Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 48,509,000; Members, 81,251; Stakes, 17; Wards, 94; Branches, 48; Missions, 4; Districts, 6; Temples, 1; percent LDS, .17, or one in 597; Asia North Area.

Church History: Republic of Korea (South)

Latter-day Saint servicemen performed the first missionary work during the Korean War, between 1951 and 1953. Among the first Korean members was Ho Jik Kim, converted while earning a doctorate in the United States. He was baptized on 29 September 1951 in the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pa. He became an influential leader in the Korean government and paved the way for missionaries to enter Korea. His children, Tai Whan and Young Sook, were among the first four baptized in Korea, on 3 August 1952.

The first missionaries, Richard L. Detton and Don G. Powell, arrived in Korea in April 1956. At that time, membership in Korea was 64. The missionaries focused much of their work among young students.

Originally part of the Northern Far East Mission, the Korean Mission was created on 8 July 1962 with Gail C. Carr, one of the early missionaries to Korea, as president. The new mission had seven branches in Seoul, Pusan and Taegu. The Book of Mormon was printed in Korean in 1967. From 1974 to 1977 a girls choir in an orphanage operated by Latter-day Saint member Whang Keun-Ok was promoted on national media. The first stake in Korea — and the first stake on mainland Asia — was created in Seoul on 8 March 1973. The Church’s first visitors’ center in Korea was opened on 7 October 1974, in Kwang Ju, the provincial capital in southwestern Korea to introduce the Church to the Korean people.

President Spencer W. Kimball visited Korea on 26 October 1980, and spoke to 6,000 members in two sessions of an area conference. One session was held outdoors with a stiff wind sending the wind chill factor to many degrees below freezing.

The Seoul Korea Temple was dedicated 14 December 1985 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. When the 1988 Summer Olympic Games were held in Korea, the BYU Folk Dancers performed at the opening ceremonies. The ceremony was viewed by an estimated audience of 1 billion worldwide.

Elder In Sang Han, called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy on 1 June 1991, was the first Korean General Authority. In 1992, a record of the testimonies of the early Korean converts was published by Spencer J. and Shirley Palmer. In 1995, the book was published in English.

In May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley conducted meetings for members and missionaries in Seoul and Pusan during an extended visit to Asia. He also attended a press conference and luncheon with members of the media in Korea.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Han-Dong on 28 April 2001 while in Seoul for a regional conference. Elder Oaks presented the prime minister with a copy of the “Proclamation on the Family” and a sculpture of a family. In 2003, membership reached 75,149.

Members of the Church from across Korea gathered in Olympic Gymnasium No. 1 on 31 July 2005, to join with President Hinckley for a regional conference. He had come as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the dedication of Korea for the preaching of the gospel. An estimated 10,000 attended.


Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, From the East, The History of the Latter-Day Saints in Asia, 1851- 1996, 1998; George W. McCune, A tribute to Brother Tatsui Sato, 1996; John D. Nash, History of the Church in Korea, 1998; Spencer J. Palmer, The Church Encounters Asia, 1970; Dell Van Orden, “Saints Throng to Area Meetings in the Far East,” Church News, 1 November 1980; Gerry Avant, “Renewing Ties with Asian Lands, Peoples,” Church News, 8 June 1996; Spencer J. Palmer, “Pioneering in South Korea, Ensign, October 1997; “Korean jubilee” Church News, 6 August 2005.


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