WINTER GAMES

Visting the LDS church in South Korea

Feb 19, 2018, 3:50 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 4:02 pm

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reached almost every corner of the world with its nearly 16 million members, including the place where the Winter Olympics are underway in South Korea.

The first missionaries visited Korea in the mid 1950s. Now, there are more than 87,860 members, four missions, one temple and 120 congregations. That’s up from 86,170 members in 2013, according to the LDS Church.

One congregration, the Ganguang branch is 25 members strong, with a junior primary of one and a young women’s group of two.

Mission President Craig Sonksen has been here since the 1970s, when the country was just emerging from war. He said what’s happening now is a miracle.

“The ’88 Olympics was the coming out for Korea,” said Sonksen. “These Olympics are kind of the cap. They’ve arrived. They’re a developed country.”

That development can be a challenge for missionaries on the streets who often feel rejected.

“Koreans will work 15-hour days, 7 days a week,” they told us.

“They’ll just say, ‘I’m busy.’ That’s the Korea culture. You don’t know if they’re actually busy, or if they’re just saying they’re busy.”

So missionaries meet Koreans where they’re comfortable, with technology and video chats.

“We can find these people, and we’ve never met them in person, but now we can just teach them online.”

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Visting the LDS church in South Korea