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Christian faith guides career of South Korean academic and feminist Dr Sang Chang

Christian faith guides career of South Korean academic and feminist Dr Sang Chang

Rev. Dr Sang Chang ruring the Opening prayer of WCC’s Central committee meeting in Geneva. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

22 June 2018

When asked to talk about her story of faith, Rev. Dr Sang Chang doesn’t hesitate for a moment. The president of the Asia region of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is eager to tell how her faith has supported her career as a theologian, academic, advocate for women’s rights, and South Korea’s first female acting prime minister.

“I believe I have always been protected by the grace of God. If you want to grow, you have to be in the storm,” Chang says.

The South Korean theologian and well-known feminist is participating in meetings of WCC’s Central Committee this week in Geneva, Switzerland. A delegation of Christians from North Korea is also attending the meeting at the invitation of the WCC.

Chang pays tribute to her grandmother and mother whose courage, honesty and faith shaped her own faith and the way she has approached key life decisions and challenges.

“I grew up under the influence of two women who had a strong faith,” Chang says. “When I was young I just prayed and sang and went to church,” she adds with a laugh.

When Chang decided to study theology in the United States she had to overcome obstacles such as her limited financial resources. But persistence and prayer paid off. She went on to complete advanced studies in theology at Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary and later rose to become president of Ewha University and one of the founders of the Korean Association of Women Theologians.

In 2002, the president of South Korea at the time, Kim Dae-Jung, offered Chang the opportunity to become the first woman prime minister of the country. The well-known advocate of women’s rights laughs as she recalls what the president told her when she initially refused the offer.

“Your life is a feminist movement,” Chang remembers him saying. “If you accept to become prime minister, it means a woman can be prime minister. It’s a way to help women.”

Chang needed her faith to sustain her during her short but intense time as acting prime minister. During the hearing process for confirmation she was criticized for being too strong. Chang recalls that she replied: “I am here to be prime minister not your secretary.”

Today her vocation is to help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) become one unified and peaceful country.

“For the future of my country, and for the future of northeast Asia, North and South Korea should be united into one country,” she says.

More about Rev. Dr Sang Chang

Meeting of the WCC Central Committee