December 27th, 2011
05:48 PM ET

Korean American pastor seeks reunification through humanitarian aid

By Stan Wilson and Casey Wian, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN)–When Chang Soon Lee reflects on his childhood years in North Korea, his joy quickly turns to deep sadness. Like millions of Koreans caught in the middle of the Korean War in the early 1950s, Chang at the age of 15 was forced to flee his native homeland.

His father, a prominent minister who survived World War II, disappeared just days after communist-led forces invaded Pyongyang. "After the (World War II) liberation of Korea, my father often visited churches and preached but one day we waited for him and he never returned home," says Chang.

By the time an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953, nearly 37,000 U.S. troops had been killed and more than 400,000 North Koreans soldiers were dead, according to the U.S Department of Defense.

Chang eventually emigrated to the United States on a student visa and became a minister, co-founding a ministry for Korean immigrants at Wiltshire United Method Church in Los Angeles, home to the nation's largest Korean-American population.

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But Chang has never forgotten his homeland and he's returned half a dozen times on humanitarian missions, taking tons of food to orphanages as part of a charity group he established in the United States. "Its a kind of symbolic showing for them that we love you, you are our brothers and sisters, we are tragically separated but we are one and we are concerned about you we are praying," says Chang.

While Chang acknowledges the late Kim Jong Il's brutal dictatorship and his refusal to liberalize North Korea's economy as millions of people were dying of starvation, he remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects of reunification under the young new leader, Kim Jong Un.

"I hope the young leader has the confidence enough to open more, to build up a relationship with South Korea and the USA," Chang says.

During his missions, North Korean authorities never allowed Chang to visit the neighborhood where he last saw his father, and that last sighting still haunts him 60 years later. "I want to know what happened to my dad, where he lived or died," says Chang as he wipes away tears.

As North Korea's new leader mourns the death of his father, Chang hopes Kim Jong Un will remember people like Chang Soon Lee.

Now retired at 76, Chang says he looks forward to a day when millions of Koreans might reunite, although he says South Korea and the United States also have a shared responsibility to promote peace.

"We have to give them (North Korea) confidence or trust that we are not attacking you, we support you and (will) work together for a better world."

And perhaps, Chang hopes, that will lead to answers about his father.

"I want to know what happened to him. You cannot have resolve completely unless you really find what happened."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Belief • Christianity • Church • North Korea

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Linaf Armbrusts

    Thanks for this excellent article. One more thing to mention is that nearly all digital cameras are available equipped with some sort of zoom lens that allows more or less of the scene to become included simply by 'zooming' in and out. Most of these changes in the aim length will be reflected in the viewfinder and on big display screen on the back of the actual camera.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    December 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  3. Bo

    Atheists: Lemmings on the death march.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • 2 Peter 3:9

      The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

      December 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • The Phist

      So say the christians that follow a doctrine proven to be false.

      Thanks for the laugh!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  4. Real America

    Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung.
    The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it's nature is to sting?"
    "Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."

    December 28, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  5. William Demuth

    Of course he does

    He wants more cult members.

    Better the North all die, than they be forced to replace the dictator Kim with the dictator Christ.

    December 28, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • fred

      Well spoken Bill ! I love the tollerance and compasion.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Yes, it would be a shame if loving other people became extremely important.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:34 am |
  6. Crap your hands!

    If you ronery and you know it, crap your hands!

    December 28, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  7. John

    I don't believe the earth is just 6000 years old. What does this pastor understand?

    December 28, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  8. Jimtanker

    Starve them out and make them beg to join the South.

    December 27, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • You must be a conservative

      They are already starving. Haven't you read anything in the last ten years?

      December 28, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Jimtanker

      I've been there twice. We still give them hundreds of millions of dollars in food and medical aid every year. Stop paying their ransom and they will give out sooner.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  9. The Central Scrutinizer

    The Universe ceases to exist at the moment of your death. Likewise, the Universe springs into existence at the moment you can comprehend something. “Reality” is personal. It is not universal. What I believe is true. What I perceive is real. Therefore, there is an infinite number of realities (call them universes) both coming and going at all times for infinity. The reason physics breaks down as we get close to that frightening doom is because we realize at that point that WE are the God we seek. We create our reality and destroy it.

    Is there a Bible when I die? Not for me. Is there a Milky Way Galaxy when I die? Not for me. Do you exist when I die? Not to me.

    A “life” is a dream so amazing and long coming that true comprehension is out of reach.


    Try meditation and find the heart in your stomach. Not the one in your chest. It is there. A bundle connecting mind and body. There are clues available to those who can concentrate and not waste time with religion. Look into the pool. See the reflection of the impossible. Perhaps you will see you.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • The Grand Wazoo

      Who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris?

      December 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      You ain't pickin' up what I'm puttin' down? Why not? You got something better?

      December 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      So you're recruiting new age mumbo jumbo to clear your mind and meditate, I knew you were a putz and now you just proved it.

      Next, you'll be telling us you watch oprah.


      December 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      I can honestly say I have never seen Oprah and completly fail to undestand the reference.

      What is wrong with meditation? It is good for your heart.

      December 27, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Bo

      It's your choice; If that is the way you want it, that is the way you will get it, God won't disappoint you.

      December 28, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  10. The Central Scrutinizer

    I gotta pig that poops jelly beans for Christmas. See if you find the parallel.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      My guess is that you love to meditate with the pez dispenser.


      December 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      That was my cat taking a walk across the key board.


      December 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      HS, you failed to find the parallel.

      December 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  11. Martin

    Dear Ms. Stacey Samuel, CNN. Angles is not the correct spelling for angels you wrote about.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Correct, it is spelled "Fairies"

      December 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • J.W

      Where are you seeing this. I only see angles once and that is where it says all the faith angles to todays top stories.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  12. The Central Scrutinizer

    Good luck with that. We are way over-do to remove the regime and force a democratic re-unification. The American way.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.