Kim Dae Jung’s Witness
Kim Dae Jung, the former president of South Korea, died Tuesday. The world will remember him for his Nobel Prize for Peace and efforts to unify the Korean penninsula. For me, growing up as an MK in Korea, Kim was the gentle but determined gadfly who kept calling the dictatorship to account, willing to die for the sake of telling the truth (he was almost killed several times). For me, Kim getting elected president of South Korea in 1997 was about as momentous and unlikely as Obama U.S. election, a huge turning point. Last summer ’08 Donna and I were in Seoul for a week and went downtown one night only to find it swelling with crowds of protestors. But instead of hammering people with nightsticks and tear gas, the police stood silently and let the people have their say. Kim was the prophetic voice at the edge of that shift. At the heart of it all was his vibrant Christian faith. Whether it is Mandela reaching out to his jailers in the thick of apartheid or Kim speaking the truth in the face of enormous powers stacked against him, it is easy to forget that at the heart of authentic leadership is leading and speaking and relating differently even when there’s no guarantee you’re going to win. And being content to die — and live and witness — “in faith” rather than with a change in what is visible.