Though the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is still two years away, the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK), in partnership with LHF, is already planning to celebrate in a most fitting way: by translating and publishing a new edition of the Korean Book of Concord.
The need for good Lutheran materials in the Korean language is great.
According to the 2005 South Korean census, 47 percent of the people were classified as irreligious, 23 percent were Buddhist, and 30 percent identified themselves as Christians.
“Although half of South Koreans claim that they do not have any religion, I can say that most of them have been strongly influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism,” explained Rev. Dr. Jun-Hyun Kim, professor at Luther University Seminary in Seoul and lead translator for LHF. “My opinion is that most Koreans have a religion, even though they claim that they are atheist.”
The major Christian denominations in South Korea are Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist. “This means that books of Lutheran theology are hard to find,” said Rev. Kim.
Lutheran mission work began in Korea in 1958, when Dr. Won-Yong Ji, a Korean pastor who attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, returned to his homeland to share the faith. The LCK has been a partner church of the LCMS since 1971 and now has 48 congregations and about 70 pastors.
According to Rev. Kim, the strength of the LCK can be summarized by servanthood. “In the beginning point of mission, the first missionaries (Rev. Maynard Dorow, Rev. Paul Bartling, Rev. Kurt Voss and Rev. Dr. WonYong Ji) made a decision: to serve the whole Korean Christendom and this country.”
Accordingly, the missionaries started Lutheran Hour Ministry, Book Ministry (publishing house), and education ministry (which became Luther University Seminary). “With good and right theological spirit (Law and Gospel), LCK serves whole Korean Church until today,” said Rev. Kim.
The LCK also has challenges. “The most difficult one is spread Gospel to our neighbors,” said Rev. Kim. “Most local congregations are located in cities. It is very hard to having the chance to meet their neighbors. The LCK is trying to find new methods and help local churches.”
Having The Book of Concord in the language people will undoubtedly prove beneficial, believes Rev. Ted NaThalang, LHF coordinator for projects in Southeast Asia. “Even though South Korea has had a version of The Book of Concord for several decades, the language has changed over the years,” he said. “This new edition will use more modern language and will be easier for the people to understand.”
The Book of Concord explains what Lutherans believe and teach on the basis of Holy Scripture and includes, among other writings, the Small and Large Catechisms and the Augsburg Confession.
LHF expects to complete the first half of the Korean Book of Concord by summer 2015 and the second half by Reformation 2017. “Under this circumstance, the translation of The Book of Concord is very meaningful to Korean Christendom,” said Rev. Kim.
To mark the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, LHF is at work on 9 different language editions of the Book of Concord for Southeast Asia.
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.