random korea thoughts

– man, koreans like HEAT! almost every building i was in was roasting hot to me. of course, maybe that’s because the average korean has, um, slightly less body fat than me…

– seoul really is a world class city. beautiful, easy to get around, very friendly.

– i had thought there were two options in the world, when it came to tipping and service: countries like the US where you tip a lot and get ok service because of it, and countries like france where you don’t tip much, but get lousy service as a result. korea! i love you! no tipping here at all (it would be considered offensive); but GREAT service, all the time.

– i suppose this is my limited subjective white-boy perspective, but it seemed like people fell into one of only two extremes when it came to style, hair, etc: either way-hip, or way-not. not a whole lotta in-between.

– real korean barbecue is just a gorgeous palette pleaser. i’ve had it in the states, but it was better there.

– people have asked me why i think there are so many massive churches in korea. i’m sure there are scholarly and researched books that give the correct answer to that question; but my 2 cents is this:
first, christianity grew from basically 0% of the population to 25% of the population in roughly 50 or 60 years, with a real explosion in the 70s and 80s. the speed of growth led to huge churches, church planting couldn’t keep up with the massive influx of new believers.
second, most of the large churches grew like crazy in the 70s and 80s on church growth models of small groups. really, all the big churches here are a hive of small groups, rather than a big “seeker” show like some of our “large” (though small, by comparison!) churches in the states.

– there’s a down-side to all of this massive church stuff: the senior pastors are treated like gods (though the ones i met seemed to be wise and godly men). i mean, rick warren and joel osteen might be revered by their followers, but i doubt anyone tries to touch them thinking it might bring healing.

– incheon airport (the main airport for seoul) is a gorgeous airport. one of the most beautiful and well appointed i’ve been in.

– my friend and host charles told me that a dozen years ago it was very hard to find a coffee shop in seoul. now there are starbucks and coffee beans and “angel-in-us coffee” shops everywhere, usually two on each side the street, on a given city block. and french pastry shops.

– all the church leaders told me that teenagers are too busy studying during the week, due to massive academic pressure for college entrance, to have mid-week youth ministry stuff. they said that kids come home from school around 3 in the afternoon, then go to study places until 11pm, every night. but i saw tons of teenagers out on the street every evening. i’m not sure that the kids are all where their parents think they are.

– there’s a ton of amazing things going on in the korean church, but there’s a pretty big lack in worship bands (we’re having a hard time finding the right bands for our convention).

– seoul is the fashion capital of asia, and, clearly, “tight” is the current fashion. a fatboy like me wouldn’t have a chance of being fashionable without terrifying people.

– almost everyone i met (really, maybe everyone) had been to the states at least once. the connection between the korean american and korean cultures is so strong, it almost seems like we’re neighboring counties. (yes, counties, not countries)

– i think there’s one woman somewhere who does all the english-language airport announcements all over the world. i’m sure the voice here in incheon airport is the same one i hear in the san diego airport.

4 thoughts on “random korea thoughts”

  1. re: teens on the street. (1) they might not be teens given how young we asians look, (2) if they were teens, they might be unchurched teens that the church doesn’t know how to reach out to

    re: worship bands. gen2 asian-americans have amazing worship bands. if it fits with the plan, i’m positive YS could find an excellent korean-amer worship band in socal.

  2. Hey Marko – there are some amazing Canadian Korean churches (probably US too?) in the major cities – maybe you could tap a few of those to see if you can “export” some music that would be culturally relevant, but a bit more progressive than you have been able to find “in country”?? Just a thought?

  3. Marko — These are some fun reflections :)

    Re: the mega-church phenomenon in Korea — I wonder if you got a feel for the potential of a YM3.0 approach in a very 2.0, “build it and they will come” environment. Certainly, Korean youth live in a vastly different culture from American kids (and Korean American kids, for that matter), I have the sense that things over there need to move towards a 3.0 ethos.

    Given the intense, non-stop pressure these teens endure, a communional, missional approach to life and faith would be a lifeline (contextualized to their culture, of course).

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