Status and Tasks of Records Management of Religious Organizations in Korea

Seminar-Workshop on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management Training
Bangalore, India, UTC- June 1 - 30, 2004

Status and Tasks of Records Management of Religious Organizations in Korea

Eun-hui Park

1. Introduction

It has been 5 years since the law governing document management for public organizations was enacted in Korea. According to this law, all central ministries, and local governments, were to establish a record center with an archivist. It has been one year since the law was put into effect by the government’s central ministries and represents a significant milestone for document management in Korean public organizations. To date, the record is far from satisfactory despite support from the Archives & Records Service, a governmental organization, and the Research Institute for Korean Archives, a private organization established in 1998.

The situation is improving with the recent increase in the public’s awareness of the importance of document management. Today, movements to establish archive and record centers are being led not only by public organizations, but also, by universities, religious organizations and businesses. With this background information in place, I would now like to acquaint you with the status of education for archivists, the progress being achieved at some religious document record centers, and tell you about our experience at the organization with which I am associated, the Korean Anglican Archives.

2. Status for Record Management Education

Archival Science was introduced to Korea in June of 1998 with the establishment of the Research Institute for Korean Archives and Records (R.I.K.A.R.). This institute has been contributing to renewed understanding of the importance of public record management by correcting incorrect and incomplete records. It has also helped the people of Korea through various research activities and human resource training that help build a solid foundation for a democratic society.

As one of their major contributions, the Research Institute for Korean Archives and Records(RIKAR) founded the Korean Graduate School Archival Science (K.G.S.A.S.), at Myoung Ji University in April 1999, which specializes in record management training. This school provides a one-year graduate study program providing specialized record management training that has been approved by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (M.O.G.A.H.A.) in 2000. Its curriculum includes: 1) an introduction to record management; 2) record management theory (organization, description and evaluation); 3) research methodology for record management; 4) record management and study for provincial regions; 5) the history of record management; 6) Korean history of record management; and 7) record management for business. The school has graduated about 100 archivists to date.

In addition to founded the Korean Graduate School Archival Science (K.G.S.A.S.), the Graduate School of Records & Information Studies was founded at Myoung Ji University in 1999. There are now nine (9) universities in Korea that have a graduate programs related to archival science. Faced with the pressing need for both a consistent professional record management methodology and for training specialists to teach those methodologies, there is rapid growth in the number of educational courses and institutions related to record management. Graduates from records management graduate programs, like founded the Korean Graduate School Archival Science (K.G.S.A.S.), are qualified for all archivist positions regulated public organizations document law. Many of these archivists are engaged with the record management in the nongovernmental sector in Korea, including record management with religious organizations.

3. Status of Religion Related Record Management in Korea.

The history of religion and the modern history of Korea are closely aligned. In Korea, Buddhism was adapted about 1700 years ago, Roman Catholicism 200 years ago and the Protestant and Anglican Church started to establish Korean churches about 150 years ago. In spite of the strong Confucian and Buddhist cultural background, Protestantism has grown explosively with a large percentage of Koreans being Christians. There is now no Korean town without a church and the number of different Christian orders in major Korean cities in is numerous.

These days the need for proper records management in churches mirrors the same rapidly growing need in Korean society as a whole. In fact, large church structures are now so large that their organizations now require the best systematic management processes possible if they are to provide anything resembling efficient administration. The present state of church record management leaves much to be desired and as yet few churches employ formally trained record management people. This is not to say that they are resting on their laurels. Churches and religious organizations are putting considerable effort into systems for record management to provide for their specialized needs in managing human resources, finance and security. I would now like to introduce you to the present state of records management in some religious institutions with record management systems in place or in progress.

Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism Central Archives

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism Central Archives (J.O.K.B.C.A.) started its record management program in Nov. 2000 the development of a computerized system and an established set of ordinances concerning record and archival management. This work was centered on the Central Directorate of Religious Affairs whose aim was to collect, preserve and manage the history and activities of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
Records in many different forms needed to be organized. They included: 1) paper (such as administrative documents originating from Central Directorate of Religious Affairs and drawings), 2) computer data (about 25,000 files), 3) multimedia items (about 1,000 different items including photographs, film, audio, and video), and 4) various publications (about 13,000 items including literature, periodicals, and research materials).
Plans also include eventually collecting and cataloging treasures of the Buddhist culture that are currently scattered around different temples throughout Korea. The goal is to have these items centrally managed so they can be preserved for the next generation. To accomplish this goal the Central Archives not only have a thermo-hydrostat to preserve records but, 1) a library, which manages all records and literature published by Central Directorate of Religious Affairs, 2) a room for reading and loan service, 3) a room to conduct work for classifying, organizing, and cataloging records materials, and 4) an office for administrative business.

Records Management in Catholics

Records management in Catholic churches is operated by with a unique balance between the Vatican and Korean Catholic churches, parishes and dioceses and involves a list of church laws and operational regulations. Church law governs a wide range of regulations for record management as well as for the organization and management of document materials. The Korean Catholic church will need more than regulations to carry out its record management goals in a complete and thorough fashion. It is therefore imperative for Catholic churches in Korea to expand the archive function of each parish with the establishment of a modern records management system for parish records management. Upon entering this new millennium Korean Catholic church parishes are trying various approaches to improving their record management. The outlook of Catholic Church in Korea will be brighter if each parish approaches its record management challenge diligently because these churches are operated under such strict guidelines which demand excellent record management.

Records Management in Shinil Church

Shinil church, which is located in downtown Seoul, has 10,000 members and a sixty-year history. It introduced a project for an organized scientific records management system in 2003. This project was adopted to commemorate its 60th anniversary and will be the foundation for the publication of its sixty-year history. To build the centralized store of records project participants collected not only church history documentation but also other items of documentary value including administrative records, photographs, audio, video, and literature. The adopted Active Record base and Record Schedule has entries for storage period, publication and stocking status along with item classification. Record Schedule also reflects its item unit, which helps each department manage record items.

A computerized registration system and in church network to be used as reference whenever a record is provided is now in planning. The evaluation criteria for records involving church leaders, administrators, church historians, outside users and archivists will be based on the established values of the Shinil church, like missionary work, community service and related activities. These are the things that will lead to one designation or another and evaluate those that are worth further preservation and management.

Participation of Church leaders, administrators, church historians, outside users and archivist in evaluating records is to be adopted for preservation and management of important records.

4. Records Management of The Korean Anglican Church

The Anglican Church started with the ordination of Father C. J. Corfe at the Westminster Abbey in Nov. 1st 1889. Faced with the national and international uncertainties during the latter part of the 19th century, most Koreans were in extremely fluid circumstances. Around this time Anglican Church began to spread the gospel in Korea through its missionary work centered on relief operations that would touch the Korean people’s daily lives by opening schools and orphanages, undertaking bible translation and industry mission work. This was the first time such efforts had been expended in Korea by an outside organization. Such activities had a great impact on the modernization of the country. The Anglican Church continues to provide such service in Korea through various kinds of community activities.

The Korean Anglican Church was elevated as a district in Sep. 1992 and now has three dioceses - one in Seoul, one in Daejeon, and one Pusan, with about 130 churches throughout the country. Along with these churches are close to 50 house-of-sharing outreach organizations that provide community services. Anglican Church Korea is considered rather a small order with only 12,000 followers but is steadily developing into more influential order.

The Korean Anglican Archives is located at the central library of the Songkonghoe University(the only Anglican University) in Seoul. The Songkonghoe University began as an institution for training Korean priests and is a central part of Anglican Church history in Korea. The Anglican Church of Korea initiated reorganization work to prevent church records from being neglected. Records found around the campus, which were previously thought lost or damaged, have helped to create an increasing awareness of the importance of record management in Korean society.

I too, as an archivist living with the demands of modern times have had some challenging experiences organizing neglected old records. Many of these records gave powerful insight into the lives and perspectives of our ancestors. So much so that I still feel the excitement from to time today. With these experiences I came to recognize how important and necessary record management is, not only as a valuable historical source but also as a way of getting to the root of one’s cultural identity.

Thanks to missionaries in the pioneer days who recognized the importance of records management and began to collect and organize historical records at time when there was no concept for records management, many invaluable documents are remaining in tact. Those records contains well documented journals and reports on the activities and circumstances surrounding church that are superior to the mechanized, digitalized contemporary data processing. Furthermore, remaining historic photographs clearly demonstrate the size and powerfulness of Anglican Church that was much stronger than is today and these are valuable documentation for modernization period of Korean history.

Those early period Anglican Church publications from that remain in tact provide an invaluable source for learning about the ancestral attitude and their purity toward faith. It is regretful in many respects to realize that records and documents have been lost that could provide valuable perspectives about the contributions that the Anglican Church made to Korean society. Unfortunately, little information that could support the missionary newsletter Morning Calm or the Anglican Church Monthly remains and there is no way to obtain a detailed history of the orphanages, schools, and churches mentioned in those publications. There is little chance of rectifying this situation since few among those who were engaged in this historical documentation are still alive. Significant effort should be expended secure information from any of these elderly historians that would able to testify for the historical record.

Now we have begun to protect original records of historic value at the Archives Institute. First, a scanning order is established for incoming documents. Once records are scanned they are stored on CD. The digitalized information is now provided for reading and lending so that damage to the originals is minimized. The CD based solution is beneficial and at some time in the future we would like to also provide microfiche.

There are large differences, in term of the amount of records, among the different Anglican churches. Part of this discrepancy is due to the rotation of priests every five years. Record quantity, consistency and accuracy are dependent on the interest level of individual priests at the individual church level. Some churches have a wealth of records; others have no records at all, although very few churches fit this last category. Because of the inconsistency of records at the individual church level, the larger Anglican Church needs to establish a centralized records management system in order to save a valuable historical record that will otherwise be likely lost. Had such intervention occurred earlier many records now lost could have been secured.

As the order of the Anglican Church increases the church and its activities increase become more complex. The amounts of records are increased commensurately. Loss of records and important administrative documents will increase if they are left on their own without proper management and evaluation. The foundation for the future of the church is a thorough knowledge of its past. Loss of historical documents is after all a loss of history and the history is part of the believer’s identity and part of the believer’s identification with the church. Loss of valuable historic records can lead to an ebbing away of feeling for the church which may make the future of the church more uncertain. This in turn may lead to weaken the favorable opinion of the general public toward church’s administration and finance. Transparent administration and finance through modern record management are now emerging as key factors in maintaining public trust.

The goal of our archive is to establish itself as an archival institution providing a secure, efficient and economic holistic records management system for records of our order, and to spread the record management culture.

Records collected and managed from each church, organization or department are classified according to the General Records Schedule to move to the Archival Institution. After the final evaluation of record the selected records will be exhibited to the public and handed down to following generations.

5. Conclusion

Preserving records means preserving history to be handed down. Needless to say it is important to preserve historic records because they contribute to our cultural identity and form a foundation on which the next generation can build their own history. Unfortunately, a smaller number than is needed appear to recognize the importance of this historical record. The nature of records management does not show itself in short-term benefits nor does it provide incentives for aggressive financial investment. A lack of efficient equipment and information systems does not help. There is a need for the systematic and regulated collection and management of records. Establishment of regulations from the top level of the church organization with an expression of strong support for church record management is imperative.

Even if our church order does not show any interest for holistic church records management, I, as a person charged with records management, will preserve and organize church related records to the best of my ability. I, just as those missionaries did in the early years, will be doing my part for the next generation hoping they may feel the same excitement I did when they are able to look at historic records in the future.

Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email:
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary,,

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