South Korean Christians build closer media ties with Israel

A TV producer and media entrepreneur teamed up to tell Israel’s story to Koreans.

Christians praying in Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Travelujah)
Christians praying in Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Travelujah)
In the middle of the Korean Peninsula, between North and South Korea, lies the infamous Korean Demilitarized Zone, a no man’s land of barbed wire, heavily fortified positions, and tense border police. About 20 miles south of the border one can spot a large Star of David high up on a new building in the district of Ilsan. At night especially, the star is hard to miss. 
“The white light emanating from the star every night shines one way towards North Korea and the other way towards our side in the south,” explained Kim Jong Cheol, the founder of Brad TV. “I think God gave us this building so we can become a shining beacon in this conflict-ridden and tense peninsula,” he says.  
Kim is talking about his company’s new three-story building that hosts a 100-seat movie theater, café, newsroom and office space for 9 full-time workers—not including Kim who serves as director for all media production.
He is one of 14 million South Korean Christians in a country that has 11 of the world’s 12 largest Christian congregations. His company, Brad TV, is also known as Brad Ministries, which is part of the growing trend in the country of rapidly expanding Christian missionary work.
Kim first arrived in Israel in 1994. He came to write a script for a musical based on the story of Masada, a fortress that in ancient times was the site of a bloody standoff in between Roman forces and a group of holdout Jewish rebels in 73 CE.
After his first visit, he has returned to the Holy Land about 50 times. “I kept going back because of Israel’s complexity and distinctiveness,” Kim told The Media Line. “And there is no end to my interest in this small but vigorous country, which plays a larger role in world affairs.”
He also discovered that many Koreans were growing more curious about a country they knew little about. After the success of his Israel-based theater productions and a stint as an Israel expert at Seoul Broadcasting System—one of the three major television stations in the country—Kim decided to dedicate his career to telling the story of Israel to Koreans, and anyone else who would listen.
He has published numerous books on topics ranging from traveling in Israel to histories of Christian life in the Holy Land.   
One book titled Restoration was originally a documentary film that won the highest honors at the 2010 Monaco International Film Festival. It was also the production that kick-started his Brad TV in 2014. Today, 30,000 to 35,000 daily viewers from around the world tune into Brad TV’s YouTube channel, which includes videos from some of the 2,000 different programs the company has produced.
Though documentaries and television series are his forte, Kim also began providing news about Israel via Brad TV. “Koreans are often misinformed about the country because they have a limited number of news sources on the region. Major American and Middle Eastern sources can often be anti-Israel in their perspectives,” Kim said.
On top of weekly news reports done in a balanced way, Brad TV endeavors to combat negative views of Israel by conducting street interviews in Jerusalem and other locations to offer viewers a more intimate, on-the-ground viewpoint.
Kim’s company has achieved a degree of success in a country where religiously motivated organizations have typically not fared well. On top of a steady flow of donations from South Korea’s large evangelical population, Brad TV has made enough money on its own to allow the purchase of the brand new building.
King’s Room Media is a news agency based in Jerusalem that provides content to Brad TV. Its founder, Myung Hyung Ju, also stressed that news provided by secular media outlets have “skewed information” about Israel. She is proud of the Christian-centered approach of her agency.
“I hope people get the chance to see both sides of the conflict in Israel when they view or read our news,” Myung told The Media Line.
Myung, a Korean-American, first started working in Silicon Valley for a hi-tech firm but then switched to consulting for the biggest Christian broadcasting station in South Korea, Christian Television System (CTS). She made the career change while on vacation in Israel.
“I was doing technology consulting for CTS, but they also wanted news from Israel that Christians would be concerned about,” Myung recalled. “Then, in 2012, I registered my company as a news agency in Israel, and became passionate about offering our readers accurate information about this context.”
There are many more Koreans who, like Myung, come to Israel hoping to deepen their Christian perspective and offer a hand to Israelis in need.
AMIKO is a non-profit organization that provides aid to social welfare facilities and other institutions that help people with disabilities in Israel. The name of the organization is a combination of the Hebrew word Ami, or “my people,” and Ko, for Korea. Its purpose is to support “Koreans serving, blessing, and comforting the people of God.”
“I came to study in Israel, but ended up becoming passionate about being a pastor while volunteering in the country,” Kim Yong Gu, founder of AMIKO, told The Media Line.
About 20-30 Koreans travel to Jerusalem every three months and stay from anywhere between six months to two years, with help from AMIKO. They provide assistance to people with disabilities and Holocaust survivors.
“We have had about a total of 300 South Korean volunteers coming to Israel since 2009. Like myself, they also want to come to the land where Jesus once shared his message.”
(David Lee is a student intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)