A friend of mine does a lot of work with Mannam Volunteer Association. They were having a huge party up in Seoul and were offering free transportation to and from the thing. I figured I'd go check it out because it was supposed to be a cultural/world peace festival. I thought it would be a good chance to see some Korean culture performances and maybe meet some people, etc. Well...let me tell you that was far from what happened.
Besides the fact that they
tried to fit 100,000+ people in a stadium built for about 80,000 and
didn't have enough seats for everyone they bused in. Well after getting
seated in the stadium, some nice Koreans gave us their seats and moved
to where they couldn't see, we sat down and proceeded to listen to about
two hours of speeches. It was a pretty auspicious start to a world
peace festival (but not out of the ordinary for stuff in Korea). After
that the show started with about a 30 minute mass games (think north
Korea mass games). As soon as they announced the show was going to be
about the 6000 year history of the bible I knew something was up.
Throughout the whole show I thought it was pretty funny that at a
multicultural world peace event where you have bused in foreign people
from all different countries (Thailand, Pakistan, China, Indonesia,
India, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc) you start with a strict
creationist show stating that the world is 6000 years old and only
through the bible can evil be defeated.
Following the show
our guides (babysitters) gave us a coupon for 4,000 won at the food
court area (international foods) and asked if they would mind if they
(the babysitters) went and got us food. Well, I needed to get up and
stretch my legs because I'd been seated for about three hours and was
cramping. So I told them it's ok I'll go get my own food. To which
they basically said, no we have to go together. After walking down to
the food court area a couple of the girls I was with had to go to the
bathroom, and the guides had to escort them to and from the bathroom.
It was at this point that I decided that I was going to leave after
lunch. I can handle the religious message, but being escorted around
like this made me feel like I was being watched and had to be accounted
for at all times. After talking with the other foreigners I was there
with (three teachers from Seosan) we decided just to tell them we were
leaving. They felt the same way that I did and everything just felt off about the day. Our guides were sad but understood. We basically left as soon as we said goodbye.
It wasn't until yesterday when I started talking to my friend that I finally understood what was going on. She
asked me what I thought of the day and I started telling her how I
thought Mannam made several mistakes. I told her basically everything I
just wrote and her response was that Mannam is a secular
organization and is not allowed to be religious. However, she told me
that the reason for the religious message was that the "honorary"
chairman of Mannam just happens to be Lee Man Hee who is the founder and
leader of Shinchonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of
the Testimony. This church happens to more or less be a cult with about
100,000 followers in Korea. It's not a kool-aid drinking end of the
world type, but more of the we're the only enlightened ones type.
Mannam was co-hosting their event with the Shinchonji
religious Olympiad which just happens to be held a day after the dear
leader's birthday every 4 years. It's funny, because Mannam has come out
saying they're not associated with the church. And then the biggest
party Mannam has put on happens to be co-hosted by the church and the
honorary chairman of the organization is the damned leader of the
church. Moreover there are several reports coming out in the news that
Mannam is just a front organization for the church and is actively
recruiting for the church. It's to the point where Korean universities
are warning their foreign students not to attend functions hosted by the
At this point I started doing some digging online and found a lot of disconcerting stuff concerning the church, their association with Mannam, and the event which I unwittingly attended. Well, I guess this just goes into that life experiences category.