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Traces That Remain:
A Pictorial History of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith among the Japanese

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 24

24. The Faith Reaches Korea from Japan in 1921

Miss Alexander wrote, "While the Beloved Master was still on earth, the Message of Bahá'u'lláh reached Korea."

In Tokyo Miss Alexander had become acquainted with some Korean students, especially Mr. Oh Sang Sun. After Mr. Oh returned to his native Korea, she felt it was time to take the Faith to that land, that had not yet had a Bahá'í visit. At the time Korea was under Japanese rule. There was police surveillance


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The first Bahá'í Feast in Korea. This photograph was taken September 9, 1921. Miss Alexander and Mr. Oh are at the end of the table.

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and limited freedom.

To prepare for the trip she first visited Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, who was a friend of her cousin. He was then eighty-three years old, a great financier and philanthropist. He had started the first modern bank in Japan and later in Korea.

Viscount Shibusawa was friendly and sympathetic to the Bahá'í


This photograph was taken at the Chosen Hotel in Seoul at the request of Mr. Kurita, top right. He was a young Christian Japanese who was teaching the Korean mute. He had been born deaf but could do lip reading in English. Miss Alexander wrote that he was so skillful that she was not aware of his deafness until he once asked her if they might change their seats to a place with more light as he was reading her lips. Mr. Kurita had heard of the Faith in Japan but had not yet met Miss Alexander. Mr. Torii cabled him of Miss Alexander's coming to Korea. Mr. Kurita greatly assisted Miss Alexander while she was there. She wrote that he was the first among the deaf in Japan to become interested in the Faith. She considered him a remarkable young man. He later went to England to study and died while there. The other two young men in the photo were friends of Mr. Kurita.

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Teachings and he gave Miss Alexander three letters of introduction; to the governor of Korea Viscount Saito, and to the heads of the Daiichi Bank in Seoul and Pusan. Dr. Soetsu Yanagi, the famous folk-craft artist gave her an introduction to the editor of the English language newspaper, the Seoul Press. From the government offices the chief of police was communicated with and told that Miss Alexander should be given freedom to teach the Faith in Korea. By way of introductions, the highest officials of the land heard about the Faith first. Their approval made possible many meetings and newspaper articles.

When she arrived in Korea she was eager to locate her old friend Mr. Oh, but had no address for him. One day she was riding a streetcar with Mr. Kurita and his friends when her hand was suddenly grasped. She looked up and saw it was Mr. Oh. She wrote, "It was a joyful meeting." Mr. Oh was a great help to her, taking her around and translating for her.

On September 1, 1921, the first Bahá'í public meeting was held in Seoul. It was announced in the newspaper with only a day's notice. When Miss Alexander arrived at the hall that night, to her great surprise she saw about nine hundred Korean men


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Buddhist college students who attended a Bahá'í talk given by Miss Alexander, in Seoul, 1923, during her second trip to Korea. It was at a school in the suburbs of Seoul at which Mr. Oh taught. Miss Alexander wrote that she left at the college a framed photograph of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and a painting of the "Greatest Name" done by Auntie Victoria.

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sitting cross-legged on the matted floor, almost all in their white linen costumes. There were also some women sitting separately. Miss Alexander said she showed a photograph of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and spoke of the Center of the Covenant and of the Teachings.

Miss Alexander wanted to have a Bahá'í Feast on September 8, the Feast day. Mr. Oh arranged a meeting at the YMCA and invited some of his friends. The next night some of the men reciprocated and they had another Feast. Miss Alexander had the young men write messages to 'Abdu'l-Bahá on cards that were passed around. Three weeks before His Ascension, 'Abdu'l-Bahá answered with the only Tablet addressed to Koreans. He wrote in part: "Praise be to God, that celestial light guided and led you to the Sun of Reality, bestowed everlasting life and granted heavenly illumination. Ye are like seedlings which have been planted by the hand of bestowal in His Spiritual Rose-Garden. It is my hope that through the warmth of the Sun of Reality, the pouring down of the showers of mercy and the wafting of the breezes of bestowal, ye may progress day by day, so that each one may become a blessed tree, full of leaves and flowers


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Mr. Oh Sang Sun (right) first became interested in the Faith in Japan.

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and throw your shade over great multitudes . . . In all conditions my heart and spirit are with you."

Miss Alexander later wrote of her trip to Korea, "Was it not a sign of the times that a western woman and Christian by birth, should tell of the Message for a new day to Buddhist students in an old Buddhist temple in that far away land!"

There was no contact with Mr. Oh for many years, then in 1954 he was located by pioneers to Korea. By that time he had become an eminent poet, famous in Korea. He considered himself a Bahá'í and he and Miss Alexander had a joyful reunion in 1955 when she went there on a visit.

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