Monday, 9 July 2012

The enemy beneath the streets

HWASEONG, South Korea — “Some people think I’m crazy,” says Kim Jin-cheul, a Christian preacher who is convinced that North Korean soldiers are digging tunnels that extend under the capital, Seoul, 30 miles from the border, and have reached this town, 10 miles farther south, where he ministers to a congregation of nine families.

“Imagine hordes of crack North Korean troops streaming out and taking the whole city hostage!”

[…] The narrator in a video shown to visitors intones: “Listen carefully. You might hear a faint noise from a motor running in the dark underground.” He continues, “As long as underground provocations continue, there can be no true peace above the ground.”

Few take this exhortation more to heart than the Rev. Lee Jong-chang, 78, a Roman Catholic priest and veteran tunnel hunter. “I am doing this work so that we won’t have another war and nobody will be hurt,” he said.

Father Lee said he was helping villagers find ground water with dowsing skills he had learned from a French missionary when the government asked him and other civilian experts to join the military’s search for tunnels in 1974. He was awarded a presidential medal for helping find the second tunnel, in 1975.

He has since made hundreds of field trips with his dowsing rod, pursuing what he calls a mission from God. Some church authorities disapproved of the extracurricular activity and sent him to Ecuador as a missionary from 1987 to 1989. That failed to weaken his resolve.
[…] “With my rod, I can see underground as vividly as a good doctor reads a patient with his stethoscope,” Father Lee said. “But some people and the military call me superstitious.”