If you’ve been reading this blog since the Daegu days, you’ll probably remember me complaining about this particular Christian sect in Korea. As much as my blog may be associated with Shincheonji going-ons (who are coincidentally currently getting hammered in the media lately), Jehovah’s Witnesses have long been my bane in Korea.
If you’ve come to the ol’ Sanctuary post 2010, let me quickly bring you up to speed. Back in Daegu, JWs would roam the downtown core of Daegu, looking for foreigners. I was a twelve minute walk from the heart of Daegu’s Dongseongno (the main shopping street downtown), so I frequented it usually once a week. I ran into them all the time around the Kyobo Bookstore. They were always women, and they always had English-language material. They never tried stopping the many Koreans walking by them. Their purpose was to specifically target foreigners and bring them into the fold.
Because if there’s one thing North Americans love, it’s having our own religions explained to us by Koreans.
Back in 2007, I would politely listen to what they had to say. I was a Canadian abroad, and thought I had a reputation to maintain. Three years later, I was telling them I was an atheist in Korean, and blowing by them.
When I came to Gangneung, I didn’t exactly escape their notice. I couldn’t. My landlady was one.
She would use bill collection time as an excuse to read Bible passages to me. Cute? Not really, considering she told her congregation about me. When they were finished with their Bible reading at her home, they would sometimes come down, knock on my door and introduce themselves to me, ask for my cell number, and invite me to their church. Did they do this to the other tenants? Of course not. As aggravating as that was, the last straw was the church members coming to my door around 9 and 10 PM, asking me to watch a video and then ask me for feedback so they could do their ‘homework’.
Again, they only ever came to my door, and no one else.
One time, someone claiming to be from the City Hall called the school, asked for me, and when I answered, he went on to read Bible passages. I flipped out on the phone.
That incident did not keep them from somehow worming their way into the school and leaving English-language material on my desk. The latest was today’s. I was in class, so I didn’t get to see who had the pleasure of contributing to the school’s recycling programme.
You might think I was getting this special treatment, but that’s hardly the case. In fact, quite a few other foreign English teachers have had them drop by their schools as well in Gangneung. Some of them have had JWs follow them to class, wait outside, and then hang around to talk about their religion. Others have harassed the foreign teacher at their desks in the teachers’ office.
You’d think I would have my hands full dealing with Korean cults like Shincheonji and the International Youth Fellowship (Good News Mission). The former doesn’t require any further explanation, but the latter likes to advertise their highly-expensive Christmas concerts and their English speech contests in the school. There’s also the church of the heavenly mother (the church which has the Christian god as a Korean woman) who also used to come by my door.
You’ll notice that a lot of Christians sects in Korea use the same tactics. They target foreigners, so as to appear more international (and provide proof that their message has universal appeal). They like to use women to approach foreigners, preferably younger ones (and wearing something that catches your eyes). They also aggressively pursue their targets in ways the Catholics and Buddhists won’t (you’ll notice I left Protestants out. Korean Protestants can be just as… special as some of the cults here).
In public, I try to be as understanding as possible. I also try to exercise patience and tolerance. However, truth be told, I am sick and tired of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea. Korea has done so well in creating their own sects and cults, I don’t know why an American one is so prevalent here. For eight years they have accosted me in the street, at my home(s), and place of employment. No other religious order has been such a royal pain and annoyance. I’ve turned them down literally dozens of times, but they still keep pushing their schtick onto me. The only thing that has kept me from going full militant-atheist on them is that I haven’t met in them in person for several years now.
They’re just out there in the periphery. Sneaking their Doomsday garbage onto my desk when I’m not looking. Since they’re so good at English, I hope they stumble onto this entry. After nearly eight years, I no longer care if I come across as harsh, or too blunt. Believe your End-of-Time nonsense people have been spouting for millennia. That’s your business. If you want to waste your life worrying about an apocalypse that isn’t going to happen, do it on your own time. Don’t try to rope hard-working foreigners into your juvenile behaviour by hounding them at their jobs.