Mother of Peace: Episode 33
Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 5: The Emblem of the Kingdom of Heaven, pg 153-158
CHAPTER 5 The Emblem Of The Kingdom Of Heaven
The most beautiful flowers of Korea
The first time people hear the Little Angels sing, they are astonished. They feel swept up in a beautiful wave of love and harmony. I hear comments like these all the time:
“To me, it sounds like the voices of angels.” And if one person expresses such admiration, the next will pour out even more praise.
“What I am listening to is not a song! It is a happy chorus that brings rain to a parched soul.”
If we were to capture the distinctive feature of the Unification movement in one phrase, it would be “the culture of filial heart.” “Filial heart,” for which I coined the Korean word, “hyojeong,” signifies sincere devotion and love toward our Heavenly Parent. “Heart,” for which my husband coined the Korean word, “shimjeong,” is the essence of beauty and original root of love. It is beauty that stimulates love to surge forth eternally. The culture of heart transcends time and space. In the world where God’s will has been realized, a pure and immaculate culture of heart will flow forth like a river and waft like a breeze through all forms of artistic creativity.
As Jesus said of the little children, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. A child sleeping peacefully is the epitome of peace. A child’s innocent smile clearly illustrates what happiness is. A child’s voice is gentle, but it opens the door to the heart, reconciles strangers, and expresses happiness and peace. It is the power of the innocent voices of children joined in song that led my husband and I to found The Little Angels of Korea, a children’s folk dance and singing troupe. During the Korean War, I saw many talented artists who were poor and homeless, seeking refuge and unable to display their work. During this time of Korea’s post-war poverty, few people believed in the power of music and dance. No one even listened when my husband and I talked about culture and the arts. All they did was shake their heads and say, “It’s difficult just finding enough to eat… Don’t waste your time thinking about culture.” But in my view, culture is not a luxury; it is a life essential.
For 5,000 years, the Korean people refined culture as a part of everyday life. We are a people of the arts. The Korean culture is unique and beautiful, even though some of it was lost during the deprivations of the twentieth century. During my school days, one of my favorite pastimes was drawing. I even thought about becoming an artist. Instead of investing in that dream on a personal level, I helped bring the exceptional beauty of Korean culture onto the world stage.
That is how the Little Angels came to be. Korea was in a state of poverty and political turmoil when, on Children’s Day, May 5, 1962, my husband and I founded The Little Angels of Korea Children’s Folk Ballet. Within our membership, there were many dissenting voices. Their first argument was that if we lacked the money to build a church, how would we raise money to run a song and dance troupe? Some opined that an adult choir would be better than a children’s dance troupe. There were perhaps a dozen objections to the plan, but my husband and I remained steadfast, and eventually, everyone united behind The Little Angels of Korea.
The next hurdle was finding a place for the girls to practice. We managed to get free use of a dilapidated warehouse. It had a leaky roof and broken windows. With some hasty repairs we made it into a practice room. There was no stove there, so the girls blew on their hands to keep warm in the winter. Once the news got out about what we were doing, those opposed to our church laughed and said, “Angels fly in heaven; those girls look like they are splashing around in a swamp!”
But the girls and their instructor had a passion to succeed. They kept the Little Angels’ motto in their hearts: “A beautiful heart makes a dance beautiful. A beautiful heart makes a song beautiful. A beautiful heart makes a face beautiful.” For three years, they went through intense training, shedding sweat and tears. After that training, they departed on a world tour with the grand slogan, “Let’s take the Korean flag to the world!”
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The Little Angels’ first performance, in the fall of 1965, was at a concert for former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a place made famous by President Lincoln’s address honoring those who died at that turning point of the American Civil War. This was the start of the Little Angels’ travels to showcase Korea’s beautiful culture. After the concert, President Eisenhower reminisced about his 1952 visit to Korea and praised the dance troupe highly. “It’s as if heaven’s angels have come down to earth,” he said with a gentle smile.
It was very bold for this novice group to give its first public performance before a former American president. Even singers and dancers who were well-known in their own countries did not impress audiences in the United States. But I was not worried at all. Children singing is innocence itself, and I knew from experience that innocent children create peace and harmony.
Starting with the performance at Gettysburg, the Little Angels brought joy everywhere they went. They performed in many venues in the United States. When they began Korean songs such as “Springtime in my Hometown” or “Arirang,” people’s brows at first would wrinkle due to their unfamiliarity. Then they would close their eyes and listen. Finally, they would be moved to tears. When the Little Angels danced “The Little Bride and Groom” in their traditional Korean costumes, people would follow along with the beat and respond with heartfelt applause. When a dancer wearing traditional Korean white socks would raise her feet in the air, representing the elegant and beautiful curves found in Korean art, Westerners were delighted. Even without uttering a single word, The Little Angels conveyed our tradition and beauty. They toured the world as ambassadors of Korea’s culture, displaying a youthful energy, purity and happiness for which Western audiences were longing.
Heart touches heart
One day, the Little Angels general director, Dr. Bo Hi Pak, received an invitation. It was from the United Kingdom. In the early 1970s, it was very difficult for a Korean to go to Great Britain but, amazingly, the Little Angels were invited to perform for the British royal family. Such an invitation had never before been extended to a performer from anywhere in the Far East, let alone Korea.
The dancers quickly packed their bags. Reaching London required that they change planes several times. At the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, held for Queen Elizabeth II in 1971, among all the outstanding performers, these beautiful girls from the Republic of Korea were a bright light. Their cute yet dynamic and colorful dances brought several standing ovations. The event was highlighted in the newspapers and on television the next day. In the minds of the British people, Korea was no longer a cultural backwater, but rather a nation with a vibrant artistic tradition.
The lovely voices of the Little Angels of Korea have now been heard in more than 80 nations. They have toured five continents and performed over 7,000 times, including at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971, and the United Nations General Assembly in 1973. They have appeared on television more than 800 times and have met many presidents and prime ministers. They performed for the bicentennial celebration of America’s independence and the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea. They have toured Japan, the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Everywhere they have gone, they have received praise and applause. In the spring of 1990, they performed in Moscow, the Soviet Union, and melted the hearts of communist leaders. In May 1998, their performance in Pyongyang, North Korea, contributed to efforts for reconciliation between North and South Korea.