Catholicism in Korea

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Catholicism in Korea

 


History

Catholicism first reached Korea after the Japanese invasion of 1592-1598, when the well-traveled Sugwang Lee read the writings of Mateo Ricci and introduced them to Korea in his books on Catholicism. Furthermore, in Beijing, Gyun Heo (1569-1618) obtained Catholic texts and returned with them to Korea, becoming one of Korea's first Catholic followers.

At the time the Catholic Church was established in Korea, during the latter part of the 18th century, the omnipresent Confucian society severely oppressed Catholics. This continued until the end of the 19th century. Some of the most well-known cases of mass persecutions are the Sinyu Persecution of 1801, Gihae Persecution of 1839, Byeongo Persecution 1846, and the Byeongin Persecution of 1866. In 1876, as Korea was opening its doors to the west, conditions for Catholics began to improve. This period of improvement ran into some obstacles during the Japanese Colonial Period of 1910-1945, when the Japanese ruling authority oppressed Catholics. During this time the Catholic Church managed to keep education, medical care, and other missionary works alive. From this period on, Catholicism penetrated Korea's society with a major increase in the number of churches and believers. In 1969, Cardinal Su -hwan Kim was appointed the archbishop of the Seoul Archdiocese, and in 1989, Pope John Paul II visited Seoul to attend the 44th International Eucharistic Congress.


Catholicism in Today's Society

Presently, Korea's three major religions are Catholicism, Protestantism, and Buddhism. Some of Korea's most famous cathedrals include Myeong-dong Cathedral and Cheon-dong Cathedral. There are many other historical Catholic sites remaining in Korea, including Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine in Seoul, Jeoldusan Martyrs' Memorial Museum, and Martyrs' Mountain (Chimyeongjasan). Among these historical sites, the Myeong-dong Cathedral is regarded as the symbol of Catholicism in Korea. The cathedral was completed in 1898 in a western-style of gothic architecture.

 

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