When I am with people

and there is good communication of heart,

I completely lose track of time,

and I don't know if night is falling

or if the sun is rising.

The words in my heart

form an unstoppable flow.

When I am like this, I don't want to eat

I just want to talk.

It's difficult

for the people who are listening,

and beads of sweat begin to appear

on their foreheads.

Sweat is running down my face, too,

as I continue talking,

and they dare not

ask to excuse themselves and leave.

We often end up

staying up all night together.




A Key

to Unlock a Great Secret


(Page 61)


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

from Heuksok-Dong,

across the Han River,

to the Hwa Shin Department Store

on Jong Ro

in just forty-five minutes.

Most people

would take an hour and a half,

so you can imagine

how quickly I was walking.


I saved the price of a streetcar ticket

and 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.

Every April,

my family would send me money

for tuition.

But I couldn't stand by

and watch people around me

who were in financial difficulty,

so the money wouldn't even last to May.

Once, when I was on my way to school,

I came across a person who was so sick

he seemed about to die.

I felt so bad for him I couldn't pass him by.

I carried him on my back to a hospital

about a mile and a quarter away.

I had the money

I intended to use to pay my tuition,

so I paid the bill.


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.


(Page 63)


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

to Seobinggo-Dong,

the ice would make crackling sounds

under my feet.


At church

I served as a Sunday School teacher.

The children

always enjoyed my interesting lessons.

I am no longer as adept at telling jokes

as I was when I was young,

but back then I could tell funny stories.

When I wept, they wept with me,

and when I laughed,

they laughed along with me.

I was so popular with them,

that they would follow me around

wherever I went.


Behind Myungsudae is Mount Seodal,

also known as Mount Darma.

I would often climb up

on a large boulder on Mount Darma

and spend the night in prayer.

In hot weather and in cold,

I immersed myself in prayer

without missing a night.

Once I entered into prayer,

I would weep,

and my nose would start to run.

I would pray for hours

over words I had received from God.

His words were like coded messages,

and I felt I needed to immerse myself

even more deeply in prayer.

Thinking back on it now,

I realize that even then

God had placed in my hands the key

that unlocked the door to 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.


(Page 64)


At bedtime, I would close my eyes,

but I couldn't fall asleep.

Other students

rooming in the same house didn't realize

I was going up on the hill to pray.

They must have felt

I was somehow different, though,

because they related to me with respect.

Generally, we got along well,

making each other laugh

by telling funny stories.


I can relate well with anyone.

If an old 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.

Sometime later,

when the Japanese colonial police

were holding me

in the Kyeonggi Province Police Station,

she brought me clothes and food.

Even now

it warms my heart to think of her.


There was also 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.


(Page 65)


I quietly walked away from the group

and found a place to sit on a pile of rocks.

Mrs. Song saw me there

and brought me two pieces of bread

and some flavored ice.

How grateful I felt!

These were just one jeon apiece,

and only four jeon in total,

but I have never been able to forget

the gratitude I felt in that moment.


I always

remember when someone helps me,

no matter how small it may be.

Even now that I am 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


  (Page 66)


After graduating

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

were weeping

even more sorrowfully than I was.

I saw with my own eyes the tears

flowing from the grass and trees.

Upon seeing this vision, I said, "I promise

to the hills and streams of my homeland

that I will return, carrying with me

the liberation of my homeland.

So, don't cry, but wait for me."


I boarded the Busan

to Shimonoseki ferry at two o'clock

in the morning on April 1.

There was a strong wind that night,

but I could not leave the deck.

I stayed there

watching 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.


(Page 67)


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

to complete.


During my studies in Japan,

I peppered my teachers with questions,

just as I had in Korea.

Once I began asking questions,

I would continue and continue.

Some teachers would pretend not to see me

and simply ignore me when I asked,

"What do you think about this?"

If I had any doubts about something,

I couldn't be satisfied until

I had pursued the matter

all the way to the root.

I wasn't 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

to welcome

new students from our country.

There I sang a song from our homeland

with great fervor,

showing everyone my love for my country.

The Japanese police were in attendance,

and this was a time when Koreans

were expected to assimilate themselves

into Japanese culture.


I sang the Korean song with pride.


(Page 68)


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

independence movement.

This was only natural,

as our homeland was groaning in agony

under Japanese colonial rule.


The movement grew in response

to what the Japanese called

"The Great East Asian War (1937-1945).

As the war intensified, Tokyo began

conscripting Korean students

as 'student soldiers'

and sending them to the front.

The work of the underground

independence movement

was spurred on by such moves.

We had extensive debates

on what to do about Hirohito,

the Japanese emperor.

I took on

a major position in the movement.

It involved working in close relationship

with the Republic of Korea

Provisional Government, located

in Shanghai and headed by Kim Gu.

My responsibilities in this position

could have required me to give up my life.

I did not hesitate, though,

because I felt that,

if I died, it would have been

for a righteous cause.


There was a police station

beside Waseda University.

The Japanese police got wind

of my work

and kept a sharp eye on me.

The police always knew

when I was about to return home

to Korea

during school vacation,

and would follow me to the dock

to make sure I left.

I cannot even remember

the number of times

I was taken into custody by the police,

beaten, tortured and locked in a cell.

Even under the worst torture, however,

I refused

to give them the information they sought.


The more they beat me, the bolder I became.

Once I had a fight on the Yotsugawa Bridge

with police who were chasing me.

I ripped out a piece of the bridge railing

and used it as a weapon in the fight.

In those days, I was a ball of fire.




Befriending Laborers

by Sharing Their Suffering


(Page 69)


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.


Back then

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.

I enjoyed

earning money and using the money

to help pay the tuition of students

who didn't have money.

Helping others and giving them food to eat

filled me with energy.


After I had given away all the money I had,

I would work as a deliveryman

using a bicycle-drawn cart.

I went to every district of Tokyo

with that cart.

Once, in Ginza, with its dazzling lights,

I was carrying a telephone pole on my cart

and it turned over

in the middle of an intersection.

Everyone 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

was filled

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

to accomplish.


There were people at some work sites who

extorted the blood and sweat of the laborers.

Often these were the foreman

who directly managed the laborers.

They would take thirty percent of the money

earned by the laborers they managed

and keep it for themselves.

The laborers

were powerless to do anything about this.

The foreman would exploit the weak

but curry favor with those who were strong.

I became so angry with one foreman

that I finally went to him with two friends

and demanded

that he pay the workers their full wages.


"If you make someone work,

then pay him exactly what he is owed,"

I told him.


He still refused, so 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

comes back.


The Kawasaki steel mill had vats

used to store sulfuric acid.

Workers would clean these

by going into them

and making the raw material flow out.

The fumes from the sulfuric acid

were extremely toxic,

and a person could not remain inside

for more than fifteen minutes.

Even in such deplorable working conditions,

the workers risked their lives

in order to have food to eat.

Food was that precious.


I was always hungry.  I was careful,


to never eat a meal for my own sake.

I felt

there needed to be a specific reason

for me to eat a particular meal.

So as I would sit down to each meal

I would ask myself

the reasons for my hunger:

"Did I really work hard?

Did I work for myself,

or for a public purpose?"

I would face a bowl of rice and tell it,

"I am eating you so that I can do tasks

that are more glorious

and more for the public good

than what I did yesterday."

Then the rice

would smile back at me with its approval.

In those instances,

the time spent eating a meal

was mystical and joyful.

When I didn't

feel qualified to talk this way,

I would skip the meal

no matter how hungry I might be.

As a result, there were not many days

when I would have even two meals.


I didn't limit myself to two meals a day

because I had a small appetite.

In fact, once I 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.


(Page 72)


The sensation of hunger

is a type of nostalgia.

I knew very well

about the nostalgia of hunger,

but I believed it was the least I could do

to sacrifice one meal a day

for the sake of the world.

I also never allowed myself

to wear new clothes.

No matter how cold it might get,

I would not heat my room.

When it was extremely cold,

I used a newspaper to cover myself;

it felt as warm as a quilt made of silk.

I am very familiar

with the value of a sheet of newspaper.


At times

I would simply go live for a while

in an area of Shinagawa

where poor people lived.

I slept with them, using rags for cover.

On warm sunny days

I picked lice from their hair

and ate rice with them.

There are many prostitutes

on the streets of Shinagawa.

I would listen to them tell me

about themselves,

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.

I worked

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.


(Page 73)


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,

be self-reliant,

and adapt well toward any circumstance.


A person of good character

must be accustomed

to rising to a high postion

and then

quickly falling to a low position.

Most people

are afraid of falling from a high position.

so they do

everything they can to preserve it.


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.


(Page 74)


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.

The way

to gain the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven

is to become a king of suffering.




The Calm Sea of the Heart


(Page 75)


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.


(Page 76)


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.


(Page 77)


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.

Then humankind

commited another terrible sin

by killing Jesus, the Messiah.

So the suffering

that humanity experiences today

is a process of atonement that it must

pass through

as God's sorrow continues.


Jesus had appeared to me

as a boy of sixteen

because he wanted me to know 

the root of the 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


(Page 78)


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

through prayer,

I had no choice but to follow.

So I went to one of my aunts

who had much experience

in arranging marriages

and asked her to introduce me

to a suitable wife.

This is how I met Seon Gil Choi,

the daughter

of a prominent Christian family

in Jeongju.


She was a well-raised woman

from an upright family.

She had attended only elementary school,

but her character was so strong

and her Christian faith so deep

that she had been 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.

My plan

after completing my studies in Japan

had been to travel to Hailar, China,

a city on the border between China,

the Soviet Union, and Mongolia.

My school in Tokyo

had arranged a job for me

with the Manchuria Electric Company,

and my plan was to work in Hailar

for about three years while learning

Russian, Chinese and Mongolian.

Just as I had earlier sought out

a school that would teach me Japanese

so that I could win over the Japanese,

I wanted to go to this border city

and learn a number of foreign languages

as a way of preparing myself

for the future.


It was becoming increasingly clear,

however, that Japan

was heading for defeat in the war.

I decided that it would be better

for me not to go to Manchuria.

So I stopped by a branch office

of the Manchuria Electric Company

in Andong (present day Dandong) and

submitted paperwork

to cancel my job placement.

I then headed for my hometown.


When I arrived, I found that

the aunt whom I had asked

to arrange my marriage

was in great distress.

Apparently, the woman I had met

was refusing to consider anyone

other than me as her partner

and was causing great trouble

for 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.

Our marriage

needs to develop beyond the family

to the point

where we can love the nation

and all humanity.

Now that you know that

this is my intention,

do you truly want to marry me?"


(Page 80)


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.

Each time

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

would say,

"Oh my, you must really love her,

since you treat her

as if you were handling an egg."


I got a job at the Kyeongsung branch

of the Kahima Gumi Construction Company

in Yongsan

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.


(Page 81)


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

my diaries.

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

below me.

Each time I lost consciousness

they would

pour a bucket of water over me.

As soon as I regained consciousness

the torture would begin again.


They held my nose

and stuck the spout of a 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.

The water

would be forced up my esophagus

and I would vomit 

until everything turned black.

On the days

after I had been tortured this way

my esophagus felt as though it was on fire.

The pain was so great I could not bear

to swallow a single mouthfull of soup.


(Page 82)


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.

Two policemen

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.


(Page 83)


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,

I knew

the diaries could eventually be used

by the police to harm others.


My body did not recover easily

from the torture.

I had blood in my feces for quite a while.

Mrs Lee, the boarding house mistress

and her sister helped me to nurse my body

back to health

with great sincerity and dedication.


Finally, on August 15, 1945,

Korea was liberated from Japan.

This was the day

every Korean had been waiting for.

It was a day of tremendous emotion.

Shouts of "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,

our homeland

was cut in two at the 38th parallel.

In the North, 

a communist regime 

that denied the existence of God 

came to power.




A Command

That Must Be Obeyed


(Page 84)


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.

I knew

she would be anxiously waiting for me.

but there was no time

for me to return home before going north.

God's commands are very serious,

and they must be followed

without reservation or hesitation.

I took nothing with me except for the Bible

that I had read dozens of times

and had filled

with underlined notes to myself

in tiny letters the size of sesame seeds.


Refugess were already streaming south

to escape communist rule.

In particular,

the Communist Party's rejection of religion

meant that

many Christians were heading south

in search of the freedom to worship.

The Communists branded religion

as the opiate of the people

and insisted that

no one could have a religion.


(Page 85)


This was the place where I went

following the call from Heaven.

No minister

would want to go into such a place,

but I went there with my own two feet.


As the number of refugees heading south

increased, the North began

to tighten its border security.

It was not easy

for me to get across the 38th parallel.

During the time it took me

to walk forty-eight kilometers

(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.


(Page 86)


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.


People listened

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

excused themselves,

saying they had other places to go.

I preached with such passion

that I would sweat all over my body.

Sometimes I would take a break

and go into a separate room

where I was alone, take off my shirt,

and 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.


For services,

everyone dressed in clean white clothing.

We sang the same hymns

dozens of times in repetition,

making it a very passionate service.

Members of the congregation

would be so moved and inspired

that we would all begin to weep.

People called us, "the weeping church."

When services ended,

members of the congregation testified

about the grace they had received

during the service.


(Page 87)


During these testimonies

we felt intoxicated by grace.

It was as though

our bodies were floating up to heaven.


Many people in our church

had spiritual experiences.

Some would go into trances,

some would prophesy,

some would speak in tongues,

some would interpret.

Sometimes a person

who did not belong to our church yet

would be in the congregation.

Another congregant

would go up to him with eyes closed

and tap him on the shoulder.

Then that person

would suddenly begin praying

a tearful prayer of repentance.

In such instances,

the hot fire of the Holy Sprit

would pass through our gathering.

When the Holy Sprit did its work

people were cured of chronic illnesses,

as thoroughly

as though they had never existed.

A rumor began to circulate that someone

had eaten some of my leftover rice

and been cured

of an abdominal condition.

People began to say,

"The food at 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

became known,

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.


(Page 88)


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.

Some believers

from large churches in the city

converted to our church

after hearing me preach.

In one instance,

fifteen core members

of the Jangsujae Church,

the most prominent church

in Pyungyang,

came to our church as a group,

causing members

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,

climb up

onto one of the large earthenware jars,

and then climb over the fence.

She did this when she was pregnant,

and the fence she climbed

was two or three times the height

of a normal person.

It took courage for her to do that.


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?"


(Page 89)


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

became jealous

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

and imprisoned

in the Dae Dong Security Station.

I was falsely accused

of being sent to the North

by South Korean President Syngman Rhee

as part of an attempt to take over the North.


They even brought in a Soviet interrogator,

but they could not establish

that I had committed any crime.

Finally, after three months,

they found me not guilty and released me,

but by this time my body was in terrible shape.

I had lost so much blood

while being tortured,

that my life was in grave danger.

The members of my church

took me in and cared for me.

They risked their lives for me,

without expecting anything in return.


Once I recovered

I resumed my evangelical work.

Within a year

our congregation had become quite large.

The established churches

would not leave us alone.

More and more

members of their congregations

began attending our services.



some eighty ministers took action

by writing letters to the police.


(Page 90)


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.


In prison,

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."


(Page 91)


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.

Many of

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."


(Page 92)


The prisoners were surprised

to find how much I could tell them

about themselves

by reading their facial features.

In their minds

they didn't like the fact that

a person 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


(Page 93)


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.


Heungnam Prison 

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.

In reality,

the prisoners would usually die from the labor

before their terms were up.


(Page 94)


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

surrounded us.

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".

In reality,

it probably was ammonium sulphate,

a common form of fertilizer.

It would come in by conveyor belt

and looked like a white waterfall

as it fell off the belt onto the mound below.

It was quite hot 

when it first came off the belt,

and fumes rose from it

even in the middle of winter.

Quickly it would cool

and become as solid as ice.


(Page 95) 


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.

Everyone worked

as if his life depended on making the quota.


To help us carry the bags of fertilizer

as efficiently as possible

we made needles out of steel wire

and used these to tie the bags

after they had been filled.

We would put a piece of wire on 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.


(Page 96)


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

in Japan

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

for protection,

but the acid would quickly wear through these.

The acid fumes

would also eat through our clothing,

making them useless,

and our skin would break and bleed.

In some cases the bone would become visible.

We had to continue working,

without so much 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.


(Page 97)


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.


One minister

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

of Heungnam.

It's hard to believe

that a single grain of rice can give

such stimulation to the body,

but when you are hungry you have

such a longing for food,

that it makes you cry.

When a person has a full stomach

the world seems big,

but to a hungry person

a grain of rice is bigger than the earth.

A grain of rice takes on enormous value

to someone who is hungry.


Beginning with my first day in prison

I made it a habit

to take half of my ration of rice

and give it to my fellow prisoners,

keeping only half for myself.

I trained myself this way for three weeks

and then ate the whole ration.

This made me think that I was eating

enough rice for two people,

which made it easier to endure

the hunger.


Life in that prison

was so terrible that it cannot

even be imagined

by someone who did not experience it.

Half the prisoners

would die within a year,

so almost every day we had to watch

as bodies

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

filled with

the tears and grief of the prisoners

were loaded onto ships

and taken to the Soviet Union.




Heungnam Prison in the Snow


(Page 98)


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

I discovered 

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.

Every day

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.

Even during

the hottest part of the summer

I kept my pant legs tied

in the traditional Korean fashion.

Others would take off their pants

and work in their underwar,

but I kept myself properly dressed.


(Page 99)


When we finished work

our bodies would be covered with sweat

and fertilizer dust,

and most prisoners would

take off their clothes and wash themselves

in the filthy water

that flowed from the factory.

I, however,

never washed myself

where others could see my body.

Instead, I would save half

of the single cup of water

we were rationed each day, then

get up early in the morning 

while 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,

sometimes someone

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

communist propaganda.

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.


(Page 101)


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,

for me,

so that her son, who had been

imprisoned in the prime of his life

would have something to eat.

To make this powder she would gather rice

from 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,

she would

immediately begin to shed tears.

She was a strong woman, but the sight

of her son undergoing such suffering

made her weak.


My mother handed me

the pair of silk trousers that I had worn

on my wedding day.

The prison uniform I was wearing

had 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

named Moon.

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.


(Page 102)


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,

with whom

I could spend the rest of my life.

Among them was a famous minister

who had served as President 

of the Association of Christian Churches

in Korea's five northern provinces.

These were people with whom

I shared intense emotions

in situations

where our lives were on the line,

and this made them closer to me

than my own flesh and blood.

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

a thousand-fold

the people who would slip me

a handful of food

they had hidden in their clothing.




U.N. Forces

Open the Prison Gate


(Page 103)


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.

One day

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.

The prisoners

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.

The prisoners

assumed they were being moved

to another prison,

but in reality they were marched

into the mountains, made to dig a hole

and then buried there.


(Page 104)


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

against Heungnam

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

with dignity.


I had been imprisoned

for two years and eight months

in Heungnam and Pyongyang,

so I was a terrible sight.

My underwear and outerwear 

were in tatters.

Dressed in those rags,

instead of going to my hometown,

I headed to Pyongyang

with a group of people who had

followed me in 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

in Pyongyang.


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.

The fertilizer

that the prisoners in Heungnam Prison

had risked their lives to put into bags

was sent to the Soviet Union

in exchange for outdated but still lethal

weaponry that was then deployed

along the 38th parallel.


(Page 105)


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.


(Page 106)


The Chinese army was not far behind us,

but it was difficult to move quickly

when we had someone with us

who could not walk.

Half the time

the road was so bad

that I carried him on my back

and someone else

pushed the empty bicycle along.

He kept saying

he didn't want to be a  burden to me

and tried several times to take his own life.

I convinced him to go on,

sometimes scolding him loudly,

and we stayed together until the end.


We were refugees on the run

who still had to eat.

We went into homes whose inhabitants

had headed south before us

and searched for rice or any other food

that might have been left behind.

We boiled anything we found,

whether it was rice, barley, or potatoes.

We were barely

able to stay alive this way.

There were no rice bowls

and we had to use pieces of wood

as schopsticks,

but the food tasted good.

The Bible says,

"Blessed are the poor," doesn't it?

We could eat anything

that made our stomachs growl

with satisfaction.

Even a humble piece of barley cake

tasted so good

that we would not have felt jealous

of a king's meal.

No matter how hungry I might be,

I always made sure

to stop eating before the others.

This way

they could eat a little more themselves.


After walking a long distance,

we were approaching the northern bank

of the Imjin River.

Somehow I felt it was important

that we cross the river quickly

and that

we didn't have a moment to spare.

I felt strongly that

we had to get over this obstacle

for us to 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

behind us.

As soon as we had crossed the river,


the U.N. forces closed the crossing

and stopped letting people across.


(Page 107)


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

that salvation

is just beyond the next obstacle.

We didn't have a single moment to waste,

and if necessary I would have

grabbed you by the scruff of the neck

and pulled you across."


Won Pil Kim

seemed moved by my words,

but my heart was uneasy.

When we arrived at the point

where the 38th parallel

divided the peninsula in two,

I placed one foot in South Korea

and one foot in North Korea

and began to pray.


"For now,

we are pushed southward like this,

but soon I will return to the North.

I will gather the forces

of the free world behind me

to liberate North Korea

and unite North and South."


This wass how I had prayed

during the entire time

we walked along with the refugees.



(End of Chapter Two)

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