Korean Christianity appears to observers as embedded in Korean history and tradition. However, this is not the case, as Korean Christianity is still a minority religion and only entered mainstream South Korean society during the mid-twentieth century, when many American Christian missionaries began evangelizing in South Korea. One of them was a young Methodist Missionary named James T. Laney, who previously served in Korea as a Counterintelligence Officer between 1947–1948. Laney’s fascination with Korean culture and society convinced him to return to South Korea in 1959.
Laney arrived at one of the most politically turbulent eras in South Korean history. In 1960, South Korean students overthrew South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee in the democratic April Revolution. In 1961, South Korean General Park Chung Hee launched a coup d’état against the government and established a military dictatorship. Laney witnessed firsthand the political infighting between the democrats and the militarists that would define more than two decades of Korean history. Through his role as a missionary, Laney was able to connect with the Korean people on a personal level that made him better understand them in ways many Americans couldn’t during the mid-twentieth century. Read more