[KS] _Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950_ by Donald N. Clark

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Wed Sep 15 01:37:01 EDT 2004

_Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950_ by 
Donald N. Clark, 2003. Norwalk: CT: EastBridge. 453 pages. (ISBN 

reviewed by Don Baker
University of British Columbia
dbaker at interchange.ubc.ca

	In his title, Don Clark advertises this book as an account of 
the Western missionary experience in Korea over the first half of the 
twentieth century. He is too modest. This book is much more than 
that. Because he writes about how the missionaries responded to the 
various situations they found themselves witnessing, and sometimes 
caught up in, he has actually provided a history of Korea from 
1900-1950, albeit one filtered through the eyes of Western residents.

	The son and grandson of missionaries, Clark avoids the sin 
committed by many who write about their own parents and grandparents. 
He does not make them the prime movers and shakers of the times in 
which they lived, nor does he even make them the axis around which 
their world revolved. Instead, he lets them, and their missionary 
colleagues, serve as the eyes and ears through which we can observe 
what life was like in Korea back then, and how both they and their 
Korean converts and friends were affected by the many tumultuous 
events of that half-century.

	He begins with the arrival of his grandfather, Charlie Clark, 
in Korea in 1902. That provides him an excuse to sketch the cultural 
and political environment on the peninsula on the eve of annexation. 
He also explores the cross-cultural barriers the missionaries faced 
in trying to convert Koreans not just to Christianity but to the 
particularly rigid form of Christianity they preached, which demanded 
that Koreans give up such time-honored customs as smoking, polygamy, 
social drinking, and most difficult, the ritual honoring of 
ancestors. In addition, he discusses the problems preaching in Korean 
posed for those English-speaking missionaries. As someone who vividly 
remembers the many mistakes I made when I first began speaking Korean 
in Korea, I particularly enjoyed the story about the sermon on ddam 
(sweat) when the missionary actually intended to warn his 
congregation against the sin of t'am (envy).

	Since Western missionaries, including Charlie Clark, remained 
in Korea after the annexation of 1910, Clark is able to provide a 
different view of Japanese rule than is usually found in Korean 
accounts. First of all, he points out that most of the missionaries 
(with the conspicuous exceptions of Hulbert and Allen) were at first 
ambivalent about the Japanese takeover, hoping that a colonial 
government more modern than the Confucian government it replaced 
would open up more space for missionary activity. However, they soon 
found out that the Japanese were not enthusiastic about the spread of 
Christianity in Korea and in fact raised barriers to it. Japanese 
demands that medical missionaries pass qualifying exams in Japanese 
and that the curriculum in missionary schools be redesigned to 
conform to the curriculum in secular schools run by the Japanese 
government (which meant that religion could not be taught in those 
schools) soured the missionaries on Japanese rule. However, Clark 
makes clear that, despite such disappointments during the first 
decade of colonial rule, the vast majority of the missionaries were 
not prepared to support uprisings against the Japanese, even after 
March 1, 1919 showed how unpopular Japanese rule had become. Instead, 
the missionaries welcomed the appointment of a more liberal 
governor-general near the end of 1919, since Admiral Saito rolled 
back some of the restrictions which had been placed on their schools 
a decade earlier.

	A more serious problem for the missionaries in the 1920s was 
the rise of resentment by some Korean Christians of the missionary 
domination of Korean Christianity.  Koreans wanted control of 
Christian schools such as the Chosen Christian College (now Yonsei 
University) to be turned over to them faster than the missionaries 
wanted to relinquish control. Clark tells us that such prominent 
Korean Christians as Paek Nakchun and Yun Ch'iho resented what they 
considered "missionary paternalism" in this and other matters. 
However, such disputes paled in comparison with the issue that 
confronted both the missionaries and Korean Christians in the 1930s. 
When the Japanese demanded that Christian schools permit their 
students to participate in Shinto rituals, both the missionary 
community and the Korean Christian community were split over how to 
render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's while remaining 
faithful to the laws of God. The issue was soon rendered moot for the 
missionaries by the rise of tension between the US and Japan which 
led to the expulsion of most of the missionaries in 1940. Korean 
Christians were left behind to resolve that moral dilemma for 

	As Clark tells the tale, that expulsion of the missionaries 
and their five-year absence from Korea led to renewed strains between 
missionaries and Korean Christians in 1945. During the war years, 
Koreans took charge of their own churches and schools and were not 
ready to return control to the missionaries when those missionaries 
returned after the war was over.  However, just as in the 1930s, an 
external threat to Christianity in Korea brought both missionaries 
and Korean Christians closer together again. That threat was, of 
course, the North Korean invasion of 1950. Clark ends his book with a 
moving account of what life was like for both Catholic and Protestant 
missionaries, as well as Korean Christians, caught up in that 
horrendous civil war.

	While guiding us through the turbulent waters of Korean 
history from the final years of the Joseon dynasty to the Korean war, 
Clark manages to take us on some interesting side trips as well. He 
devotes a chapter to pre-Communist Pyongyang, when it was known as 
the Jerusalem of the East, and another chapter to the White Russians 
who were stranded in Korea after the victory of the communist 
revolution in their homeland.  He also has an entire chapter on life 
for Koreans and missionaries alike in Manchuria in the 1920s and 
1930. However, the chapter that will probably attract the most 
interest is the one he titles "Western Women in the Land of the 
Morning Calm." Despite that title, he spends almost as much time in 
that chapter on Korean women as he does on missionary women.  By 
doing so, he sheds light on an aspect of modern Korean history often 
overlooked in standard textbook surveys. Another chapter that will 
attract interest is "Soldiers of Freedom," an account of the birth of 
a South Korean army and government and the subsequent uprisings in 
both Cheju and Sunch'on.  Clark's comments on Park Chung-hee's role 
in that latter rebellion is the clearest account I have seen in 
English of how Park managed to become involved with that incident, 
and how he managed to extricate himself.

	In summary, don't be misled by title of this book. It is a 
fascinating and informative read for anyone interested in modern 
Korean history and is not just for those interested in missionary 
history or the history of Korean Christianity. In fact, this book 
would make a good supplementary text for a class on the history of 
Korea in the twentieth century.

Baker, Don 2004
_Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950_ by 
Donald N. Clark (2003)
_Korean Studies Review_ 2004, no. 14
Electronic file: http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr04-14.htm
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