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Korean delegation visits Seattle for 20th anniversary

By Ed Evans - Co-chair of the Global Ministries Committee

The Global Ministries Committee of the Pacific NW Conference of the UCC and the Northwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hosted six clergy and four lay persons from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) May 13 to 17 in Seattle. 

Mary Margaret Pruitt

Mary Margaret Pruitt, long time organizer for PROK partner visits, receives portrait from Korean delegates, honoring her commitment.

The visit marked the 20th anniversary of the formation of a partnership between the PROK and the PNCUCC/DoC.  Delegations have been exchanged between the two countries every year since the partnership was formed in 1993. 

The visitors stayed with host families from UCC and Disciples of Christ congregations in the Seattle area.

The schedule for the visitors from the East Seoul Presbytery focused on ministries of outreach, justice, care for people and the environment.

They heard from JC Mitchell, the pastor of a new church in the Seattle area dedicated to the concerns of differently abled people. 

They shared a meal at a community kitchen for area homeless people hosted by All Pilgrim’s UCC/DoC Church on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. 

PROK delegates

Delegates from the East Seoul Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) visit Seattle sights and ministries.

The delegates also learned about the Plymouth UCC housing project for the homeless in downtown Seattle, visited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor’s Center, toured a Habitat for Humanity construction site, and learned about the tragic plight of short-haul truck drivers on Seattle’s waterfront.

Their visit also included opportunities to learn about the health and environmental concerns over plans related to the movement of coal trains through the region to ship coal to ports in China and other Asian destinations. 

Delegates placed salmon fry into a creek as part of a salmon restoration project coordinated by Fauntleroy UCC, and they visited Seattle’s Pike Place Market. 

A highlight of the visit, however, was an afternoon of sharing and open conversation about the spiritual and political role of the PROK church in South Korea, particularly as it relates to concerns about the reunification of North and South Korea.

While they do not believe the recent threatening rhetoric from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, will lead to hostilities, they nonetheless live daily within the tension of concerns about the fragile nature of the peace between the two Koreas.

Seoul is less than 50 miles from the border with North Korea.  Many families in South Korea still have relatives in North Korea, which is a factor which brings varying degrees of complication to the PROK’s role in addressing the question of reunification.

Some in the delegation expressed the belief that involvement in the politics of reunification are too divisive for the church and serve as a distraction from the primary role of the church, which should be spiritual nourishment and growth of the church.  Others expressed the belief that the church needs to take a more active role in promoting reunification and offer assistance to people in the North out of a sense of love and compassion.

Some in the group said that they themselves were refugees, and acknowledged deep internal struggles of wanting to be compassionate, while at the same time continuing to be haunted by past experiences and lingering hateful feelings for the North. 

The conversation was candid, rich, sometimes emotional and moving.

The conversation was followed by a dinner and celebration of the 20th anniversary of the partnership with the PROK and the UCC/DoC at Normandy Park UCC.  

UCC, Disciples and PROK participants ate together, prayed together, sang together and exchanged gifts. 

Words of greeting were offered by Rev. Mike Denton, UCC conference minister, and Rev. Sandy Messick, Disciples of Christ regional minister.

 Longtime Global Ministries Committee Member Mary Margaret Pruitt was surprised by the presentation of the gift of a portrait painted by 24-year-old Han, Chee In, the son of exchange delegate Rev. Han, Sung Soo.

The younger artist had only met Paul and Mary Margaret Pruitt once, during an exchange visit to Seattle seven years ago. 

He majored in western style painting at Kuck Min University in Seoul, and was so impressed by Mary Margaret’s devotion to Global Ministries and the PROK partnership, he painted a portrait of her from a photograph of the couple in front of their home church, Fauntleroy UCC.

The Global Ministries Committee appreciates the many churches and individuals who offered hospitality to make the visit meaningful.  

Supporters included host families, churches that provided meals, transportation, and the anniversary dinner. 

Funding for the visit came from the UCC and DoC regional/conference budget allocation.

Video of 20 years of partnership is available at

Video of the 2013 PROK exchange visit is at

For information, email

Copyright @ June-July 2103 Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News.


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