The Words of the Bennett Family

Interview with ICC Staff member Zoe-Anne Bennett about her impressions of Korea and the Korean people

Victoria Clevenger
April 15, 1988

Zoe-Anne Bennett

Question: For you, what has been the most meaningful aspect of living in Korea?

After living in Korea for many years, I understand much more now about the origin and source of our church's traditions, which naturally have a Korean color. Many of the same traditions we follow in our church are observed by the Korean people, though they don't have the same internal meaning for them. Koreans have very old and very precise traditions for offering respect to heaven or to their elders. Of course, not all Korean traditions are heavenly traditions, but we can better understand the spirit and motivation behind our church traditions if we understand Korean history and the Korean heart. I think that's why Father wants us to study the language.

For example, bowing and making offering tables is common for Koreans on special days when they worship their ancestors. By this they show their respect to their elders, to their whole lineage, and ultimately to heaven. Traditionally, children do a full bow to their parents in the morning before they leave for school. The half bow is only done if you meet someone on the street. Even adults who have children of their own bow in front of their parents before they go to work.

Unfortunately, this tradition is dying out. This is not the image of Korea today, but the Korea that Father came out of 70 years ago. Father was educated in a Confucian school.

After his parents converted to Christianity, he went to Japan. When he received the revelations from God and Jesus, he was able to choose, based on his early experience with Confucian traditions, which ones were heavenly out of the whole spectrum of man's social traditions.

I have discovered that God can express His heart very deeply in this country. Koreans have a propensity toward sentimentality, and they cry and become emotional quite easily, and through this, they can bring down the spirit world. They also have incredible intuition. As soon as they see you, they will sense whether you are happy or unhappy, and they will think about how what they might say or do will affect you. Their view of the human heart is much larger than ours. Human relations are the most important thing to them. I haven't quite figured out whether it is because Korea was a chosen nation that God began to express His heart through these people or because the Korean people responded to God's heart that Korea became a chosen nation. Sometimes Korean society seems very confusing to us, because we don't have the same kind of intuition they do. Koreans don't need to explain themselves too much because intuitively they know what is to be done and what will happen if they take a certain action. There is a kind of understood code or order, so the responsible people don't talk a lot. Often they will not tell you what you should be doing because they assume that people should understand naturally what to do. Unfortunately, this also seems to be fading.

Koreans are extremely patient people. They know how to wait and how to act at the proper moment. If things do go wrong, they don't explode. They can endure and not feel crushed. At the same time, they see immediately how to adjust to or change the situation. They would never complain. They are very, very positive. They will never say anything negative about a bad person. If, for example, you are in a group and you don't like what somebody else did and you report it to the leader, the leader is going to blame you! He'll say, "And you, what did you do?" So it's better to keep your mouth shut!

Cakes and flowers are always part of the offering placed on the altar of Heung Jin Nim's Won Jun. Left, Kathy Garland; center, Charles and Eleonor DeWatteville.

Question: Going back to their intuition and knowing when is the right time to do things, how is that different from what we would call manipulation? I sense it is different.

I think it is a question of motivation. This goes way, way back. In the West, there is more of a tendency to see exploitation, to fear that another human being is going to use you for his own ends. You see, in Greek mythology, which has influenced all Western thought, the gods came to earth to manipulate man selfishly, and we learned we had to defend ourselves against them. But in Korean mythology, the gods came only to help man. God can only do good and give good things. He will punish only if it is for the benefit of the whole. Thus Koreans respect authority and the value of following the proper hierarchy, because they know that God's blessing will come down through this correct order. If this hierarchy doesn't exist or is ignored, then God's blessing will not come. So because the content of what is given is assumed to be good, the authority of the hierarchy is respected. It's a whole different mentality in terms of human relations. Everything is fundamentally very different.

Question: You're saying that, in seeking to be sensitive to another person, a Korean's motivation is to enhance the other person's life, am I right?

Yes. The Korean way actually requires a deeper awareness of others. If I, as a Korean, say something, I have to think how the other person will feel after I say it, so he can be in a good frame of mind. Consequently, we can also have a good relationship. The American attitude at this point would be: "Let's be honest, or else, let's just be polite." In Korea there is no external code of politeness, as such. To us, they can seem very rude, and our relationships with them can be very difficult to figure out because of this external impoliteness. But you can be sure that internally they will be looking out for your good -- even if externally they may not seem as if they care about you all the time. But they are caring, according to their point of view, very deeply.

Of course fallen man is fallen man. Even though God has tried to cultivate this kind of heart here, we cannot deny that Korean history, just as in other countries, has been full of abuses. Man doesn't always respond to God in the right way.

Question: Do you feel that you've come to a greater appreciation of True Parents through your experiences here?

Yes. Through living in Korea, I have really come to understand Father's heart much, much more, from many different points of view. Before, when I would hear that Father suffered in the early days in Korea, I understood with my mind only. But when you are in this country and you come to know the attitude of the people, you can understand so much more the real suffering Father experienced here, for example, when the rumors about him began to spread. The Korean people can imagine things and, as well, misinterpret things very easily.

To give a very simple illustration: I used to live in a boarding house run by some very kind, very good Christian people. It was the sort of place where you eat breakfast and dinner with the landlady and the other boarders. Because of my work with the ICC, every other week I had to stay at the hotel where the ministers were having their seminars. When I would disappear for a week, I knew what the boarders were thinking. The landlady would say, "Everybody else goes to work in the morning and comes back here in the evening. Why do you stay overnight in that hotel all the time?" They thought I was doing something immoral! I began to realize how the persecution against Father was kindled when his early followers stayed overnight at the church. Just in this small way, I came to understand the difficult and lonely path of our Father in his own country among his own people.

Although we can learn many valuable lessons from the Korean culture, it still requires a great leap for all of us, including Koreans, to truly grasp the heart of our True Parents. 

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