Reflections on the Korean Missionary Movement: A Critical Review of Recent Research

This paper reflects on how recent scrutiny of the Korean Missionary Movement sheds insights on the contexts of Korean mission and the development of Korean mission agencies.

Rev. Dr. Warren R. Beattie teaches Mission Studies, Contextual Theology, and Arts with Mission at All Nations Christian College in Hertfordshire, UK. He and his wife were members of OMF International from 1991 to 2012, working in South Korea and Singapore. During their time in Korea, they were involved in mission training with a variety of groups, including GMTC, and served as associate staff at Hosanna Church, Pusan. Warren has attended and presented papers at both the “Sorak Forum” and “Bangkok Forum”—two Korean-medium groups that engage in ongoing scrutiny of the Korean Missionary Movement. His edited book Ministry Across Cultures: Sharing the Christian Faith in Asia was published in the Regnum Studies in Mission series.

Reflections on the Korean Missionary Movement: A Critical Review of Recent Research

Mission Round Table Vol. 12 No. 1 (January-April 2017): 35-41

Download this edition of Mission Round Table (2.4 MB)


The Korean Missionary Movement (KMM) has long exerted a fascination for Christians across the world. Many are curious about its origins, its activities, and its current status. Two important recent publications offer an excellent summary of the state of research. The first book, Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, gives an ecumenical reading of Korean Christianity, in relation to mission, from a range of perspectives—historical, ecclesiological, and missional.[1] Its strength lies in the way it looks at the KMM in relation to many aspects of Korean and Global Christianity over the last century. The second book, The Korean Missionary Movement. Dynamics and Trends, 1988–2013, has a tighter interest in Protestant mission and agencies, but ranges widely over a number of connected issues, such as structures, partnerships, and leadership.[2] Its analyses and findings are based on consistent, systematic, qualitative, and statistical research that has been carried out over a period of twenty-five years based on careful definitions rigorously applied to what constitutes a “missionary”. This paper will reflect on how this recent scrutiny of the KMM sheds insight on the contexts of Korean mission and the development of Korean mission agencies.

1. A century of Korean mission

The Edinburgh Conference 2010

Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity forms part of the Regnum Edinburgh Centenary series. The flow of time from the first Edinburgh conference in 1910 until the second in 2010 provides a good frame to reflect on missions from Korea as there is a very close overlap between these dates and the history of the KMM. The year 1907 marks a significant date in Korean missions (see below) and Moon’s book looks at Korean mission until 2013.[3]

Using the degree of representation at the two Edinburgh conferences as a measure of the changing face of Korean missions, Wonsuk Ma notes the transition from 1910, when a Korean was present as an observer and the Korean “representative” was from North America, to the 2010 conference, when three amongst the twenty-five leaders of the planning team were Korean.[4] He further notes recent Korean influence in leadership at the 2010 Tokyo conference, the Lausanne Movement, and the World Council of Churches.[5] With Edinburgh 2010 as vantage point, we can assess the significance of the KMM in the shifts that have occurred in mission and world Christianity in these hundred years. In many ways, the Korean church and missionary movement epitomize the kind of changes that have taken place on a global canvas.

Historical phases of the Korean Missionary Movement

Recent statistics about Korean missions since the 1980s are used by Timothy Park as a springboard for discussion about the global impact of the KMM. His point is that “the churches in the world have begun to recognize the dynamic emergence of the Korean church as a missionary church.”[6] This is incontestable, and Park, like Wonsuk Ma, is optimistic about the ongoing role of the Korean church.

Park’s summary looks backwards to the early twentieth century as the starting-point of the KMM. He divides the history into three periods of mission: (1) “During the Japanese colonial period 1907–1957”; (2) “After the independence of Korea 1955–1991”; and (3) “Current Period—1980s to the present.”[7] The first period includes the seminal event of the Rev. Lee Ki-Poong being sent to Cheju in 1907, the mission to Siberia (Russia), and missions to Shandong (China).[8] The second period, coming after the Korean War, included important pioneers like the Rev. Samuel I. Kim whose writings are preserved in English for an international audience through the volume New Forces in Missions. [9]

Lee Ki Poong (circled)


Although these missionary efforts may seem, to the casual observer, of only historical curiosity, they formed an important backdrop to late twentieth century mission. Numerous lessons were learned in the two earlier periods that shaped the more recent phase of mission from the 1980s. Koreans were able to appreciate the difficulties faced by missionaries from a homogenous culture where there were no “predecessors” and where church leaders had not had the opportunity to travel internationally (and hence found it hard to imagine the cross-cultural dimensions of the missional experience) and of the potential contribution that could be made by missionaries from a majority world culture—like Korea—to global mission and evangelism.

The decade of the 1980s

One more historical moment needs to be emphasized at the outset. This is the decade of the 1980s.[10] The 1980s are seen to be significant for a range of factors that opened up Korea to the rest of the world—not least during the Seoul Olympics. During this decade economic, social, and political forces emerged that laid the foundation for Korea to become a more global society.[11]

The missional focus of Korea also changed in this third period. Park identifies three key issues of the time: (1) a shift from mission to Korean immigrants to evangelization of a wider world; (2) the rise of indigenous missions (emergence of native missions); (3) the “symbiotic relationship” between churches and denominations as an important factor in the development of mission.[12]

This decade had a very personal relevance for Ma as he became a missionary at the end of the 1970s, but there are wider reasons, on both a global and Korean canvas, as to why it needs to be viewed as an important decade in the evolution of the KMM.[13] Ma shows that, according to the Atlas of Global Christianity, the second millennium of Christianity saw Europe taking centre stage but that a shift occurred towards the beginning of the third Christian millennium when a more global expression of the church and missions was discernible. He cites statistical data to place this change around the late 1970s and early 1980s.[14]

This notion that there is a period from the 1980s onwards that is significant for “Christianity and its mission in the new global context” is important for understanding the KMM and missionary movements in the global south at the present time.[15] In short, Ma is suggesting that the shift in global Christianity overlaps a key moment of growth and expansion in the KMM—so the KMM can be seen as exemplary in terms of both identity and scale of what has been accomplished in emerging missions since this global shift.

2. Making sense of the Korean Missionary Movement

The Korean Missionary Movement challenges existing paradigms of mission

In a similar way, Kirsteen Kim shows that the significance of the KMM as a movement from the global south affects our understanding of mission on a number of fronts.[16] She realizes that the KMM needs to be assessed on its own terms with its own agenda and not simply in reaction to western issues or in terms of the frame of western mission. For Kim, mission studies as a contemporary discipline has largely been shaped by western people to make sense of their own mission movements and the KMM offers an alternative way of viewing the world.

the existence of the Korean missionary movement challenges any perception that missionary sending is largely a thing of the past and that mission studies should, in the academy be devoted to world Christianity or intercultural theology, or in the churches focus just on local evangelism.[17]

The KMM allows us, then, to look at missions from a different angle.[18] “Far from seeing missions as a politically incorrect legacy of a colonial past, Korean Christians embrace sending – especially cross-cultural sending as one of the highest expressions of Christian love.”[19] The KMM offers an important strand from the global south to understand the missional dimension of “Christianity as a religion.”

In her final synthesis, Kim notes a number of important dynamics that relate to mission movements from Korea but would also be important for mission movements in Asia as a whole. These include the general shift in the postcolonial period away from Europe and the West and the intensification of the polycentric character of mission. She further highlights the influence of patterns of migration, and the push and pull of political and economic factors.[20] In terms of theological underpinnings, Kim shows that individual movements may well have different theological slants: for Korea, she highlights the role of pneumatology (across the theological spectrum) in terms of the dynamism of mission, and the connections to material prosperity (as a form of blessing) and how the politics of a divided peninsula have created different approaches to theology. She rightly underlines the uniquely Korean rendering of the motif of self-sacrifice.[21]

The many points of overlap between Kim’s analysis and the reflections made by Wonsuk Ma in his concluding article around these contextual dimensions, suggest that the uniqueness of the Korean setting has made a real impact on Korean Christianity and the Korean missionary movement.[22]

3. Researching the Korean Missionary Movement

Twenty-five years of research and its fruits

Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity sets the KMM against the backdrop of Global and Korean Christianity. In The Korean Missionary Movement: Dynamics and Trends, 1988–2013, Steve Moon helps us to see the realities of mission as experienced by the players—Korean missionaries, churches, and mission agencies—viewed over a twenty-five year period.[23]

Steve Sang-Cheol Moon is well-placed to undertake this kind of research. In Korea, he is the Director of the Korean Research Institute of Missions (KRIM)[24] which is the research wing of the Global Missionary Fellowship (GMF) and has links to the Global Missionary Training Centre (GMTC). The fact that he and his colleague David Tae Woong Lee (the former principal of GMTC) are connected to the World Evangelical Alliance Missions Commission allows a two-way dialogue and conduit of ideas, resources, and people from Korea to a global audience and vice-versa.[25]

In the preface, Moon offers an explanation of the contours which frame the research undertaken by KRIM, an offering that provides an excellent overview of important themes in the KMM. He presents a focus on Protestant Korean missions with a history going back to 1907 (xvi);[26] he hints at the significance of the 1980s and the Seoul Olympics in 1988—indicating factors of travel, availability of travel documents, and attitudes to foreign currency (xvii); and he further notes the rise and influence of major mission conventions from 1988 onwards (xviii). In terms of the practicalities of Korean missions, he notes a focus on “efforts to strategize and systematize” (and is aware of the influence of the West, especially North America).[27] He shows too that in practical and economic terms, the experiences and the resources of the “church growth” outlook of the 1970s acted as a major springboard for Korean missions. In terms of an ethos that would encourage mission, he suggests that the “conservative theological orientation” of churches and the attitude of sacrificial giving characterizes contemporary Korean Christianity (xx). In a nutshell, Moon offers the reader an informed grasp of the world of the KMM from 1988 to 2013.

At the opening of this book, Moon graciously and firmly locates himself as a successor to Marlin Nelson and his research interests and outputs in the 1970s. The latter includes the 1979 directory of Korean missionaries and similar works up to 1989 (xvii).[28] The research of KRIM furthered this work with its production of biennial reports from 1990 to 2008 and since then annual reports (xviii). Part of the importance of the work of KRIM lies in this steady continuous work over the last 25–30 years. The other important feature of their research has been their definition of a missionary—that it represents a person from Korea with an established agency (not from other countries); it does not include pastors from diaspora churches; it does not include those who work with migrant churches. These specific criteria have been consistently applied for twenty-five years (xviii). In the statistical synthesis, Moon shows that there have been just over 20,000 Korean missionaries using KRIM’s categories up to 2013.[29] Following this historical and theoretical frame, he highlights a few key areas that need further scrutiny: mission member care and financial needs (practical); and leadership development and partnerships in mission (strategic).[30]

The glocalisation of the KMM: a movement between the global and the local

In his introductory comments, Moon helps set the scene for our examination of the KMM and offers some pointers of the need for change. As most Korean missionaries were working globally, there was a tendency to follow global and western patterns. This overseas focus resulted in Koreans being “constrained to adopt western policies for organizing their field ministries” (xxi). He concludes with reflections on how mission can be done in a more Korean way, with a distinctive plea for the need to develop a greater capacity to self-theologize.[31]

In asking the question of how Korean can develop in respect to “self-theologizing”, Moon gives a personal response:

My own understanding is that self-missiologizing means to do missiology with both the local and the global interdependently in view, not independently. In Korea the level of self-theologizing, a foundation for self-missiologizing is not at all satisfactory. Without a good foundation in self-theologizing and self-missiologizing a missionary movement can fall into activism, repeating the trials and errors of the past. Integration of what we have learned through experience into the accumulated missiological knowledge seems to be a core answer to this question.

Moon is clearly interested in shaping the ethos of the KMM through KRIM’s research, and it is from this lens or starting-point that the research seeks to shed light on the past with an eye on what is to come. He is especially open to understanding the interplay of the global and local forces that shape Korean mission and building from this for a more globally aware movement in the future. In discussions on the “glocalisation of Korean missions,” he makes the following observation:

Now as a leading force in global mission, Korean missions need formal criteria and a new mindset. The nature of missions is innately both local and global, and therefore both localization and globalization must be acknowledged.[32]

Reviewing the barriers to glocalisation (from the limitations of “the local”) research suggests the need to move beyond the homogenous and monocultural contexts of Korea which can lead to an ethnocentric outlook. Conversely, considering the challenges of globalization (in the sense of “adapting to global standards”), research indicates that the glocalisation of mission needs to address cross-cultural understandings as well as areas like leadership, mission structures, and the Korean church itself. Missionaries themselves were acutely aware of the need to invest in people and education, not just buildings and facilities.[33]

The capacity to move between the global and local is essential in modern missions.

With the support of the Korean church, mission agencies must enable glocalisation by consciously and intentionally seeking to develop experts who have both knowledge and mission experience. Mission agencies and mission associations should also take the initiative in building international partnerships.[34]

Moon rightly concludes that applied glocalisation needs more attention and research while it remains an important foundation of mission in the third millennium for the KMM.

4. Implications for Korean mission agencies and churches

The implications of research for Korean mission agencies and churches

The KMM has impacted both church and mission agencies. The symbiotic relationship between Korean mission agencies and Korean churches is pursued in two central chapters in the book which look at the KMM around 2000–2003.[35] Statistically, it was a time of growth. In the period from 1989 (when KRIM’s records started) to 2013, the number of missionaries from Korea went from 1178 to 20,085; in the same period the number of agencies increased from 92 to 166; and the countries in which Korean missionaries worked increased from 72 to 171.[36] This shows the scale of the movement and the scope of the issues that have been faced in the last three decades.[37]

Mission agencies and churches need to consider the following areas: partnership, structures, and the care of missionaries.[38] In terms of partnership, Moon notes how this plays out and how it affects leaders and leadership training.

That Korean mission agencies and missionaries will work with mission agencies from different national backgrounds is inevitable, but knowing one’s partners and partnering organizations well before working with them is important. … Korean mission agencies who belong to international mission agencies need to remember their cultural identity as they grow as leaders in a multicultural setting. They need to seek to represent the reality of Korean churches, mission agencies and missionaries well.[39]

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​  At Mission Korea 1996

Groups, mission agencies, and churches need to be aware of the context in other countries and yet need to find ways to connect locally without losing sight of their unique contribution as Koreans.

Research seems to indicate that despite their global status, Korean mission agencies need to pay more attention to basic infrastructure both at home and abroad and to invest in this. Churches, for obvious reasons, can be more interested in giving resources to buildings and infrastructure on the mission field, but need to be challenged to invest in the KMM and to find a better equilibrium. Moon fears that Korean mission agencies are starting to “lag behind” in this respect, despite their scale and length of historical involvement.[40]

This means that Korean churches need to find new ways to develop “moral support” (my term) for Korean missions. This includes member care, but it also means the need to find ways to be creative in terms of the infrastructure and financing of mission. In a technological age, Moon is concerned that even areas like IT need attention and investment; he suggests that Koreans may want to develop partnerships with other Asian countries like India and Singapore. He really wants the churches in Korea to recognize this need and to invest in IT.[41]

Korean churches supporting the KMM need to do two things: firstly, “pursue a globalization of its missionary movement overcoming parochialism for the sake of world evangelization in this global age;” and, secondly, shift their focus towards “quality” not just “quantity.” These shifts will need to affect areas like member care, the support structures of mission, and “the encouragement of mission innovation” through research and partnerships.”[42] To do this, churches need to grow in the area of a “global mindset” as well. Mission stems from the beliefs of local Christians and their commitment to God’s global world.

Although mission agencies are on the front line, the initiative and dynamics of mission belongs to local churches. The level of commitment of the Korean churches determines the degree of maturity of Korean missions. Missions is about the lifestyle of Christians and is an expression of faith shared within a community. Korean churches need to embrace globalism.[43]

Moon critiques the phenomenon of churches (often mega-churches) that engage in direct sending, by showing that in “bypassing mission agencies” and their expertise, there is a danger of constantly failing to understand contextual realities in target countries and, worse, their actions raise the “spectre of a new mode of imperialism in missions.”[44] This is not just an issue in Korea. Certainly those of us living in Europe and other East Asian countries face similar tensions.

The implications of research for leadership in Korean mission

At the heart of many of the above issues, lies a challenge for leadership training. Although it is possible to emphasise Korean identity in indigenous mission agencies, they have some inherent tensions as they are often centred around a single “entrepreneurial” leader.[45]

An alternative is offered by international mission agencies that are sensitive to local diversity:

For their part, international mission agencies need to adapt to the new organizational soil of Korea. A uniform structure that fails to reflect the diversity of cultural contexts is no longer competitive in the ever-diversifying world. . . . Instead of working as a branch of a huge international conglomerate, international mission agencies need to consider implementing a horizontal partnership model. Decision making needs to reflect the cultural characteristics of each sending country.[46]

Moon recognizes that “cross-cultural understanding for cross-cultural leadership” is essential and that Korean churches need to play a role in this, not just the mission agencies. He wants to draw on and develop the unique character of Korean identity without losing sight of the global context.[47] He expresses the need to “learn from being Korean and … from the accumulated global experience of missions.”

5. Whither the Korean Missionary Movement?

Both books at the heart of this study Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity and The Korean Missionary Movement make observations about the current status of the KMM as we move into the twenty-first century.

Towards a plateau

Just before 2013 (the end of his stated period of research), Moon suggests that there has been a kind of “plateau” effect in the KMM—he uses the word “stagnation”, though in a simply descriptive sense.[48] This leads Moon to consider measured expectations for the future in terms of growth. Noting what could be called a proportional relationship between church revival and mission activity, he highlights the need for greater realism and even wonders whether “extravagant emphasis on numbers has had the negative effect of inhibiting growth” and suggests instead the  need “to set and promote realistic goals of missionary recruitment in light of the current level of church growth.”[49]

Given that the KMM is experiencing a time of slowing down, in the spirit of “reculer pour mieux sauter,”[50] he ponders what lessons can be observed from the existing phenomenon of Korean mission. As he frames the idea of improvement, he cites six areas for “growth” in a qualitative sense:

  1. leadership development
  2. infrastructure development
  3. strategy for field ministries
  4. crisis management
  5. care of missionary families
  6. preparation for missionary retirement

We have seen that these themes have formed an important part of the dialogue around Korean mission in relation to the glocalisation of Korean missions and the development of a more innovative and creative approach. Moon is equally interested in the wider dimensions of member care for Asian cultures, extended to include children, the family, and stages of the “mission life-cycle.” Finally, he notes the place of research in going beyond blinkered thinking and “problem-solving” to a more nuanced approach, recognizing that this period of slowing down can be accompanied by “a corresponding maturation in reflection on mission” that can enhance the future quality of the KMM.[51]

Into the third millennium

In terms of understanding where the KMM is heading in the changing global context, Wonsuk Ma correctly recognizes that in the third Christian millennium the world continues to change rapidly. In this new “post” world—Ma suggests post-Christendom, post-colonialism, and post-modernism as markers—we could now add “post-truth”. According to the BBC, we are indeed in a new phase of human experience that has been ushered in from the 1980s.[52] In this new world order, Ma suggests that the shift to the global south will mean that Christianity will be experienced by the majority of Christians as a religion of the poor. However, the impact of the church in the “west” or the “north” will continue to be felt because of its economic resources and intellectual heritage.[53]

Ma does not shrink from explaining why the Korean church and missionary movement has looked to the “west” (or “global north”).

The West was seen as  ‘Christian’, civilised, rich, benevolent, and willing to help, while persecutions came from either among our own (including the Joseon dynasty and Communist North) or a close neighbour (that is Japan). Korean Christianity consequently, looks extremely western, in its theology, orientation and behaviour.[54]

Like Moon, Ma notes the links between the growth and maturity of the KMM in the late 1970s and 1980s onwards and the nation’s status on the global stage.[55] He is also conscious that the slowing down of the church in Korea and its composition will impact mission in the near future. On the other hand, Ma realizes that the phenomenon of the Korean church from the 1980s onward, as exemplified by megachurch models and approaches to Christian life, have had a real impact especially elsewhere in Asia and in Africa.[56] This has been seen in the way in which Korean churches have played a key role in encouraging churches in neighbouring countries.

Ma concludes that the growth of Korean Christianity, the resulting mission movement, and the theological climate (with its unique blend of responses to economic and spiritual hardships) have ushered in a new era, but he notes the important interplay between these factors and this era of global Christianity.

What is significant for the Korean church is the birth of an intentional, substantial and sustained missionary movement. . . . Its growth and missionary development almost exactly coincides with the decisive shift of the shift of global Christianity.[57]

For Ma, the KMM predates (slightly) the rise of Asian Christianity and so Korea was able to exercise influence in a number of Asian spheres and in “leading other nations, especially from the global south, in evangelism, church growth, and mission. Its location in Asia has been therefore critical, for the continent has the highest population in the world but the lowest evangelisation rate.”[58]

The review of the mission movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a re-assessment of issues such as the way in which the transmission of the Christian faith was bound up with flows from Europe and North America to other parts of the world and the role of power in that experience.[59]

Power, incarnation, and powerlessness: concluding theological reflections

Addressing the relevance of mission from Korea to global debates on mission in the third millennium (since the 1980s), Ma reflects on how mission was seen in the second Christian millennium to be “a task only churches/ nations with power can perform” and that this took place in a certain direction which reflected “the perceived unidirectional nature of mission” that was essentially “from the West to the ‘Rest’.” This is a false vision of mission. “This notion of mission that requires power is foreign to the life and teachings of Jesus and also to mission practices found in early records (Acts).” Rather “the kenotic life is the core of incarnation and is also the basis of Christian discipleship.”[60]

Moon made a strikingly similar observation on mission itself, contrasting mission from the emerging nations to mission from the powerful global north:

The soft power of Christian love, in contrast, is unconditional, altruistic, non-numerical and immeasurable—but it transforms the world fundamentally. Only compassion for specific people motivates mission. Korean missionaries, especially mission leaders, need to check their actual worldviews and, as needed, change them to harness missional soft power.

Moon continues, with a very striking quote (noted by Bill Taylor in his Foreword) which sums up a view of mission as mediated through missionaries in mission agencies, which seems to me to show a similar perception about the true nature of mission from the fruits of sustained research.[61]

Short termism, obsession with visible results and exporting prosperity myths are a few expressions of secular worldviews. Only the practice of incarnational mission can bring about changes at a deep level. There is a growing awareness of incarnational humility among mission communities and practitioners from Korea.

So, the KMM can offer an alternative vision; it can be the exemplar of a new paradigm from the global south. “Thus, a radical reappraisal of mission is called for. . . . The mission leadership of the Korean church includes a pivotal role to facilitate the global church, both of the South and the North, to run his process.”[62] Ma is mindful, however, that mission in the third millennium needs to be an interplay between the newer missionary movements of the global south, in conjunction with those of the global north.[63]

As the world church comes to a common table . . . the South . . . can bring its underrating [sic] of mission from their reading of the scripture and engagements with its contexts. The North can bring its long history of mission and its critical reflection of it.[64]

Such a move away from power is one that Ma sees the Korean church uniquely equipped to address and it can help to offer a different vision of mission in the third millennium.

We began our reflections with the century between 1910 and 2010, bounded by the two Edinburgh conferences. A recent book Polycentric Missiology reviews the four major conferences that took place in that centenary year of 2010 (including the one in Edinburgh itself) and one in Latin America in 2012.[65] Its thesis is that these conferences show a shift of mission over a century from the single centre of “the West to the rest” to a more polycentric character “from everyone to everywhere.” Korean missions epitomize this shift. The two recent publications on the KMM show they are researching and reflecting on how the KMM needs to grow and develop in this new global era.

As Moon clarifies, the experience of facing the challenges of global mission will be the inspiration for change, both for the KMM and the Korean church:

By addressing these developmental issues well, the Korean missionary movement will signal that it is overcoming the inevitable weaknesses and limitations of an emerging missionary movement. To complement or offset one’s vulnerability through learning and conscious effort is a Christian attitude. It also displays a global mindset. The Korean church is becoming global through global missions.[66]


[1] Wonsuk Ma and Kyo Seong Ahn, eds., Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series (Oxford: Regnum, 2015).

[2] Steve Sang-Cheol Moon, The Korean Missionary MovementDynamics and Trends, 1988–2013 (Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 2016.)

[3] Moon also focuses on a recent twenty-five year period, but he looks back to 1907 as well. See page 277.

[4] Wonsuk Ma, “Introduction” in Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, edited by Ma and Ahn, (Oxford: Regnum, 2015), 1.

[5] Ma, “Introduction,” 2.

[6] Timothy Park, “The Missionary Movement of the Korean Church,” in Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, Ma and Ahn, eds. (Oxford: Regnum, 2015)18.

[7] Park gives overlapping dates without a full explanation of his rationale for this.

[8] Park’s PhD thesis offers a richly textured discussion of the main streams of the early mission ventures. See Timothy Kiho Park, “A Two-Thirds World Mission on the Move: The Missionary Movement of the Presbyterian Church in Korea.” Unpublished PhD Thesis. Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission, 1991.

[9] David Cho, New Forces in Missions: The Official Report of the Asian Missions Association (Seoul: East-West Centre for Missions Research and Development, 1976), 123–124. Video footage exists (recently rediscovered) of Samuel Kim and Chan Choi’s ordination service. This is titled, “This Great Calling—Korea, 1955.” This was drawn to my attention by Dr. Son Chang Nam, the former Korean National Director of OMF International.

[10] Ma shows the global significance of the shift of centre of gravity of Christianity in this decade.  Moon’s book also stresses the importance of the 1980s (especially 1988 which was the date of the Seoul Olympics).

[11] Moon suggests that these included “ease of travel, availability of passports, more access to foreign money.” Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, xvii.

[12] Park, “The Missionary Movement,” 26.

[13] My own master’s research showed that the number of Koreans in OMF International did not exceed the number of Japanese members until 1988 (reflecting a wider pattern proving true in a specific setting). See Warren R. Beattie, “OMF International: an Assessment of the Impact of Internationalisation and Interactions with the Korean Missionary Movement from 1964–1998,” Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1998.

[14] The exact dates he uses “from 923 until 1981” are taken from a chart in the Atlas of Global Christianity, 51. Wonsuk Ma, “Global Leadership,” in Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, Ma and Ahn, eds. (Oxford: Regnum, 2015), 365.

[15] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 365.

[16] Kirsteen Kim, “The Significance for Mission Studies,” in Korean Church, God’s Mission, Global Christianity, Ma and Ahn, eds. (Oxford: Regnum, 2015), 48–56. She includes the statistical evidence that relates the number of Korean missionaries to global standards, but reads this in a measured way without over-emphasizing its significance.

[17] Kim, “The Significance”, 49–50.

[18] This is in contrast to the kind of mission described by Moonjang Lee in which “globalisation of the image of western Christianity poses a problem for non-western Christianity.” Quoted by Todd Johnson. See Korean Church, 57.

[19] Kim, “The Significance,” 51–52.

[20] Kim, “The Significance,” 52–54.

[21] Kim, “The Significance,”54–56.

[22] Ma, “Global Mission Leadership,” 364–377.

[23] In this article, my focus will be on Part 1 of the book which is an overview of the “progress” of the KMM.

[24] KRIM’s stated aim is “to produce educational resources” for interested parties including mission agencies. Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, xii.

[25] GMF is itself an umbrella organisation with a number of different “branches.” Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, xii.

[26] See above on Rev. Lee Ki-Poong.

[27] For an important contextual discussion of why Koreans might look to the West see Wonsuk Ma’s comments about the aftermath of the Korean War. Ma, “Global Leadership,” 370–371.

[28] For further examples of the relevance of Nelson’s work see the author’s MSc thesis, “OMF International,” 44–65 and Marvin L. Nelson, The How and Why of Third World Mission: An Asian Case Study (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 1976); Marvin L. Nelson, ed., Readings in Third World Missions: A Collection of Essential Documents (Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 1976).

[29] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 11–13.

[30] The categorizations in brackets are by the author. Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 11–13.

[31] An interest in self-theologizing is echoed by Moon and David Lee elsewhere. See, for example, Steve Moon and David Lee, “Globalization, World Evangelization and Global Missiology,” in One World or Many, Richard Tiplady, ed. (Pasadena: William Carey, 2003), 264 (and the surrounding discussion).

[32] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 50 and 144–151.

[33] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 146–148.

[34] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 150–151.

[35] Chapter 4 was published for Korean readers; Chapter 5 was published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. They thus provide two views of the same broad material that were originally intended for slightly different audiences.

[36] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 7. The number of agencies was growing more slowly than the number of individuals as “missionaries prefer to join large, well-established mission agencies.” See also page 46.

[37] Moon and others are well aware of the “slowing down” or “stagnation” of the Korean church. See below.

[38] Moon’s phrases are (1) “sending structures: from imitation to innovation”; (2) “field strategy: from competition to cooperation”; (3) “member care: from non-interference to systematic care.” Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 54–59 and 64–69.

[39] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 55.

[40] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 57.

[41] The rationale for this is that IT relates to “specialized member service… greater church-missions cooperation, interagency cooperation and partnership, and field-home communication and coordination.” It is not an optional extra. Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 53–54, 71–72 and 76.

[42] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 56–59 and 74.

[43] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 56–57.

[44] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 54–56.

[45] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 58–59.

[46] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 52.

[47] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 59.

[48] The statistical review indicates that 75% of Korean missionaries are under fifty years of age and that around half of them have served for less than eight years. Around 75% of the total are considered full-time career missionaries.

[49] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 109.

[50] I paraphrase this as, “To take a few steps back to be better able to jump further forward.”

[51] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 109–110.

[52] The episode “Nothing but the Truth” of the BBC Radio 4 programme “The New World” notes the arrival of “post-truth” in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. “Nothing but the Truth,” BBC Radio 4, accessed 1 March 2017,

[53] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 367–370.

[54] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 370.

[55] His list of indicators includes hosting the Olympic Games in 1988, joining OECD in 1996, and hosting a G20 Summit in 2010. Note, too, that South Korea became a UN donor nation in 2010. Ma, “Global Leadership,” 369.

[56] Ma gives the example of Sarang Church, Seoul’s discipleship strategy as a model that was widely used in Korea and beyond – even the author and his wife attended a week long seminar on this for Korean churches in the South of Korea in the 1990s at Hosanna Church, Pusan. – see p. 370.

[57] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 371.

[58] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 370–372.

[59] See for example Jehu Hanciles, Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the West (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2009) and Brian Stanley, The Bible and the Flag: Protestant Mission and British Imperialism in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Leicester: Apollos, 1990.)

[60] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 370–372. There are some aspects of this discussion that need further clarification given the interest in the growing economic development of Korea, but there is an underlying awareness that emerging missions can and should model the true nature of Christian mission.

[61] Both quotes are from Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 110. Also see the “Foreword”.

[62] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 373–374.

[63] See Patrick Fung’s talk delivered at Lausanne Cape Town 2010, “Partnership – Equilibrium vs Diversity in Unity,” (accessed 24 February 2017).

[64] Ma, “Global Leadership,” 374.

[65] Allen Yeh, Polycentric Missiology: 21st-Century Mission from Everyone to Everywhere (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016).

[66] Moon, The Korean Missionary Movement, 59.

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