Dr. Won Yong Ji
Today on campus we had a memorial service for a retired professor who died on December 31st. He had a stroke in 2007 from which he had never fully recovered so I never had him for class. Dr. Won Yong Ji came to America from what is now North Korea. He found Christianity in a place (Korea) where it was nearly unknown and then found the Lutheran church. If that wasn't remarkable enough, he went on to become a humble giant in the church. He brought what he learned back to Korea and helped establish the Lutheran Church of Korea and a Lutheran Seminary. He didn't stop there, he also translated a number of volumes of Luther's Works into Korean as well as the entire Book of Concord. He did all of this while traveling between Korea and the United States, teaching, speaking, and writing in both places. From all I've gathered, he was quite a remarkable person. Here's the biography that was printed in the service folder today:
Won Yong Ji was born in 1924 in a small remote mountain village known as Ga-Rae-Gol in what is now North Korea near the Manchurian border. "His grandmother and parents were well-disciplined people under the influence of Confucian teachings" in a region that was also influenced by Buddhism. Christianity was almost unknown to his village. Later his family moved to a larger town named Chaeryung. At age 16 Won Yong "by chance found a book on The Great Work of Martin Luther." At age 17 he was baptized at a Presbyterian church in Chaeryung. In 1944 the Japanese army drafted him into a "Searching Air Unit" to provide support for anti-aircraft positions around Tokyo. He returned to Korea in 1945, but fled south to Seoul in 1946 after Russia began occupying North Korea. While in Seoul he enrolled at Han-Kook Theological College and Seminary. Befriended by US airmen at Kimpo Air Base, he was given a scholarship to come to America to study. While sailing across the Pacific, a Lutheran serviceman cabled his mother to meet Won Yong's ship. She introduced him to her Lutheran pastor in Olympia, WA in April 1948. He studied in San Jose, CA until he enrolled at Concordia Seminary in 1950. After graduating with a B.A. and B.D. In 1952, he studied education and languages at Valparaiso University for one year. He returned to Concordia Seminary in 1953 and completed his STM, studied in Heidelberg in 1955-56, then completed his Th.D. at Concordia Seminary in 1957. He was then called by the LCMS as a missionary to Korea with a one year leave of absence to serve as assistant pastor at Jehovah Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. He was a missionary to Korea from 1958-68. "Dr. Ji was very involved in the initial establishment of Lutheranism in his native land. He was the founder of the theological training program that has now become Luther University & Seminary" (LTU's Newsletter, 2007).
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.