Daryn: Orthodoxy in Korea?

Daryn Tulloch, a member of the Orthodox Community in Cape Town, recalls his involvement with the Orthodox Church in Korea and the way it filled his life with new enthusiasm and commitment.

Who would have thought that the Orthodox Church is alive and well and thriving in Korea?

Few people are familiar with or know  much about this tiny Asian country  that lies between the Northeast region of China and Japan.

I was personally surprised by what I found in t South Korea with its modern economic powerhouse  side by side with its ancient culture and customs stretching back for millennia.

I applied for a job teaching English in South Korea in early September 2010, hoping to be placed in Seoul,its  capital  city  and  a vibrant metropolis.  One of my reasons  was that I had found out there was an Orthodox presence there centred at the Archdiocese of St Nicholas Cathedral.  As things happen, I was  placed instead, in the provincial town of Chuncheon, about an hour outside of Seoul.

Much to my amazement, after looking around the Korean  capital’s website a bit more, I found that there was a small church in the town I’d been placed in.  A little while after settling in to my new home and job, I went to the small church of St Boris, served by a Korean priest, Fr. Jeremiah Jo and his wife Presbytera Anastasia.

I cannot thank them enough for helping me with my Orthodox Christian faith in Korea and all other practicalities of daily life there.  Through them, I got to know much more about Orthodoxy in Korea.  It was also  the philanthropic centre adjacent to Saint Boris that the church held an English/Orthodox summer camp, attended by the bishop, priests, kids and run by volunteers from the OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Centre).

The volunteers are from different countries and backgrounds, and beside their hard work and the great job that they do, they demonstrate the universal appeal and influence of Orthodoxy around the modern world.

Later on I discovered that there   is a rich and deep-rooted presence of Orthodoxy throughout the country.  I was amazed when I went to the Seoul Cathedral and saw how well-established and flourishing the Church is there.  There are about 3000 Orthodox faithful in South Korea with   ten parishes throughout the country.

The community is made up of mainly ethnic Koreans with some Russians , Greeks, Americans and many others.  The  diversity and heterogeneous  mix of peoples in the Church make the Church special and unique.  The Divine Liturgy has been fully translated into Korean and the services are mainly conducted in Korean, with some Greek, English and Slavonic.

More astounding, was a visit to the Monastery of the Transfiguration, close to where I lived.  I was blessed to discover this place where retired Metropolitan and current bishop of Pisidia, His Eminence Sotirios Trambas lives.  It is thanks to the tireless efforts and labour of love of this 84-year old bishop that Orthodoxy flourished anew in Korea after it had been nearly wiped out during the Korean war.

After volunteering to serve at the mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Korea in 1975, Archbishop Trambas founded the monastery, a seminary and several parishes in Korea and in other places in Asia.  He currently resides in the monastery and translates church texts into Korean.  His position is now filled by His Eminence, Ambrosios of Zelon, who oversees the ongoing mission of the church and has recently established a smaller monastery.

I am very blessed to have encountered the devotedness and enthusiasm with which the Orthodox community in Korea has taken to the Faith and made it flourish and vital.

For more information on the Korean Orthodox Church, follow the link and click on the tab for English: http://www.orthodox.or.kr/html/aref=http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Orthodox_Metropolis_of_Korea