The Archive Collection

The Impact of the Gospel – Seoul, Korea 1973

May 30, 2023

Seoul, Korea 1973

“For the Good News must first be preached to all nations.” Mark 13:10 NLT

In the 1970s, Christian leaders in South Korea were desperate for a revival to occur in their country.  After conversations and planning among leaders, Billy Graham was invited to hold a Crusade in Seoul, Korea.

Billy Kim, who interpreted for Billy Graham during the Crusade, was once asked to describe the events leading up to the Crusade:

“Korea was geared to have evangelism. South Korea’s population then was about 30 million people. So church leaders and Christian educators considered an evangelistic campaign: “Let’s Win 30 Million Koreans for Christ.” They had a real passion to win people to the Lord.

With that backdrop, they had the idea of wanting to capture Billy Graham’s evangelistic fervor. So I asked Dr. Kyung-Chik Han, pastor emeritus of Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Seoul, “Why don’t we invite Dr. Billy Graham to come do a Crusade?” He responded, “Do you think he’ll come?” I said, “You write him a letter, then we’ll see what happens.”

I also had some wonderful contacts with the South Korean government. President Park Chung-hee didn’t know Billy Graham very well, so I gathered all the magazine and newspaper articles and books that I could find and gave them to a government official, who took them to President Park. They decided that it would be a good idea to have Dr. Graham come. A Crusade committee was formed, and we began to pray. Dr. Graham accepted the invitation.”

The Crusade was held May 30-June 3, 1973, and it was Billy Graham’s largest Crusade during his ministry.

Billy Graham and Billy Kim on the last day of the Crusade

A total of 3.2 million people attended the five-day Crusade, with the final service drawing 1.1 million to the airstrip at Yoi-do Plaza. Most traveled there on foot. The Crusade was entirely interpreted by Dr. Billy Kim, the chairman of Far East Broadcasting Company Korea (FEBC-Korea), a faith-based radio network. Kim’s interpretive skills were said to have been marked by speed, accuracy and a level of enthusiasm that matched Graham’s English sermon greatly.

“Love one another,” Billy Graham told the crowd repeatedly after reading John 15:13. On the last day that Billy Graham preached in Seoul he knew he had a special responsibility when he came to the invitation at the close of his sermon.

With a million present, it would have been easy to trigger a mass reaction. With Korea being mainly a practicing Buddhist country, he, therefore, made his invitation harder than usual. “If you’re willing to forsake all other gods, stand up.” There was a hush in the audience at first. Then one here and one there arose until thousands were standing. Over the course of the week, 75,000 cards were submitted showing a decision made for Christ. This Crusade was the start of a lasting change for the church in Korea. Christianity rapidly grew from this event, and many churches were born out of this Crusade as there were thousands of new believers who needed a place to grow their faith.

When once asked about the impact on the church in Korea, Billy Kim responded:

“Korea was a predominantly Buddhist country, with a strong Buddhist influence within high society, government and politics. Yet after the Crusade, people saw the positive impact and benefits of Christianity. There was a strong mobilization of believers, and the church has become a major force, with more than 10 percent of the population being Christian, including many of our leaders in politics, business and academia. People are not ashamed of the Gospel.

You see, we never had a megachurch before 1973. But with so many people surrendering their lives to Christ, they were funneled into evangelical churches. And God has continued to bless. Bible schools and seminaries were started. Strong Bible teaching and discipleship training were emphasized. And every church wanted to be a missions-outreach church. Today, South Korea sends more missionaries than any other country except the United States. Our church alone has built 30 churches in Mongolia since 1973.

At the same time, the ethics that Christianity teaches people—to work hard, to be honest and to be humble—I believe, dramatically influenced the Korean labor force, and our economy rose very rapidly. It’s a miracle.”

Korean Prayer Reception in Billy Kim Hall at the Billy Graham Library, May 2023

On May 8, 2023, just a few weeks shy of the date of the 50th anniversary of the Seoul, Korea Crusade, the Billy Graham Library was honored to host hundreds of Korean missionaries in the new Billy Kim Hall for prayer, thanksgiving, and celebration in all that God has done, and is doing, in Korea since 1973. There was a seed planted in that crowd during the week of Billy Graham’s Crusade, and the Korean church is so thankful for the message Rev. Graham shared and what God has done in their country, they wanted to travel to the United States to pray for the church here in America, in hopes that a revival will start in the United States as it did in Korea. During the prayer meeting, Executive Vice President of the Billy Graham Library, David Bruce, shared encouraging words in a time of remembering all that God has done in Korea over the last 50 years and the impact that was had on the country:

“The number of churches has grown expediently, the number of believers has increased dramatically. Your country is free and prosperous today, and the hand of God’s blessing has been on South Korea. But just like the United States of America, we must guard these blessings, trust God with the future, and continue to proclaim His name to a new generation. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!”

Dr. Bruce introduced Tom Phillips, who has served as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Library and the Vice President of Crusades during this meeting to share the fruits of what came from a praying people, and a nation that shares the Gospel:

“The question is where are we today? Dr. Bruce very specifically shared what God has done in your country, and we know what God has done. When God began to move in Korea in 1973, it had come through a great crisis. After the Korean conflict where the North Korean soldiers came across Seoul two times, there was not a single wall, commercial or residential [building] left standing, and you know that. In many ways, economically, Korea was ashes. But God was working. And today Korea is the ninth [highest] economic nation in the world. America, in some ways today, is ashes. Our economy is in terrible shape — our brutality and our churches in some way. Thank God for the churches that have hosted in 40 different cities. America is broken. In many ways, we have turned our back on God. But we have hope! Because God would not have sent 400 Korean professionals to this nation to pray for and with us unless God is moving! So, in tears we thank you.”

Korean Prayer Reception in Billy Kim Hall at the Billy Graham Library, May 2023
Korean Prayer Reception in Billy Kim Hall at the Billy Graham Library, May 2023

We continue to thank God for the revival that was started on May 30, 1973. How greatly the Gospel spread through Korea in a time of crisis, and how God who works all things together for good has blessed our nation by sending Korean missionaries to pray with and for our country all the in the perfecting timing of our Lord.

Dr. Bruce shared during the prayer reception a timely verse:

“Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the Lord He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalms 96: 1-4 NLT

To learn more about the ministry of Billy Graham at the Library, plan your visit.

What Do You Think?