Many people are surprised when they learn that Korea has come to be a predominantly Christian country. Traditionally, Koreans were Buddhists but over the past decades, an increasing number of Koreans have converted to Christianity. This also means that in no other Asian country will you see as many churches as you do in Korea. They are literally everywhere, and meeting evangelists preaching in the streets is an everyday occurrence.
I’m not really religious, but ever since I moved to Korea I’ve been wanting to attend a Korean church service, if not for anything else then for the cultural experience. Well as they say, if you’re going to go – go big! So, yesterday my husband and I went to the Yeouido Gospel Church, a megachurch seating 20,000 people located right next to the National Assembly in Yeouido in central Seoul.
When we arrived, we were welcomed by a team of people wearing green banners on their shoulders saying “Foreign guide”. A nice woman showed us to our seats – amazing seats on the front row of the first balcony. The church was almost completely full, even though we arrived around 15 minutes before the service would start.
On the podium a group of singers were singing gospel and the whole church seemed full of energy. There was a huge orchestra and an enormous choir too. Then the service started and thus started my acquisition of a lot of new Korean church-related vocabulary. I knew some of the vocabulary before hearing it yesterday, but I thought I’d list some of the words for you here
형제님/자매님 Brother/Sister (what Korean Christians call members of their congregation)
십계명 The ten commandments
십자가 The cross
I also managed to find the lord’s prayer in Korean (주기도), which was read in church yesterday. It was extremely helpful that they had huge screens with the text to all the hymns and prayers, so people could sing along. For me it was an excellent opportunity to test my reading speed and pronunciation. Anyway, for those interested, here’s the prayer in Korean:
하늘에 계신 우리 아버지 Our Father who art in Heaven
아버지에 이름이 거룩하게 하시며 Hallowed by Thy name
아버지의 나라가 오게 하시며 Thy kingdom come
아버지의 뜻이 하늘에서와 같이 땅에서도 이루어지게 하소서 Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
오늘 우리에게 필요한 양식을 주시고 Give us this day our daily bread
우리가 우리에게 잘못한 일을 용서하듯이 Forgive us our trespasses
우리의 잘못을 용서하시고 As we forgive those who trespass against us
우리를 유혹에 빠지지 않게 하시고 Lead us not into temptation
악에서 구하소서 And deliver us from evil
나라와 권세와 영광이 아버지께 영원히 있사옵니다 For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever
Those of you familiar with Korean will probably notice some odd verb patterns in this text. This is just the archaic Korean way of sounding biblical like the English words “art, taketh, giveth, thou”, etc.
I specifically noticed the ending 소서 when saying prayers in Korean, and doing a bit of research on this topic afterwards confirmed my guess. This is an archaic form of adding the nuance of please to a humble request. (악에서 구하소서 – please deliver us from evil.)
This morning I finished my final exam at Sogang, and I’ve now officially passed level 5 and will advance to level 6 in a couple of weeks. Today’s final was a speaking test in interview form, and in all modesty I nailed it! I guess it didn’t hurt to say a silent prayer (in Korean) in church yesterday.
Here’s a video of yesterday’s service produced by the Yeouido Gospel Church. It’s very long but if you just skip through it, you should have an impression of what it was like. It was definitely an experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.
I wish you all a blessed and wonderful week!