One Korean Saint:
An Interview with Elder Won Yong Ko
By Meridian Magazine
Editor’s Note: Elder Won Yong Ko of the Third Quorum of the Seventy serves in the Asia North Area of the Church. Meridian writer Kathy Rappleye caught up with him at the recent area conference and asked about his conversion as well as about the Church in his homeland.
Meridian: A little background information about you and your family.
We were married in 1978 and I have two children with my wife – one daughter and one son. Both of them served a mission. My daughter studied piano in the college and is studying musical education in graduate school. My son has just finished military service for two years [all Korean young men are required to serve in the military for two years] and is preparing to study in the USA late this year.
I have been in the computer business in the most of my life, including 28 years in IBM, before I was called by the Church. I have served in many church callings such as stake executive secretary, stake high councilor, stake president, public affairs director, regional representative and area authority seventy. My wife studied art in the college before she married me. She has served in many church callings, mostly in the ward Primary, Young Women and Relief Society.
Meridian: When did you join the Church? Are you a convert? If so, how did you find the Church, and how has it changed your life? How has your calling in the Seventy affected you?
I was a high school student when I joined the Church. I was the only member among my family. Much later my mother joined the Church. A classmate introduced me to the Church, and my first impression was that people were so kind to me. When I started to study the gospel I liked it very much because the gospel gave me great optimism for life. All the doctrines and the teachings seemed very much sensible to me.
My life has been changed a lot. More accurately, my life has been directed in a different way from other people from my high school days. The gospel taught me a lot of discipline and integrity, which I appreciate – even though sometimes I have felt it a challenge to get along with people in the business field. I have been so blessed to keep [my integrity] and have a good relationship with people.
Now I am totally dedicated to the Lord’s calling as a Seventy. I feel so honored and so pleased to have this chance to serve the Lord and the Saints. My lifestyle and perceptions on life have been changed, and will continue to do so.
Meridian: How has the Church in Korea changed since you were baptized?
When I was baptized in 1962, most of people did not know our church and did not know us correctly. Many people asked me about polygamy and thought that we were a very strange religious group. The total church membership in Korea was less than one thousand, and the total number of units was less than 10 units in the whole country. But now we have almost 80, 000 members and 150 units in Korea.
Not only from a quantitative sense but also in a qualitative way, the image of the Church has been increased significantly. Now many people understand our Church well and even respect for our beliefs. I have been working with the public affairs group in Korea for long time and have met with newspaper reporters regularly. They always come to our meetings even though our church is only a small church in Korea. The reason why they come to our meetings, they said, is because they feel that the people of this church really are the saints of Jesus Christ.
Meridian: How has having a temple nearby affected your life, and the church in general?
The temple has made a lot of impact on the life of members, including me. Having a temple here gives us an eternal perspective of life. Relationships between husbands and wives have been improved a lot. The same is true for family relationships. I see more and more core members who have built up strong testimonies through attending the temple.
Meridian: What do you see as the future of the Church in Korea?
I can say that the future will be bright. We are the only Church who can give true answers to all the problems which people and the society have and are struggling with. We as members should have more confidence on our beliefs and be more diligent about sharing [the gospel] with our Korean people.
Meridian: What are your feelings about North Korea and the possible reuniting of the two countries? Do you think you will see the Gospel preached there in your lifetime?
We wish that unification will come to us shortly. Frankly speaking, one morning I am very optimistic but the next morning I am disappointed. It is hard to predict the time, but we believe that we will be united. “When” is the question. I think that it depends upon our preparation.