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Raising the Banner in Korea:
An Early Bahá'í History

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 11

11.       The First Annual Convention of the Bahá'ís of Korea, 1964

      In 1964 the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Korea was elected. The historic election took place in Taegu, April 22-25, 1964. At that time there were about 5000 Bahá'ís in the country. The number of delegates assigned to the Convention was 38, representing 26 Local Spiritual Assemblies which had been elected the Ridván before. (Some countries in those days elected delegates only from communities which had Local Spiritual Assemblies. As the overall Bahá'í community became more spread out delegates were elected from larger areas to include all the country.) Of the 38 delegates, 27 were able to attend the first convention. A total of 65 believers from 27 localities participated in the convention. The participants had the bounty of the presence of Hand of the Cause Dr. Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, who represented the Universal House of Justice. He presented a teaching plan for the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly to help them attain some of the teaching goals.

      The members of the newly-elected National Spiritual Assembly were Dr. David Earl (chairman), Mr. Suh Byong-in (vice-chairman), Mr. William Smits (corresponding secretary), Mrs. Joy Earl (treasurer), Mr. Pak Sam-bong (recording secretary), Mr. Kim Chang-zin, Mr. Kim Bong-chol, Mr. Yang Jae-ho and Dr. Kim Myung Jung.

      Korea was the first community to leave the jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia. At the time of the election the Universal House of Justice gave some special tasks to the new National Spiritual Assembly to accomplish. The House of Justice wrote (in part), "We acclaim with joyful hearts the splendid response of so many devoted souls in Korea to the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, resulting in the formation of an independent Bahá'í Community and another pillar of the Universal House of Justice, an event of untold significance for Asia and the Far East. This Community, which first received the light of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation during the Ministry of the Centre of His Covenant, must now take up the tasks assigned to it in the Nine Year Plan."

      The Faith continued to grow, at an accelerated rate. There were three full-time Korean Bahá'í teachers and several part-time teachers and a number of teacher-training institutes, the first having been initiated in April 1963. After 1964 it becomes difficult to give a detailed statistical report. With the emphasis on teaching and with so many people devoting their efforts to spreading the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, enrollments in Korea soared.

      Consolidation was carefully considered and was assisted by the teachers returning again and again to the communities.

      In October 1964 Mrs. Ayako Ogi, one of the older Bahá'ís of Tokyo, visited Korea. In her early years, before she became a Bahá'í, she had lived

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      The first National Convention of the Bahá'ís of Korea, Taegu, 1964. Hand of the Cause Dr. Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, the official representative, is sitting in the middle.

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      The First National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Korea, elected 1964. Front: Mr. Suh Byong-in (vice-chairman), Mrs. Joy H. Earl (treasurer), Mr. Kim Chang-zin and Mr. Kim Bong-chol. Standing: Mr. Pak Sam-bong (recording secretary), Dr. David Earl (chairman), Mr. William Smits (corresponding secretary), Mr. Yang Jae-ho and Dr. Kim Myung Jung.

      Dr. Kim was to become the first Korean Counsellor (1988) and Mr. Yang was the first Korean Auxiliary Board Member (1964).

     

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in Korea when it was under Japanese rule. It was the first visit of a Japanese Bahá'í to that country. While she was there she attended the sixth Teachers' Training Institute in Anyang and visited Bahá'ís in Taegu, Pusan, Kyongju, and Seoul and had one radio interview. Her non-Bahá'í relatives had been fearful for her safety because of the anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. However, it was a successful teaching trip. When she returned to Japan the Asahi newspaper asked her to write of her trip.

      The following year, the second Japanese Bahá'í arrived in Korea to stay for two years: Mrs. Akiko Schreiber, whose husband Eugene had a position with an American company.

      In December 1964 Mr. Yang Jae-ho was appointed Auxiliary Board Member by the Hands of the Cause in Asia, the first Korean Bahá'í so appointed. There were now two Auxiliary Board Members: Mr. Yang and Mr. McHenry III, who had been appointed the previous year. Lt. Col. John and Mrs. Elizabeth McHenry, parents of John III, arrived in 1964 to stay for two years. Lt. Col. McHenry had visited Korea in the early 1950s and again in 1963 and marveled at the difference that a decade had made.      


      Two Auxiliary Board Members in Korea, 1965. Mr. John McHenry   III and Mr. Yang Jae Ho, the first Korean to be appointed to the Auxiliary Board. Both were appointed by Hand of the Cause Miss Agnes Alexander. In 1969 Mr. McHenry was appointed the first Counsellor for Korea.
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      Also in 1964 Dr. David and Mrs. Joy Earl moved to Seoul. They were familiar with Korea as both of them had traveled there at times to attend schools or institutes.
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