Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Khottognae - Background on the Temecula shooting

In case you missed it, this story came out over...

Wait a minute, it came out over the AP. Now I could follow my usual practice and link to the story, provide a brief quote, and then link to the story again, but the AP has problems with that practice. So do I just quote five words or whatever their supposed definition of fair use is? OK, I'll try that:

TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) — A gunman

Wow, that provides real context and really encourages me to visit the story, doesn't it?

Ah, forget the AP. Let's go to the Los Angeles Times instead (note that this was the version of the story as of 11:46 pm yesterday:

Four people were shot and at least two hospitalized Tuesday night at a Korean retreat in the hills east of Temecula, and investigators were continuing to search the area for possible additional victims.

Details of the incident were sketchy, but a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said investigators believe a suspected gunman may be among the injured.

More here. And if you dig down a bit, the Times provides more details on the group and the compound:

The Kkottongnae Retreat Camp, run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus, is in the 38700 block of Highway 79. Kkottongae means “flower village” in Korean and is a Christian social service organization founded in Korea. It offers help to orphans and the homeless and expanded to Los Angeles County in the late 1990s. It has branches in Lynwood, the Temecula area, Atlanta and New Jersey, according to its website.

Well, I found the group's website - - and read a little bit about them. And if you want to find out about them, you have to find out about Choi Gwi Dong:

Choi Gwi Dong was born to a rich family in Geumwang, Eumseong County in Chungbuk province. The Japanese colonialists had then conscripted him to work in Japan . Later after being tortured during the time of the war he returned from the battlefield to find his home destroyed and his family gone. At the same time he was ill and penniless.

This miserable situation led him to live with other beggars who were living under a bridge by the Moogeuk River.

From that time, for more that 40 years, he fed and looked after those other beggars who did not even have the strength to beg for food.

In 1986, Choi Gwi Dong was awarded the Grand Prize of the Korean Catholic Church. He was praised as "a little Jesus." His response was to give the prize money of the award, 1,200,000 Korean Won to Flower Village, in order to build a house for the homeless who were dying on the streets.

This generous gift was the motivation for building a sanatorium for the elderly that eventually cost around 120,000,000 Korean Won.

While Choi Gwi Dong provided the financial backing, the spiritual leader was Fr. Oh Woong Jin:

Having firmly decided to dedicate his life to the poor, Fr. Oh was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on 3rd May, 1976

His initial appointment as a priest was to be in charge of Moogeuk parish in Geumwang Eup, Eumseong Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do.

One day he decided to follow a beggar, who in fact was Mr. Choi Gwi Dong, who was passing the parish church. He discovered that the beggar was feeding other weak beggars in their sordid hut in Mt. Yong-dam, with the food that he had been begging for during the day.

Fr. Oh could not sleep that night but stayed awake realizing in the midst of his prayers that "It is a gift of God's grace if one only has enough strength to beg for food."

The next day, Fr Oh purchased some bags of cement with all the money he had in his pocket, 1300 Korean Won, and started building a house called "House of Love" which had five rooms, with five kitchens.

Eighteen of the beggars who lived under a bridge over Moogeuk river were eventually welcomed and came to live in the newly-built house in 1976.

As a result of this story of the priest and the beggars spreading to every corner of Korea, many people wanted to help the community. At the same time the number of new beggars coming to Flower Village increased. In addition, some young people who came to help the community even wanted to live permanently for the people in Flower Village.

Consequently, since more houses and facilities were needed for accommodating "those who did not even have the strength to beg for food" and a support group was established whose members donated at least 1000 Korean Won an every month to help Flower Village . This was followed by the founding of the religious congregations of brothers and sisters of Kkottongnae - Flower Village.

A committee of priests in Cheongju diocese officially ratified the foundation of Flower Village in 29, September 1980.

Starting on Easter Sunday in 1981, the community began to recruit members of flower village nationally.

And, eventually, internationally:

American Sacred Heart House for the Elderly

A sister was sent to Los Angeles 29 August 1998, and opened Flower Village in America with the permission of Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles Archdiocese on 12 May, 1999 Flower Village established in America. After the establishment of Lynwood, Temecula, New Jersey and currently Atlanta have also been opened.

And according to this 2006 entry from Jessi, the facility serves more than just the elderly:

Hey everyone. I hope you guys are all doing great. I can't wait till the conference. I haven't been to Korea for years I am looking forward to it. I am really looking forward to this conference. Currently I'm working on planning a bible camp here at Kkottongnae in Temecula. It is schedule on the 22nd of June so it is right before my trip to Korea. We have chosen the theme "Promises of God." Please pray for all the counselors, volunteers, and most of all the kids that will attend this camp. I looking forward to meeting everyone in July. May god always bless you, Jessica Lee

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