The Rev. Kyung-Chik Han, a Korean Presbyterian leader who was named the winner of a $1-million religion prize this week, said he planned to use most of the money to rebuild churches in communist North Korea.
Han, 89, was announced the winner on Wednesday of the 1992 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the richest award given for achievement in any field.
He founded the world's largest Presbyterian church, the 60,000-member Young Nak (Everlasting Joy) Presbyterian Church in Seoul. It has missionaries in 21 countries and has started 500 congregations around the world, including the 5,000-member Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
He was forced to flee North Korea when the Soviet-backed regime took over after World War II, and has since built a huge ministry in South Korea.
"For many years I have dreamed of seeing North and South Korea reunited and the Christian church flourishing again in the north," he said in a statement read by his son at a news conference here.
"That is why I intend to set aside the majority of the prize money to rebuild the churches in the north as soon as it is politically possible."
He was the 20th winner of the prize, founded in 1972 by Wall Street mutual fund manager John M. Templeton.
Past winners have included Mother Teresa of India, evangelist Billy Graham, Russian Orthodox writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Muslim leader Inamullah Khan of Pakistan and British Rabbi Lord Jakobovits.
A nine-member international, interfaith panel picks the winners.
The award to Han is to be presented in a public ceremony April 29 in Berlin.
Numerous Korean diplomatic and U.S. religion scholars were on hand for the announcement of Han's selection at Manhattan's Church Center for the United Nations. In his absence, his statement was read by his son, the Rev. Hewon Han of Clemmons, N.C.
The elder Han was reared on a farm in Korea's north and began his ministry there after being educated in Christian schools. He faced harassment, first by occupying Japanese, then by the communist regime. He fled to the south, where he founded his Seoul ministry.
The congregation began with 27 refugees. Within a year, the membership of the Young Nak Presbyterian Church grew to 1,438.
In 1955, Han was elected moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea. He retired as senior pastor of Young Nak Church in 1973 and was appointed minister at large for World Vision International, an evangelical relief and development agency based in California.
In 1983, Han served as chairman of the Centennial Celebration of Korean Protestantism. Six years later, Princeton Theological Seminary established a chair in systematic theology in his name.