When and where was Billy Graham’s largest Crusade?
From May 30 to June 3, 1973, an estimated 3.2 million people attended the Billy Graham Crusade in Seoul, South Korea, with 1.1 million traveling—mostly by foot—to the final service on the airstrip at Yoi-do Plaza. Some 75,000 inquirers made a decision for Christ during that Crusade.
Below are excerpts from an interview Decision magazine’s Richard Greene conducted last year with Mr. Graham’s interpreter, Billy Kim.
Q: Can you describe the events leading up to the 1973 Crusade?
A: 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.
Q: Before Mr. Graham’s Crusade in Seoul, more than 1 million people attended meetings by BGEA Associate Evangelists in other major cities. Why this strategy?
A: Church leaders insisted, “Don’t just have a Crusade in Seoul. Let’s have simultaneous Crusades in other key provincial cities.” After those meetings, we focused on mass evangelism in our capital city.
The Korean people were ready. They had been praying for revival, and for this Crusade. The other cities drew tremendous crowds, all building up to the Seoul Crusade.
Q: What was it about that event that changed the landscape of the church?
A: 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.
Q: In what other ways did the Crusade make a difference?
A: 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.
Q: So many changed lives. Is there an example that encourages you even today?
A: Recently I was having dinner at the Washington Country Club with Ambassador Han Duk-soo and his wife. He was prime minister in the last administration and then appointed as the Korean ambassador to Washington.
Ambassador Han was presented a picture book of Billy Graham that had a two-page picture of the 1973 Crusade on Yoi-do Plaza. When he saw that picture of the 1 million people, he pointed to a specific spot and said, “I was sitting right there.” He was a Korean military corporal and received a two-day leave from his base to hear Billy Graham. He rededicated his life to the Lord at that Crusade, and he’s now a Methodist deacon and his wife is a deaconess.