Chapter 1

Minjung Theology

In the midst of the Korean people’s struggle for their just and basic rights during the 1970s, there arose a theological community which together reflected on the reality of the people, their historical condition, their experiences of suffering and struggle and their aspirations and hopes. This theological development has been named "Minjung theology." The purpose of this essay is to describe the proiess through which Minjung theology has emerged.

I. Discovery of the Minjung

In 1957 a small group of very committed mission workers began their work of evangelization of the poor in the factories of Korea. In 1968 some of them extended their work among the urban poor while others began mission work among poor farmers. These groups of industrial, urban and rural mission workers formed a community among the Korean Minjung. Within this community, there emerged a remarkable "discovery" of the reality of the Minjung their pains, their frustrations, their agonies and their sufferings as well as their hopes, aspirations and struggles.

In the beginning, the mission workers regarded the poor industrial workers, the urban squatters and the rural poor farmers as the objects of evangelization in a traditional sense. They soon discovered, however, that they were not communicating at all with the poor; and, in fact, they could not communicate; for their language and perceptions were so different from those of the poor that they could not evoke any empathy and rapport in their relationships with the people. This situation was very frustrating and even shocking to these zealous and enthusiastic mission workers, then called evangelists, who were convinced of the importance of communicating the Gospel to the poor.

A new way had to be found for them to contact and communicate with the Minjung. The way that they chose was to live and work among the poor, living the same lifestyle as the poor. Industrial mission workers became laborers and worked in the factories; urban missioners lived among the squatters; and rural mission workers made their dwelling place among the farmers. They lived and worked and soon discovered and experienced the same feelings, the same perceptions and the same perspectives as those of the workers, the urban poor and the farmers.

The mission workers found that the Minjung feel pain in their bodies; they feel fatigue and tiredness to the marrow of their bones because of heavy labor; they perceive social reality as hostile to them: they know life as suffering. Their frustrations often lead them to despair, anger and indignation. It is very hard for them to have the hope and courage needed to struggle for a better future. The mission workers discovered this stark reality of the Minjung with their bodies, not with their heads.

Once they immersed themselves bodily in the life of the Minjung, they discovered that they were beginning to communicate with their Minjung friends. This communication was not from them to the Minjung but in the opposite direction: from the Minjung to the mission workers. The mission workers learned the depth of the people’s suffering and agony, the intensity of their aspirations, their infinite patience and abundant wisdom to survive in the midst of such an impossible reality. The mission workers were able to share the experiences of the people to a certain extent. Through their experiences, the mission workers discovered that the "prepackaged Gospel" could not be communicated to the people.

II. From Discovery of the Minjung to the Discovery of the Bible

The mission workers now began to re-read the Bible together with the Minjung. This was the beginning of the most remarkable process of rediscovering the power of the Gospel and the Bible among the people. The perceptions and emerging conclusions of the Minjung about the Bible were clear and exciting. The Gospel is for the poor, and they are subjects and inheritors of the Heavenly Reign. The poor, the weak, the sick, the crippled, the blind, the captive, the least of these - the Minjung - occupy a special place in the Reign of God. The Gospel was truly discovered and rediscovered through the perceptions and perspective of the Minjung. The mission workers began to ask theological questions about the Biblical texts on the basis of the perceptions and perspective they had newly learned from the Minjung. In this way, the mission workers discovered the reality of the Minjung in the Bible, their unique place within the justice and compassion of God.

It was the "experience" of the Minjung that began to clarify for them the power and wonder of the Gospel in the Bible. Their stories of suffering and aspiration began to be interwoven, intertwined and interlinked with the Biblical stories in the hearts and life of the mission workers in such a way that the story of Jesus became a decisive power and vital life among the Minjung themselves. This was the beginning of the discovery of the Minjung, historically as well as theologically. The theological reflections began in the community of the Minjung and the mission workers.

Reading the Bible powerfully among the Minjung is not an elaborate hermeneutical process but a communication event that connects the story of the Minjung with the story of the Bible. Therefore, the task of reading the Bible is not a question of interpretation, but a question of reading it powerfully to transform the life of the Minjung themselves. The Bible has been already appropriated as the Book of the Minjung.

III. The Minjung as the Subjects of History

The discovery of the Minjung led not only to the realization that it is the Minjung who are the perceiving subjects of real historical experiences but also to the understanding that the Minjung are the subjects in the making of history. They bear the historical burdens to sustain human societies. They work, they cultivate and they serve. Therefore, they are the subjects, not merely of real historical understanding, but of real history- making. It is through their suffering, which forms the core of the historical experience, that history is sustained. The sustenance of human life, the creative process in cultural life, the transforming dynamics of the social and political process are fundamentally based upon the endurance and suffering sacrifice of the Minjung. Therefore, their suffering becomes the foundation of the society, and they sustain the ups and downs of the historical process. In this sense, they are subjects in the understanding of history, in the telling of their stories of historical experiences and in the making of history. They are the subjects of history.

Heretofore, most histories have been written by the elites and the powerful in which the story of humanity has been regarded as being determined by heroes, lords, kings, political leaders, the economic and cultural elite and the dominant classes. The Minjung have been relegated to insignificant roles and to the footnotes in this kind of historical writing.

However, it was the Minjung theologians who realized that real history cannot be understood without the Minjung’s own account of their experiences in that history, that is, their own stories. For example, without the testimonies of the slaves who sustained the economy of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910), it is impossible to explain either the socio-economic history of the dynasty or its political, social and cultural life. At one point in the history of that dynasty, more than half of the productive forces were slaves, exceeding even the number of peasants, who were themselves the Minjung.

Another example is found in the story of the Jongshindae (official female prostitutes for the Japanese imperial soldiers). Very young and innocent Korean girls were forcibly taken to the battlefields during World War II to "comfort" and "entertain" sexually the Japanese soldiers under Japan’s colonial rule of Korea. The stories of these victims, more than any other accounts, reveal the true nature of the reign of Japan’s imperial power at that time.

In still another example from more recent history, the war victims, their widows and members of Korea’s separated families can tell the agonies and wounds of the Korean War and the division of the Korean people because of Cold War polarization. The stories of the victims of any given society expose the core dynamics of that human community, for the suffering Minjung bear the real burden of the society.

Nevertheless, the stories of the Minjung about their sufferings and their historical contributions are not known most of the time, and the stories or records that do exist are usually suppressed by the powerful. Therefore, much of history is not known; the unknown part of human history is greater than its known and recorded part. Even the known part is a distorted and partial history, for the role of the Minjung is generally omitted or erased from the history books - books written for the powerful by the elite of that society.

Let us take another example related to the issue of peace and war. The historical reality of the Hiroshima A-bomb holocaust can be deeply probed through the stories of the Korean A-bomb victims. Although no one knows for certain how many people perished, it is estimated that a minimum of 100,000 Korean people were killed by the atomic bomb. These are at least 100,000 truly innocent bystanders of World War II, who were dragged from the peaceful rural villages of Korea and taken to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to work in the factories of Japan’s war machine. Before the atomic bomb was dropped, these people were already living miserable lives in these inhuman factories and in Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s slums. They were also given the derogatory label of Chosenjin and lived with discrimination. Of all the A-bomb victims, they suffered the most, for it was only after the Japanese victims were evacuated that any care was given to the Korean participants in this deadly event of history.

The suffering of the Koreans in Japan did not end with the atom bomb. Special, discriminatory treatment followed the survivors. The Koreans in Japan were designated as "people in a special category" by the U.S. military government that assumed control of Japan at the end of the war. This prohibited them from claiming any compensation for damages and injuries they had suffered in Japan. Thus, the Koreans who survived the atomic bomb were abandoned by both the victorious and the vanquished.

Life did not improve after they were repatriated to Korea either. They suffered from their wounds and from radiation diseases; but perhaps most of all, they felt the pain of discrimination of their own people because of their diseases and the neglect and maltreatment of their own government.

I began to realize the importance of their experiences for the debate on issues of peace and justice through my contacts with Church Women United in Korea, which is the support community for the Korean A-bomb victims. These Korean victims of the A-bomb and their stories reveal the real nature of nuclear destruction, then and now. Through the physical, psychological and emotional suffering of these victims, these Koreans offer us possibilities for historical transformation; they provide insights and visions for a future of justice and peace based on their innocent experiences of human tragedy. They are the subjects of this tragedy, the subjects of this historical event. From their perceptions of history grow visions of a future of peace based on justice. The value of their perceptions and visions will largely be determined by we who have not experienced their pain; it will reveal the level of our wisdom.

Theologically speaking, the Korean Minjung in this inhuman, human tragedy are the partners of God in God’s covenant history; the sovereignty of God is translated to the sovereignty of the Minjung.

IV. The Minjung Are Known through Their Social Biography

There have been a number of questions about the term "Minjung." It is a Korean word that can be translated as "people" in English, but the translation does not do justice to the word. It has a more encompassing meaning that refers to the people who are politically oppressed, economically deprived, exploited and, therefore, poor, socially alienated and culturally and religiously repressed or discriminated against. It refers to the people who are weak and powerless in terms of their class, race, culture and religion as well as in terms of their input and influence of political, economic and social policies and events.

In seeking to define the Minjung, there is a tendency to objectify the definition and, thereby, make the Minjung objects of definition. We insist, however, that the Minjung define themselves by telling their own stories of suffering and struggle; they must define their relationships to other social groups and to the social and natural world.

There have been fierce attempts by the social sciences to define the concept of the Minjung in terms of the contradictions that they experience. These attempts have produced the classical definition of the Minjung as working class people with all other dimensions of the Minjung subordinated to this definition. In Minjung theology, however, we seek to preserve the subjecthood of the Minjung through their own definition of themselves. It is a relational definition, particularly in terms of power. Therefore, the Minjung perceive themselves as powerless and oppressed for various reasons of class, status, race, culture and religion, etc.

Whereas the social scientific definition of the Minjung is analytical, the story of the Minjung is a drama in which the protagonists (Minjung) interact with the antagonists (the powerful), suffering and struggling, envisioning the future and transforming history, dying and living. It is a synthetic discourse that connects all the fragments of the experiences of the Minjung into a dramatic story.

Some people regard the Minjung theologians as romanticizing the Minjung. And they do. You do and need to romanticize the people you love. To romanticize the powerful and their holders is far more dangerous than to romanticize the Minjung. This question often rises among those who despise and discriminate against the Minjung.

The Bible is very much guilty of romanticizing the poor, and God is the chief culprit. We should distinguish between romanticism of the people and love of the people. Minjung theologians seek to be friends with the Minjung and hopefully vice versa.

V. The Bible Is a Paradigmatic Story of the Minjung

Nowhere is the social biography of the Minjung revealed in more abundance and variety than in the Bible where individual stories are intertwined with community experiences to form the context for the story of God’s liberating history.

The story of the Bible begins with the story of the slaves in Egypt and continues with the stories of the enslavement of the people of God under kingdoms and empires. The social biography of the slave is, therefore, paradigmatic in the Bible as well as in human history. The culmination of God’s saving action is the delivery of the slaves from the bondage of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman empires and the establishment of a community of the people which is free of social, political, cultural and religious bondage. This is the story of the Exodus, which continues through the early tribal communities, prophetic movements and the struggles of the people of God against the imperial powers. The Hebrew slaves were liberated from bondage and led to build a community in covenant with Yahweh. The legislated form of this covenant appears in Exodus 21, Leviticus 15 and Deuteronomy 15. According to this paradigm, the early tribal communities sought by means of the covenant code to eliminate the cycle of enslavement; the prophetic movement resisted the kingdoms that were enslaving the people of God and jeopardizing their socio-economic security; and the prophets and seers sought to preserve the people’s hope by sharing with them the vision of the Messianic Kingdom as promised by God of the Exodus.

The prophetic movement that began with the prophet Elijah had its roots in the Exodus and the covenant code; it resisted the powers that enslaved the people of God during the period of the kingdoms. The apocalyptic tradition in which the prophets envisioned the restored rule of God rekindled hope among the people who were exiled and oppressed by the surrounding empires. The Kingdom of God in which the poor are blessed, the powerless and alienated are liberated and all people are saved from death for eternal life is the realization of the Good News for which Jesus lived, died and rose again.

In Mark 9:35 and 10:44, the role of slave is radically transformed into the Messianic form:

"If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. ...whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."

In Philippians 2:5-8, the same truth is confirmed by Paul:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of people; and being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross."

The Messianic visions in Isaiah 11, Ezekiel 37 and Revelation 21 should be understood as the same paradigm with the people of God finding hope through their visions of the Messianic Reign for salvation from imperial oppression.

Isaiah 11:1-9 is a shining vision of hope among the people enslaved by the Babylonian Empire:

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness, he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth, and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips, he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The suck4~g child shall play over the hold of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

In the same way, the prophet Ezekiel saw a vision among the exiles in Babylon:

"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. ...and as I prophesied, there was a noise and, behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was not breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, "Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live."’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. ...Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, 0 my people, and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, 0 my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that!, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord (Ezek. 37:1-14)."’

Ezekiel also saw the vision of national reunification of the people of God:

"Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (which is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will join with it the stick of Judah and make them one stick that they maybe one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, "Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone and will gather them from all sides and bring them to their own land, and! will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idol and their detestable things or with any of their transgressions, but! will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned and will cleanse them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezek. 37:19-24)."’

In Revelation 21:1-5, the Messianic vision appears among the victims of the Roman Empire:

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth: the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city and the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among people. He will make His home among them; they shall be His people, and He will be their God; His name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’ Then the one sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now lam making the whole of Creation new,’ He said."

The Biblical stories are to be understood in the light of the social biography of the poor, the powerless, the alienated and the oppressed.

VI. The Minjung as Bearers of Historical Vision

The history of Korean Minjung movements is a depository of messianic visions and utopian dreams. The messianic vision of the Maitreya Buddha and the yearning for the coming of the Western Pure Land played a decisive role for Minjung movements in the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. - 935 A.D.) and eventually provided the foundation for the United Kingdom of Silla, which integrated the two other kingdoms on the Korean Peninsula. The influence of the Maitreya Buddha appeared in rebellions by the people at the end of the United Kingdom of Silla and throughout the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910). This was especially true during the last quarter of the Chosun Dynasty when the Minjung movements found their utopian dreams in the language of the Western Pure Land into which the Maitreya Buddha would bring the people out of the bondage of their suffering.

An indigenous religious movement, which was founded in 1860 by the messianic figure Choi Je-U and which inculcated the utopian dream of a heavenly kingdom on earth, inspired a powerful social imagination among the Minjung movements. This religion was the Minjung religious force behind the famous March 1 Independence Movement of 1919 for freedom from the colonial power of the Japanese Empire.

The Christian religion also played the role of a Minjung religion, a religion of the oppressed, providing a Messianic vision to the oppressed Korean people under Japanese imperial rule, although official Christianity sought to divert Korean Christians from their concern with political liberation from Japan.

Today the suffering Minjung are searching for a new community and new society in which they will no longer suffer. This dimension is an integral part of their story. They dream of justice and shalom in a new world. As the bearers of a new social vision, their social imagination is so powerful that it generates great energy for the Minjung movements. Ideologues of the established power and intellectuals of the status quo dismiss the social imagination of the people as naive, irrational, crude or partial, but, in fact, their social imaginations are usually subversive of the existing social order which makes the people suffer through its many contradictions.

Just as the Buddhist vision of the Western Pure Land provided the Minjung with a new vision of the world and just as the Tonghak religion inspired the Minjung’s belief in the earthly kingdom of heaven, so the Christian vision of the Messianic Kingdom of New Heaven and New Earth catalyzed the powerful social imagination of the Korean Minjung for a new future. When the Roman Catholic Church entered the Chosun Dynasty at the beginning of the 17th century, it spurred a powerful social imagination among the believers, leading them to dream of a society without division between the Yangban (ruling echelon) and commoners. For this reason, Roman Catholicism was regarded by the rulers of the Chosun Dynasty as a subversive teaching.

A Catholic novelist wrote a popular tale entitled the Biography of Hong Ku Dong. This story is about a young man who was born of a Yangban father and a commoner mother. Because his mother was not of Yangban origin, he was disqualified from any high government post. Dissatisfaction grew deep in the heart of the young man, and finally he revolted and joined the rebels, who were called Hwalbindang (bandits who aid the poor). At the end of the story, he established a utopia called Yuldo, which was characterized by the elimination of the division between Yangban and commoners. This utopian vision made Hong Ku Dong one of the most popular tales among the Minjung of the Chosun Dynasty.

Protestant Christianity also became a powerful source of social imagination among the Korean people during their oppression under the Japanese. They identified themselves with the people of Israel in the Old Testament. The Biblical stories were by analogy and metaphor the powerful social biographies of the oppressed Korean Christians and, vicariously, the Korean Munjung. The vision of the New Heaven and New Earth was powerfully present in the Declaration of Korean Independence in 1919, which still provides the foundation for the political life of the Korean people. In other words, the oppressed Koreans were able to appropriate the Biblical stories to create a powerful social imagination among themselves. This is also the case today among the poor in Korea.

VII. Embodiment of God among the Minjung Movement for Change

We have already indicated that people’s bodies are the subject of historical perception. The physical bodies of the Minjung move and experience pain in their own reality. While the intellectuals and rulers experience history in their heads, the Mmnjung experience it in their bodies. Industrial workers, farmers and urban service workers in the informal sector are all those who use their bodies to produce and serve. Therefore, the suffering of the Minjung is very much related to their bodily injuries and pains as well as to their experience of socio-economic injustice and exploitation. The fatigue that the Minjung suffer, the industrial accidents that they bear, the diseases that they catch and the exploitation of their bodies (prostitutes) are the grim social experiences of the Minjung at the bottom of society: they bear the burden of the society in their bodies.

The response of the Minjung in this context is first of all a bodily response: perceiving pain, reacting to the environment and resisting the forces that cause the suffering. The fundamental base of the historical experience of the Minjung, therefore, is their toil under the present socioeconomic system, just as the Hebrews in the land of Egypt toiled under the power of pharaoh. The Minjung cry out for rescue from this toil; they shout and express their agony.

Christ’s incarnation and the suffering of the Messiah is none other than the embodiment of God among the Minjung. This is the bodily solidarity between God and the Minjung.

The Christological statement in the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians is a perfect Minjung Christology in that Christ is perceived as a slave, who has born the whole burden of the Roman Empire - no, that of the whole world. The vision of the prophet Ezekiel in Chapter 34 is the perfect expression of the movement of the Minjung of Israel against the powers of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. This is the bodily movement of the Minjung at the bottom of history. This is the Movement of the Suffering Servant enduring all sorts of bodily injuries, personal and collective. It is the manifestation of the Messianic movement of the Minjung, and it is not dictated by abstract historical dialectics or laws but by their bodily experiences.

VIII. The Body of the Minjung and the Body of Christ: The Church as the Movement of the Minjung

The Minjung suffer not only in their individual bodies but also in their collective body. The communities and organizations of the Minjung suffer injury, suppression, manipulation and exploitation. The Minjung movement happens when collective bodies in the form of communities and organizations respond to the environment seeking to overcome their suffering. This may be a socio-economic movement, a political-cultural movement or a religious movement; but in any case, it is a concrete historical dynamic that seeks to overcome the people’s suffering. It is a movement from below.

Minjung theological reflection takes place in the vortex of the Minjung movements in Korean society. The Minjung movements represent a new and different stage in the drama of the Minjung’s social biography, which has been depicted as one of suffering and toil. It is in the context of these movements that theologians seek to clarify the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and the body of the people.

Theological reflection is taking place in the context of the Korean Minjung, whose social biography or story becomes a methodological style for Korean Minjung theologians. Biblical interpretation has been viewed in the same light by such theologians as Prof. Ahn Byung Mu, Prof. Cyris Moon, Prof. Mm Young Jin and others, and Minjung cultural and religious experiences have been the subject of reflection by Prof. Hyun Young Hak and Prof. David Suh. The most comprehensive theological reflection has been done by the late Prof. Suh Nam Dong. Mmnjung theological thinking has been active in other fields as well, such as Christian education (Prof. Steven Moon) and church history. In addition, Minjung thought is developing not only in theological circles but among writers, social scientists and historians.

Minjung theological thinking is set in the context of the peoples’ movements, such as the worker’s movement, farmer’s movement and poor people’s movement; and at the same time, it is renewing the life of the Church. For example, Minjung churches are emerging among the poor, and churches in solidarity with the Minjung are being organized in the context of Minjung movements. Minjung theology is also an integral part of the political movement of the people for justice and freedom.

Please let me demonstrate the shape of Minjung theology by relating to the traditional Christological question in an outline form.

A. Jesus and the Minjung: A Christological Reflection

The question can be simply expressed as: How do I present Jesus Christ to the workers in my parish who are extremely poor, severely exploited and harshly oppressed?

When the Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries had to present Jesus to the Yangban elite of the traditional Confucian Chosen society, the traditional Christological formula of Jesus Christ as true God and true Human Being was not intelligible, to say the least. Traditionally, God- Human Being (Shin-In) is a person enslaved by the spirit.

When Christ was presented to the Koreans as the savior of the individual soul according to the doctrines of 19th century American Protestantism, the Korean people did not accept it fully. Although the official doctrine holds this position as orthodox, the Korean people, who were oppressed and exploited, took Jesus as it is presented in the Bible, which they read independently and historically- not confined to the doctrinal formula.

As they struggled to read the Bible in the context of their social struggle for justice against feudal discrimination and in the context of their national struggle for independence from Japanese colonialism, the Koreans discovered Jesus as the Messiah of the oppressed people. This has been a Christological tradition patterned after the historical image and model of Moses in the Exodus event.

Modern Christological pursuits, spurred by the challenge of the Enlightenment that radically challenged the divinity of Christ, have "failed" in two important ways. First, they have tried to provide answers primarily in terms of epistemological intelligibility. Even the historical quest for answers has been governed by the principle of historical proof according to human reason. Thereby, the Christological question has been detached from the question of the whole life of the people as historical beings. Secondly, for the same reason, the Christological question could not be raised against the use of Christ as the dominant religious symbol for colonial conquest against the "non- Christian" world.

Against this background, Jesus as the Liberator has emerged as the center of the Christological question, especially among theologies of liberation. The socio-economic, political and cultural dimensions of Christology have received primary attention, particularly in the Third World.

Why the Christological question?

We need to liberate Christ from the epistemological captivity of pure reason and other similar intellectual processes. We also need to liberate Christ from the "Golden Crown," that is, the political captivity of the dominant powers.

It is necessary to present Jesus in His fullness to the workers, not the one who has been stripped of His life by the Kantian and other philosophical constructions. For me it is necessary and possible to present Jesus to my worker friends as fully human and fully the historical liberator of the oppressed because traditional Christological wrappings have completely hid this dimension of Jesus.

Furthermore, the Christ that we present to the workers cannot be the one that was held captive by the crusaders, modern or ancient. To the Western powers and their allies, Christ was the King, who protected the Western powers from the crusades in the modern colonial and neo-colonial periods. Christological statements and symbols have served the powers that dominate. For them, Christ was the Conqueror created by them in the image of military and political conquerors.

Jesus as the Liberator is a necessary critique of such triumphalist Christology. Ironically, even the cross and crucifixion of Jesus have been twisted as Christological descriptions that justify the sufferings of the exploited and oppressed people in the annals of church history.

All Christological statements must be able to withstand all socioeconomic, political, cultural and racial-ethnic criticisms, not merely literary, linguistic and positive historical criticisms, in order that Christ be truly a liberator of all people.

A critical assessment of Christology, however, may not be enough to liberate Jesus from the cloaks of the ideology of domination in a given situation. We need to make an attempt to present Jesus to the workers not merely as a person of the past, no matter how great a liberator He may have been, but also as one who is a liberator here and now among the people. This demands a full- scale Christological reflection.

B. Jesus the Worker in the Bible of the Minjung

How does one begin a Christological reflection on Jesus? I recommend a social biography of the Minjung as the locus of the Christological search. A story of the Korean Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) provides us with a starting point.

UIM workers began by reading the Bible with the workers, which led us to Jesus the worker, the son of a carpenter. Jesus was not a ruling elite, the Yangban in Korea; Jesus was simply Minjung. This was a remarkable and astonishing discovery on the part of the UIM workers, who graduated from seminary with a heavy dose of traditional Christology in their head. It was the workers who discovered Jesus the Worker. This became a "hermeneutical key" to the Biblical texts, opening a Christological upheaval.

The following line of thought has emerged: The Bible is a Minjung book, of the Minjung, by the Minjung and for the Minjung. The Old Testament is the book of the Hebrews, and the New Testament is the book of the oppressed people and their Messiah Jesus under the Roman Empire. It is neither the story of the philosophical civilization of Greece nor the story of the Roman Empire: it is the book of the oppressed people and their God. Any Christological statement should be understood in this context.

C. A Christologicai Affirmation: Jesus Is the Messiah of the People (the Minjung)

Jesus is the Messiah of the people; the Messiah is of the people; and the people are of the Messiah. The term "Messiah" cannot have any meaning without being related to the oppressed people. Any Christological reflection by necessity involves a reflection upon the social biography of the people; or stated differently, any reflection on the social biography of the people already contains a Messianic question.

The most important issue of Christology is the incarnation: "Jesus is the Messiah of the people" means that "God dwells among the people."

In John, the incarnation is: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." In Matthew, the Emmanuel, God with the people, is the framework of the incarnation. This means that the incarnation is God’s dwelling among the people of God. In modern terms, the incarnation of God inhuman form is the establishment of oikonomia, the political economy of God among the people.

In Jesus the Messiah of the people, therefore, God’s household (oikonomia) has been established among the people. In Jesus the Messiah, who has been executed on the cross but has resisted and overcome the power of death, God works among the suffering people, sharing their pains and struggles. God becomes a servant to the people: this is the form of the sovereignty of God, which is translated into the sovereignty of the people over the powers- that-be. God becomes the bearer of God’s own Word among the people, who in turn proclaim the Good News and the coming of prophetic justice, which is the foundation of the people’s socioeconomic security in the political economy of God. God becomes the Prince of Peace, who is victimized by the violence of power as the sacrificial lamb for peace and reconciliation among the people. The titles "Servant of the People," "Advocate of Justice for the Poor" and "Sacrificial Lamb for the Victims" are related respectively to the traditional Christological titles of King, Prophet and Priest.

We have tried here to illustrate the contours of Minjung theology in reference to the social biography of the people and to the story of the Bible. Detailed theologica) work needs to be done as the Gospel is witnessed among the Minjung in Korea.