Global Missiology English, Vol 2, No 16 (2019)

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God's Work Among, and Through,

Immigrants and Refugees in Korea[1]

J. Nelson Jennings

Published in Global Missiology, January 2019



The recent increase of immigrants and refugees arriving in South Korea has raised new challenges for the Republic of Korea (ROK) government, companies, local communities, and citizens. For churches and Christian ministries in South Korea, more foreigners has meant more contact with Christians and non-Christians from relatively unfamiliar countries. The most fundamental questions facing Korean Christians concern Gods purposes behind the arrival of immigrants and refugees: for the new arrivals themselves, for Korean Christians growth, and for possibilities of new gospel ministries.

God is leading and using Korean Christians in their service to immigrants and refugees. God is also using the presence of more foreigners in South Korea to challenge Korean Christians to grow in various ways. This essay seeks to encourage Korean Christians in their service, as well as in their growth, through looking at a few examples of Gods work among immigrants and refugees in other parts of the world.


There has been a dramatic increase in recent years of immigrants and refugees arriving in South Korea. Along with Europeans and U.S.-Americans who are in South Korea for business or study, migrant workers include those of Korean descent from both China and former Soviet countries. Immigrants streaming into the Republic of Korea are also laborers and arranged brides from throughout Southeast Asia, as well as others from the Middle East, Africa, and even Latin America. In addition to immigrants looking for work and a better life, refugees from Yemen have sought safety from war and associated dangers of disease and poverty. Such refugees are in addition to North Korean defectors who have been fleeing to South Korea since the 1950s.

For Korean Christians, the presence of immigrants and of refugees offer new opportunities for ministry. While some new arrivals are Christian, many are Buddhist, Muslim, or of some other religious tradition and thus present to Korean Christians the opportunity for evangelistic outreach. Most immigrants and refugees need assistance with such basic life needs as work, food, housing, healthcare, friendship, transportation, childcare and education, language acquisition, and legal status. Government agencies can assist with some of these needs. At the same time, churches and other Christian ministries are in positions not only to supplement government help but also to provide services that no one else can convey - particularly doing so in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ.

This article will proceed through three sections. First will be a historical look at what has happened in various parts of the world to shape Christians' attitudes toward immigrants and refugees. Next will be a consideration of such external circumstances as government policies and economics that push people to emigrate away from their own countries and pull them to certain other countries, including to South Korea. How such circumstances affect Christian ministries to immigrants and refugees will also be examined. Third will be a consideration of key questions for Korean Christians, including what they can learn from other examples of ministries to immigrants and refugees. The overall hope is to encourage Korean Christians in their own growth and in their efforts to serve new arrivals in word and deed with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Historical Factors

Human beings have both migrated and established settled communities all throughout history. The Apostle Paul declares how God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God (Acts 17:26-27). Pauls words here emphasize human settlement while including migrations to reach, and by inference to move between, specific locales. The Scriptures also emphasize Gods ongoing dealings with all peoples, whether settled or migrating, so that they can know and worship him.

In considering Gods work through churches ministries to immigrants and refugees worldwide, it is vitally important to understand that all churches are intertwined with their historical, social, and political contexts. Each church's contextual entanglement is true whether or not church leaders and members realize it, however a church might evaluate it, and even if a church tries to counter or avoid it. Churches inevitable contextual locations manifest themselves in different ways, to varying degrees, and in relation to any number of areas, including churches immigrant and refugee ministries. To understand those ministries, then, requires careful consideration of their contexts historical and socio-political interactions with foreigners.


Even with vicissitudes of periodic kingdom changes since Koreas legendary founding well over four millennia ago, long ago Koreans became a settled and relatively homogeneous people. Ever since, across the generations Koreans' interactions with foreigners have been intermittent. Significant intercultural changes have included Korea adopting Chinese writing over two thousand years ago, then imbibing Buddhism from China in the fourth century C.E. Since then Korea has had occasional interactions with both China and Japan, but until modern times Korea remained a distinct, stable, and isolated nation.

While there had been occasional emigrations out of Korea throughout its history, a modern small exodus began in the 1860s when some farmers moved northward for more arable land. Soon afterward, as emigration accelerated during the late nineteenth century, the coming to Korea of migrating Westerners and their expanding military and economic empires began to introduce dramatic changes to the so-called Hermit Kingdom. These empires competed and clashed with each other across the world, including in East Asia. Japans rapid rise into the ranks of modern empires included its 1910 annexation of Korea, beginning Japans 35-year effort not only to rule over but effectively to absorb Koreans into the Japanese Empire and Japans 1930-1945 Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The 1945 liberation from Japan began a restoration of Korean independence and cultural integrity. However, modern multi-imperial competition quickly morphed into the U.S.-Soviet Union/China Cold War, which engulfed Korea in yet another fundamental period of change, namely a brutal war and the Peninsulas separation into North and South. As for South Korea, poverty, separated families, and military dictatorships compounded the challenges faced by the post-Korean War generation.

As the South Korean economy grew during the 1970s and 1980s, the stage was set for a wave of Chinese migrant laborers to rush in following the 1992 normalization of Chinese-South Korean relations. The Korean economys accelerated growth into the early twenty-first century, coupled with an aging societys need for manual laborers, has pulled waves of workers from throughout Asia, arranged brides from Southeast Asia, as well as students from around the world. This rapid rise of foreigners in Korea means that today there are about 2.7 million non-Korean residents, constituting over five percent of the total population of 51.5 million.

Koreans' inherited attitudes toward foreigners, including newly arrived immigrants, quite understandably vary toward Westerners, Japanese, Chinese (including Chinese-Korean Joseonjok), Southeast Asians, Middle Easterners, and others. Those differences will receive further consideration below.

Europe and North America

For Europeans - whether in Europe itself or wherever else Europeans have migrated, including the United States of America - two sets of historical experiences have negatively shaped current immigrant relations. One set was associated with two particular Islamic incursions into Europe, both all the more poignant due to Islams ongoing presence to Europes immediate south and southeast. The first was the Islamic Umayyad Caliphates sixth- and seventh-century spread westward across North Africa and northward into the Iberian Peninsula, halted in 732 at the Battle of Tours. The development in Iberia of Moorish civilization resulted, which the Spanish finally sought to expel in the late fifteenth century. The second Europe-altering Islamic incursion consisted of the series of Ottoman Wars in southeastern Europe and stretched over 600 years, from the late thirteenth into the early twentieth century. In representative fashion, the Ottoman Empire conquered the Roman-imperial city Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul, and at times the Ottomans pushed onward toward the very heart of Europe. These two historic episodes are deeply etched in Europeans psyches, and Europeans various historical memories are manifested in their countries contrasting attitudes toward Muslim immigrants today, for example southeast-European Hungarys hardline policies versus north-European Germanys heretofore open welcome.

The second set of experiences took place during the lengthy fifteenth-to-nineteenth-century enslavement of Africans and briefer nineteenth-to-twentieth-century European imperial era, the latter of which included the occupation of vast portions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas (including Russias eastward expansion across Asia and into northwestern America). During these world-changing and overlapping episodes of slavery and imperialism, Europeans (and Euro-Americans) came to assume themselves to be superior to their benighted, exotic counterparts who, in most cases, became their slaves or subjects. Buttressed by modern military might and reinforced by the development of evolutionary theory during the latter half of the nineteenth-century, British, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Russian encounters with Africans, Asians, and (indigenous) Americans deepened a sense among European peoples that White human beings unquestionably were more advanced than Brown, Yellow, and Black peoples. Some of the encounters occurred in Africa, Asia, or the Americas - all areas where Europeans had migrated for exploration, trade, religion, resettling, or rule. Some encounters took place in Europe, where some slaves were transported and where others were brought for display or education. The cumulative result that peoples of White European heritages have been bequeathed is a hard-wired instinct that reacts to non-European peoples as inferior human beings.

The surrounding contexts and subconscious convictions, then, of European churches (including Euro-American U.S. churches), henceforth collectively labeled as Euro-churches, convey both fear and disdain of non-White immigrants and refugees - with fear particularly directed toward Muslims. As noted earlier, churches immigrant and refugee ministries will manifest such contextual fear and disdain in different ways and to varying degrees. Of course, immigrants and refugees observe and experience the fear, disdain, and other attitudes held toward them in the contexts they have entered.

A more positive tradition in Western societies with respect to treatment of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers has been that of providing sanctuary. The biblical background for this tradition is in both Testaments: Old Covenant Israel is admonished to treat foreigners with mercy in light of their own heritage as aliens and as slaves, as well as to provide cities of refuge for asylum seekers; and, the New Testament emphasizes mercy, compassion, hospitality, and forgiveness in caring for those in need. Ancient Athenians also had a tradition of providing refuge for asylum seekers. This principle of sanctuary has long been established in European and U.S. common law (Deslandes 2007).

The Christian character of immigrant and refugee ministries both builds on the positive tradition of hosting foreigners in need and at least tempers, and sometimes counters, Euro-Christians fears and disdain of non-White people. In any case, any representative description of Euro-churches immigrant and refugee ministries will yield a kaleidoscopic tapestry, consistent with those ministries varied and complex historical backgrounds.

External Circumstances

The globalized nature of today's world makes some aspects of various countries' external circumstances strikingly similar, e.g., in connection with global economic trends. At the same time, each country's circumstances have unique features that require separate examinations for an adequate understanding of the contexts within which Christian ministries to immigrants and refugees are carried out.

The Republic of Korea

Especially since the 1992 treaty that normalized China-ROK relations, immigration into South Korea has raised the number of non-Korean residents from miniscule to the current five-plus percent of the total population. According to September 2018 statistics from the ROK Immigration Office, the breakdown of foreign residents in Korea is as follows:[2]

Official Foreign Residents: 2,321,820

- Long-term Registered Foreign Residents: 1,220,626

- Short-term Stay (6 months): 667,093

- Foreign Nationality of Korean Heritage: 434,101

- Undocumented[3] Immigrants: 344,589

Foreign Residents by Nationality

1) China: 1,066,659 (45.9%)

    *Note: Approximately two-thirds are Chinese-Korean Joseonjok.

2) Thailand: 192,163 (8.3%)

3) Vietnam: 191,567 (8.2%)

4) U.S.A: 155,132 (6.7%)

5) Uzbekistan: 68,480 (2.9%)

Foreign Residents Status and Roles

- Laborers: 588,158

- Spouses: 158,357

- Students: 166,401

- North Korean Defectors: 31,827

These high numbers and levels of diversity indicate the significant social and political adjustments that South Korea has had to make, both structurally and on personal levels. The numbers also represent a wide range of immigrant experiences in adjusting to life in South Korea and Koreans reception of them.

As noted earlier, this intersection of a homogeneous Korea and various immigrants is not a totally new phenomenon. Nor is South Korea in any sense unique among non-Western or even Asian countries in having a recent influx of foreigners, most of whom are seeking work. In Japan, for example, the number of foreign workers has nearly doubled over the past five years and almost quadrupled over the past decade (Obe 2018). Like South Korea, Japan's aging society and high education rate have heightened the need for unskilled laborers. These other realities notwithstanding, the volume and kaleidoscopic variety of non-Koreans now living in a still homogeneous South Korea constitute an unprecedented Korean situation, presenting new questions and challenges for South Korean society, as well as for its newly arrived residents.

There are mixed assessments of how well South Korea and Koreans are adjusting. On the positive side, the ROK government has both approved measures to ease the steps required for attaining citizenship and promoted the use of the less discriminatory damunhwa ("multicultural") to describe mixed families (Palmer and Park 2018). Negatively, de facto different types of visas for different nationalities (and corresponding popular attitudes), plus steps like the creation of special "multicultural zones," e.g., Wongok-dong in Ansan City, perpetuate what many perceive to be Koreans instincts toward homogeneity and even xenophobia.

The discussion so far has focused primarily on immigrants and not refugees. Technically North Korean defectors fleeing to South Korea are refugees, but they fall into a special category due to their common Korean heritage. The recent issue of how to handle several hundred Yemeni refugees, who had been arriving on Jeju Island via budget AirAsia flights from Malaysia, exposed fears and concerns that mirrored those of Europeans and Euro-Americans: surely terrorists were among the Yemeni Muslims, government services cost South Korean citizens, and like other outsiders the Yemeni refugees would steal jobs. In light of such domestic protests, pro-refugee progressives have accused the ROK government of "caving to xenophobic sentiment" this past October by denying asylum to the vast majority of the Yemenis seeking refugee status (Kim 2018).

It is within this socio-political context that Korean Christians - both with their own attitudes as Koreans and as Christians, as well as with how they are perceived by immigrants and refugees of various nationalities - create and carry out related ministries.

With regard to refugees, no doubt surprisingly to many the three leading recipient countries are Turkey, Pakistan, and Uganda. All three are situated next to major war-torn, humanitarian crises, namely Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, respectively. While all three receiving countries could be instructive for comparing South Korea's posture toward refugees, Uganda in particular offers much from which Koreans can learn.

The Example of Uganda

Like Korea, Uganda's long and regional history (dotted with neighbor conflicts as it was) was interrupted during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries by the incursion of, then subjugation to, an expanding imperial power, in Uganda's case Great Britain. Also similarly, independence came after the Second World War, also soon followed by brutal internal warfare and dictatorial rule. For Uganda, the worst of those twin ills came during the 1970s under Idi Amin. With specific reference to the treatment of foreigners, Amin tapped into widespread resentment against South Asians - whom earlier the British had transported to East Africa to manage finance and construction industries - by intimidating, murdering, or expelling them. Other foreigners and certain Ugandans were also targeted by the Amin regime and either fled Uganda or faced dire consequences at the hands of Amin's secret police thugs.

Amazingly, soon after Amin's reign of terror the migration flow reversed. Like other East African countries Uganda became a major recipient of refugees, especially during the period surrounding the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Since then ongoing conflicts in central Africa have supplied a stream of refugees into Uganda (and other contiguous countries), as has Sudan's purging of southern Sudanese, thousands of whom have flooded into Uganda.

Despite being a small, landlocked, and underdeveloped country itself, Uganda now hosts approximately 1.15 million foreign refugees (UNHCR 2018) among its overall population of around 43 million. With many Ugandans having experienced life as immigrants and refugees themselves (e.g., during the Amin era), local communities share land with new arrivals for cultivation and for residence, in step with Ugandas national open-door policy (Goldstein 2018). Rather than this sharing amounting to a damaging economic sacrifice for Ugandans, refugee efforts have added to the vibrancy of local economies.

With respect to Christian ministries, all sorts of churches in Uganda - including Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal - have been helping refugees spiritually and physically, both in the 11 major refugee camps and otherwise. Churches led by refugees themselves have also been vitally important in encouraging the refugees to live each day with hope and in supportive communities.

Ugandans historical background is not beset with the European (and Euro-American) experience that has cultivated instincts of fear and disdain toward non-White peoples. Ugandans are also historically closer than are Europeans to communal use of land, rather than its private and individual ownership, thus freeing them to share what is most precious in the midst of their own material poverty. Openly receiving immigrants and refugees strains Ugandas economy and the aid it receives, and increased risks of disease and other societal harms must not be ignored. Even so, Ugandas reception of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers continues to be a beacon of light and hope to many.

Europe and the United States

As noted earlier, different European countries have different policies about receiving immigrants and refugees. Italy and other southern European countries have struggled to keep up with waves of immigrants and refugees from both Africa and the Middle East. Germanys immigration openness, coupled with many migrants hopes of reaching Germanys wealth and job opportunities, means that roughly 25% of Germanys overall population has an immigrant background (meaning that either an individual or at least one of their parents was born with non-German citizenship). While the U.S. remains the largest annual recipient of immigrants, its overall immigrant population is only about half the percentage of Germanys, or approximately 13%. On the other hand, refugees admissions into both Germany and the U.S. have declined precipitously, the latter extremely sharply under the Trump Administrations attempts to block all outsiders from certain (Muslim) countries and to increase screening of all immigrants and asylum seekers (Galvin 2018).

With specific reference to the U.S., various circumstances should be considered. First, the U.S. claims a foundational tradition, symbolized by the iconic Statue of Liberty poem, of welcoming bedraggled immigrants and refugees: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Second is the assistance given by the U.S. to Europe and parts of Asia immediately following World War II. Third, and linked with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, is the demographic transformation of the U.S. that has taken place since the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, effectively eliminating quotas that had favored northern European immigrants and had especially limited Asian, African, and Latin American immigrants and refugees ( 2018).

Earlier in U.S. history, Christian involvements in ministries to immigrants and refugees had taken place through such efforts as the so-called Underground Railroad for assisting fleeing African-American slaves in the nineteenth century, as well as early-twentieth-century relief services for poor urban migrant laborers. Larger Christian structures emerged during and after World War II. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), formed in 1942, two years later created its War Relief Commission, which later became World Relief. The NAE and World Relief have served immigrants and refugees ever since, including through issuing statements expressing concern over the Trump Administrations policies restricting the U.S. reception of refugees (National Association of Evangelicals n.d., World Relief 2018). Mainline Christians were represented by the 1946 formation of the Church World Service (CWS), a Protestant-Catholic coalition of churches committed to help provide relief to war-torn Europe and Asia. CWSs focus has expanded ever since, including its Immigration and Refugee Program (Church World Service n.d.a). CWS has also participated in the U.S. sanctuary movement, which gained traction in the 1980s for Central American refugees and today consists of both participating religious buildings and select cities that protect undocumented immigrants, refugees, and others from U.S. government seizure and deportation (Church World Service n.d.b, Ofgang 2018).

Key Questions

Having worked through several historical factors and contemporary external consequences for Christian ministries among immigrants and refugees, this article will conclude by focusing on three key questions that South Korean Christians face in considering ministries among foreigners in Korea.

1. Should Korean missions stay focused internationally or shift to domestic ministries?

In the U.S., the increase in immigrants and refugees from all around the world has persuaded some churches and mission organizations to shift away from sending missionaries internationally to ministering domestically to the nations that have come to us. Various reasons are given for making this shift:

(a) It is an unnecessary waste of finances to support U.S. missionaries internationally when those finances could meet a host of other pressing needs.

(b) Some of those saved finances can support less expensive, indigenous Christian pastors and evangelists, who are more effective in ministry among their own people than expatriate U.S. missionaries.

(c) More church members can be directly involved with ministries to immigrants who are nearby than to people in other parts of the world.

For Korean churches and mission organizations, then, these reasons would mean to send fewer Korean missionaries internationally; financially support less expensive and more effective indigenous Christian workers; and, focus more people and finances on immigrants living in Ansan and other parts of South Korea where foreigners reside.

In actuality, this question about international or domestic missions has several nuanced dimensions that cry out for extensive attention. For the purposes of this article, suffice it to point out that the question of international or domestic does not inherently force a mutually exclusive choice. Both are needed, and Korean Christians need not fear that their commitment to international missions is necessarily lessened by a focus on ministering domestically to immigrants and refugees.

2. Where should Korean Christians look for constructive examples of ministries among ministries to immigrants and refugees?

God is already using Korean churches, ministries, and individual Christians in the lives of immigrants and refugees. Korean Christians are sharing the gospel in word and deed in many effective and important ways. Christians who come to know foreigners cannot help but come to understand at least some of their needs and desire to help meet those needs.

To recall earlier considerations of a situation like Uganda, Korean Christians can see similar characteristics in their own historical background and hence look to Uganda and Christian ministries there for models and encouragements for its own ministries among immigrants and refugees. Like Uganda, Korea has recently suffered colonization, internally displaced refugees, poverty, and emigration out of their countries. The entrance of such modern capitalist values as legally enforced private property has been recent enough to call upon traditional values of common property and the free sharing of goods for the sake of others and the community. Like Ugandans, Koreans do not have the long experience of oppressing other peoples; nor do they have the historical legacy of hostility with Islamic peoples the way that European peoples do. The generous welcome that Uganda has given to others provides examples of service that Koreans can emulate. The example of indigenous immigrant and refugee leaders pastoring and otherwise serving their compatriots is an example that Korean ministries are already carrying out.

All that is not to say that Christians of European heritage do not also offer models of which Korean Christians should take note. Western churches and ministries have responded to newly arrived immigrants in various ways, most often with a welcoming spirit. Those Christians who have opposed welcoming immigrants into their countries have reasoned that their own governments responsibility is to protect the safety and economic well-being of their own citizenry. For these Christians, priorities set by their earthly citizenship have overruled Christian hospitality with respect to immigrants.

Even so, the majority of Christians in Europe and North America have welcomed and served immigrants. One typical way of service has been to help immigrant Christian groups find places to gather for worship. Often churches have loaned their own buildings at times not conflicting with their own gatherings for immigrants to use, for example on Sunday afternoons. Another typical ministry has been language instruction to help immigrants learn to function in the host countrys prevailing language. Churches with professionals have often provided medical, legal, or other services at reduced cost or free of charge. Some churches have cooperated with local government or social service agencies in helping to secure housing, schooling for children, and other basic social and material needs.

Within the arena of becoming friends with immigrants, one significant ministry has focused on international students, for example International Students Incorporated (ISI). ISI reaches out to international students with small group gatherings, Bible studies for evangelism and discipleship, and a program for pairing international students with host families for meals and friendship. ISI values facilitating international students entries into host families actual homes, giving them a glimpse of daily life they would otherwise miss were they to remain solely on their university campus or public facilities (International Students Inc. 2019).

Korean churches and ministries are largely carrying out similar ministries. As for sanctuary or initiatives that might question government policy, South Korean Christians may be hesitant, even though they have a heritage of opposing Japanese colonialism. They also lived through the confusion and heartache of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when capitalist and communist sympathizers and effectively different governments were maneuvering for control, often oppressing ordinary citizens. South Koreans also lived through dictatorships and secret police opposing any criticisms. Such a background should thereby enable Christians - should they judge it godly and necessary - to serve refugees and immigrants in ways that are just if not precisely legal.

3. What is God teaching Korean Christians through the recent increase of immigrants and refugees in South Korea?

God is using Korean Christians to serve immigrants and refugees in Korea. How might God be using immigrants and refugees to instruct and change Korean Christians?

Particularly for conservative and evangelical Christians (unclear as both of those modifiers might be), there are two areas in which God may be sending some instructive messages through the coming of refugees in particular. The first message concerns how to inform patriotic devotion to Korea with Christian solidarity with other kinds of people. Much of the most strident opposition to accepting Yemeni refugees in South Korea has come from conservative Christians (Haas 2018). Similarly, U.S. Evangelical Christians have been among the Trump Administrations firmest supporters of more stringent immigration policies - particularly with regard to undocumented immigrants, refugees, and Muslims - in the name of protection against violence, job-stealing, and increased social service costs. It could be that conservative, evangelical Christians in both South Korea and the U.S. need carefully to examine their hidden, intertwined devotions to Christ and to ones country. Since such a sensitive examination almost always requires personal encounters with people who are of a different nationality, it very well could be that part of Gods purpose in sending increased numbers of foreigners to Korea (and to the U.S.) is to challenge too tight of an alliance between love of God and unquestioned patriotism.

The second message for conservative and evangelical Christians concerns involvement in, including possible opposition to, government affairs and policies. Conservative Christian teaching emphasizes the divinely ordained character of government and Christians corresponding duty to respect and obey, for example because of Romans 13:1-7. Should Christians become involved, for example, in welcoming refugees and immigrants when their government sets policies that are not as welcoming? The nature of the sanctuary movement is to host refugees and immigrants that are not fully welcome or are in some form of danger, usually from government. With specific reference to the refugees from Yemen, how should conservative and evangelical Korean Christians respond - including after the national government decided unfavorably about granting asylum to those refugees?

As a third message intended for all Korean Christians, it could be that God is using immigrants and refugees to stretch them in their sense of corporate self-identity. With a long heritage of homogeneity, Korean Christians quite naturally have a strong sense of their Korean Christian identity. In a corresponding way, South Korean Christians have had a special place in their hearts for North Korean refugees and defectors, especially given the many separated families since the early 1950s. Could it be the case that God will use increased encounters with people of other nationalities - who are now more numerous in South Korea than ever before - to show Korean Christians their human identity as Christians, shared with Christians of other nationalities and cultural backgrounds? As such, Korean Christians may come to a deeper sense of who we and they are, including knowing instinctively that we who are Christians share our identities in Christ as redeemed human beings who are part of a new, international humanity.


God continues to oversee the settling and moving of peoples throughout the world. He is using Korean Christians in the lives of foreign immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; and, he is using these newly arrived, migrating people in the lives of Korean Christians. May God help us all to know him more fully in Jesus Christ.


Church World Service (n.d.a). History, (as with all other sites listed here, accessed January 17, 2019).

Church World Service (n.d.b). Search results for: sanctuary,

Deslandes, Ann (2017). Sanctuary Cities Are as Old as The Bible JSTOR Daily,

Galvin, Gaby (2018). 10 Countries That Take the Most Immigrants  U.S. News & World Report,

Goldstein, Joseph (2018). As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them The New York Times,

Haas, Benjamin (2018). Yemen refugees arrival in Jeju splits South Korean resort island Post Magazine, Editors (2018). U.S. Immigration since 1965 History,

International Students Inc. (2019). Website home page,

Kim, Tong-Hyung (2018). "Progressives say Seoul caved in denying asylum to Yemenis" AP News,

National Association of Evangelicals (n.d.). Search results for: refugees,

Obe, Mitsuru (2018). Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors Nikkei Asian Review,

Ofgang, Erik (2018) Holy Ground Connecticut Magazine, December 2018: 82-88; available online as Erik Ofgang, The Ancient Tradition of Seeking Sanctuary in Churches Has Been Reborn in Connecticut Connecticut Magazine,

Palmer, James and Park, Ga-Young Park (2018). South Koreans Learn to Love the Other Foreign Policy,

UNHCR (2018). Uganda Comprehensive Refugee Response Portal,

World Relief (2018). Refugee Crisis,

[1] A condensed version of this article appeared in Korean as ô ϳ (The God Who Expands Boundaries) in ȸͽ (Ministry and Theology), 2019(1): 45-49, available online at This and all other sites were accessed on January 17, 2019.

[2] These statistics were translated for me in November, 2018 by a Korean colleague from websites of the Republic of Koreas Ministry of Justice at and

[3] Here and in the subsequent instance as well, illegal was originally published in January, 2019, but was changed to undocumented in February, 2019.