A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home


General History

LEGACY

Reverend Lee came to Canada before the idea of multiculturalism was part of the national identity. It became Lee's legacy to the Korean community and to Canada, to preach cultural tolerance.

Reverend Lee spent four years in Vancouver, serving the Japanese congregation in Steveston. Then he was on the move again to a Korean Christian church in Toronto, Ontario. For more than 20 years Reverend Lee ran his own parish in Toronto. He was the pride of the Korean community. But he reached further, embracing immigrants, the poor, Canada's unwanted. The United Church took notice and appointed Lee its new moderator in 1988.

As moderator of the United Church until 1990, Reverend Lee became the social conscience of Canadians, debating the ordination of homosexuals and championing the Native and human rights issues. He made a name for himself as one who took sides with those who were isolated or oppressed. He knew nothing about the lives of the Natives before he came to Canada but he quickly recognized their bitterness and their problems.

Lee also remained deeply involved in the Korean community, constantly building bridges between the older and younger generations. Reverend Lee believed that peace and solidarity within the Korean community was the key to their integration in the Canadian community. The first generation of Korean Canadians felt very strongly that they had to raise their children to be good Koreans, first and foremost. Reverend Lee, however, recognized that those children, the second generation, would have to live and grow within the larger society. The instinct of younger generations was to severe all ties with their parents and their Korean community to escape being ghettoized. Reverend Lee tried to advise parents not to worry to much about the second generation losing the identity; that in giving them freedom they will be open minded people and maintain the best of both worlds.

Korean heritage, for example, is rich in folk traditions that expresses their love of life and their drive toward self-achievement. Aspects of their culture range from dance, music, art and Tae Kwon Do (the art of self-defence) to specialized Korean cuisine such as bul-go-gi and kimchee.(17)

Travel between Canada and Korea is popular both by first and second generation Korean Canadians who go for business reasons or to rediscover their cultural roots and language. Other Canadians are also making Korea a frequent destination, travelling as tourists or for business opportunities such as teaching the English language to Korean students. Several Canadian universities such as the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Université de Montréal and University of Alberta have established Korean Studies programs and promote exchange programs between Korean and Canadian students in either country.(18)

Korean Canadians' stature in Canada has been heightened through such exposure as the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the popularity of Korean automobiles, electronic and computer products, textiles and clothing as well as the export of the world-renowned herb ginseng. The success of the second-generation Korean Canadians has helped in their community's easy integration into Canadian society. Some communities are experiencing the intercultural marriages of second-generation Korean Canadians.(19)

The ideal of racial tolerance was something that Reverend Lee had supported publicly from the pulpit of the United Church. His daughters heard his many sermons on racial harmony and took them very much to heart. The strength of Reverend Lee's ideals was tested when all of his three daughters married non-Koreans. Despite his open-minded attitudes, it did take Lee a while, as a father, to accept that his daughters' choices were well made. But now Lee calls his family a mini-United Nations with his three sons-in-law being of Estonian, Italian and Scottish descent. The marriage of his daughter Grace, which Lee himself performed, was the first mixed marriage to be performed in the United Church and opened the door for a wider acceptance of inter racial marriages within the Christian and Canadian community.

Footnotes:
1,2,3,4,5,17,18,19
The 1998 Canadian and World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17
The Wanderer, by Sang-Chul Lee and Erich Weingartner
(Wood Lake Books, Winfield, 1989).

Previous Page - - Next Page


Top of page.