A Canadian-built mission house in the heart of Seoul became the heart of the emerging South Korean democratization movement, while a Korean minister rose to serve as the spiritual leader of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination. The century-long Korean-Canadian church relationship has had a lasting influence on Korean society and on the culture and mission of the United Church of Canada, helping to crack the colonial foundations of Canadian Protestantism.
Water from Dragon’s Well explores the connection between the Korean Christian community and the Canadian church and its missionaries from the 1890s to the present. Upon the arrival of Canadian missionaries, Korean Christian churches were already voicing nationalist aspirations; by the mid-twentieth century, they were demanding independence from Canadian missionary oversight and were participating in a wider democratic movement within South Korea. David Kim-Cragg traces indigenous churches’ resistance to decades of missionary paternalism and the ways they channelled their religious and political energies. Accepting the criticism of its hosts, the United Church of Canada helped build an independent Korean Christian church and, in 1974, ended its Korean mission. This shift in the Canadian missionaries’ colonial attitudes also contributed to the transformation of the United Church of Canada back home. With the help of Korean leadership in Canada, the church reconstructed its vision of non-Western Christianity and, in a watershed moment, established an ethnic ministry council.
Situated within ongoing conversations about the legacies of colonization and racism, Water from Dragon’s Well shows how wellsprings of religion and politics from Korea challenged and transformed white Canadian attitudes and institutions.
About the author
David Kim-Cragg is lecturer at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto.
“Water from Dragon’s Well crosses borders in fascinating ways. Few studies of bilateral relations manage to give equal weight and respect to each side; this one does. There is a strong reading of Korean language sources in these pages that allows the lesser told Korean mission story to be told.” David Webster, Bishop’s University