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Islamic Korea

 

Muslim society in Korea is developing and growing

 

As it is well known, Korea is a country with only one nationality. However, there are a lot of religions there. Protestant Christianity has held the leading position in the religious life of Korea for 50 years now. Yet, there are many Buddhists and Catholics in Korea. Orthodox Christianity and other religions are very hard to find. There are even Muslim Koreans as well.

 

The roots of the Korean Islam are very ancient. The period of the V-X centuries A.D. was an era of the Arabian navigation in the Indian Ocean. That was the time when Arab sailors set up the first commercial routes around Southeastern Asia and established sea trade with the Chinese empire. Numerous Chinese Muslims, who live in the South of China, are a reminder of that ancient period now.

 

Arab vendors and sailors reached Korea as well, which was then governed by the Silla dynasty. The Arabs liked the country and its people, so they simply decided to settle there. They built their own trade settlements in Korea, and these settlements were later mentioned in Arab sailing directions of the 19th century. As it was written in these directions that Arabs called Korea Silla, the mountainous country, which was rich in gold. Many Muslims who came to Korea decided to stay there for good. They were flabbergasted with the beauty of the country. Beginning from the 19th century, Korean chronicles mention the mass resettlement of Arabs on the Korean peninsula.

 

It goes without saying that the vast majority of Arab vendors were Muslims. They brought their religion to Korea along with their goods. However, the change of the political situation in the XV century eventually resulted in the weakening of contacts between Korea and the countries of the Middle East. Some time later, these contacts vanished completely. Muslim immigrants were gradually assimilated by the Koreans, and then they dissolved in the local population. However, there can be some people found in Korea who remember that their villages were founded by Arab vendors. They know that they have Muslim ancestors.

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The story of Korean Islam started again in the 1950s. It is an open secret that other countries’ troops took part in the Korean war on the side of the American and South Korean coalition. Those other countries tried to prove their anti-communism and devotion to the values of the so-called “free world.†Turkey was one of those countries. It sent around 15 thousand soldiers to the Korean peninsula, and they proved to be rather good soldiers. It goes without saying that the Turkish soldiers built field Masjids and told stories about Islam to the Koreans, doing their best to overcome the language problem). They even built a school for Korean children and several mobile kitchens for the hungry. Turkish military imams started dealing with missionary activities. Muslim-converted Koreans started participating in Friday prayers in 1953.

 

The first Masjid was opened in Korea in 1956, although it was not permanent. Divine services continued in those temporal Masjids until 1976, when Saudi Muslims came to help the Korean Muslims. Saudi Arabia funded the building of the Masjid that now rises above the center of Seoul. The Masjid is still impressive today, so you can imagine how it looked back in the days when Seoul was basically a gutter city.

 

It goes without saying that the Islamic temple in Seoul assisted in the development of the Korean Islam. When the Masjid was opened, there were only 3700 Muslims in the entire country, whereas their number increased to 15 thousand by 1979. Needless to mention, such progress was achieved not only because of the Masjid.

 

Korean companies were building objects in the countries of the Middle East during the 1970s, sending tens of thousands of workers there. Many of them returned home as Muslims. Sometimes, the decision was spontaneous, and, sometimes, it was a result of missionary activity, which was conducted by religious organizations of the Middle East.

 

Nowadays, there are some 40 thousand Korean Muslims living in Korea. There are five mobile and two permanent Masjids there. Koreans make up the vast majority of parishioners.

 

On the whole, Islam in Korea is not that relevant, despite the efforts of Muslim preachers. It is considered to be an exotic phenomenon, although the number of Korean Muslims is much larger than the number of Orthodox Koreans. Nevertheless, Muslim society in growing and developing in Korea.

 

Andrey Lankov

 

Based on the Russian newspaper Seoul Herald

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(www.)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.quran.or.kr/Islam/Islam-eng.htm"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.quran.or.kr/Islam/Islam-eng.htm[/url]

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(www.)"http://quran.or.kr/Islam/Islam-eng.htm"]quran.or.kr/Islam/Islam-eng.htm[/url]

 

 

Assalam-o-Aleikum brother,

 

Are you from Korea? Are you korean? I have always wanted to meet a muslim krom Korea.

 

:D

 

Wassalam,

 

Nooni

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:sl:

 

Alhumdulilah, in Itchae (sp?) International Airport in Seoul, Korea, in the prayer room (not a masjid, looks like a church inside due to the benches) you can find translated Quran's. I found a hindi, and turkish translation anyways. The rest were without translations. I was just confused as to why they didn't have English and Korean. In any case, it was more of a "multi-faith" room. Alhumdulilah, there were no pictures or statues there, so if one needed to they could pray there, except that there was no Qiblah marking. In one of the mus-haf's inside cover someone wrote the direction in arabic, but it wasn't very helpful. Khair, :sl: they will still be rewarded. I was just pleased to see what I did see! So it seems that they are trying to do dawa and/or perhaps, Muslims go in and out of there.

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:sl:

 

This is a very detailed link about the history of Islam there, :sl:

 

(you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetkoreaislam(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/e-index.php?PHPSESSID=13eb8d70dc272c9a4c3e6d4fa57eb2c5"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetkoreaislam(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/e-index.php?PHPS...c3e6d4fa57eb2c5[/url]

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Life is hard for Korean Muslims


By Bae Ji-sook
 
Staff Reporter
 
 
 
What is it like to be a Korean Muslim in Korea? ``Not easy would be an
understatement,'' was the response of Hasna Bae, a 23-year-old student.
 
 
 
Bae is one of 35,000 Korean Muslims in the country, and one of 1.6
billion in the world. Although the religion is very big worldwide, there
are few Muslims in Korea. There are migrant Muslim workers, but the
total number barely reaches 200,000.
 
 
 
Being a minority religion in Korea, Muslims say their different lifestyle makes them stand out more than others in society.
 
 
 
Yu Hyun-il, 22, serves as president of the Islamic students' association
of the Hankook University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul. He said
he found the Muslim eating requirements the most difficult thing for
him.
 
 
 
``It was hard for me not to eat pork. Also we are only allowed to eat
meat that is prepared in a certain way,'' he said. In restaurants, he
has a limited choice because of the ingredients_ he eats fish and
vegetables most of the time.
 
 
 
The ban on drinking is also a problem. ``When people go drinking, they
leave me out. If I go with them, my not drinking can sometimes make the
whole atmosphere go weird,'' he said.
 
 
 
A 51-year-old businessman confessed that he drinks one or two glasses
sometimes. ``You can never do business here without drinking,'' he said.
 
 
 
 
Praying five times a day is also strange for some people. ``Some people
find my facing Mecca when I pray strange,'' a student said.
 
 
 
However, their biggest concern is prejudice toward this rather
unfamiliar religion. After the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, many
people showed an interest in Islamic ideas, but most are ignorant about
it.
 
 
 
``We are not terrorists, but love peace. We are just like the girl next door,'' Hasna Bae said.
 
 
 
Bae, who first met Muslims when she went to learn English in the U.S.,
said her friends, family and acquaintances were against her decision to
convert from Christianity to Islam.
 
 
 
People tried to tell her how dangerous the religion is, citing acts of
terror and violence some have caused. She explained that her religion
bans any violence and the terrorists are in fact criminals regardless of
their religious beliefs. ``Now people get astonished; but soon show
more curiosity than hostility. That's better.''
 
 
 
Bae sometimes gets pictures taken of her in the subways when she wears
her hijab, and her going to the Masjid is always treated as an
extraordinary thing. ``And I don't get to have many male friends around.
I think I intimidate them.''
 
 
 
Nowsdays Muslims in Korea face another issue. Taliban militants in
Afghanistan, who claim to be pure Muslims, abducted 23 Koreans visiting
their country and killed two of them. As 25 days have passed since the
kidnapping, prejudice against the religion is resurfacing.
 
 
 
``There were some bomb threats to the Masjid and there are always police
standing in front of the gate in case of an attack'' Bae said.
 
 
 
However, Lee Ju-hwa, director of the Korea Muslim Federation's
Department of Dawah (propagation) and Education, said people are opening
their hearts to the new religion. ``Before online forums were full of
people accusing us. But now I see more trying to get an objective point
of view and there are fierce debates, which is very encouraging.''
 
 
 
He asked non-Muslim Koreans to show an openness and acceptance toward
the religion. ``We ban all kinds of violence, we do not oppress women
and we are just like any other religious people craving for better
life.''
 
 
 
Though life seems tough for Muslims, they say they are proud of their
decision. Hasna Bae majored in metal design and is planning to work in
that area. Will she hide her faith to get a job? ``Never. I do not want
to work for a company that doesn't respect its employee's religion
anyway.''
 
 
 
 
bjs[at]koreatimes.co.kr
 
 
 
Korea Times Interns Park Soo-yeon and Lee Ye-ha contributed to writing this article _ ED.
 
 
               

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