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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 8

8.       Korea Becomes a Part of the North East Asia Community, 1957

      In April 1957 the Local Spiritual Assemblies of Seoul and Kwangju were again elected. However, this time the Kwangju Assembly consisted entirely of Korean Bahá'ís. At that time the number of adult Bahá'ís was Kwangju 26; Seoul 11; Mokpo 2 (Mr. Moon Sam Suk and Mr. Yang Hyo Jong): Pusan 2 (Capt. and Mrs. Kim Won Be); isolated 1 (Mr. Chung Chai Churl) and 20 youth. A report sent two months later lists 14 adult Bahá'ís and four youth in Seoul. There were three American pioneers in Korea, Mr. Smits (in Seoul), Mr. Maxwell (in Kwangju but soon to leave that city) and Miss Webster (in Seoul), who was soon to leave Korea.

      In April 1957 the first Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia took place in Tokyo, Japan, which had been designated by the Guardian to be the seat of the new National Spiritual Assembly. The communities represented were Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Originally the Russian island of Sakhalin, north of Japan, and Hainan, an island off the coast of southern China, had been included, but because at that time there was no entry to either island they were dropped from the area. Sakhalin remained a goal for the National Spiritual Assembly to open, however. This was accomplished many years later, in 1990 from Japan.

      Korea was represented at the convention by four delegates: Mr. Oh Je Dong, Mr. Kim Dong Sun, Mr. William Maxwell and Mr. William


Smits. Mr. Kim Chang-zin and Mr. Hahn Byoung Teck also attended as visitors.

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      This is a reduced copy of Shoghi Effendi's letter to the first Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia. It was hand-carried to Tokyo by the Guardian's representative to the Convention, Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalal Khazeh.

      Korea was an important community within the jurisdiction of the newly-elected Assembly. Members of the American Bahá'í community who were scattered around the North East Asia area were heartened by the tribute from the Guardian.


      Members elected to the new National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia were Hand of the Cause Miss Agnes Alexander, Mr. William Maxwell (chairman), Mr. Hiroyasu Takano (vice-chairman), Mr. Yadollah Rafaat (corresponding secretary), Mrs. Barbara R. Sims (recording secretary), Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi (treasurer), Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, Mr. Ataullah Moghbel and Mr. Philip Marangella. All were from Japan except Mr. Maxwell. When the Guardian was informed about the membership a letter written on his behalf stated: "He [the Guardian] was very happy to see that your Assembly has represented on it members of the three great races of mankind, a living demonstration of the fundamental teaching of our Holy Faith..."

      The convention was attended by two Hands of the Cause: newly appointed Miss Alexander, and Mr. Jalal Khazeh, who was the Guardian's representative at the convention. He brought two or three vials of attar of roses given by the Guardian to anoint the friends. (One of the vials he gave to the present writer. One whiff and memories of that time so long ago are quickly evoked.)

      After the convention Mr. Khazeh visited Korea, the first Hand of the Cause to do so. (Miss Alexander had visited Korea previously in her capacity as Auxiliary Board Member.) Mr. Khazeh met with the Local Spiritual Assembly of Seoul twice and expressed the opinion that the assembly was quite strong. He also met with the Local Spiritual

      Four Korean Bahá'ís shown with Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalal Khazeh attended the first National Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, in Tokyo, Japan, 1957. From the left: Mr. Kim Chang-zin, Mr. Hahn Byoung Taek, Mr. Khazeh, Mr. Kim Dong Sun and Mr. Oh Je Dong. Mr. Oh and Mr. Kim Dong Sun were delegates; the other two were visitors.

Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Kwangju and gave them explanations as to how to function. He spoke at Chunnan University with about 150 students present. His talk was translated by Mr. Oh Je Dong. In his report he wrote that he had had a press conference with six reporters present. He expressed appreciation to "dear Maxwell and dear Smits" who made his arrangements.

      The Ten Year Plan encompassed the years 1953 to 1963. When the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia was elected there were six years left so the Assembly was issued a subsidiary plan which was designed just for the newly-elected assembly, called the Six Year Plan. At that time there was no specific plan for Korea, but a general one for all of North East Asia. The Guardian wrote to the new National Spiritual Assembly (in part): "The Six Year Plan, designed to lend a tremendous impetus to the awakening of the peoples and races in those regions, should be prosecuted with the utmost diligence, unrelaxing vigilance and wholehearted consecration. All must participate, young and old alike, both men and women, however limited their circumstances or circumscribed their resources.

      "An effort, unprecedented in its scope and intensity, must be exerted to attain, speedily and completely the specific objectives of this Plan. The number of the avowed supporters of the Faith must rapidly increase. The isolated centers, groups and local assemblies, constituting the bedrock of a rising Administrative Order, must steadily and continually multiply. All firmly grounded local spiritual assemblies must be speedily incorporated, in order to reinforce the foundations of the institution of this divinely conceived Order. The Bahá'í Marriage certificate, as well as the Bahá'í Holy Days must, at the earliest possible opportunity, receive recognition from the civil authorities concerned. The work now being initiated in the Northern, and smaller islands of Japan, with such zeal and devotion should be constantly reinforced and its scope continually widened. The literature of the Faith must be translated into as many languages as possible, published and widely disseminated. The holding of summer-schools is yet another objective that should receive the earnest and immediate attention of the members of your assembly. The purchase of the Bahá'í burial-grounds, should, moreover, be, in due course considered and effectively carried out. The newly opened territories, that have been so painstakingly brought within the pale of the Faith, must at whatever cost, be safeguarded, and the enterprises initiated within their confines carefully expanded and consolidated. The acquisition of a plot, in the outskirts of Tokyo, to serve as the site of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of North East Asia, must, likewise, be seriously considered and brought to a successful conclusion."

      These goals were applied to all Bahá'í communities in North East Asia.


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      Mr. Jalal Khazeh was the first Hand of the Cause to visit Korea. This photo was taken with the Kwangju Bahá'ís in May, 1957. Miss Agnes Alexander had visited Korea earlier but at that time she had not yet been appointed Hand of the Cause.

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      The first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, elected April, 1957 in Tokyo, Japan. The area of the Assembly included Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, with its seat in Tokyo, Japan. Seated: Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi (treasurer), Miss Agnes Alexander, Mrs. Barbara R. Sims (recording secretary), Mr. Hiroyasu Takano (vice-chairman). Standing: Mr. Ataullah Moghbel, Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, Mr. Philip Marangella, Mr. Yadollah Rafaat (secretary), Mr. William Maxwell (chairman). According to a letter written on behalf of the Guardian he was "happy to see that (the) Assembly has represented on it members of the three great races of mankind, a living demonstration of the fundamental teaching of our Holy Faith."
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