Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Remarkable Christian: Dr. John Chang Myon

Those of us who came to Korea in 1960 studied Korean at our Seoul House. One of the illustrious guests whom we had the pleasure to meet during that year was Dr.John Chang Myon, who was the Prime Minister of the Second Republic and actual head of state until the Second Republic ended with the coup of Park Chung-hee.  
Our Regional Superior was greeting an old friend in Dr. Chang, who had been the language teacher at the center house in the Diocese of Pyongyang where the regional  worked for many years before coming South after the war. Dr. Chang taught the new missioners the Korean  language, was  office man for the diocese and responsible for the young Catholics of the diocese besides doing translation work.  He translated many books into Korean, including "Faith of Our Fathers" and "Gemma Galgani." The book we used to  help us with Catholic terms was written by Dr. Chang.
When he went to the United States for studies, he spent 6 months at the Maryknoll Seminary where he learned English before going to Manhattan College. It was this relationship with Maryknoll that brought him to Pyongyang for 5 years before returning to Seoul and beginning his teaching career, and later getting into politics.
Dr. Chang was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and helped to build the foundations for this Order in Korea. He will be the first person profiled in a series of articles in the Peace Weekly on the members of the Order--men and women who want to live the Christ-like life in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. 

He became a third order Franciscan when he was in the States in 1921 at St. John the Baptist Church in New York. Although his family helped with some of the expenses of his schooling, his part-time jobs helped defray the cost of tuition and food.

It was surprising to hear that many of those who were leading figures in the Second Republic, moved by the example of Dr. Chang, entered the Church during the very difficult times after the coup of May 16th.  He was a devout Catholic and went to daily Mass in spite of his many duties.
In 1965, a year before his death, he wrote: "We are in very dark times. With dissatisfaction and  maledictions, we will not disperse the darkness. With each of us lighting a candle-when hundreds and thousands begin to do this--it will get brighter. We will have hope and find the way to go. With Christ, the light of the world, lighting the way in front of us, and each of us with a candle in our hands, we will be Jesus' crusaders."