Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One of the Unsung Martyrs of Korea

The young man who was killed at the age of 24 for being a communist, Song hae Bung, is the subject of a recent column in the Cathoic Times. Written by the author of two books on John Song, her brief account of his life serves as a reminder, during this month, our "month of  martyrs," to celebrate all Koreans who died for their faith.   
Song was born in 1926 in Incheon in a family of six siblings: two boys and four girls. He was the eldest son of a very devout mother, and this showed in the life he led. After graduating from the public trade school in Incheon, he went on to the seminary, where his devotion to his vocation was very evident. Even during vacation time, feeling that too much ease in life would make him lazy, he would go out in the coldest of days to different areas of Incheon to preach about Jesus.
After liberation came in 1945, the seminary in North Korea was closed, and he returned home and began to teach. He founded a night school for children who could not go to school during the daytime because of the need to work in the rice paddies. Education was necessary, he believed, for without it there could not be a genuine love of country and of God. He would make his own hymns and continued to evangelize. Students liked the way he taught, so they studied until late at night. Calling himself a jackstone, he would often say: "take me lightly and after being used, you can throw me away."
At the end of the Korean War when the South recovered its territory, there was a period of lawlessness when so-called vigilantes took things into their own hands. Since  John Song had been active with the young people of the area and was popular, he was accused of being a communist and shot dead by men in the area who did not care for his popularity among the young. Although it came late, his family brought his case to a court of justice where the accusations against him were proven false. Soon after, his grave was found with the help of those who had buried him. Although buried in a mass grave with many other corpses, his body was quickly found because of the black suit, the rosary in his pocket, and a blood-stained picture of St Theresa.
John Song died as he wanted to die, a martyr.  When Fr. Cha  started his parish in that area he heard about a group of elder Christians who called themselves "Master Jackstone's Group." Shortly after, Fr. Cha started his Future Pastoral Institute. When he bought the land he was told that land was where Master Jackstone used to lecture.  This perked his interest and after making contact with the family and talking to John Song's sister, he was convinced of the saintliness of the man.
Later when Fr. Cha bought more land to extend his institute, he learned the land included the spot where John was killed. This was the third time he had made "contact" with the saint. This motivated him to ask the Catholic novelist who wrote the column used for this blog to write his biography. Her first book  was titled: "A Burntout Flower and Not 24." Later, with information gathered from those that knew John Song, she wrote her second book, "The Eternal Young Man."

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