When a new path is being opened, unexpected obstacles are inevitable.
When a new path is being opened, unexpected obstacles are inevitable. The process of launching Adventist World was the same. Jae Man Park, editor in chief of Korean Publishing House, met and listened to the story of Elder Pyung Duk Chun, who helped in the laying of the foundation for the project.
Park: From the time Adventist World was first published until a few years ago, you have worked as the international publishing manager for this magazine. I heard that Korea played a part in this project. What was it?
Like other unions and conferences, the Korean Union Conference sends offerings to the General Conference, including those from Sabbath School. But these offerings have been tied up in Korea for decades without being transferred abroad. Sending moneys abroad was not possible, because of the regulation of the Foreign Exchange Control Act in Korea. The amount was substantial. It is a principle of the Adventist Church that offerings should be used according to the intended purpose of the giver, but circumstances made it impossible. This certainly caused many doubts, but there was no way to solve it. Then Adventist World was discussed.
How did the General Conference communicate with the world church then?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church had and still does have a representative periodical, Adventist Review, but its readership is mostly in North America. There was no denominational magazine that was distributed around the world for free. At the time, there were other ministries publishing their own magazines and distributing them to the world. Jan Paulsen, then General Conference president, regretted that there was no official representative magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the world church.
As a result, a proposal was made to create an international magazine. The necessity of distributing such a magazine came to the forefront in an effort to further unify the world church. Additionally, a world magazine would help members easily accept the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the church, share the latest world news, and encourage missions.
So Adventist World would catch two birds with one stone?
You’re right. It was a good idea to use the offerings tied up in Korea for this ministry. But when we got to work, it was like belling a cat. At that time the General Conference handled the matter through a leading law firm in Korea, but they said they received only negative responses from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (currently the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism), which manages the publication of magazines in Korea. In order to publish an international magazine based in Korea, more than 50 percent of the publishers and writers must be Korean. At that time, I was the only Korean involved in this project.
When did you discover this difficulty?
I remember it was early 2005, when I had already retired two years before after serving as president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division. The General Conference Session in July 2005 was just around the corner. They had a plan to distribute the first issue of Adventist World during that session, but we couldn’t even take that first step.
To be honest, I didn’t like the way the law firm handled things when I watched from the sidelines. Since they had been paid, they might have looked into it, but they didn’t seem to have an active willingness to solve it. So I don’t know where such an idea came from, but I told the officers of the General Conference and William (Bill) Johnsson, “When dealing with things like this, there are often other doors open that most people don’t know well. If you leave it to me once, I’ll try to open the door.” Then everyone asked with surprise, “What are you trying to do?”
What was your suggestion?
I told them, “I can’t guarantee that I will make it, but I will try. If you can’t get through the main gate, I’ll look for the back gate. My apartment also has a back gate, but people like to go around, so it is the door that’s officially used. There must be a door like that.” When I had been having a hard time using the funds at the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, I had contacted a senior official at Korean Financial Supervisory Service that I know, and said, “We have a problem, so please help us if there is a solution. I’m not asking you to teach us illegalities, but to teach us other ways for us to access.” I felt it would be a loss to say everything about our situation, but sincerity works. That’s what I told the people of the General Conference: that I would find a way.
What did you do then?
I went to see the staff of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. One of the directors in the Korean Union Conference said he knew someone he studied with in graduate school who was an auditor in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. So we went to visit him together. We talked openly about our situation and asked for help. As it turned out, the approval of magazines was not done by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, but by the provincial government office. But I didn’t have to go to the provincial office. When he contacted the provincial government office through a phone call from his office, a path opened up. Afterward I was granted permission to register. The problem was solved without spending a penny.
When I told the General Conference it was “OK,” they didn’t believe me. The registration permit was issued in July of that year while the General Conference Session was being held. I received it by fax from Korea, translated it, and delivered it to them.
And that’s how the stage for the publication of Adventist World was set? Although we were not able to publish the first issue in time for the July General Conference meeting, we started publishing the September issue as soon as we received approval. Jan Paulsen and Bill Johnsson think I did some kind of magic, but that’s not the case. We all know who is good at turning crises into opportunities and stumbling blocks into stepping-stones, right? Yes, He did it.