This blog post by Miree Ku, Korean Studies Librarian, is the first in a series devoted to stories about American missionaries in Korea from Duke’s Korean collection and archives.
My interest in American Methodist missionaries in Korea was sparked by simple curiosity. In 2007, when I first started working as a Korean Studies librarian at Duke University Libraries, I discovered that there was a library endowment called the Judy Fund, which was designated for the acquisition of and/or access to Korean materials in both paper and electronic formats. I was surprised to learn of the existence of this fund because it was established back in 1994, at a time when there was no Korean Studies program or faculty at Duke. I wondered why some donor would set up a fund specifically for Korea, but at that point in time, I didn’t know Judy’s full name and was unable to find any archival records about him (or her?) in the library.
This curiosity returned to me a few years later when I received some boxes containing Korean materials gifted to Duke University Libraries. The boxes contained old Bibles, notes, diaries, calendars, and books published from the colonial period through the 1970s, in both Korean and English. According to the gift records, they were donated in 1999 but remained unprocessed for a long time because there was no one to manage Korean language materials. While sorting through the books one by one, I came across a very small red book titled Fifty Helps for the Beginner in the Use of the Korean Language (1911). The first page of this book contained an inscription that reads: “Carl W. Judy.” I was thrilled to see a familiar name and felt certain that these gift materials had been donated by the person who established the Judy Fund.
I was also surprised to see the names of missionaries associated with Duke’s Korean collection and archives appearing one after another. In the process of trying to identify these individuals I started researching the history and activities of foreign missionaries in Korea. The result of this research is my online library guide to the Carl Wesley Judy Collection, which is still on ongoing work as I continue to add his donated books. This guide describes the collection of materials that Carl W. Judy donated at the same time that he established the Judy Endowment at the Duke University Libraries. In addition to Judy’s own books, this guide also describes some of the books donated by other American missionaries to Korea, all of whom were either related to and/or worked alongside Carl W. Judy, including his father-in-law, Lyman Coy Brannon (Korean name 부라만, or 브라만), his wife, Margaret Brannon Judy (Korean name 주진주), Jack Aebersold (Korean name 이요한), and Roberta Rice (Korean name 나옥자).
In 2021, when I moved into the office previously occupied by Kristina Troost, the longtime head of the International and Area Studies Department, I discovered additional documents related to Judy. These included memoranda, letters from Judy to Duke University libraries, and acknowledgements from the Libraries. When I came across these documents, I was deeply moved by the story of Judy, his family, and other missionaries who ventured to a distant and unfamiliar country and dedicated their lives to serving the people of Korea. Even upon returning home to America, they held Korea close to their hearts.
Carl Wesley Judy
Carl Wesley Judy (Korean name 주덕, also known as 주디 or 쥬디), the American Methodist pastor and Duke alumnus who established the Judy Endowment for the Korean collection at Duke University Libraries, spent nearly 35 years as a medical missionary in Korea (1948-1983). During the course of his career, he worked with Korean villagers from the Kyungchonwon Leper Colony (경천원) in Wonju, provided scholarships to Korean high school and graduate students, and helped Korean pastors build or establish over 200 churches.
Judy was born in Charleston, West Virginia, on April 10, 1918, and graduated from the Divinity School of Duke University in 1943 with a B.D. degree. I found his bachelor’s thesis, titled Morris Harvey College as a Factor in the History of the Western Virginia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in the Duke University Archives. Morris Harvey College later awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (1966).
While Judy was working for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference in 1944, he met Margaret Taylor Brannon (Korean name 주진주). She was born in Wonsan, Korea, the daughter of Methodist missionaries Myrtle and Lyman Brannan. In 1944, Carl and Judy were married at the Central Methodist Church in Asheboro, North Carolina. In 1946, the Judys were approved as missionaries by the Methodist Board of Mission and assigned to serve the areas of Cheonan, Daejeon, and Jeolla Provinces. Two years later, Carl, Margaret, and their two children departed for Korea.
The outbreak of the Korean War, on June 25, 1950, forced the family to return to their home in New Haven, Connecticut. But the Judys were not done with their mission. Despite the ongoing military hostilities, the Missionary Board asked Carl to return to Korea and to help the Korean Methodist Church and its followers cope with the chaos of those traumatic days. This time, however, Carl was accompanied by his father-in-law, Rev. Lyman Coy Brannon, rather than his wife. After the war, Margaret and Carl’s children returned to Korea and the Judys reopened a mission station in Wonju in April 1954.
In 1959, Rev. Judy, along with Dr. Florence Jessie Murray, a United Church missionary doctor from Canada, established the Wonju United Christian Hospital, currently known as Yonsei University Wonju Severance Hospital. Following in the footsteps of Margaret’s parents, the Judys spent the rest of their time in Korea as missionaries. Carl and Margaret retired to Asheboro, North Carolina, in 1984.
Lyman Coy Brannan
Carl Wesley Judy’s father-in-law, Lyman Coy Brannan (1880-1971), was a well-known Methodist Church pastor. Reverend Brannan (better known by his Korean name 부라만 or 브라만) began his mission to Korea in 1910. In 1914, Brannon married Mattie Myrtle Barker in Korea. Their daughter, Margaret Brannan, was born in 1916. From 1937 to 1940, he served as the school chaplain of Songdo High School, which was originally established in Songdo by Yun Chi-ho in 1906.
Brannon worked in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province of Korea (which is now South Korea), and primarily in Wonsan and Songdo (which is now Kaesong in North Korea). One of the sites where he focused his missionary efforts was a very small church known as Munam Church (문암감리교회 in Korean), which he established in a secluded mountain valley in Gangwon Province. According to local folklore, it was situated at this remote location because soon after he arrived to sow the seeds of the gospel, the young American pastor became trapped in deep snow in Munam Village. Whatever the case may be, Brannon’s establishment served as a Methodist home church, a group of Christians who regularly gather for worship in private homes. During the colonial period, it is said that some Korean patriots, who were fighting for independence from Japanese colonial rule, sought refuge in this church to evade the Japanese police and potential imprisonment. Despite the intense pursuit by the Japanese authorities, this remote village remained untouched.
Another one of the sites where Brannon focused his missionary efforts was the Donam-ri Methodist Church in Deokwon, South Hamkyong Province (which is now Wonsan, North Korea). Donam-ri was the hometown of Yongsin Choi (1909-1935), a Korean Methodist preacher who became a pioneer in promoting the enlightenment movement for rural communities and whose life-story served as the inspiration for the famous Korean novel called Evergreen Tree (상록수) written by Sim Hun in 1936. Yongsin Choi was born and raised in this area and received education there. She attended Doonam Church, a Methodist church near her home, which provided medical and educational services, and it is possible that Rev. Brannon was one of the American Methodist missionaries who taught her. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that in the early missionary era, there were no Korean language teaching methods or textbooks available for foreigners. However, Brannon achieved fluency in the Korean language through his tireless efforts and dedication to learning. In fact, among the early Methodist missionaries, only two were capable of leading revival meetings in Korean: Lyman Brannon and Harrison Stokes (another missionary connected to Duke University, who will be introduced in the next blog post in this series).
Reverend Brannan dedicated his life to serving his congregants and did not officially retire until after the outbreak of the Korean War. In fact, according to a New York Times article from June 25, 1950, Brannon and his wife were among the eight American Methodist missionaries who found themselves in Kaesong on the very day that this city fell to the troops of Communist North Korea.
The Judy Collection and the Study of Korean Christianity
When I first discovered a very small Bible with Rev. Brannan’s name among the materials donated by Carl W. Judy, I wondered who he was. While conducting research on Judy, I was deeply moved to learn that Rev. Brannan was Judy’s father-in-law and that his old Bibles and books had been kept by his daughter and son-in-law. Besides such sentimental reasons, this item is also an example of the way the materials from the from the Carl Wesley Judy Collection can be used to understand the history of Christian, and particularly Methodist, missionary work in Korea.
Catholic missionaries were the first to bring Christianity to Korea in the late 18th century. In 1784, a Korean scholar named Yi Seung-hun made contact with Catholic priests in Beijing, China, and was baptized into the Christian faith. He then introduced Catholicism to a small group of friends and family, and the religion began to spread slowly. However, the spread of Catholicism faced resistance from the Confucian establishment in Korea, which viewed it as a threat to the traditional social order. In 1801, for the first time in the country’s history, more than 300 Korean Catholic converts were executed, and persecution of Catholics continued throughout the 19th century.
In the late 19th century, Protestant missionaries began to arrive in Korea, and their message of individual salvation and social reform resonated with many disillusioned Koreans who were dissatisfied with the traditional social order. Protestantism began to spread rapidly, and by the early 20th century—the time period when Brannon started his missionary work—it had become a significant force in Korean society. As the materials from the Judy Collection demonstrate, American Methodists were crucial for the spread of Christianity in 20th-century Korea, and are one of the reasons why Protestantism is one of the largest religions in the country. The Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations together have a membership of over 10 million people, which accounts for about 20% of the population.
For more on the history of Christian missionaries in Korea, and the way the Korean collection at Duke University can be used to study this topic, check out the following list of recommended readings:
- Ku, Miree. “Korean Collection at Duke University.” Trends in Overseas Korean Studies Libraries. (December, 2015): 3-37 (in Korean), 73-107 (in English).
- Cho, H. (2008). Chosŏn ŭi sŏn’gyosa, sŏn’gyosa ŭi Chosŏn. Sŏul-si = Missionaries of Joseon, Missionary’s Joseon: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso.
- Underwood, E., & Royal Asiatic Society–Korea Branch. (2003). Challenged identities: North American missionaries in Korea, 1884-1934. Seoul: Royal Asiatic Society-Korea Branch.
- Ch’a, S. (2013). Han’guk Kaesin’gyo ch’ogi Kŭrisŭdo rŭl nanun ŭiryo sŏn’gyosa, 1884-1924 =: Medical missionaries in Korea for Christ.
- Han’guk Kyohoe Sahak Yŏn’guwŏn. (2011). Naehan sŏn’gyosa yŏn’gu. Sŏul-si = A study on missionaries in Korea: Taehan Kidokkyo Sŏhoe.
- Kim, S., & Taehan Yesugyo Changnohoe. (2004). Han’guk ch’ogi sŏn’gyosadŭl ŭi iyagi. = Stories of early missionaries in Korea.
- Kim, S. (2006). Hanmal, Ilche kangjŏmgi sŏn’gyosa yŏn’gu = Research on missionaries during the late Korean and Japanese colonial periods. Sŏul: Han’guk Kidokkyo Yŏksa Yŏn’guso.
- Ryu, D. Y. (2004). Kaehwagi Chosŏn kwa Miguk sŏn’gyosa = Joseon and American missionaries during the Enlightenment period: Chegukchuŭi ch’imnyak, kaehwa chagang, kŭrigo Miguk sŏn’gyosa. Sŏul: Han’guk Kidokkyo Yŏksa Yŏn’guso.