The Words of the Beard Family
The First God's Day
The True God's Day celebration this year was held at Cheon Jeong Peace Palace. Thousands of younger members joined Korean elders -- grandparents, widows and widowers among them -- who had come to begin the year by connecting with the central focus of the providence through True Father and Mother.
Some of those elders were there at the beginning, when -- on the foundation of their having established Parents' Day; Children's Day and the Day of All Things -- True Parents proclaimed the first God's Day at 3 AM on January I. 1968. Only a hundred and fifty members were able to personally witness the event in the small old headquarters church in Chungpa-dong, Seoul.
So much has changed since then. South Korea was a very different nation in the 1960s. It was the poorer of the two Koreas. Per capita income in South Korea lags far behind that in the North," the Washington Post reported in June 1968. The United Nations estimates that [yearly] North Korean per capita income is about $210, compared with South Korea's $140."'
North Korea is richer in natural resources and had had a more developed industrial base, whereas the South was largely a nation of farmers. And there had been droughts. In 1965, food shortages meant that when lunchtime came in South Korean elementary schools, nearly a quarter of the 4.7 million students had nothing to eat. Two years earlier, because of shortages, the government had temporarily banned rice in restaurants as part of lunch meals.
The church was also very different in those days. Only the 36, 72, and 124-couple blessing ceremonies had been performed. Most members were young and single. To catch a sense of how the lifestyle and outlook of members at the time of the creation of the first God's Day differed from that of members today; I briefly interviewed by telephone a Korean elder, Rev Lee Jung-ju, today the Adam-nation national messiah to Senegal.
Later, at home, I was testing a scanner to see if it could can documents as text, and 1 reached into a bookshelf and pulled out, at random, a journal published in 1967 that I'd bought almost a decade ago. In it is a sociological study of "Korea's tong-il Movement" done by a Professor Choi, then an associate professor of sociology at Ewha University.
Prof. Choi mentions nothing about having been a member, but in a separate introduction to the journal as a whole, the publishers write of her, "She was once an active member of the Tong-il Church and was closely associated with Mun Son-myong." In Ms. Choi's paper, which came from a larger study of two new religious movements contrasted with two established churches, some bitterness is evident.
"We have seen many families which have been destroyed, leaving unhappy husbands, sorrowful parents and miserable children because of these new religious movements", but the way she expressed our beliefs and described aspects of Father's life caused me to wonder how she could have severed ties to a movement she seemed to hold in such high regard.
Later study was not reminiscences but had the quality of conclusions drawn from data, systematic questionnaires and interviews. As such, it was helpful in outlining the lifestyle of our early members and the level of commitment called for from those who were members around the time True Parents established God's Day. It confirmed what Rev. Lee was to say forty years later and answered additional questions I should have asked him.
"People then thought of the Unification Church as a students' church," Rev. Lee said. "We were all very young. I joined in 1965, when I was a high school student, in my second year. Another high school boy spoke to me. He was saying that Korea is a country chosen by God and that there is a great Korean man who was called by God. I didn't know if it was a religion, or what, but I went and heard the Divine Principle."
"Special emphasis is put on youth in the Tong-il Church," Ms. Choi wrote. "They don't expect much from those above forty"... (My research) shows the following elements of motivation in Tong-il Church believers: 1. They believe their church is superior to others. Their principles are logical. They have many experiences of divine revelation. They believe that this is the only road for the salvation of the Korean people who are suffering from poverty and misery. 2. They are disgusted with the traditional churches, because of the disputes and divisions in those churches, and because their doctrines are illogical."
Rev Lee -- "We did not have church buildings in those days; we just rented humble homes, where the members would gather for services. The minister would live there. The minister did not work but would have to do something like fund raising to get food to eat, going to different houses, without products. It was more like begging."
Prof. Choi -- "The church's statistics as of January 1964 are given as follows: The total number of churches is 891, and the number of believers is 32,491."
Rev. Lee -- "The members went witnessing during the summer and winter months for forty days; we would go to small villages. I was a pioneer to a small town in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula."
Ms. Choi had the dates: "They set aside special evangelistic periods for organized proselytizing, twice a year. The first term is from July 20 to the end of August, and the other is from December to the end of January."
Rev. Lee -- "We would teach hangul, because at that time, many Korean people couldn't read. And we would find ways to serve people. We would go fundraising, sometimes without any product. Some people sold little things, like pencils."
Prof. Choi -- "All the costs for this evangelical work are born by the participants, individually. When they go out, they teach children the Korean alphabet and mathematics as well as their church principles. They work hard with the farmers and help the villagers in any way they can. Because they are not a financial drain on the farmers, but help them with sincerity, many of them are welcomed by the rural administrators as well as by the people... The Tong-il Church is growing more rapidly in rural areas than in Seoul."
I failed in not asking Rev. Lee about the heart of the early members. Fortunately, Prof. Choi did a far more thorough job. She wrote, "The prefatory note of the first printed copy of the Divine Principle says that the Principles were revealed by God to Mr. Moon over a period of twenty years. God constantly opened Moon's spiritual eyes; he was able to communicate with God himself, or the Lord Jesus, and was able to talk to other saints in Paradise. On accepting these Principles many have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing from sickness, speaking in tongues, prophesy, visions, and voices from God."
Mentioned also were workshops and national periodic Divine Principle tests. "In order to provide evangelists for the church, they frequently hold training meetings. A national meeting is usually held for forty days. During this period they have the participants master their principles and do many drills," she explained.
As part of her study; Prof. Choi approached members of Iwo Christian churches of different denominations and Zimg-il Church members with multiple-choice questions about their respective doctrines. She found the Christians rarely agreed on their own beliefs, but Tong-il members answered with near 100 percent uniformity. She took this as a sign that even the Christian deacons and deaconesses she'd surveyed were going to church only "as a matter of form."
Events that shook the nation
At one of the New Beginning Workshops recently, Rev. Kwak spoke about his experience in the 36-couple blessing. He told us about the upheaval surrounding that bedrock blessing and mentioned that not only was there great intensity within the church at that time but that this was reflected in Korean society as a whole. The very day after the 36-Couple Blessing Ceremony, he said, the coup d'etat occurred that brought Park Chung-hee to power.
After hearing this, I initially set out to write only about the secular circumstances surrounding the first God's Day. Toward that end, I asked Rev. Lee about attitudes toward North Korea in those days. "The relationship was very different then," he said. "Now we are trying to make unity; in those days, they were just the enemy. We always had to think about how to protect ourselves from a North Korean invasion."
For older Koreans, memories of their country as a battle-field may be fading, but in the 1960s, ordinary sites still had the power to trigger memories of wartime occurrences. Those memories kept them on edge, prepared for the unexpected.
Anyone who has attended a workshop at Chung Pyung is likely to remember passing the Bukhan Dam, a landmark as you near the training center. If you've been to several workshops, you probably find yourself checking to see if the water is coming over the dam as a trickle or as a cascade of white foam. Next time you pass by there, try to imagine thousands of Communist troops crossing single-file across the top of the dam wall, with rifles pointed toward the main road, as they did in May 1951. It was during their spring offensive. Their objective was to retake possession of Seoul. In the weeks that followed, artillery and air strikes that helped push the "Reds" back to what was then known as the Chung Pyung Reservoir left scorched and denuded a great swath of land south of Chung Pyung Lake.
The threat of North Korean invasion are more tangible for those who attended the first God's Day than it is today. In 1966, Kim Il-sung reportedly announced, "Our revolution will not be achieved without liberating South Korea... A war may come at any minute" From November of that year, hostile acts against the South began to happen with escalating frequency and intensity, peaking in 1968 -- within weeks of the first God's Day -- with two incidents, either of which could have reignited the Korean War.
According to declassified American military documents, "North Korean-instigated incidents in the DMZ increased tenfold in 1967 over 1966 145 to 44. The number of [North Korean] agents and collaborators captured or killed in 1967 rose to 470 as opposed to 204 in 1966... Before  was over, North Korea had instigated 542 incidents in the DMZ and 334 North Korean infiltrators had been killed or captured."
At about 11:00 pm on January 17, 1968, thirty-one North Korean guerrillas in South Korean Army uniforms, "armed with submachine guns, pistols, daggers, and hand grenades," came south across the Demilitarized Zone. The next afternoon, while traveling cross-country; they encountered and took hostage for five hours four civilian men, laborers working outdoors. They lied to their captives, telling them that they were part of a large homegrown South Korean Labor Party and that 1968 was the year Korea would be unified along communist lines. Before releasing them, they threatened the men with retaliation if they were ever to report the incident to the authorities.
After gaining their freedom, the four men promptly reported the incident to South Korean soldiers.
The North Koreans initially took main roads. After allowing them to pass through the first military checkpoint, a suspicious guard called ahead to a town police chief. The chief went out to investigate. After shooting the chief and his driver dead, the infiltrators went cross-country. Roadblocks were set up and contingents from both the U.S. and South Korean armies chased the North Koreans through rough terrain, but the guerrillas moved so rapidly, covering ten kilometers per hour, that they outran their pursuers. They hid in the hills surrounding Seoul and slept during the day on January 20. They moved into position on January 21 and at 9:00 in the evening slipped into Seoul.
An hour later, while marching in formation through the streets of the city; the guerrillas were challenged by a policeman. One of the communists in the front spoke dismissively to the police officer and the soldiers marched on.
The suspicious policeman grabbed one of the men from the back of the column, whereon one of his comrades lobbed grenades at two nearby public buses, killing two and injuring two. Thus began a running battle that continued throughout the night. There were firefights at various points in the streets of Seoul, including relatively near the Blue House, the presidential palace.
That night, four North Koreans were killed and two captured. The others divided and fled. One of the two captured North Koreans committed suicide with a concealed hand grenade; the other, Lieutenant Kim Shin-jo revealed a wealth of information under apparently intense questioning.
Though Pyongyang's English language media later described the invaders as "South Korean revolutionary armed guerrillas" who had risen to "drive out the U.S. imperialist aggressors and to overthrow their lackeys..." Kim Shin-jo identified them as officers of North Korea's 2,400-man 283rd Army Group, trained for guerrilla operations in South Korea.
He also told of the planned escape routes of his comrades. With this information, twenty-three other guerrillas were located and, in ensuing battles, killed. The frozen body of an additional infiltrator was found weeks later. Only one escaped to the North.
In all, the guerrillas killed thirty-seven South Koreans and wounded sixty-five. One of the civilians killed by the grenade attacks on the buses was a fifteen-year-old boy. He was to have graduated from middle school two days later. His father attended the graduation ceremony and accepted the certificate for his slain son.
The most significant information that Lt. Kim revealed was that their primary objective had been the death of President Park Chung-hee. Their destination was the Blue House, and they had come within eight hundred meters of reaching it.
Two days later, while at sea in international waters near the east coast of North Korea, a lightly armed American naval intelligence-gathering vessel, the USS Pueblo, was being hectored by a number of North Korean naval boats, as North Korean MiG jet fighters buzzed overhead. The captain of the Pueblo radioed for help and expected retaliatory strikes from one of the U.S. military bases in South Korea or Japan, but none came. Perhaps apprehensive about sparking all-out war, or a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the USSR, the Pueblo's pleas for assistance did not result in a military strike.
The ship was shelled, killing one sailor. North Korean naval personnel boarded the Pueblo, captured its crew and towed the ship to Wonsan harbor. The eighty-two remaining crewmembers were to spend eleven months in hellish captivity. On their release, some of the men were described as crippled from malnutrition while others were said to be near blind. Their suffering continued in the United States, where they endured harsh accusations over the incident.
The American military began bilateral negotiations for release of the crew of the USS Pueblo with the North Koreans at Panmunjom, the meeting point along the DMZ. This sparked an angry backlash from the South Korean population, who assumed the Americans' only interest was the return of their sailors.
The New York Times reported, "South Korea reacted intensely. Daily demonstrations -- big ones of 50,000 to 100,000 people -- were held in the cities to raise the decibel level of the cry that the country's security could not be made secondary to the fate of eighty-three hapless Americans."
For a time the whole nation was thrown into chaos, until it became known that the U.S. negotiating team had aggressively protested the attack on President Park and that increased military aid for South Korea had been requested by U.S. President Johnson.
The violent period of November 1966-December 1968 has been called the "Second Korean Conflict" by some military analysts. If it were not for the prominence of news of the Vietnam War, the ambushes, killings and causalities that marked this cross-border Korean confrontation would have received more attention by the media.
A search of Father's speeches turned up only one reference to these incidents. In 1970, in relation to an upcoming Victory Over Communism rally; Father said, "We have to raise a beacon fire of love centered on God. We have to do it in the Unification Church. January 21 was a day of great regret, but it was the day Koreans began to think seriously again about communism. You remember the Kim Shin-jo terror incident, in Seoul, on January 21, 1968, don't you? That terror incident caused a beacon fire to appear in Korea."
Father has not spoken about any relationship between the creation of God's Day and these events. Still, within the 106 weeks of the "Second Korean Conflict" the first attack by North Koreans in Seoul since the 1953 Armistice and the first seizure of an American naval vessel in a hundred years both occurred little more than three weeks after Father declared, "As of January 1, 1968, at 3 AM, God's Day has been instituted."
If nothing else, it is useful to look back at the atmosphere that existed within the church and in Korean society as True Parents carved out a path for us to follow. Our elder brothers and sisters went through many hardships, but they pulled through.
Even Professor Choi, I was happy to learn recently, returned long ago to rejoin members who in the early days used to stay up with Father and as she described it, would "talk, sing and laugh without realizing how fast the night went."
If for some of us, 2007 is as intense as 1968 seems to have been for South Korean members, I pray we meet the challenges with the same zeal that characterized the early movement.