The Words of the Breen Family
Korean bookseller signs IFVOC membership at the invitation of American member Christine Kung.
"The destiny of Korea is to gain
a victory over communism within its own borders. If she succeeds,
Korea will provide a model for the world to follow. But, if she
fails, Korea will sink without a trace."
Father, December 1983
The people of South Korea are passionately anticommunist. Communism has cruelly separated them from parents, children, relatives and friends for 36 years, so they make no apology for their feelings. In all, some ten million of the sixty million Koreans on both sides of the border are from divided families.
The fact that families have members on both sides of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the phenomenal development in the south of Christianity, with its heart of forgiveness, has created a situation on the peninsula for communism to be overcome "unification style," through love.
A case in point is the story of Shin Jo Kim. Kim is the only known survivor of a 31-man North Korean commando squad which in 1968 was sent south on a mission to assassinate then President Park. When he reached the mountains on the outskirts of Seoul and looked down over the city, something clicked inside him. What he saw was different from the propaganda. In his heart, he began to defect. In the battle which began outside the presidential residence, Kim disobeyed instructions to fight to the end and surrendered, saying that he wanted to defect.
In custody, Kim began to receive letters, hundreds of them, not letters of accusation as he expected, but letters of forgiveness. He later married one of the writers, a Christian who had told him in her letters that God loved him. "Her letters filled my soul with the love I had not been able to receive in North Korea and had been thirsting for," he said later. Kim, now a Christian and an anticommunist lecturer, dreams of returning to evangelize his homeland.
The emotional anticommunism of South Korea, however, lacks ideological support. As a consequence, the passion is not shared by the young generation of Koreans born after the Korean War, many of whom feel that the authoritarian government of President Doo Hwan Chun is of more pressing concern than North Korea. This widespread anti- government sentiment is attracting large numbers of students to Marxist ideas.
During his speaking tour last December, Father drew attention to this ideological weakness, saying that the International Federation for Victory over Communism (IFVOC) should spread its teaching in order to prevent the North Koreans from ever establishing an ideological base in the South.
Father said that to "stand proudly" as the homeland of VOC, the Korean movement should recruit seven million members. Everyone gulped. "Aigo!" they said. Aigo is the Korean equivalent of caramba or blimey. Many an aigo was heard.
But the aigos became "I go's" (sorry) and in a four month campaign which followed, the Korean IFVOC members, assisted by international teams of IFVOC members, fulfilled Father's goal.
The seven million represent about one-third of the adult population of South Korea. In numbers, IFVOC now ranks alongside the Catholic and Protestant churches, which have a combined membership of 6.9 million, and the Buddhist sects, which have 7.5 million (according to government figures for December 1983). IFVOC now has a larger membership than that of the political parties combined and may eventually eclipse the country's largest social organization, the government-backed Saemaul (New Village) Movement, which claims one-fourth of South Korea's forty million citizens.
Despite its enormous political potential, IFVOC is a nonpolitical organization. "We give lectures and train people in VOC ideology," explains Secretary#General Kyu Nam Park, a 72 Blessed Couple who joined the church in 1957. Mr. Park stresses that the government, which operates its own Korean Anticommunist League, maintains a neutral attitude toward IFVOC. "We have no special relationship with the government," he says. "So far they have not bothered us, nor have they done us any favors."
VOC began in Korea in 1965 with a fifteen-month nationwide crusade. The IFVOC organization was formally established, under Father's presidency, in January 1968. In the following month, Critique and Counter-proposal to Communism, written by Dr. Sang Hun Lee, was published in Korean and subsequently translated into Japanese. Later in the year the Japanese and American organizations were founded.
In June 1975, IFVOC organized the Rally for Korean Freedom at Yoido Plaza in Seoul. With 1.2 million assembled to hear Father speak, it was the largest gathering ever in Korea.
IFVOC has its headquarters in Seoul, about a mile away from the church headquarters in Chongpadong. Under the leadership of Mr. Yong Suk Choi,
IFVOC has departments responsible for general affairs, international affairs, women, youth, education, organization and public relations. It runs two training centers.
The national organization is subdivided into three city and nine provincial branches. Headquarters members and provincial and city leaders are all Unification Church members. The rest of the organizational structure, from town and county down to village level, is largely manned by non-church members.
On January 11 this year, when the campaign for seven million began, there were 170,000 members. While the leaders planned strategy, some 275 inter- national church members, including 123 Japanese and 42 Americans, who had come to join the effort, received VOC training.
The 275 represented, at least symbolically, three members from each of 72 countries, according to Father's instructions, plus a few more. All countries, even those without diplomatic relations with Korea, were able to send at least one member, except South Africa, whose representative was refused entry. Members were issued visas as "observers" of IFVOC.
By the end of January, the foreign members were in situ, having been divided into twelve teams to work around the country with local members. The collection of signatures began.
Techniques and experience varied, but everyone agreed on one thing. "The response of the people was great," said Ken Hendricks, an American IOWC member who had sold his three guitars to raise the fare to get to Korea. Koreans love foreigners, particularly Americans, whose missionaries were largely responsible for the introduction of Christianity and Western ideas to Korea and whose soldiers died in the thousands fighting for Korean freedom in the war of 1950-53.
The members, speaking pidgin Korean, drew crowds wherever they went. People were impressed that so many foreigners were campaigning against communism. However, two members did manage to get arrested after an astonished householder in Pusan informed the police that two people had appeared at his door saying they had come to spread communism in Korea. The members' daily Korean study assumed a new urgency after that.
Perhaps the most moving stories of the whole campaign came from the Japanese members, all of whom met the brooding resentment Koreans still feel from the brutal forty year colonial oppression of the Japanese.
In the city of Taejon, one Japanese member addressed an assembly of two hundred Koreans. In tears, he repented for the sins his ancestors committed against the Korean people. The audience wept. And together they pledged to forget the past and unite to fight the new enemy of communism. There were many incidents like this.
Members were also moved in other ways. Reiner van Hofslot, a Dutch brother, went island-hopping with his wife for three weeks, collecting signatures from islanders, and got sick on raw mussels. But, for most foreign members, culinary culture shock centered on kimchi, the spiced cabbage which, by any objective Western standards, is torturously hot. Yet, members gave it their best effort and by the end of the campaign were reported even to be putting kimchi in their hamburgers. Aigo!
For the VOC leaders, money was a constant problem. Yet, IFVOC, which does not charge membership fees and therefore has little funds, was able to manage with some inspired help. There are numerous stories. One IFVOC member in North Chungchong Province cancelled his life insurance policy and donated the refunded money. A supporter in another province sold his wife's necklace and other valuables and donated the money. A businessman in one city was so inspired by the team of foreign members that he arranged a huge meal for them and gave them each forty dollars. Church members also got inspired and their contributions bought a photocopier, a car and a minibus for each of the twelve regional headquarters.
In all, some fifteen million application forms and other materials were printed. Certificates of appointment were issued to each of the 3405 city, county and town IFVOC leaders and to the 69,259 urban and rural village leaders, who had all gone through a special training session by April 30.
By May 5, the membership had reached 7,034,744. The figures are staggering. In a limited campaign in Seoul, one-tenth of the population signed up. In Pusan, one-fourth signed. Here is the breakdown: new IFVOC members
Kyonggi Province 355,187
Kangwon Province 350,725
North Chungchong Province 305,169
South Chungchong Province 613,366
North Cholla Province 516,400
South Cholla Province 792,441
North Kyongsang Province 947,233
South Kyongsang Province 483,720
Cheju Island 85,000
At a rally attended by fifteen hundred VOC leaders on May 21 at the Hilton Hotel in Seoul, awards were presented to 37 members who had collected ten thousand signatures or more. Each has his story. In one town the local Unification Church minister received in prayer that he should not directly work in the campaign but should support it through prayer. Every morning at 4:00 a.m. he and his wife went to a nearby mountain to pray. The IFVOC leader in his town, a prominent local politician, brought in over ten thousand members himself.
VOC members are required to study VOC ideology. This individual requirement will create a formidable bulwark against North Korean infiltration and against the neo-Marxist ideas which are gaining ground in Korea, especially on the campuses.
On April 16, three-day training of new members and the distribution of membership cards and badges began. Membership is handled at local levels, but progressives will be glad to know that the IFVOC headquarters plans to get computerized to handle its sudden enormous influx of members.
And the future? Father said the seven million should be a basis to overcome communism. "Now," says Kyu Nam Park, IFVOC's Secretary-General, "we have real confidence that we can win over communism."