Japanese and Koreans seek reconciliation

January 21, 2007

Originally published in the Urbana Today Daily Paper, December 31 edition (PDF)

Japanese and Koreans seek reconciliation
By Ingrina Shieh

Japanese and Korean attendees on the International Student track gathered together this week in tears after apologizing to each other for the past sins of their nations.

What was supposed to be about 25 minutes of combined worship on Friday turned into more than an hour of confession and prayer as each group sought forgiveness from the other, said Sewon Kim, a leader of the Korean group.

“Our schedule was messed up because of the Holy Spirit,” joked Peter Hwang, a Korean student who helped lead the Korean worship set.

Sung Woo Kim explained that this worship service was not at all planned at the beginning of Urbana.

“Our group (Korean students) heard a band playing in one room,” he said. “But we found out that it was the Japanese worship band.”

Discovering that they did not have any instruments for musical worship, the Korean group approached the Japanese students and pitched the idea to play together in a joint worship set.

“When I heard that we were combining, I knew something was going to happen,” said Makito Kawata, a graduate student at Biola University and the coordinator of the Japanese worship band.

Setsu Kuroda, international director of the Japanese Christian Fellowship Network, said that there was a similar occurrence during Urbana 93, but that was when international students participated in a separate conference. She shared the same anticipation as Kawata and the next morning, asked the InterVarsity staff to pray over the service.

“I prayed to God to do something (before Urbana),” she said. “Nothing could really happen by just meeting in the same room. God had to make it happen.”

Hwang opened up the worship set with a prayer he had written and shown Kuroda. That prayer was spoken first in Korean, then in Japanese and then finally, corporately in English, said Kuroda.

“That was definitely one of the highlights of the night,” Kuroda said.

After the Japanese songs, everyone was unprepared for Sasagu Kayama, a student at University of Oregon-Eugene and part of the Japanese worship band, to suddenly apologize to the Koreans for the years when Japan had occupied Korea.

According to Sewon, the apology was completely unexpected, and when Kayama asked for forgiveness, several started crying.

“If the Japanese didn’t speak out, then the Koreans wouldn’t have spoken out,” said Sung Woo.

As for Kayama, when the two groups came together, he felt very aware of the hostility that still existed between the Japanese and Korean cultures, and knew that God was speaking to him.

“There is always a wall between us,” said Kayama. “We could never be close to each other.”

“We’re still affected by the past,” said Sewon. “It’s been structured into our culture to feel this tension with the Japanese.”

Sung Woo expressed his surprise at the remorse the present generation felt for things that occurred more than 50 years ago.

“We were very touched because we could see that they spoke from the heart,” he said.

The Koreans, in turn, stood up and apologized for the hatred they felt towards Japan and its people throughout the generations.

“This reminded me of Christ reconciling the Jews and the Gentiles,” said Sung Woo. “I can now pray for the Japanese people out of love instead of duty.”

Kawata commented that he felt an indescribable joy at seeing how God exceeded all of their expectations.

“This is my first time at Urbana and I never experienced worship in such a large setting,” he said. “But even though this service was much smaller in numbers, it felt exactly the same.”

During the latter part of the meeting, everyone broke into small groups to pray for each other.

“Korean and Japanese guys were hugging and praying for each other while the girls were holding hands,” said Kuroda. “A lot of things were happening.”

“It was a really beautiful picture,” said George Takeda, a student at University of California-Irvine. “I thought (the tension) was never going to be cleared.”

“It was the greatest international God-moment I had ever experienced,” said Kawata. “It reminded me why we were all created.”

Ingrina Shieh is a student at Boston University.

* Reprinted with permission from InterVarsity and Urbana Today. For more information on Urbana 06 go to www.urbana.org.

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Comments:One Response

Find more like this: Asian American, L2 Blog, reconciliation.

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David Park
January 21st, 2007

Praise God! This is the kind of thng that will prove the case for or against Asian American churches. Thanks for the post, it’s wonderful to hear.

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