The Council for World Mission mourns the passing of Professor Kim Yong-Bock today, on 07 April 2022, after losing his fight to Colorectal Cancer.
Dr Kim Yong Bock is a pioneer of Minjung theology and a stalwart Asian theologian who relentlessly struggled to bring justice and liberation to the poor and oppressed through his contributions to theological and ecumenical movements.
Born in 1938, a decade before Korean Independence, he grew up witnessing Korea (and other countries of Asia) going through division, the cold war, the dictatorship, geopolitical conflicts, and people’s struggles in the midst of social discriminations, military oppressions, and economic exploitations. As a result, he developed in himself a strong commitment to the democratisation and liberation movement in Korea as well as in Asia, which is what made him a leading Minjung theologian.
He firmly believed in the importance of overcoming traditional theological, ecclesiastical and missiological themes by developing an Asian liberation theology as a social biography of the minjung through a direct and transparent commitment to the sufferings and struggles of the Asian people. He always emphasised the importance of seeking an authentic Christian experience in the context of people’s struggles instead of continuing with or contributing to the western form of Christianity. And he believed that the missio Dei among the suffering people is to restore their life and dignity to the fullest so that the imago Dei and shalom may be realised among and by them.
Dr Kim Yong-bock condemned the glorification of elite culture and politics and the economy of the global empire. He called on people for convergence of indigenous spiritualities, contextual pearls of wisdom and resistance against empires as a liturgical act of affirmation for all living beings. He has defined this theology as a Zoesophia, the Wisdom of the Whole of Life. This perspective has three dimensions: it recognises that the life of all living beings is under the threat of omnicide; it observes that life is being reduced into objects and fragments for control and manipulation, threatening its whole and holy nature; and it remembers that in Asia and in the Bible (an Asian book) there is abundant wisdom and resources to enrich life, including the cosmic vision of life.
Dr Kim Yong-bock is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK). Over the years, Dr Kim held various positions and performed numerous key roles in the theological and ecumenical circles in and beyond Korea. Some of the important roles are President of the Hanil University and Theological Seminary (HUTS) in Chonbuk, Korea, Moderator of the Reconciliation and Reunification Committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea, Moderator of Theological Committee of World Communion of Reformed Churches and one of the key theologians who has developed the World Council of Churches (WCC) movement on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. However, his contributions to the student Christian movement through the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and to the Asian theological and ecumenical movement through the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) are very prominent.
In addition, he gave lectures in many eminent universities and theological colleges and delivered inspiring keynotes in numerous global ecumenical gatherings. More importantly, he will be remembered for his journey and solidarity with the minjung in Korea and worldwide, especially in Palestine, the Philippines, Myanmar, Japan, Kenya, South Africa, and Cuba.
He has enormously contributed to the vision and mission of the Council for World Mission (CWM) since its inception in 1977. Indeed, we remember his passionate speech that echoes for peace and life in our last Assembly in Jeju, South Korea, in 2016. Needless to say, CWM and the Asian Christian ecumenical community have lost a “Dreaming Boy” –as his nickname, an eminent theologian, a visionary leader and a humble activist, Professor Kim Yong-bock. But I strongly believe his contributions to the theological and ecumenical community and his vision will continue to inspire many more generations to come.
On behalf of our Moderator, Rev Lydia Neshangwe, Directors, Trustees, CWM member churches, and all my staff colleagues, I extend my deepest condolences and prayers to his wife, Mrs Marion Kim and his family, and the Korean churches and all those who mourn the passing of Dr Kim.
May his precious soul rest in eternal peace and rise with the liberation of the Minjung!
Council for World Mission