Eugene Cho

solitude for the soul in seoul

We’re spending our last few days in Korea now.  If you don’t know much about Seoul, it is the capital of South Korea and one of the largest cities in the world.  It ranks from anywhere between 1 to 10 – depending on how people define the words: city, large, density, etc.  The city itself has about 10.5 million residents and the larger Seoul area has about 24 million people – plus or minus a few thousand.

In short, it is crowded but an amazing story nevertheless.  About 50 years ago, Seoul as we know it did not exist as it was toppled by the devastation of the Korean War.  However, it now stands as one of the emerging premier global cities.  It has hosted the summer Olympics [1988] and co-hosted the FIFA World Cup [2002].  And yet, with it’s fast paced growth has come its share of growing pains.  You can see it on a daily basis.

While I’m enjoying my time in Korea, I’ve struggled with the density and fast paced lifestyle here. While I’m an extrovert on my blog, I am very much of an introvert.  Some would even consider me close to a borderline extreme introvert.  But finding TIME and SPACE to reflect, medidate, and pray have been far and between.  I went on a personal hiking trip couple weeks ago on a weekday only to be joined on the trails to the pinnacle of Suraksan Mountain by at least  a thousand other people.

I wonder if that’s one of the reasons [asides from people being convicted to PRAY] that so many people gather at their respective churches for early morning prayer.  At the church I served at between 1993-1995, nearly 2000 people gathered EVERY DAY [besides Sunday] at the two EARLY MORNING PRAYER GATHERINGS at 5AM & 6AM.  All the pastors, including myself, was “asked” to be present for the 5am service.  Needless to say, I had to make some serious life adjustments but it was so good for the soul…

Question: What do you do to rest and nourish your soul?  Where do you go if anywhere?

Click on these pictures. They are amazing and convey a glimpse of how large and crowded Seoul is:

These aren’t my personal pictures.  These and more incredible pictures can be found here.

Filed under: family, travel

11 Responses

  1. Darren P. says:

    Wow. That first picture is simply amazing. Serene since I’m assuming it was taken at dusk but definitely shows its mammoth size.

    For the soul, I simply need to spend some time in quiet to pray, read, and place myself before the Lord.

  2. Tyler says:

    Those pictures are incredible. From one introvert to another…I salute you.

  3. brotherterrysimmons says:

    I actually like to go to the city. Growing up in a rural area, the faster paced rhythms of urban areas [especially city centers] have a great appeal to me. It feels good to be part of a crowd.

  4. gar says:

    Wow! Those pictures definitely show off the size and scale of how dense Seoul.

    To answer your question: I usually try to spend some alone time doing something I enjoy like reading, listening to music… even some get some play time on my Nintendo DS, haha. As for the place, I usually stay at home, but when that’s filled with people… I usually just end up staying up late…

  5. Kevin Davis says:

    I love to escape in the music of my iPod and sit in a Cafe somewhere. I also utilize the quiet house during my children’s nap time on the weekend. You definitely have to be intentional about finding though.

  6. Sue says:

    Wow. Those pictures are amazing.

  7. Diane says:

    Amazing pix. And amazing, as you point out, how cities can be restored.

    Eugene, I’m Diane from Jesus Creed and am inviting you to be part of my meme. For more info, please go to http://emergingquaker.blogspot.com/.

  8. anu says:

    When I was in high school, I would run. As soon as classes ended, I would find my running shoes and run at a nearby park clearing my head and my heart before God. These days, I barely run at all, but every once in a while, I will find a quiet time in the day and a quiet moment in my house to sit anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes with my eyes closed and my heart open to the voice of the Lord. For me, half of the battle is quieting the constant thoughts racing through my head, but I, nonetheless, feel more at peace at the end of this time then I did at the beginning.

  9. Ben says:

    I got love for the Motherland

  10. […] Korea is so crowded as I shared with you earlier.  On the one night we went to a street shopping area called […]

  11. […] dad went hiking one morning by himself.  He said he needed some time for “solitude for the soul.”  We think he just wanted to play by himself.  He climbed up Mt. Suraksan and enjoyed this view of […]

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One Day’s Wages

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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