The bustling port of Busan is a major asset to South Korea's dynamic economy.
But when Australian missionary Joseph Davies arrived there 120 years ago, Busan had another reputation as the "wilderness of the gospel."
Davies was an accomplished educator and founder of the Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne, when he felt called to take the gospel to Korea. Tragically, Davies died the day after arriving in Busan.
He was the victim of a deadly disease contracted during his three-week walk to the city.
But Davies' sacrifice was not in vain. It inspired the arrival of another 126 Australian missionaries.
"They said, 'This means we must give ourselves even more completely to preach the gospel to the Koreans,'" Ian Broward, with the Melbourne Seminary, said.
One of the new missionaries, Pastor Noble Mackenzie, built a medical facility to care for lepers. Mackenzie eventually received a government citation for his humanitarian work.
Two of his daughters later founded the Ilsin Christian Hospital in Busan.
"The lepers at that time had to leave their homes. but after there was Sangaewon and they were able to be treated in the hospital, the patients were so thankful," Sangaewon patient Seon-Geun Kim recalled.
Another Australian couple, Pastor McCrae and his wife, founded kindergartens and elementary schools in three cities of the region. Missionary Gelson Engel pastored two churches and taught full time at the Pyeongyang seminary.
In the 120th years since Joseph Davies walked into Busan, Korea's Christian population has grown to 15 million.
And many Koreans are hearing for the first time about the Australians who, along with British and American missionaries, brought them the gospel over a century ago.
--Originally aired December 2, 2011.