We are not a rich church. We are a poor church, started by people who couldn't afford enough food to keep ourselves well fed. We didn't have the fancy church buildings that other churches had, but we ate barley when others ate rice and saved our money a little at a time. We then shared that money with people who were poorer than us. Our missionaries slept in unheated rooms by laying their sleeping quilts on the bare cement floors. When meal time came, potatoes. In every case, we did our best not to spend money on ourselves.
In 1963, we used the money we had saved this way to select 17 children and form a Seonghwa children's dance troupe called "The Little Angels." Korea in those days had very little in the way of cultural performances. We had nothing we could show people from other countries, not to mention performances that we ourselves could watch and enjoy. Everyone was too busy trying to survive to remember what Korean dance was like or even the fact that we had a cultural heritage extending back 5,000 it was common for them to stave off their hunger by eating a few cooked years.
My plan was to have these 17 children learn how to dance, and then send them out into the world. Many foreigners knew about Korea only as a poor country that had fought a terrible war. I wanted to show them the beautiful dances of Korea so that they would realize that the Korean people are a people of culture. We could insist all we wanted that we were a people of culture with a 5,000-year tradition, but no one would believe us if we had nothing to show them.
Our dances, with dancers dressed in hanbok gently twirling around, are a wonderful cultural heritage that can give a new experience to Westerners who are accustomed to watching dancers jump around in their bare legs. Our dances are imbued with the sorrowful history of the Korean people.
As the dancer raises one foot wrapped in white beoseon, the traditional Korean leggings, and puts it forward to take a single step, she turns her head gently and raises her white hand. As I watch, the gentle subtly of her movements seem to melt away all the worries and frustrations in my heart There is no attempt to move the audience with a lot of words spoken in a booming voice. Instead, each dance move, performed with great gentleness and subtlety, moves the heart of the audience. This is the power of art. It lets people who don't understand each other's language to communicate. It lets people who don't know about each other's history to understand each other's heart.
In particular, the innocent facial expressions and bright smiles of the children would be certain to completely wipe away the dark image of a country that had only recently been at war. I created this dance troupe to introduce the dances from our country's 5,000-year history to people in the United States, which was the most civilized country in the world at that time. The society around us, however, heaped criticism on us. u feven seeing the dances of The Little Angels, they began to criticize.
"The women of the Unification Church danced day and night," went their outrageous criticsim, "and now it looks like they've given birth to children who also dance." No such rumors could shake my resolve, however. I was confident of showing the world what Korean dance was like. I wanted to let the people who accused us ofhaving danced naked see the beautiful gentle movements of dancers stepping lightly in their beoseon leggings. These were not wild dances twisting and turning without rhythm. They were gentle dances by dancers clothed in the traditional dress of our country.