On Saturday, I went to Namdaemoon Presbyterian Church.
On Sunday, I went to the Park Dong-jin’s earlier project, Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Jeo-dong.
What’s there to say about Young Nak Presbyterian Church? Rev. Han Kyung-chik and 26 other North Korean Christians fleeing the communist takeover of North Korea founded the church in Seoul in December 1945.
Today, the church has a congregation of about 60,000, making it possibly the largest Presbyterian church in the world. In part thanks to his church’s unprecedented growth, Rev. Han won the Templeton Prize, the “Nobel Prize of religion,” in 1992.
The Young Nak Presbyterian Church complex might be one of the most awe-inspiring religious complexes this side of the Buddhalopolis of Guin-sa Temple in Danyang-gun. It’s like a Presbyterian city, complete with an 8-story “50th Anniversary Commemorative Hall” capable of holding 10,000. I’m not a fan of most modern religious architecture, but most of the campus seems to organically mesh. Which is nice.
The centerpiece — and, of course, the reason I was there — is the church building itself.
The original church built in 1945 was too small to handle Rev. Han’s rapidly growing flock, so in June 1947 a large tent was set up in which to hold services (see the official homepage). In March 1949, work began on a new sanctuary befitting the church. A little over a year later, the church was complete. On June 4, 1950, the first service was held in the new church… just a couple of weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War.
The North Koreans liked Rev. Han’s new church so much they decided to commandeer it during their visit to Seoul, forcing the congregation to gather at Seung Dong Presbyterian Church.
The design of the church was left to Park Dong-jin, a name that should be familiar to readers of this blog. When you hear Park Dong-jin, you should expect a) masonry, most likely granite; and b) Gothic Revivalism. And don’t forget those Tudor arches.
In 1977, expansion work was done on the chapel, after which it took on its current cross-shaped layout. In 2001, restoration work was carried out on the roof and steeple, and the interior remodeled.
Young Nak Presbyterian Church is one of the most photogenic Korean churches I’ve visited, so rather than tire you with tedious descriptions of things about which I do not know, I’ll tire you with crappy photographs instead. Enjoy.
Sorry I couldn’t get any interior photos — Sunday is apparently not a good day to take indoor shots at churches, as the buildings are for some odd reason full of people.
This is a monument to Kim Eung-nak, who was martyred at the church in September 1950. As mentioned above, the North Koreans commandeered the building during their occupation of Seoul. With the Incheon Landing, Kim — an elder at the church — heard news that the North Koreans had abandoned the church, and he went to the sanctuary to protect it from looting. This was probably not the best decision in his ecclesiastic career. As it would turn out, the North Koreans were still there, and they promptly arrested him. Even under torture, he kept composed, declaring to the North Koreans, “I am an elder of this church.” On Sept 23, he was executed just in front of the church altar.
Don’t forget the Flickr slideshow.