South Korea: Islam is this country's fastest growing religion.

ARAB NEWS 1/7/91 By Muhammad Ibrahim Arab News Staff. Jeddah - The pilgrimage'is a gathering where Muslims get acquainted wit h each other in true spirit of brotherhood. They exchange ideas and discuss common problems in an ambience of comple te fraternity. The features may differ, the tongues may not speak the same language but the hearts are ever bound together by the eternal bond of Islam. With this concept, Abdul Rahim Shin and Hussain Yu Chang Sik. two Muslims from Korea talked to Arab News in Mina during the blessed days of Haj.

"We are happy to be here at the invitation of the Muslim World League. The facilities are superb and the Saudi government under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd has provided consummate services to the guests of God," both said in unison.

Abdul Rahim is the director of the Korea Muslim Federation and Hussain a leading member of it. The two Koreans availed the opportunity to talk about Islam in Korea reiterating that it is a fast growing religion. The country which had not a single Muslim 36 years ago now has more than 32,500 Muslims. Following is a summary of th e talk: Islam came to Korea during the Korean War, specifically in September 1955.

The Turkish troops who took part in that war were the first to introduce Islam to Korea. Abdul Rahman and Zuber Kochi, members of the Turkish troops stationed in Korea, began to preach Islam among the Koreans. They built a tent which they used as a temporary mosque in a refugee camp. The first Korean ever to become a Muslim was Omar Kim who later helped convert some of his friends and family members. In October the same year, the Korean Muslims grouped themselves into what was called Muslim Society in Korea. Some of the Young Korean Muslims were sent for further Islamic studies in Malaysia.

In March 1967, the Korean Muslims established the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF) which was officially recognized by the government. It undertakes the following tasks: Translation and publishing of the meanings of the Holy Qur'an into the Korean language. Teaching Islamic culture and Arabic language. Publishing periodicals, holding exhibitions and opening Sunday Islamic classes for children. Dispatching Muslim students to Islamic universities in Muslim countries. Spreading Dawah through social services, rendering services to the poor and needy and holding training courses for would-be Imams.

In May 1976 Seoul Central Mosque and Islamic Center were opened. Many mosques were later built. At present there are five permanent mosques and four temporary ones in various parts of the country. At present, a total of 47 Korean students are studying Shariah and Arabic language in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. An Islamic college is planned to be built. The first batch of Korean pilgrims performed Haj in 1960 and the largest Haj mission was in 1978 (130 persons). This year marks the 36th anniversary of the introduction of Islam to Korea.



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