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Korean ‘feminist evangelist’ crosses the Pacific to find answers

CSW helps participant answer some of life’s questions

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Min-Hee Kim at the United Nations assembly. (Photo provided)

NEW YORK – Min-Hee Kim’s face lit the room with excitement. “I’m overwhelmed!” she said. “This is my first visit to New York, the East Coast and to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).”

Kim was one of 12 young women sponsored by the Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries Young Women’s Leadership program who participated in the United Nations’ 61st CSW. Each year the ministry provides scholarships to young Presbyterian women from around the world to attend the event. Kim endured a 14-hour flight to be at this year’s conference.

Reflecting on why it was important for her to come the event, Kim said, “When I received the invitation, I thought, ‘This is right for me.’ I’m searching for God’s calling on my life.”

She added, “After completing my master’s of divinity, I wanted to look into the core process of my transformation in my home country. It’s important that I examine myself and see the transformation that has taken place within.”

After her first visit to the United States in 2011 she realized that attending seminary in this country would help her resolve some of her inner conflicts. In Korea she belonged to a social gospel organization that was male-dominated, which went against Kim’s values. Kim, who describes herself as a “21st century feminist evangelist,” was looking for answers to the life question “What do I do next?” She realized that to answer that question, she had to ask herself, “Who am I in my relationship with God, my family and friends and other activists?”

Min-Hee Kim at the United Nations. (Photo provided)

“I decided to cross the Pacific Ocean to study feminist theology and to have an opportunity to reshape my life in faith and in public with a strong female voice,” Kim said. “I could have studied in Korea if I only wanted knowledge about feminist theology as a contemporary academic trend. But I wanted to experience the best of feminist theology and how it would fit with my life’s values, especially as it related to my relationship with God and communities of faith.”

“Thankfully,” she said, “at San Francisco Theological Seminary I was able to experience spiritually exactly what I was longing for.” She said she found her calling in the “interconnectivity of justice, diversity, equality and liberation.”

After earning her MDiv at SFTS, she returned to South Korea, where she engaged with a feminist group. Kim is now working to publish a book about a Korean “comfort woman” during World War II. “Comfort women” were primarily Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military.

The book project, she said, is one example of God’s call. “I am embracing what God brings to me more attentively,” she said.

Min-Hee Kim with the author, Gail Strange. (Photo provided)

When asked what she would take back to Korea from the CSW and how the experience would help her pursue her passion, Kim answered, “I recognize that God’s call for justice, diversity, equality and liberation interconnects with my body’s wearing specific national, racial, gender and spiritual ‘clothes.’ I sensed that my anger [about the subjugation of women] was changing into a deep and strong bond with women all over the world during the CSW. I can tell that God tells me that all the ‘clothes’ I wear are sacred and chosen by God. In the middle of the CSW, I was amazed at other women’s sacred beauty in them, too, while my body was mourning with them in suffering, together.

“Right before the CSW started, Jewel McRae [of the Presbyterian Mission Agency] said to me, ‘You will be a different person after experiencing CSW.’ Now, I see how it is working with me. Definitely, I will go back to Korea a different me. And I will see how God leads me next with this experience.”

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