South Koreans are among the most diligent Seventh-day Adventist gospel workers. Visit the Middle East, and you will find faithful Koreans in Turkey and Lebanon. Koreans live in Africa and South America. Even remote places in Bangladesh and India have an active Korean presence.
But despite this mission spirit, some young people in South Korea are struggling. The problem is connected with a cultural generation gap and career challenges in a country where Saturday is a workday. But derision from other Christians also hurts. While more than a quarter of South Korea’s population of 51 million is Christian, Adventists represent a tiny minority. The Adventist Church is dismissed as a cult, and members are mockingly referred to as “sdas,” a play on the church’s acronym, SDA.
Six Adventist university students decided that they had seen enough. They created a Facebook group and an online radio station aimed at nurturing young fellow Adventists. “Our focus is to reach young people who feel that they don’t belong to mainstream Adventism,” said project cofounder Hansu Hyun, 27, a graphic design student at church-owned Sahmyook University in South Korea’s capital, Seoul.
Young Adventists have taken notice. The Facebook group, opened in 2014, has about 900 followers, a significant number for the Adventist Church in South Korea. It offers colorful memes with vegetarian recipes and testimonies. For the testimonies, administrators interview young adults or sometimes a national actor who is Adventist, and the testimony is spread across five or more memes. A big hit was made with memes about Adventist war hero Desmond Doss during the theatrical release of Hacksaw Ridge.
“We have found that informal content like this is easy for young people to embrace,” said project cofounder Taegyun Bong, 25, a theology major at Sahmyook University. “Young Adventists who have left the church have told us that they are finding healing through our ministry.”
The radio station, linked to the Facebook group, has the cheeky name RadioSda in a nod to the slur toward Adventists, and it offers a two-hour weekly broadcast. Topics have included church youth leaders talking about how they spend Sabbath afternoons and a law school student discussing Sabbath challenges. Some 700 to 2,000 people tune in every week.
“Our whole project can be described in one word: willingness,” said cofounder Hyunho Kim, 27, an English literature student. “It’s easy to become passive in our Christian life, but we are young people who are willing to act to have an impact on the Adventist community.”