Go to contents

Why did slain volunteer go to Yemen?

Posted June. 17, 2009 16:52,   


The Korean woman who was confirmed to have been killed in Yemen yesterday went there as a volunteer for teaching missionary kids as part of Christian evangelistic activities.

The mission provides education for children of missionaries, and this is why certain foreign reports said Eom Young-sun was a Korean teacher.

Hyeongje Church in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, which Eom had attended since 2001, held a sendoff service for her in October last year before she left for Yemen. She departed Oct. 10 last year.

In addition, she posted on her blog on Feb. 13, 2005, “When I finish my training, I want to teach missionary kids in Turkey.” Her blog is now blocked.

Eom in July 2006 graduated from the Missionary Training College of the U.K.-based Worldwide Evangelization for Christ.

Started in the U.K. in 1918, the international organization has sent more than 2,000 missionaries to areas like Africa and the Middle East where Christianity has not spread. A Korean branch was set up in 1997, and has since sent 418 Korean missionaries to 46 countries through last year, the most among Korean missionary groups.

A branch source said, “Eom graduated from the Missionary Training College, but WEC Korea did not officially send her to Yemen.”

The leader of Hyeongje Church’s young adults group said he exchanged e-mail messages with Eom but added the church did not officially send her. “Though the church used the word ‘sent’ (for her going to Yemen), we cannot give great meaning to it,” he said.

Eom sent an e-mail message to the group leader March 25 while in Yemen. She recommended a book written by a Jew that was unknown in Korea, saying, “I came to think a lot about their (Jews) faith and our God.”

“Young-sun was an education major and liked teaching kids. She taught Sunday school at church every week,” the group leader said. “She probably went to Yemen to have a good experience by helping others.”

Criticism is rising over Korean Christian missionaries going to dangerous areas and taking high risks, but experts say Eom’s volunteer work was not just evangelical and that teaching missionary kids alone did not encourage religious hate there.

“Eom was not killed because she conducted indiscriminate missionary activities,” said Lee Sang-kook, a professor at the Institute for East Asian Studies at Sogang University in Seoul. “The fact that she worked with a Dutch volunteer group with her fluent English should be seen as an example for Korean youth pioneers.”

demian@donga.com woohaha@donga.com