Salvation Army keeps red kettle on

By Kim Young-won
  • Published : Dec 7, 2012 - 19:54
  • Updated : Dec 7, 2012 - 19:54
Park Man-hee (center), commander of the Korean Salvation Army, and rhythmic
gymnast Son Yeon-jae (right) meet Cambodian children, who had heart surgery at a Korean hospital in September. (The Salvation Army)
The red collection kettles so familiar in Korea at this time of year each have a red shield inscribed with “Gusegun,” Salvation Army in Korean.

The Salvation Army, a charity organization, was founded by William Booth who preached in slum areas in London in 1865 to the poor and labor workers who were excluded from churches at the time.

First called the Christian Mission, the charity organization was given its current name in 1878.

The SA did not only evangelize to the marginalized such as thieves, gamblers and drunkards, but also gave shelter to the poor and prostitutes.

The spirit of the pioneer in social work has continued on and the Salvation Army work is still in progress in 126 countries.

The mission of the Salvation Army Korea Territory was started by Robert Hoggard and his wife Annie Johns in 1908 to evangelize to Koreans who were oppressed by Japanese colonialism.

Around 80 Salvation Army churches were established and 87 Salvation Army officers were nurtured by 1916. And the number of churchgoers increased to 4,800.

The Salvation Army in Korea has been publishing its newspaper Gusegun Sinmun since 1909 which broke new ground by carrying news not only on the evangelical army but also from overseas.

The newspaper, which is still issued today, is highly recognized for leading enlightenment and social reform as it dealt with various news subjects ranging from farming to education for women in the early 1900s.

The charity organization also helped the poor by running soup kitchens and distributing firewood to people in the winter.

It founded orphanages in cities including Seoul, Daegu and Daejeon.

In the late 1920s, as the economy crumbled under Japan’s exploitation of resources and food, the number of people in poverty increased explosively.

The local Salvation Army adopted the red kettle fundraiser from the United States in 1928. 
A file photo of the Salvation Army’s first red kettle fund-raiser in Korea in 1928 (The Salvation Army)

The total amount of money raised through the fundraiser back then was 848 won which is worth around 2 million won ($1,850) in today’s money.

The signature red pot has provided accommodation, food and necessities to people in need. The red kettle appears every December nationwide and has become an iconic symbol for fundraising.

Its effort to revitalize itself and the nation from Japan’s suppression ground to a halt due to the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.

However, the Salvation Army also made efforts in helping war refugees and orphans and reconstruct the war-torn nation.

The Salvation Army Korea Territory plans to raise 5 billion won by mobilizing 300 red pots in 76 regions nationwide this year. Around 50,000 Salvation Army officers and volunteers will work to keep the red kettles on.

By Kim Young-won (