The Words of the Clevenger Family

Koreans' heritage of honoring family relationships

Victoria Clevenger
April 18, 1988

True heart of filial piety -- Father and Mother make a full bow at pledge service on Parents' Day 1988

I never cease to be awed as I glimpse more and more of Father's passionate heart of filial piety toward God.

Thus my primary hope in going to Korea to attend the 31st ICC (April 7-15, 1988) was to discover more about what factors helped shape this man who could come to know God so intimately and who has the desire above all else to comfort Him. I wanted to understand how we Unification Church members could more deeply inherit True Parents' heart and power and the qualities God cultivated in the Korean people to help prepare them to receive the Messiah.

After a brief nine days there, I was most deeply struck by the Koreans' long heritage of truly honoring family relationships, especially those between parent and child. It's hard to think of anything that brings more joy and fulfillment to parents and children than a relationship of loving filial piety. Though this virtue is perhaps strange to Westerners, I found it is an integral part of the fabric of society in which Father matured. There are few, if any, homes for the elderly in Korea. Instead, even the more "modern" children continue the ancient tradition of taking care of their elderly parents. Still 80 percent of the young people allow their parents to choose their spouse. "Grandpa" is a term of deep respect, not subtle condescension, as it sometimes is in America. From sharing with a few of the Western students who are now studying in Korea, both at the Little Angels School and at various universities, I could see that they have been deeply moved to try to emulate this quality.

Both True Parents and the True Children have been trying to impart to us this beautiful attitude Father calls moshinda. Now I feel that one very precious benefit of being mobilized to Korea will be the opportunity to live in an environment that, more than any we've had before, richly nourishes our original heart.

Seeing Korea as it Once Was

Visiting the Korean Folk Village gave me a priceless experience of seeing what Korea must have been like in Father's early life -- before it was influenced by Western ideas and economic growth. Because Pusan, one of the normal stops on the ICC tour, was so fogged in that we couldn't land there, we instead visited this full- scale reconstruction of a bygone era in Korea's history. As I walked down the dirt "streets" and peered into the houses, government buildings, and schools, I felt how pervasive was the sense of a guiding "something" beyond the visible and of a definite order and ethic for how people should relate. I saw it in the totem pole tribute to the village shaman, and in the brightly colored monuments to a filial son and to a dutiful wife, erected in honor of: "Yi Togkyu -- 1904 -- man of filial piety," and "Mrs. Hwang for her filial piety and faithfulness -- built at the expense of the Court to encourage people to follow the example set by Mrs. Hwang." These monuments moved me to tears and made me long to have grown up in such a community myself.

In the administrative buildings, mannequins of government officials sat on the floor in white dress, exuding a presence of sincere and principled deliberation. Similarly, the schools seemed to have housed an atmosphere where morality and righteous discipline, as well as conventional intellectual learning, were conveyed. I could feel how much Confucianism and Buddhism had given to the people, especially in terms of respect for elders, for family, for education, and for the virtues of filial piety and patriotism, and how Christianity indeed needed to come East in order to be fully developed.

The colorful, upturned corners of the buildings and the traditional white dress of those who modeled as inhabitants of the village contributed to the atmosphere of innocent purity. This quality was charmingly brought to life in the old grandmas visiting the Village who were playing on what we would call a seesaw. A board is laid over a low fulcrum, and each person stands on one end of the board and jumps hard on it to propel the other into the sky. Their delight in this simple game was beautiful to see. One rarely sees grandmas playing in America! The many school children touring the Village, with their warm friendly smiles and open hearts, added to the lovely feeling already there. I saw some of the children laughingly comparing their hands with those of a big, burly minister with black skin.

Victoria Clevenger in front of a monument at the Korean Folk Village dedicated to a "Mrs. Hwang for her filial piety and faithfulness."

Honoring Patriotism

Another highly esteemed Confucian virtue, patriotism, also seems to have a much deeper and more compelling importance in Korea than in the West. After the ICC conference ended, I had the special experience of going with my former regional leader, Rev. Joong Hyun Pak, to visit a shrine dedicated to Admiral Sun- Shin Yi. I learned that without Admiral Yi's creative and courageous efforts to repel the Japanese invasion at the end of the 1500s, Korea might well be a part of Japan now. The shrine is a 120-acre park on which are situated museums, Admiral Yi's house, and the grave where his son is buried. A sign instructs visitors in how to properly honor him, which helps create an elevating aura of reverence and respect. In the museum are pictures depicting significant aspects and times of Admiral Yi's life, including one noting him to be a man of "filial duty":

Many Koreans take lessons from Admiral Yi, who devoted his lifetime to the national interest, not by words, but in deeds, not only as an outstanding military leader, but also as a faithful servant of the government, as a devoted son, as a benevolent father, and above all, as a protector of the underprivileged people.... Though a soldier of unparalleled bravery, he was always obedient to his parents and benevolent to his sons and daughters.

Rev. Pak also took me to the impressive Independence Hall Complex. Envisioned at the time of liberation from Japanese tyranny in 1945, it was constructed after a nationwide fundraising campaign in 1982 and opened in August 1987. It houses exhibits intended to teach the value of patriotism and to inspire a determination to never suffer such tragedies as Korea did in the past.

The air is filled with the uplifting melodies of folk and patriotic music. As we toured the last building, showing the rise of the current Republic of Korea, we heard first the stirring strains of the Korean national anthem -- "Until the Eastern Sea runs dry" -- and then the noble trumpets of the Olympics theme. I was again moved to tears, seeing how this plucky nation has endured so much aggression and yet has continued to move forward toward establishing the amazingly viable country that exists today, which is hosting the world -- both former friends and foes -- this autumn.

Immense Longing for Reunion

Aching from the severing of Korea into two parts so unnaturally at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) wells a feeling of immense aching and longing for reunion. As the ICC tour buses came to this four-mile-wide strip of no-man's-land, we passed under heavy elevated concrete blocks that would come crashing down to block the road in case of an attack from the North. The closer we got to the DMZ, the more I felt from the land itself a sense of aching to be the open passage it once was, not burdened with malignant devices of murder and separation as it is now. I felt how the peaceful country side of South Korea yearned for those people who would courageously take responsibility to free its northern counterpart from the sterile possessor that now inhabited it. My heart ached as we descended into the slimy invasion tunnel the North Koreans had bored, graphic evidence of an evil snake-ish mentality.

What distorted worldview would move a people to erect billboards at a national border spewing, "Americans, Get Out," or We Will Crush All Americans Under the Soles of our Boots," with a picture of a large boot about to descend on an American soldier? What deranged thinking would cause a government to build a fake city at the North Korean border to try to deceive the rest of the world into believing their other two signs -- "We Have Established Independence and Self-Reliance" and 'We Welcome All People Who Come to the Workers' Paradise"? For me, the pathos of such mentality ultimately overshadowed the evil and made it clear that we must have compassion rather than revulsion for those whose minds and hearts are so sadly twisted and closed.

Ironically, the motto of the Olympics is harmony and progress" -- with the southern half of the country struggling to exemplify those qualities and the northern half being their most fanatic enemy. This is certainly the direct confrontation of God and Satan! Seeing how far south Pusan is, one realizes how far Satan marched during the Korean War, and how terrifyingly close he came to wiping Father's work and any foundation completely off the map.

Not only has Korea been involved in more than 900 wars in the last 2,000 years, but also the Korean War and the merciless domination by the Japanese during the occupation means that essentially every family in Korea has borne immense suffering in its recent history. It is said that every inch of Korean soil has drunk the blood of its countrymen. Yet another dimension of suffering was revealed as the ICC participants saw a video of the efforts of the Korean Broadcasting Service to help reunite family members who had been separated as they fled from North Korea during the war. Seeing the many people flock to the television station, watching as some communicated with their long-lost brother or aunt or father after more than 30 years of not knowing anything about their well-being or whereabouts evoked tears from many of the ICC participants.

The American ministers' choir singing with their whole hearts at Sunday service in Seoul.

Great Hope for the Future

Sometimes one can only begin to grasp the enormity of grief by seeing the intensity of joy when that which caused the pain is removed.... In the small museum at the DMZ there were pictures of the Korean citizens rejoicing with tears when the Japanese occupation ended at the conclusion of World War II, and again later when the Republic of Korea troops pushed into Pyongyang, liberating it -- temporarily -- from the communist forces. To see and feel the intensity of their joy and to know how quickly it was crushed would be unbearable without also knowing the great hope True Parents bring.

Yet even after being bullied through their long history, Koreans seemingly have extraordinarily little resentment. At the end of World War II, instead of demolishing the Japanese administrative building as a reminder of their cruel oppression, they converted it into a national museum. The many prophecies in Korea regarding their noble destiny may be a way God has helped sustain the spirit of this long-suffering people.

Modern-day Seoul is quite impressive in its bustling busyness. There is construction everywhere and a definite sense of a city moving ahead. On many buildings, a number is displayed that diminishes daily, counting down the days that are left before the Olympics begin.

The newness of the buildings is a bitter-sweet tribute to both the progressiveness of the Republic of Korea and to the painful tragedy of Seoul's having been flattened during the war 35 years ago as it was captured and recaptured three times. At the beginning of the Korean War, the Republic of Korea had no defense force. Truly God responded to the passionate prayers of the Korean citizens. It is very moving to remember that 16 nations came (as a result of the "miracle" that the Soviet delegate to the United Nations Security Council didn't attend to veto the proposal) to help defend the existence of this stalwart nation. Now many more nations will come to peacefully compete and will see how well South Korea has used the freedom that an international army fought to give it.

As one minister who had served in the Korean War said, in tears, "I appreciate the chance to come back here and walk the streets without seeing any bloodshed or dodging any bullets." One can sense the Koreans' pride in being able to give something back for what was done for them.

Generous Hospitality

There is a sense of nurturing parentalness as well as child-like purity in the people of Korea, which perhaps accounts for the "at home" feeling many visitors report. Many little details touched me: the lack of graffiti; the few policemen (the only ones I saw were traffic cops); the way people dim their headlights when they stop at a light out of courtesy to the opposite driver; the brightly colored playgrounds and roofs of the houses; the masks people wear if they have a cold; the glowing neon crosses dotting Seoul at night; the clean subways; the way everyone stops what they're doing at 6 pm while the majestic national anthem is played; and the restaurant owner who was moved to tears by our wanting to take a picture with her. I was told that even if someone steals your wallet, he will just take the cash and return the wallet in the mail. There is sort of a code against stealing from a foreigner. I w anted to snap pictures every time I saw men or elderly people walking hand in hand or shoulder to shoulder -- a very natural and innocent thing to do in Korea. It was delightful to see a group of old ladies on a tour in their multi-colored choguris, each with a UCLA Bruins [an American college sports team] cap on!

Particularly special to me personally was the extraordinary care I received from two of my former Korean leaders. They conveyed what, to me, was True Parents' heart and the best of the Korean heart as well. Though both were very busy -- Rev. Chan Kyun Kim was working in Seoul helping to coordinate many activities there and Rev. Joong Hyun Pak was busy buying land for Sun Myung Moon University -- both took time to offer their very generous hospitality. Rev. Kim spent all of one evening with me and two others from his former region in the United States, taking us to the Seoul Tower, which provided a tremendous overview of Seoul, pointing out all the landmarks, buying us souvenirs, and then treating us to a delicious Korean / American / Japanese buffet. He was a wonderful source of information about Korean culture and the activities of the church there.

Rev. Pak spent a whole day with me, first showing me Father's house, which once belonged to the former president of Korea, Park Chung Hee. Rev. Pak said that Koreans feel that only someone at least as powerful as Pres. Park could properly occupy and dominate the spirit of that house. We then drove through the beautiful western countryside, which is more flat and therefore more arable than the eastern side. The rolling hills were liberally sprinkled with rice paddies, plastic greenhouses, and the thatched roofs under which ginseng is grown. Only 20-25 percent of the land in Korea is flat enough to be cultivated. I saw people plowing by hand or at times with the help of a donkey. The hillsides are dotted with mounds marking the graves of those who have died.

The day with Rev. Pak ended as we went to eat at a traditional kalbi house. I was puzzled as we drove down a country road and then turned into what looked like a long driveway to a house -- there were no signs suggesting that a restaurant might be down there. Rev. Pak explained that in the countryside, such advertisements weren't needed. The local people knew where to go.

I was very grateful for my time with them, but also quite humbled and actually ashamed because I felt a greater care from both Korean leaders than I think they received from us during their stay in America.

As is customary, the ICC group leaders visited Heung Jin Nim's Won Jun. Being set amidst many mountainous hills helps the "original home" impart a spirit of ascension rather than death. The words about the blood-soaked soil of Korea rang through my consciousness as we approached the Won Jun, and I thought about the unfathomable indignities and misery endured not only by the True Family, but also by all those who had tried to advance God's work or had been victims of its delay. While I was praying, two timeless abilities necessary to succeed on the path to God came to mind: forgiveness with love of those who have hurt or misunderstood others -- and acceptance with joy -- of the course one has to go. I thought of the heavily lined faces of the elder Koreans breaking into smiles as they observed something amusing, and I knew that the Korean heart, too, has had to develop these capacities.

Rev. Im, the caretaker of the Won Jun, has a beautiful sense of humble yet proud ownership and a fresh delight in giving. I heard that for 25 years he has taken a cold shower twice a day. After we boarded the buses to return to Seoul, Rev. Im and his wife smilingly came on, offering us apples, pastries, cans of McCol, and pictures of True Parents. Again, another experience of the giving, hospitable heart of True Parents and the Koreans.

Father prays on the land chosen for Sun Myung Moon University.

Climbing to a Higher Level

I feel the entire ICC experience was like a bath in True Parents' uplifting love, from the caring send-off of the ministers from the airports in the United States, to their colorful welcome at the Seoul Airport, and throughout the conference.

Each of the core ICC staff is really on the hot seat, having to represent True Parents' and Jesus' heart essentially 24 hours a day to the ministers -- there were 390 of them this time. Through the staff members' consistent care, respect, and patience, as well as in their sympathetic understanding of the ministers' viewpoints, they testify well to True Parents' generous love. Their example was inspiring, and it challenged me to grow myself as they have obviously grown. As each of them mentioned when I spoke with them [see interviews, next page], they feel they have become better people through their experience in Korea.

Increasingly the ministers are also making the same claim for themselves. Rev. Charles Wallace, the convenor, attending for the second time, offered a deep expression of repentance for the common failings of Christians. As he introduced the conference, he expressed to the ministers, "Hopefully you'll find you've climbed to a higher level of closeness to God and to each other." He prayed, "As we climb Jacob's Ladder, Lord, forgive us if we step on another's hands, or if we stay in the same place because we know we're right, or if we fall because of distractions. We find You here and we hope to come closer to You." At the Sunday service, addressing the ministers as well as the many Korean members who attended, he said,

I'm conscious of representing many of the boundaries separating us that your minister [in his sermon] just spoke of. As a white person... as an American... and as a member of a denomination that has persecuted others, including the Unification Church, I want to apologize. What I've experienced in our fellowship and the warmth of your welcome is a sense of God's love. I hope as we worship and struggle together, we can keep in our hearts the unity of love we are experiencing.

The Sunday church service was extraordinarily high-spirited this time, the ICC staff told me. Remembering frustrating experiences witnessing in the past, I felt how joyous Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the righteous ancestors of all the ministers must be to see the multiracial and interdenominational American Christian ministers' choir singing with their whole hearts in Father's church -- the realization of what Father had predicted in the early 1950's. It was moving, too, to see Father's original church already treated like a unique museum by these ministers as they surveyed each room and took pictures of themselves in special places.

Embracing Love

Two comments from the ministers perhaps sum up the essence of their experience -- and high-light the fact that indeed embracing love from our original heart is essentially the way to heal the pain of Heavenly Father and His children:

"He must have the love of Christ to be able to bring together so many preachers!"

"I've never been cared for or given to so much!"

Father counseled us during his most recent conference in America that when he leaves for Korea, "You should miss me as if nothing else remained on the earth. Unless you can feel that degree of longing, you will never understand how difficult it was for me to search for God.

I looked for God's heart desperately in an empty world, and I finally managed to find Him... You must learn Korean, or else you will never truly understand the deep meaning of what I am saying"

Now I can understand that Father's asking us to "learn Korean" involves much more than just the language itself. I find myself longing to go to Pyongyang, to the mountains where Father prayed and indeed found God, to the area, not as it is now, suffocated by Satan, but to the land I found hints of -- a place of yearning for goodness, of passionate caring, of both freedom of heart and lawful order, of ultimate healing. A land of the morning calm heralding the bright new day of God's world. 

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