Central Mosque in Seoul South Korea
History of Islam in Korea
Early Introduction StageKorea was full of poverty, sorrow and pain resulted from Korean War which broke out on June 25, 1950. In such ruins of war, Islam began planting its seeds by brother Zubercoch and Abdul Rahman who participated in the Korean War as military service members of the Turkish Army of the United Nations stationed in Korea. During his service he built a Quonset hut used as Masjid, where he preached Islamic doctrine to the Korean People. The Turkish Army taught the Korean people at the Masjid Tent built at the refugees' villages the teaching of Islamic monotheism during the Korean War, while the Korean people devoted themselves to religious lives in the dark and ruined sorroundings wishing for bright future trusting Allah.
Preparatory StateAs a first step towards an effective Islamic work in Korea, the early Muslim brothers organised a Korea Muslim society. This Islamic society elected Almarhum Muhammad Umar Kim Jin Kyu as president. Later, the leaders of the Korean Muslim were invited to visit Islamic Countries and some of the Korean Muslims were sent to Muslim College in Malaysia to be trained as future Islamic workers and leaders.
Malaysian Delegations led by Vice Minister Tunku Abdul Razak and his wife, visited the site of the proposed masjid. Later on Haji Mohammad Nuh, a Malaysian government officer, saw that a permanent base should be erected to carry out dawah activities.
So, with the Malaysian government's donation of $33,000, he handed over the money to the Korean Muslim Community to build a masjid in 1963. Unfortunately, the construction of the masjid could not be completed due to various reasons among them were the inflation.
Settled StageIt was not an easy task to make a base for dawah activities. Many difficulties had to be endured and solved. But despite all these, the dedicated early Muslims tried very hard to promote Islam, with full faith in the One and Only God. They were successful in converting the Korean Islam into Korean Islamic Foundation which was approved by the Korean Government and was officially registered at the Ministry of Culture and Information. (Registration no. 114, March 13, 1967)
Thus, Korean Muslim began to make ways for active dawah work and managed to open a new era for muslims in Korea with the will of Allah.
Take Off StateThe Korean Muslims' long dream, the construction of Central Masjid was materialized in 1976. The opening of Central Masjid and Islam Center were the most important turning points for the history of Korean Muslims. At the opening ceremony, 55 representativesof around 20 countries glorified the dream of Korean Muslims, and the magnificant opening ceremony served as an outburst of sudden increase in the number of Korean Muslims. The opening of the first Masjid of Korea contributed to rapid development of Islam in Korea. Foreign Dignitaries (V.I.P) who participated in the ceremony visited the then Prime Minister Choi Gyu Hwa to perform a role of raising the interest in Islam.
In the mean time , the Korean Muslim's mission had made piligrimage to Mecca to inspire the people with the Islamic belief and to perform faithful duties in 1979, and the Korean Muslims spurred the propagation activities in Korea taking the opportunity of so called "Boom of Middle East"(1974-1980) by raising the interest in the Middle East and Islam.
Pilgrimage to the Holy LandThe Korean Muslims are not lazy in making pilgrimage to the holy land, one of the 5 Duties of Islam. Every year the Korean Muslims perform the holy duty by organizing the piligrims group. The first pilgrimage was led by Haji Subri Seo Jung Gil in 1960. One of the largest groups ever performed Haji was in 1978 with 130 person in 1979, 104 persons managed to perform the pilgrimage.
- 1955 (September): Imam Zubercoch and Abdul Rahman, Participated in the Korean War as military service members, reached Quran for the first time in Korea.
- 1955 (October): Korean Muslim Committee started (Umar Kim Jin Kyu as Chairman: Imam and Secretary General uhammad Yoon Doo Young)
- 1961 (September): 14 men mission headed by Senator Ubaidulla of Malaysia stayed in Korea for 13 days.
- 1962 (August): The Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman donated $33,000 for the construction fund of Central Masjid of the Korean Muslim
- 1963 (October): The Malaysian Speaker brother Haji Muhammad Noh visited Korea in (promised to propose to the Malasian government for the development of Korean Muslim)
- 1967 (March): Korea Islam Foundation approved by Ministry of Culture and Information of Korea (Approval No. 114, March 3, 1967)(Chairman Suleiman Lee Hwa Shik), Secretary General Adul Aziz Kim Il Cho)
- 1974 (December): Through the good offices of late President Park Jung Hee, 1,500 m2 of land was donated as building site for Central Masjid.
- 1974 (May): Construction of Seoul Central Masjid and Islamic Center were completed and opened.
- 1976 (December): Busan Temporary Masjid opened, Br. Kim Myung Hwan began to perform dawah work.
- 1976 (March): Korea Islamic Cultural Centre Installed and being operated in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- 1978 (April): Temporary Masjid opened at Yok-ri Gwangjoo-eup, Gyunggi-do, Korea: brother Abdullah Jun Deuk Lin began to preach Islam to the people.
- 1978 (October): The largest pilgrimage group of 132 persons went to perform the holy pilgrimage for the first time in Korean History; Kuwait Temporary Masjid opened.
- 1980 (May): The then prime Minister Choi Gyu Hwa promised to King Khalid of Saudia Arabia to donate the land for the construction of Korea Islamic College during the joint comminique.
- 1980 (July): 130 thousand Pyongs of land was donated for the construction of Islamic College in Yongin, Gyunggi-do, Korea.
- 1980 (September): Opening ceremony of Pusan Al-Fatah Masjid was held
- 1981 (June): Opening ceremony of Kwang-Ju Masjid was held
- 1982.(August): Indonesia Branch was established
- 1983 (August): W.A.M.Y. Seoul Regional Camp was held under the auspices of O.I.C. & W.A.M.Y.
- 1984 (August): W.A.M.Y. Local Muslim Camp was held.
- 1985.(July): The 1st Leadership Training Camp was held
- 1985 (August): The 2nd W.A.M.Y. Local Muslim Camp was held
- 1986.(April): Opening ceremony of Anyang Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islamic Masjid was held
- 1986 (September): Opening ceremony of Jeon Joo Abu Bakr sidiq masjid was held
- 1987 (August): 87 W.A.M.Y. Local Muslim Camp was held
- 1988 (August): 88 W.A.M.Y. Local Muslim Camp was held
Islam Takes Root and Blooms
Itaewon is dominated by a building that is unmistakably a mosque. This impressive building is a reminder of the resurgence of the Muslim community here.
Islam has been a presence in this country for a very long time. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Arab sailors and merchants often frequented the coastal waters of South and East Asia. As early as 845 their books mentioned Korea, and did so in the most flattering of terms: ``Over the sea beyond China lies a mountainous country called `Silla,’ rich in gold. Muslims who arrive there by accident are so attracted by its character that they stay there forever and do not want to leave.’’ Indeed, at that time a number of Muslim merchants made it their home.
Some Koreans also made epic trips to the West. Records confirm that in 727 the famous Buddhist monk Heoch’o visited the Arab Near East on his way back from India.
During the Koryo period (918-1392) Kaesong, then the nation’s capital, was home to a thriving Muslim community, and there was a mosque as well. Members of one of the country’s clans, the Changs of Toksu, still recall that the clan’s founder was a Muslim who came to Korea during the Koryo era. However, the Yi dynasty, which seized power in 1392, was much more introspective than its predecessor, so these early connections with the Near East gradually withered.
The resurrection of Islam took place during the Korean War. The war was fought largely by U.S. forces, but with support from other countries, among them Turkey, at that time a close ally of Washington. The Turkish forces were among the most numerous, some 15,000 soldiers, and best trained non-American units to take part in the war.
The Turks brought Islam back to Korea. They proved to be not only good fighters but also successful missionaries. Their ``tent mosques,’’ which initially served the soldiers themselves, eventually became major centers of missionary activity. The Turks allowed and encouraged Korean converts to take part in prayers and attend services. The Turks were also engaged in large-scale humanitarian efforts, which left a favorable, lasting impression on the locals.
When the war finished and the Turkish units returned home, they left behind a small but active local Muslim community. The Korean Muslim Society was officially inaugurated in 1955. This body, later re-named the Korean Islamic Foundation, became the major organization for believers here. The society sent members overseas for religious education and tried to establish a permanent mosque with the help of a Malaysian government grant, but was unable to. Prayers were held in makeshift buildings, with minarets made of wooden planks and iron frames.
The 1960s brought a new impetus to Islam in this country. At that time a large number of Korean construction workers were dispatched to the Near East, where domestic companies were engaged in numerous projects. Some of these workers came back as converted Muslims and engaged in missionary activity among their fellows.
In the 1970s, the first permanent mosque was established in Itaewon, constructed with a grant provided by Saudi Arabia and opened in 1976. At that time it was one of the most remarkable buildings in the entire city, and is still impressive.
The number of Muslims here is estimated to be about 45,000 in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries. There are six permanent mosques around the country, and in general, Islam is a growing religion here.
Sources: The Korea Times 11-22-2002
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