Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 22, 2018

United Methodist pastor comes from Korea

By Xiomara Levsen | Jul 28, 2017


A South Korean native is the new pastor at United Methodist Church in Washington.

He came to Washington a month ago.

“First of all, very nice I think people [are],” the Rev. Kwang Song said. “My congregation is very nice and very kind and also the people in this town. When I walk down the street the people are very nice. They show me smiling faces and ‘hi’s’ sometimes. They are very nice and very welcoming.”

He also likes the relaxed lifestyle people in the Midwest have.

“In South Korea, the lifestyle — the people are very busy all the time,” Song said. “Small country and a lot of people are there, and traffic. Too much expectation of each other. Work hard and study hard as students.”

Song joined the Korean Methodist Church, when he was in high school. The Korean Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian denominations in that country — almost 2,000,000.

“It’s a big denomitation in South Korea,” Song said. “The Christian population is 10,000,000.”

South Korea has a population of 50,000,000 people.

“But one of the most interesting things is if you ask people in South Korea what religon they are affliated with they say they are not Christian, which is not true,” Song said. “They say they are Buddhist.”

His parents considered themselves Buddhists when he was in elementary and middle school but his mom only went to a Buddhist temple once a year. He said at first his parents weren’t happy to hear he became a Christian, but eventually joined the Korean Methodist Church.

Christians in South Korea are similar to the Christians in the United States.

“Almost the same like here. Many of the Christians they go to church a time a month or twice a month or every Sunday,” Song said, “and some of them only go to church on Easter Sunday or Christmas Sunday or Christmas Eve night.”

In 1945, the Korean Penninsula seperated into North and South Korea. North Korea is a communist country and South Korea is a democracy with a lot of similarities to the United States government.

“Almost the same system as here,” Song said. “They have president. They have parties. Actually, right now they have two major parties — a conservative one and a liberal one.”

However, the president is elected every five years and can only serve one term in office, he said.

“Very Americanized right now, South Korea, because of the relationship with America — 50 years,” Song added. “Almost the same school system.”

Song came to the United States with his wife and two daughters in 2001 to study at a seminary in Chicago after being a missionary in Moscow, Russia.

After he was finished with school, he moved to Iowa City and was pastor there for several years and was familiar with Washington and likes it here, he said.

“It’s a nice town,” Song said. “I haven’t been here before. I just knew Washington here but I didn’t have any chance to come down here.”

He did meet someone who worked for the Washington County mini bus one day when he was working in Iowa City. The driver found a South Korean passport lying on the ground and spent three to four hours searching for the person who lost the passport. He eventually came to the church Song was pastor of at the time and asked for his assistance in finding the person.

“I don’t know the guy’s name,” Song said. “Maybe Steve, but he left a very good impression of Washington. He just didn’t hesitate his own time to find the owner of this passport. He came to my church and finally we found the guy — the owner of the passport. It was good. He was very impressive.”

Song was appointed by the bishop in the Iowa Annual Conference of the Methodist Church to Washington.

“We have one bishop here in Iowa and the bishop has some cabinet members,” Song said. “All of them are cabinet members. They discuss and match a pastor to the church every year, so technically the bishop found the church for me and the bishop found a pastor for the church for me.”

Song has asked one thing of his congregation.

“I ask my congregation to call me my first name, Kwang,” Song said, “but the people feel very uncomfortable calling me by my first name so you can call me Pastor Kwang or Rev. Kwang or Rev. Song. It’s their choice, but basically I encourage them to call me Kwang.”

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