Korea: The Church of God, including the denomination of Christianity to which it adheres, its beliefs and practices; whether there is a congregation of the Church of God in Seoul known as the Church of God Mission Society located at 381-2 Suyu-dong #2, Gangbuk-gu (2002-2004)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||8 December 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||KOR43208.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Korea: The Church of God, including the denomination of Christianity to which it adheres, its beliefs and practices; whether there is a congregation of the Church of God in Seoul known as the Church of God Mission Society located at 381-2 Suyu-dong #2, Gangbuk-gu (2002-2004) , 8 December 2004, KOR43208.E , available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df611d20.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In 1 December 2004 correspondence to the Research Directorate, a visiting assistant professor of Korean Christianity at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) provided the following information:
"The Church of God" was founded by Ahn Sang-Hong in Seoul in 1964. He joined the Holiness Church in 1947 and believed [in] the imminent Second Coming of Christ. He left the church and made his own church, known as "Ahn Sang-Hong Witness Society." He insisted that he was the incarnated Holy Spirit who was preparing [for] the Coming of Christ [for] the last time ... After his death [in 1985], his spiritual wife and followers reorganized the Society into "The Church of God, World Mission Society." Its main office is located in Bundang, Sungnam City, Kyunggi Province, about an hour away from Seoul.
According to the English-language version of the Church of God Website in Korea, followers believe "only the Bible as God's word"; the teachings of Ahn Sang-Hong are believed to be "those of the last Christ" and they instruct followers to lead a "sacrificial life with true faith according to the Bible" (n.d.). The visiting assistant professor remarked that Church of God followers interpret the Bible literally, deify the founder, and consider images of the crucifixion and the Virgin Mary to be objects of idolatry (1 Dec. 2004). The assistant professor also noted that women are expected to wear a veil during service and that strict observance of the Saturday Sabbath and the rites of the Old Testament, such as Passover, is considered necessary to achieve redemption and salvation (1 Dec. 2004).
The Christian Council of Korea, which represents Protestant churches in the country, has, according to the visiting assistant professor, declared the Church of God "here[tical]" (1 Dec. 2004). On its Website, the Church of God argues that this allegation is "groundless" and denies claims allegedly made by other Christian denominations in Korea that the Church "worships a man," mistreats minors and destroys families (n.d.). The visiting professor indicated that the Church has been accused of breaking up families when women followers have left home and settled in Church of God buildings to wait for the "coming of Christ," which, Ahn Sang-Hong predicted, was to happen in 1988 (1 Dec. 2004). The Church has engaged in community service to improve its image (visiting assistant professor 1 Dec. 2004), and this service has earned the Church the commendation of the government of Korea (Church of God n.d.; visiting assistant professor 1 Dec. 2004).
The Church of God claims to have grown rapidly since the late 1980s and to have 300 branches in Korea and abroad (Church of God n.d.). The visiting assistant professor of Korean Christianity, however, noted that information provided by the Church of God concerning the number of followers and congregations is "unreliable" (1 Dec. 2004). The assistant professor also observed that over 70 per cent of followers are women and that Korean Americans are increasingly found among the new adherents (1 Dec .2004). Further corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
No information as to whether there is a congregation of the Church of God in Seoul located at 381-2 Suyu-dong #2, Gangbuk-gu could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Church of God, World Mission Society. n.d. "About Church of God."
Visiting assistant professor, Center for Korean Studies, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. 2 December 2004. Correspondence.
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: The Church of God, Winchester Indiana; Department of Religious Studies, Anderson University; Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Korea).