The Words of the Parker Family
Jan Parker at the weathered Dragon Rock on
Ja Ju Island.
For the past year I have been working in New York on a project to create large paintings inspired by Divine Principle. Since some of the paintings include views of Korea, it was with great pleasure that I received an invitation from Rev. Kwak to visit "the Land of Morning Calm" this past April.
Armed with a suitcase full of paints and canvas, sketch books, camera and lots of film, I joined a party of 300 Koreans who were headed for a Unification Church seminar in Korea. My first impression of Korea from the air was a land of rice fields, winding rivers and mountains wreathed in mist.
Actually, South Korea is a very small country; you can travel from one end of it to another in six or seven hours. During my stay I took full advantage of that; by air, ship, bus, taxi and foot, I traveled around the country. The colors and sounds and smells are so different from the West. Early spring was in evidence everywhere. An abundance of warm yellow forsythia and pink peach blossoms and beautiful red-violet rhododendrons could be seen on every mountainside and humble back garden. Farmers were busily plowing their fields, making them ready for the spring sowing.
Koreans love bright happy colors and dress their small children in blues, yellows, reds and greens; in fact, the countryside resembled an artist's palette, the colors being the brightly-clad people set against a background of yellow ochre and deep burnt umber of the landscape.
The ox and the plow were still used by some farmers; others preferred the mechanical plow or tractor. In Kung Ju province, I made a sketch of a farmer plowing his field with an ox; as he finished the plowing, he stopped and came over to me, his brown weather beaten face wreathed in smiles. He spoke a few words in English. "Kamsa hamnida," I said. "Your Korean accent very good," he replied, and we both laughed. The farmer's wife came along the road balancing a large bowl of corn on her head. Then followed the daughter-in-law with a baby tied to her back. There we stood in the corner of the field, the warm sun shining down. They were speaking in Korean and I was speaking in English, smiling and laughing. I felt so much love for them. We came from two different worlds. I made small drawings of them. Again we laughed.
In a land of small people, a 6'5" Englishman with size 12 shoes can cause quite a sensation. Children would follow me and shout "hallo" or "okay." After lunch at the house of a member of our church, I was putting on my shoes when the lady who had served us simply could not restrain herself any longer. She burst out in helpless shy laughter, and pointing at my size 12 shoes said in Korean, "They are as big as ships!"
I met a young Buddhist monk in the temple at Kwang Ju. Jin Saing was eager to practice his English conversation, and we quickly made friends. At dusk I would watch him ring the big bronze bell 36 times. He invited me to look behind the monastery walls at the life of the Buddhist monks who lived there. The following day Jin Saing took me on a guided tour of the Buddhist temples in the Kwang Ju area. At one temple we visited, set peacefully in the hillside, we were served a vegetarian lunch in a small room next to the temple hall. Jin Saing said a short grace to Buddha. Then he asked me if I would offer a prayer as we do in the Unification Church. I prayed for the monk and his brothers and that one day all religions could become one in their love for God and hope for peace for mankind. "I like Unification Church prayer," he said. "Reverend Moon good man!"
Pusan is a large seaport humming with ships, markets, people, cars, buses, bicycles and children. Small streets wind up into the surrounding hillside, past houses built almost on top of each other. The streets are narrow and very steep. We climbed up to a small area newly planted with trees overlooking a part of the city. This was the holy ground and the rock where our Father prayed 30 years ago, in the early days of our church. I noticed that the rock itself was flecked with red. As I knelt there, I thought, this is where it all began; what faith our Father must have had, to start his mission from such a humble beginning and in his mind see it spread out to the whole world.
Later, I saw the actual site of the house that Father and Won Pil Kim built. The large rock that stood behind the house is preserved in a huge steel-framed glass case, inside a house where one can also see the oil lamp Father used and the small table where he wrote the Principle. In addition, I saw the small frames with linen stretched on them, upon which Won Pil Kim painted portraits. Everything so precious, so holy. Next door I drank water from a well that our Father dug.
From Pusan, I traveled 12 hours by boat across to beautiful Ja Ju Island, half way between Korea and Japan. The island is dominated by an extinct snow-capped volcano and dotted with small thatched- roof houses with stone walls. Orchards were filled with oranges, yes oranges, in early spring. Ja Ju Island is famous for its women divers who swim out like mermaids from the rocks and gather seaweed and shellfish from the ocean bed to make their living. My wonderful guide, Mr. "Moonshine," said that on this island there is no such thing as robbery; everyone knows everybody else, so all take care of each other. What was once molten lava had been shaped in fantastic forms by the sea, in a spot known as Dragon Rock, and some beaches were of black sand washed by the turquoise blue sea. The smell of pine trees and oranges scented the air, and I could see a black and white jackdaw building his nest in the pines.
During my trip I made eight small landscape paintings using only a palette knife. I wanted to capture the color and texture of the rocks, the earth and sky, and through these small landscapes try to show something of the character of the people.
Returning to buzzing Seoul, I saw the famous Cheong Buk Palace, where the ancient Korean kings held court and the beautiful sacred garden where once the royal family sipped tea while viewing the full moon.
Then I turned north and headed towards the 38th parallel. As I approached the demilitarized zone, farms and villages grew fewer, and the whole surrounding area took on a grim foreboding appearance.
On my last day in Korea, I visited Chung Pyung Lake with my guide, Mr. Moon (a relative of True Parents).
We cruised in a speed boat down the long lake, passing steep mountains and hills on either side. We arrived at the landing stage at the foot of the lake, and there in the shadow of the holy mountain was our small training center -- every brick and wood piece made by our brothers and sisters. Everything there looked so precious. True Parents' small humble room, the raised bench on the porch where our Father would sit smiling, swinging his leg in the way he does, and the conference and dining table in the open, under a sheltered roof. The brown kimchi jars standing by the water's edge and the turkeys in the pen, and the original boat that True Parents sailed on the lake all those years ago -- everything was heavenly. I was reminded once again of how small and humble our church's beginnings were. In my mind's eye, I could see Father's vision of the day when the whole of Chung Pyung Lake would be transformed into a "United Nations" village, with a park and wonderland, and that people would come from all over the world to see it -- truly the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
During my short visit to South Korea, I could feel something of the beauty of this small, tough, rugged land. I saw it in the statue of the smiling Buddha patiently looking down where the farmers worked on the land as their ancestors had done before them. I saw it in the clean-swept streets and the smiling faces of the school children and the calm dignity of the elderly. On my way to the airport, the taxi driver said, "My people are poor and simple, but we believe in God. God will help us."