AHEAD OF IRAQ DEPLOYMENT, 37 KOREAN TROOPS CONVERT TO ISLAM
Chosun Ilbo, 5/28/04
"I became a Muslim because I felt Islam was more humanistic and
peaceful than other religions. And if you can religiously connect
with the locals, I think it could be a big help in carrying out our
peace reconstruction mission." So said on Friday those Korean
soldiers who converted to Islam ahead of their late July deployment
to the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq.
At noon Friday, 37 members of the Iraq-bound "Zaitun Unit," including
Lieutenant Son Hyeon-ju of the Special Forces 11th Brigade, made
their way to a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul and held a conversion
Captain Son Jin-gu from Zaitoon Unit recites an oath at ceremony to
mark his conversion to Islam at a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul on
The soldiers, who cleansed their entire bodies in accordance with
Islamic tradition, made their conversion during the Friday group
prayers at the mosque, with the assistance of the "imam," or prayer
With the exception of the imam, all the Muslims and the Korean
soldiers stood in a straight line to symbolize how all are equal
before God and took a profession on faith.
They had memorized the Arabic confession, "Ashadu an La ilaha il
Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah," which means, "I testify that there
is no god but God (Arabic: Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of
S. KOREAN SOLDIERS CONVERT TO ISLAM BEFORE IRAQ TOUR
Kim Kyoung-hoon and Choi Yoon-sang, Reuters, 5/28/04
SEOUL - South Korea's 35,000-strong Muslim community gained 37 new
converts on Friday when officers and enlisted soldiers destined for a
tour of duty in Iraq were admitted to the faith in a ceremony at
Seoul's main mosque.
South Korea, where Buddhism is the most common religion and
Christianity has grown rapidly, has pledged to send 3,000 troops to
help reconstruction in Iraq. About 650 South Korean army medics and
engineers have served in the country for a year.
"You are reborn as believers and believers are true human beings,"
Sulaiman Lee Haeng-lae Imam told the new converts at the Seoul
mosque, one of five in a country of 48 million people.
Sulaiman, a South Korean leading the congregation in Seoul, said the
men's decision to convert to Islam will go a long way towards helping
their 3,000-strong contingent become accepted by Iraqis once it is
"The Iraqis could become your friends for eternity," Sulaiman told
the new converts after he received oaths from the soldiers.
A public affairs officer attached to the unit, Captain Lee Yun-se,
said many of the 37 new converts had some background in Arab culture,
including Arabic language study in college and travel to the Middle
All 3,000 soldiers in the contingent took courses on Arabic culture
and customs to help them fit in in Iraq...
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