Turkish Soldiers Introduced Islam to Korea
Translation: Makbule E. Dundar
Korean society is presently a unique multi-religious society. Zubair Koç, an Imam assigned to the Turkish army (one of the 16 U.N. forces which participated in the Korean War) introduced Islam to Korea. Through his efforts, 211 Koreans which is over than 40.000 nowadays, worshipped with the Turkish soldiers, built mosque and converted to Islam.
After second warld war, North Korea began to fight with South Korea. UN forces decided to send soldiers to this area and Turkiye was one of those 16 countries who accepted to go Korea. October 1950, 4500 Turkish soldiers arrived Port of Busan (South Korea) after long and tiring journey.
First trop began to protect them and while their national income was 150 Dollar, Turkish soldiers shared their food with Korean brothers and they were really appreciate Turkish soldiers.
15.000 Turkish soldiers stayed in Korea during 3 years. Mission of Turkish soldiers continued after war, under the name of ‘A Force for Peace’ Turkish General Staff employed an imam for those turkish soldiers. Zubair Koc, who were 21 years old and assigned to 7.troop which went to South Korean.
At the beginning he was thinking ‘Why I’m here?, I’m just a child.’ More than this, once he planned to escape but while he was thinking this, he was already in Ankara. When he was at examination hall, some of old imams were discussing about something about teology and Zubair asked permission from them to join discussion and old imams were astonished. He was the only one imam who had school education within app. 200 imams and he was the youngest one.
The Way To Korea
After a few months later, he learned that he won the examination by letter and he had to go Korea with Turkish troop. At those times he was an imam of Osmaniye Mosque in Bakırköy, Istanbul. When he came to Izmir to get on watercraft and chef of headquarter called him as’ child’ but he did not care.
After 2 days, they were already one the way by USA watercraft. After stuggle of Indian ocean waves 24 days later trop was finally was Port of Incheon, South Korea. Commander of 7th trop Mr. Cemil Ulucevik was not trusting that young imam and waited his first mistake to warn him but after seeing how hard he was working he began to like Zubair. Then he charged one imam to each troop to give them education.
He built a mosque in one year in Korea
It was not the first time for Turks in Korea indeed. The first time in year 1920, Tatars who escaped from Russian pressure came to Korea and they left good memories on Korean society.
After Turkih troops left Korea, Islam began to spread by Turkish soldiers who were stayed there. Korean people asked to Brigade Commander to learn Islam. After this request, Mr. Cemil Ulucevik called Zubair and said: Korean people want to learn Islam, please take care of them.’ And the first muslims of Korea were the people who wondered Islam, Abdurrahman Kim Chingyu and Abdullah Kim Yutu.
Zubair Koc, accepted this request and one interpreter were helping him, called Huseyin but real name of him was Shin Pek Hyong. Then number of people who wanted to learn Islam were increased up to 5-6 people. They were mostly wondering ‘monotheistic religion, one creator, Allah.’
While he was telling his memories, Mr. Koc had flashback to those days: Korean people were wondering Allah and I said them, you can not see him or you can not touch him, I added, we also believe in Jesus, I mentioned about Marthin Luther and finally they were convinced and then their number began to increase…
While he was introducing İslam to Korea, he joined meetings of Korean, he even wear bow-tie. After a few months later, 59 Korean, converted to Islam with the special ceremony in Turkish brigade and Zubair denominated them with Turkish names. All 59 names were different than each other. Muslims in Korea organised many conferances in schools conferance halls and they invited Zubair many times to give speech to people even they were muslim or not, all people had attention to those conferances.
During his period in Korea, muslim population reached 211. Before he left, the first mosque of Korea made by hut and its minarets by plastic can. Brigade commander Mr. Ulucevik and Turkish General Staff were informed about this issue by letter which says: Koreans asks mosque from us, what shall we do?’ And Ankara, capital city of Turkiye permitted and the first mosque was opened July 16. 1956 and Brigadier Cemil Ulucevik inaugurated it.
After increase of population of muslims in Korea, Turkish General Staff gave letter of appreciation to Zubair Koc and Mr. Koc told: Mr. Ulucevik had prejudice towards me because of my age but then he liked what I was doing and he began to appreciate me and gave me this letter of appreciation. He invited all military officers and confessed and said ‘I was wrong about Zubair…’
After one year, Zubair complated his job in Korea and came back to Turkiye. He had teology education at high school and he complated Islam Institute. He had severeal duties including being imam, preacher and mufti (official learned in Islamic law who is in charge of Islamic affairs for a province or district). He retired in year 1986 and he went to Germany. Koreans stil say: We had our first impression about Islam and we learned how to be a muslim from him.’
He was invited to Korea after 30 years to inaugurate Cengu Mosque and he accepted with great joy. But he saw totally changed Korea: It is richer than before and I do not know where was our the first mosque, I do not remember its location but it was replaced with 7-8 modern mosques. People were very poor at those times but now it is different and the first muslims were already passed away.
Mr. Koc began to live in his hometown Samsun but 20.03.2009 he passed away. Rest in Peace…
Photo source: http://muharipgaziler.org.tr/ wp-content/ uploads/ 2013/ 02/ kor211.jpg