Sunday, May 18, 2008

Islam in Seoul

The Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul is known for being a hub for foreigners in Korea. Amongst the American military servicemen and teachers that frequent the area, there is a small community of Muslims from various parts of the Islamic world. Here are some pictures of the Mosque that sits on one of the hills overlooking the area.

While I had assumed that the Muslim community was a recent transplant to the Korean Peninsula, I was surprised to learn that Islam has been present here since the 8th and 8th centuries, when Arab sailors and merchants frequented its waters. According to the Korean Times:

“During the Koryo period (918-1392) Kaesong, then the nation’s capital, was home to a thriving Muslim community, and there was a mosque as well. Members of one of the country’s clans, the Changs of Toksu, still recall that the clan’s founder was a Muslim who came to Korea during the Koryo era. However, the Yi dynasty, which seized power in 1392, was much more introspective than its predecessor, so these early connections with the Near East gradually withered.

The resurrection of Islam took place during the Korean War. The war was fought largely by U.S. forces, but with support from other countries, among them Turkey, at that time a close ally of Washington. The Turkish forces were among the most numerous, some 15,000 soldiers, and best trained non-American units to take part in the war.”

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