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Ten Unique Korean Virtues That EM’s Aren’t Teaching Our Kids (But Should Be) – Part 8

Re-published with permission from author, Pastor Eric Foley, for those who don’t get a chance to pick up their Korean Christian publication (or would). This article is a great read as it pertains to the handing of the baton from 1st to 2nd generation in the Korean (which I think would be fairly applicable to other ethnic) churches. As many 2nd generations work in multi-generational churches, I think it brings up a good bit of healthy dialogue. Enjoy, and again, thanks to Pastor Foley.

How to Help Your EM Cultivate Unique Korean Virtue #3: Respect for Elders, ctd.

Did you complete your homework assignment from last month’s column: Watching the American movie, “RV”? I asked you to watch “RV”, even if you speak no English, so that you could personally experience what is a normal relationship between American children and their parents.

The claim I made in the last column was this:

The most monumental change between the first and second generations, between Korean culture and American culture, is that in America, respect does not come from position, title, or age. It is earned in personal interaction. If we fail to realize this and simply demand that we be respected for our position, title, or age, the only “respect” we ever receive from the second generation will be what they must yield to us out of necessity. It will be all form and no heart.

The prescription I offered last time was this:

If we are serious about repairing the breach between our first and second generations, it is going to be necessary for 1.0’s to do something very humbling and difficult. It is going to be necessary for 1.0’s to find out what ‘respect’ means to Americans in general and 2.0’s in specific. Then, rather than demanding respect on our terms, we are going to need to earn it on their terms.

My promise last time was to begin to offer you through this column a series of practical steps that you as a first generation Christian or Korean church leader can take to learn what respect means to 2.0’s—and to enable you to earn it from them, for the urgent good of the Korean American community in the future.

We start by addressing a very controversial question, and by offering an even more controversial answer than is ever usually given:

In order to earn the respect of EM’s, KM’s need to make abundantly clear through their words and actions and imparting of vision that they support something far greater for EM’s than independence.

Imagine if we raised our children in such a way that we never prepared them to care for themselves and take over from us our family and work responsibilities. What if we only taught our children to submit to our rules? What would happen to our heritage and our calling when we die?

Conversely, what if we taught our children only to be independent from us? What if we said to them, “My job is to raise you until you are eighteen. From then on, you’ll be on your own.”

That is the issue facing EM’s and KM’s today: Fifty years from now, what is our goal when it comes to relationship between EM and KM churches? Is it that they will both be strong and vibrant and independent from each other? I question whether that is the highest goal and whether that is God’s goal. I call on KM’s and EM’s to hold themselves to a higher calling:

Our goal—KM and EM alike—ought to be that fifty years from now, today’s EM’s are the ones who will be primarily responsible for continuing to accomplish the unfolding of God’s unique purpose for Korean Christianity within the United States.

Are KM’s making this their top priority today? EM’s are not, and cannot with KM’s. Are KM’s recruiting and training up EM pastors to make this their top priority today? Are they teaching EM’s God’s unique purpose for Korean Christianity? Do they even know it (and are they even striving for it) themselves? Fifty years from now, will the unique purpose and story of Korean Christianity be further ahead or further behind than it is today?

When it comes to teaching 2.0’s respect for elders, the first thing we need to establish is that just as the primary role of the parent is to raise up the child well, the primary role of the KM is to raise up the EM so that one day the EM may lead our Korean American Christian community to continue the story that God began in us only a little more than 100 years ago.

The EM needs to understand that, contrary to American cultural beliefs, its highest good is not simply to choose what it wants to be and what story it wants to follow. It is certainly “free” to do that; however, the EM’s highest good is to seek fully and learn fully and carry on fully and extend fully and expand fully the mission God tasked Korean Christians with in the first place when He sent them here.

When I talk to many EM pastors who crave “independence” from their KM’s, I discover that they have a very immature definition of “independence”. They usually mean that they want to worship how they like, where they like, when they like, fully determining the purpose and calling of their congregation independent of the story that led to its formation—and they want and expect to be regarded as mature Christian peers by their KM elders. At the same time, they expect the KM to continue to fund them at some level, cover their insurances, and loan their 501c3 legal organizational status to them to operate under.

This is not independence. This is indulgence. When America became “independent” of Britain, it was not rejecting the cultural foundation of the British. Instead, it was arguing that the British themselves were no longer being true to that foundation and founding story, and that they had been tasked by God to carry the story forward.

May the day quickly come when EM’s call KM’s to task for forgetting the founding story of why God sent us here in the first place! May our EM’s became far more devoted to the core of Korean Christianity than our KM’s are willing to be these days!

Imagine if my fifteen year old daughter came to me and said, “Dad, it’s time for me to be independent. Of course, you’ll need to give me the Mitsubishi Montero, pay my car insurance and provide me with food, clothing, shelter, and a cell phone. Plus I need a bigger room. It’s only fair that I been given the entire upstairs. And I need to see who I like and operate according to my own rules.” How would I respond?

On the other hand, imagine if my daughter were now twenty-eight and still living at home with me providing all her expenses and making all of her decisions for her. How would she respond?

Both of these extremes engender resentment: The first on my part, and the second on hers. The same is true with KM’s and EM’s today:

KM’s fail to see their primary task as raising their EM’s to adulthood.

EM’s fail to see their primary task as assuming responsibility for the
full continuation of the story of which the KM and not Saddleback Church,
is the previous chapter.

Where does that all begin? It begins with KM’s, because KM’s have the benefit of greater longevity as Christians, greater knowledge of the story of which they are a part, and greater spiritual and financial resources from which to draw.

May it never be that an EM must come to a KM to say, “We want to be independent”! May it always be that the KM comes to the EM and says, “One day we—the KM—will not be here. And you must be prepared to lead, and to continue to steward the treasure God has given to us to bring here to America. And we must begin today—and work every day, all day—to prepare you for that destiny.

EM’s are chafing to get away from KM’s because they see great destiny with Rick Warren than they do with us.

Next month we continue our discussion of how we 1.0’s can learn what respect means to 2.0’s, and how we can earn that respect that is rightfully ours.

If you’d like to talk before then, please feel free to e-mail me at Since, unfortunately, I don’t speak Korean, you may wish to speak to my wife, Ahn Hyun Sook, at or (719) 360-1819.

Until then, annyonghashimnika!


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

3 responses to “Ten Unique Korean Virtues That EM’s Aren’t Teaching Our Kids (But Should Be) – Part 8

  1. elderj

    This last entry I think is very good because it touches something I have observed but not been able to put into words: the often immature way 2nd gens operate. In many cases that I’ve observed they have not really been prepared for adulthood, spiritually or otherwise, and so act like children — but they also crave the authority and privileges of adulthood without many of the responsibilities. I also like that he lays this at the feet of the KM. As the “parents” the responsibility to raise the next generation muct go beyond making sure they have all the toys and gadgets they want (whether X-Box or the latest worship equipment) and making them study all the time so they can get good jobs. There has to be something more.

  2. julie park ⋅

    hiiii david! hiiii sunita! hiiiii oreo!


  3. Elderj, this comment of yours is a tough one for me.

    I have to confess that many of my generation haven’t been parented well at least in my observations. Many of us were latchkey kids whose parents owned shops or businesses or in my case, ran a church. While they didn’t buy me the things that I wanted to appease me or their guilt, I will say that in terms of real dialogue, I don’t think I really engaged with them until my mid-20s.

    It does make me wonder at a deeper level of while we complain and Foley places the gravity of the matter at the hands of the KM, now that I know my parents’ story better, I realize that they weren’t parented well or discipled well either. Their parents died due to the poverty and disease after the Korean War. While they had siblings, it was more like Lord of the Flies than Lord of the Rings if you get my drift.

    The notion of seeing a Christ-like life lived in community and passed on is still foreign I think. I think there is a real need to address the healing in both generations.

    But perhaps that will come as we honestly assess our maturity, discipline, and bearing of responsibility as a generaton who claims to know Christ.

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