100 years of the Salvation Army in Korea

By Michael Rank

London isn’t exactly full of reminders of Korea, so I was surprised to discover in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, a newly placed plaque in memory of the man who brought the Salvation Army to Korea.

The black marble plaque describes in English and Korean how “With Marching Orders from [Salvation Army founder] William Booth in hand, the then Colonel Robert Hoggard arrived on the Korean penninsular [sic] on 1st October 1908 to commence The Salvation Army … He waved the Blood and Fire Flag throughout the land of Korea as Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army from 1908 to 1916, by which time some 87 officers had been trained; 1,201 Salvationists sworn-in; 3,500 copies of The War Cry had been published; and 78 Corps opened…”.

As well as the plaque, which was erected on October 1 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Salvation Army in Korea, Hoggard’s grave has also been renovated. Robert Hoggard (1861-1935) shares the grave with his wife Annie (1862-1941) and another Salvationist couple, W.B. and Mary Palmer, who served with the Hoggards in Korea from 1913 to 1920.

The Hoggards and Mrs Palmer were “promoted to glory” when they died, while W.B. was “promoted to higher service”. I can’t help wondering why the difference, especially as Mr and Mrs Palmer were both Lieut-Commissioners…

Ann Stewart of the Salvation Army press office has kindly provided me with the order of service from Hoggard’s funeral (below left), which tells how in his early teens he “spent much of his leisure time dancing and singing in public-houses along the waterways” in his native Yorkshire. But “At the age of sixteen, in 1877, young Bob gave his heart to God at the Penitent Form. He at once became an aggressive, fighting Salvationist…”

He married Annie Johns in 1886, and after serving around Britain and Ireland the Hoggards “set out joyously to pioneer the work in Korea, where they were successful in raising the first forces of an Army fighting for Christ under our Flag from among a poor, suffering people, nurtured in darkest superstition.”

The Salvation Army in Korea” by Peter H. Chang (Seoul, 2007) tells how the Hoggards travelled the back roads of Korea on the back of a pony, staying in the homes of local people as there were few inns.

“We walked from place to place, holding two or three meetings a day – ‘by the wayside’ or in any place available – to proclaim simple gospel truths and try to bring people to an immediate decision for Christ,” Hoggard is quoted as saying.

“Both Hoggard and his indefatigable wife, itinerated constantly. Mrs. Hoggard frequently struck out on her own with a missionary assistant and a translator,” the book adds.

“It is amazing that Hoggard could do so much, not only in bringing souls to the Lord but in teaching them Army songs, publishing the War Cry, commencing the Officer Training College to produce Officers locally in Korea and so on. He did not neglect to translate the Army literature for these comrades to read and understand. He formed a brass band: with the missionaries in the beginning, then with the Korean folks…”

After returning from Korea Hoggard went on to serve as Territorial Commander in Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada West, and later as an International Travelling Commissioner “he helped and encouraged The Army’s forces in yet other lands.”

Robert Hoggard in Korea

Commissioner and Mrs Hoggard retired from active service in 1932, and their son, Brigadier Robert Hoggard, followed in his parents’ footsteps.

The Hoggards were eminently successful in their endeavours in Korea, and there are now more than 40,000 senior soldiers (full Salvation Army members) in South Korea – more than in the UK and Ireland and double the number in the whole of Australia. it is also building a remarkably glitzy looking new headquarters in Seoul.

Surprisingly, the Salvation Army has also managed to become involved in North Korea recently and became a recognised NGO there in September 2007.

Here are more details, from the Salvation Army’s official website:

The way into the north was smoothed over with liberal use of yoghurt – a yoghurt processing plant put in place in the summer of 2004 to find a use for the region’s plentiful supply of goats’ milk was the first Salvation Army work in North Korea since the Korean war.

One of the projects now in progress is the planting of 12,000 chestnut trees in the Go-sung-goon area of Kangwon Province in North Korea. About 80 per cent of North Korea used to be forest but in the past 20 years, with economic and fuel crises, trees were claimed for energy and so great swathes of forest were lost.

Chestnut trees are easy to come by in the south and will help recover forest areas as well as providing another source of food. The harvesting of chestnut trees takes around five years following planting.

Assistance is also being provided for the Wah-woo-doh Hospital facility in Nampo (right), a city which was formerly home to a Salvation Army corps. Some 250 to 330 patients visit this centre each day but, of the 24 departments including in-patients and paediatrics, only 11 are actually operating.

The building itself is 60 years old and shows its age. The sanitary facilities are poor, beyond description. Supplies are meagre.

Now, thanks to the support of The Salvation Army, Wah-woo-doh Hospital is undergoing renovation and refurbishment and the Salvationists of South Korea are able to give a practical demonstration of their love and compassion for their neighbours in the north.

If the first 100 years of Salvation Army work in Korea has been a case of success against the odds, it is hoped that the next 100 years will see growth and harmony between Salvationists in the south and potential Salvationists in the north.

Incidentally Abney Park Cemetery, which is now disused and overgrown and more than slightly spooky, has strong links with the Salvation Army, as founder William Booth and his wife Catherine and his son and successor Bramwell are also buried there.

Hoggard’s grave is near the Newington Church Street entrance, follow the right hand path and it’s maybe 50 metres on the left. The Booths’ graves are nearby.

There is also a 656-page biography of Hoggard in Korean

With many thanks to Territorial Commander Chun Kwang-pyo and to senior press officer Ann C. Stewart in London for their assistance.

10 thoughts on “100 years of the Salvation Army in Korea

  1. Lieutenant-Colonel Park Man-hee of the SA in Seoul has clarified a couple of points. Contrary to what it says on the SA’s international website, the glitzy building under construction in Seoul will not be their headquarters. The SA will receive rent from office space in the building which will finance their activities in Korea and hopefully eventually overseas too. The building is scheduled for completion in 2010.

    He also tells me there is no significance in the use of the terms “promoted to Glory” vs “promoted to higher service.”
    “The phrase “promoted to Glory” is the official term used by The Salvation Army when a Salvationist dies,” Lieut-Col Park says. “The term ‘promoted to higher service’ is simply a variation of this. This is no difference at all. I would add that ‘promoted to Glory’ however is the official and more commonly used wording.”


  2. In fact the original Salvation Army Building in Seoul is also worth looking out for. It’s in the small road between the UK and US Embassy Residences, and also has a nice little cafe. Pretty sure there’s no suet pud though. But there is a nice little museum in the old building which is worth a look if you’ve come that way for a cup of coffee. My wife swears by the camomile tea.

  3. I am writing a piece on Australian missions to Korea. They had interaction with the SA, in particular with a Korean lady, Captain Hur at Fusan in the 1930’s. I would be grateful for more and better information on Captain Hur if you can point me in the right direction. I believe the SA missions in Korea came from the UK. Did any other country send SA missionaries prior to 1942?
    Kind Regards, JT-G

  4. I have no idea, suggest you ask SA Seoul or check the book The Salvation Army in Korea mentioned above (probably obtainable via SA Seoul, the British Library has a copy which I gave them).

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