Archbishop Smith’s first South Korea visit a chance to strengthen ties that bind

28 November 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

In Korean, there are ways to say  ̶  and show – respect and thanks in language and in deed.

Fresh of a five-day visit to South Korea, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith prefers the word gamsahamnida, or thank you. From Nov. 14-18, he visited the Archdiocese of Gwangju, which has sent  priests to minister at St. Jung Ha Sang – the Korean parish in Edmonton – for more than 20 years. Read Archbishop Smith’s personal blog here.

His visit included meeting Rev. Jeong Cheol Cheon, the current pastor of St. Jung Ha Sang Parish, who was on vacation there. The St. Jung Ha Sang community is estimated at 1,400, some of whom can only attend Mass only once a month because they live more than a four-hour drive away.

Archbishop Smith plans to celebrate Mass at St. Jung Ha Sang church on Dec. 1, meet with the parish community, and reflect on his first visit to their homeland.

“I was very surprised. It’s a historic moment for us,” noted Nicholas Kim, chair of the St. Jung Ha Sang parish council. “We’re very honoured that the Archbishop made this visit. We’ve been here for 40 years and this is the first time he’s visited Korea.”

On the face of it, South Korea is an economic and technological powerhouse. Its leaders in industry – Samsung, Kia Motors, Hyundai, LG – are known worldwide. Its biggest export: semiconductors.

On a deeper level, Archbishop Smith said he was struck not only by the country’s hospitality but by a culture of honour and respect for the Church, and for each other.

“That really jumped out at me through the visual expression of the bowing. They do deliberately bow to one another, and not just any official, but to one another. Even that symbol of the bow shows a distinct difference in the culture,” Archbishop Smith said.

“They express thanks to one another, respect for another. I joked with them. I said when I get back to Edmonton, I’ve been bowing so much here, I’ll start bowing to everybody over in Edmonton!”