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Catholic Christianity in Korean History

Summary and Keywords

From its establishment on the peninsula in 1784 to Pope Francis’s visit to beatify 124 martyrs, in 2014, 230 years later, the Catholic Church in Korea has experienced massive change as it has sought to navigate persecution, imperialism, national division, war, dictatorship, and democratization. Despite the challenges it has faced, the Korean Catholic Church has managed to transform itself from a tiny, marginalized community into a highly respected part of Korean society with millions of members. This history can be divided into four periods: the time of hope, in which some Koreans came to believe that Catholicism would bring both spiritual salvation and this-worldly knowledge (the early 16th century to 1784); the time of persecution in which Catholics on the Korean peninsula suffered and died for their faith (1784–1886); the time of imperialism (1886–1945), during which Catholics had to balance the demands of nation, state, and faith in the face of increasing Japanese control of their country; and the time of development (1945–2014) as the Catholic Church in South Korea (the Catholic Church in North Korea being essentially destroyed) became an increasingly integral and active part of Korean society.

Keywords: Chosŏn Korea, Catholicism, Catholic Church, Christianity, Confucianism, Japanese colonial period, democratization

The History of Catholicism in Korea

The Time of Hope

The story of Korean Catholicism begins in China with missionaries, mostly Jesuits, and their Chinese collaborators. Their mission strategy sought to interest the Chinese in the specialized technical and scientific knowledge the missionaries brought from Europe, particularly in such areas as astronomy, engineering, and mathematics. They then hoped that the Chinese, suitably impressed by such practical knowledge, would take their religious claims, which were couched in Confucian language, seriously. Essentially, these Catholics argued that their faith fulfilled the objectives of “original” Confucianism, which, they asserted, focused on morality and accepted the idea of a God. In their view, the Confucianism of their time (what scholars today term “neo-Confucianism”) had degenerated into a philosophical atheism, and therefore, no matter how hard its followers might try, they could not fulfill its moral demands on their own because they lacked God’s help. Catholicism addressed this problem by replacing neo-Confucian metaphysics with the Catholic belief in monotheism and argued that God would provide the grace human beings needed (typically through the sacraments of the church) to fulfill the moral teachings contained within Confucianism and forgiveness when they stumbled. These missionaries and their Chinese collaborators produced books in which they made these claims in Classical Chinese, a language elite Koreans could read fluently.1

The Chosŏn Korean (1392–1910) government regularly sent tribute missions to China, and its members took advantage of the trips to purchase books, including Catholic ones, to bring back to Korea. Most Korean scholars, like their Chinese counterparts, welcomed the secular knowledge these works contained but rejected their religious claims. However, some of the followers of one particular stream of Confucian thought in Korea that was connected to Sŏngho Yi Ik (1681–1763) would take the religious aspects of these works seriously. Yi’s understanding of Confucianism was more pessimistic than the norm, focused on what Don Baker has termed “human moral frailty,” the tendency of humans to act unethically despite our best efforts to the contrary. Some of the scholars influenced by Yi were therefore at least willing to listen to the Catholic explanation for this human moral frailty (original sin), the promise that God (through the grace offered by the sacraments) would help them to overcome their weakness and to do good, and the offer of forgiveness when they inevitably failed to live as they should.2

Social and economic changes in Korea at this time were leading a growing number of people to question the foundations of Korean politics and society. For instance, even though the population had grown, the number of official positions—the most coveted careers that not only guaranteed wealth and respect but were also central to maintaining elite status—had not. This resulted in increased competition and factionalism and a consequent loss of status and wealth for members of the yangban literati who were denied opportunities for state service.3 Similarly, population and population density increased to the extent that epidemic diseases became more prevalent, killing otherwise young and healthy people. It is no accident that some of the early scholars who converted to Catholicism discussed the new religion, which had a well-developed concept of the afterlife, at length while returning from a memorial service of one of their sisters. The sense that something was wrong with the world, compounded by the anxieties over death, led some Korean Confucian scholars to question the accepted readings of the Confucian Classics and to return to the original sources of the tradition, making them amenable to the arguments that Catholicism led to the fulfillment of Confucian objectives presented by Catholics in China.4

One Korean who took Catholic claims seriously was Yi Pyŏk (1754–1786). He was said to be so interested in the new religion that he had trudged through the mountains in the dead of winter, risking tiger attack, to join in a scholastic retreat at which Catholicism was discussed. Thus, in 1784, when Yi learned that his cousin, Yi Sŭng-hun (1756–1801) would accompany his father on a tribute mission to Beijing, he urged the latter to visit the Catholic missionaries there, promising that they would give the younger scholar all sorts of interesting books and gifts. Although Yi Sŭng-hun at the time knew little about the religion, he agreed to the plan. Most of the missionaries could see just how shallow his interest in the faith was and refused to baptize him. One missionary, however, impressed by Yi’s potential, proceeded to baptize him and gave him the Christian name Peter.5

Loaded down with Catholic books and holy items, and with a newfound zeal for the faith, Peter returned home and began to spread it, baptizing many, including his cousin Yi Pyŏk, who took the name “John the Baptist.” Thus, as Korean Catholics are proud to point out, a Catholic community was established on the peninsula without the direct intervention of foreign missionaries. The new religion spread quickly, jumping from the scholars to the women of their household, their slaves, and into the wider Korean community. One group that was particularly interested were the chungin (literally “middle people”), a class of technical specialists, such as interpreters and astronomers, who were educated and held government posts, but were below the elite yangban, who stood at the apex of the status hierarchy and monopolized the higher civil positions and ranks of military officers. As educated but marginal people, often of some means, the chungin tended to be open to Catholicism and to serve as important leaders in the church. Extant records do not tell us exactly why these people converted, but it would seem that among the reasons, many found Catholicism’s promise of heaven attractive.6 And though the status hierarchy of Korean society was largely replicated within the church, most of its leaders being yangban and chungin, the hard edges of those divisions were softened by a shared faith that taught that all human beings were children of God. For instance, Hwang Il-gwang (1757–1801), a butcher and therefore a member of the lowest order in Chosŏn Korea, was so moved by the respectful treatment he received from high-class yangban Catholics that he declared that there were two heavens, one that he was experiencing within the Catholic community on earth, and the one in the next life.7 Moreover, Catholicism brought with it new opportunities for women to become leaders, teachers, and perpetual virgins (people who maintained their virginity even if they married).8 And of course, some simply found the Confucian arguments for Catholicism persuasive.

The Time of Persecution

If some Koreans embraced Catholicism, others criticized it. For instance, learning that his son-in-law and some of his disciples had begun dabbling in the new faith, Sunam An Chŏng-bok (1712–1791), himself a follower of Sŏngho Yi Ik, wrote his Ch’ŏnhakko (An examination of Celestial Learning) attacking Catholic beliefs, such as that God was incarnated in the person of Jesus and the resurrection, as absurd. He also charged that Catholics neglected their duties to society by putting their relationship with God first, for instance, by refusing to marry. He argued, moreover, that Catholicism was fundamentally selfish because it encouraged Catholics to be good not for the sake of righteousness itself, but so that they could go to heaven. In other words, one aspect of Catholicism that some Koreans found attractive—namely, its concept of an afterlife—was seen by other Koreans as a serious problem. Although Sunam did at times misunderstand the finer points of Catholic doctrine, his critique reveals some of the irreconcilable differences between the two worldviews and illustrates that, at least for some Confucians, the new religion was neither good nor even harmless, but a threat to true morality.9

Sunam was a private scholar, but in 1785, only one year after Peter Yi had returned to Korea, a group of constables, believing that the loud noises emanating from chungin Thomas Kim Pŏm‑u’s house were the result of a boisterous gambling party, raided a Catholic meeting. Yangban Catholics were admonished to cease practicing such an absurd faith, and Thomas Kim died from the beatings he had received. Intense social pressure was brought to bear upon these Catholics to give up the new religion. For instance, John the Baptist Yi Pyŏk promised to cease practicing Catholicism after his father threatened to kill himself if he did not. However, the Korean monarch, King Chŏngjo (r. 1776–1800), relied on the Namin (Southerner) faction, among whose members could be found most elite Catholics, to counterbalance the dominant Noron (Old Doctrine faction), and he wanted to avoid launching a violent persecution of the new religion, since it would lead to attacks on his allies.10

Although some Catholics gave in to the pressure and abandoned the religion, others continued to practice and spread it. It is estimated that there were about 4,000 Catholics in Korea at this time. Learning from Catholic books that they should have bishops and priests to offer Mass and hear confessions, they chose some from among their own number and began performing the sacraments. However, feeling that this might not be quite right, they sent a letter to the bishop of Beijing, who responded that they should not be doing such things and promised to send them a priest who could. The bishop also informed the Korean Catholics that they could not participate in ancestor rites—ceremonies in which food and wine were offered to the spirits of the dead, who were believed by some to enter spirit tablets and partake of the essence of the food offered them—which were seen as idolatrous. The prohibition of ancestor rites led those who had converted to Catholicism primarily to become better Confucians to abandon the religion. Others chose to remain in the Catholic Church. One of these, Paul Yun Chi-ch’ŭng (1759–1791), a yangban from southwestern Korea, went beyond the ban on the performance of the rites and burned the ancestor tablets in his possession. When his mother died, in 1791, the tablets were therefore conspicuously absent during the funerary rites. Reports of this reached the government and Paul, along with his maternal cousin James Kwŏn Sang-yŏn (1751–1791), was arrested. Attempts to induce them to abandon the practice of Catholicism failed, and they were executed.

Many officials, particularly those in the Old Doctrine faction, wanted to actively hunt down Catholics and force them to give up their religion, but King Chŏngjo continued to resist a policy of general persecution. Only a handful of Catholics died at the hands of the government between 1791 and 1796. They included three Catholics, who were beaten to death in 1795 during an attempt to force them to confess the whereabouts of Father James Zhou Wen-mo (1752–1801), a Chinese Catholic priest who had snuck into Korea the previous year. The continued failure to capture Father Zhou led Chŏngjo to order a secret search for the priest and to authorize the violent suppression of Catholicism in Ch’ungch’ŏng Province, where he was believed to be hiding, leading to a number of Catholic deaths, though it is unclear how many.

Despite the anti-Catholic persecution, the religion continued to expand. So, too, would state violence after King Chŏngjo died, in the sixth month of 1800, and his son, Sunjo, ascended the throne. Because Sunjo was a minor, the Queen Dowager Chŏng-sun (1745–1805), a member of an Old Doctrine family, became regent. She was concerned that the young king lacked a strong power base. Moreover, she did not like Chŏngjo or his Southerner allies, who had cooperated to punish members of her family. She had therefore looked to the Old Doctrine faction for support, ensuring its dominance in the government; now that Chŏngjo was gone, together they launched a general anti-Catholic persecution. The persecution initially targeted scholars connected to the Southerner faction, but it soon came to target commoners, including women, who had before this time been left alone. Catholics began to be officially punished as rebels, demonstrating the seriousness of their “crime” and its political nature. The breadth and violence of the persecution prompted Alexius Hwang Sa-yŏng (1775–1801), an important Catholic leader, to write his Silk Letter (a missive written on a piece of silk so that it could be hidden in a messenger’s clothing and smuggled across the border to China) to inform the bishop of Beijing of the persecution and ask his help in ending it; the letter explained that “both of the jails of the police court, and the jail of the Board of Punishments were so full that there was no room for any more prisoners” and “since the founding of the Chosŏn Dynasty, there has never been a year in which so many people were killed by the government.”11 This threat to the continued existence of Catholicism and the execution of Father Zhou, who had surrendered to the government in the hopes that it would end the persecution, so horrified Alexius that he asked the bishop of Beijing to do everything he could to obtain a priest and an end to the persecutions, including requesting that the pope send a Catholic armada to force the Korean government to tolerate Catholicism. In the end, Alexius was found before he could send the letter. Government officials were infuriated when they read its contents, and Alexius was executed. His corpse was dismembered, and his wife and son were made slaves—one of the harshest penalties the state could inflict.

The suppression of 1801 devastated the Catholic Church in Korea but did not destroy it. New leaders, including some who were members of martyrs’ families, re-established contact with the Catholic Church in China and requested that new priests be sent to Korea. They would have to wait more than two decades and endure two local persecutions, in 1815 and 1827, before Catholic clerics would be able to offer the sacraments in Korea again. But in 1839, the French bishop and two priests assigned to the peninsula would be killed in a persecution. French missionaries again snuck into the country in 1845 under the guidance of the first Korean priest, Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn (1821–1846), but he would be discovered scouting out other routes to smuggle in French clerics and be executed in 1846, leading to the short but sharp persecution of that year. However, soon after this, French missionaries would be able to secretly enter the country again, and the Catholic Church would enjoy relative tolerance under the reign of King Ch’ŏljong (r. 1850–1863). This period of peace allowed the Catholic Church in Korea to grow to approximately 23,000 members served by about a dozen clerics, including two bishops. However, the death of King Ch’ŏljong in 1863 led to the ascent of King Kojong (r. 1864–1907). Because he was a minor, his father, Yi Ha-ŭng (1820–1898), took the title Taewŏn’gun (prince regent) and became the true power behind the throne. After some experimentation, he settled on a foreign policy of active resistance to growing efforts by Western ships looking for trade to “open” Korea, and in 1866 launched a persecution that resulted in the deaths of a large number of Catholics and killed or drove out all the French missionaries. In response, the French government launched an unsuccessful invasion of Korea. The withdrawal of the French seemed to confirm the wisdom of the Taewŏn’gun’s policy. A cycle began that would last until 1871, in which Western incursions into Korea were met with active Korean resistance and followed by government attacks on Catholics, who sometimes aided the Westerners in these adventures. The earlier persecutions had killed Catholics in the dozens or the hundreds; these, however, took thousands of lives.12

The decision by the Korean state to persecute Catholics represented a significant departure from usual practice in that the government had never before tortured and killed so many people who otherwise appeared harmless. It is particularly striking that a Confucian state would routinely execute elderly men and women. Moreover, the persecutions strained the limited financial and human resources of the Chosŏn state, which is why they usually only lasted a year or so and were often geographically limited. Why, then, would the Korean government launch expensive persecutions against otherwise law-abiding Catholic subjects?13 There are multiple reasons for the persecutions, of which three are particularly important. The first is the belief among mainstream Confucian scholars that Catholicism would cause people to engage in antisocial behavior. In particular, they regarded the Catholic refusal to conduct ancestor rites as proof that the believers lacked filial piety—the love, honor, and respect due one’s parents. This was a core value of Korean society, and it was believed that without it, civilization and proper morality would collapse. This led to the second reason behind the persecutions: the belief that if Catholics lacked such a basic appreciation for what their parents had done for them, they could not possibly be loyal to the king, as filial piety to parents and obedience to the king were inseparable virtues to Confucians. Catholics were therefore rebels against the state. Moreover, Catholics’ refusal to perform ancestor rites (and their insistence on having access to the sacraments) challenged the state’s claim to the exclusive right to determine who could perform particular rituals and when and where they could perform them. Considering that rituals, along with punishment, were understood as the primary tools of government, this refusal made Catholics appear all the more to be rebels seeking to usurp state power. And though the Catholics never did rise up in rebellion, Korean officials were well aware of the religious rebellions that had rocked China over the past centuries and would have known that such things were possible.

Thirdly, Catholics violated Chosŏn law by making contact with foreign missionaries and smuggling them into the country. And while Alexius Hwang Sa-yŏng was critical of rebellion in his Silk Letter, that fine point may have been lost on the government officials who read his request that the pope send an armada to Korea to force the state to tolerate Catholicism.14 The connections between the Catholics and foreign countries meant that Catholics had access to power far out of proportion to the size of their community, which the Korean state found particularly worrisome. Catholics might not pick up weapons and rise up against the state, but that was not what made them dangerous; instead, it was their ability to act as a “fifth column” by serving as guides, informants, and spies for Western militaries. Thus, though the government was aware that Catholicism existed, it was only willing to launch difficult and expensive persecutions when it seemed to face particularly serious situations, such as in 1801, when a minor king ascended to the throne, and 1866, when the danger posed by Western imperialism increased. The perceived threat, in 1791, when a yangban burned his ancestral tablets during the reign of a strong king; a growing Catholic community served by a Chinese priest during the reign of a weak child king; and the knowledge of the successes of Western imperialism in China and actual foreign invasions of Korea launched in the late 1860s and early 1870 led to increased levels of violence that directly corresponded to the threat Catholicism was deemed to pose to national security.

To describe persecution only in terms of numbers and causes, however, risks losing the human side of the story, and it is therefore be helpful to consider the lives of two Korean martyrs: Luthgarde Yi Sun-i (1782–1801) and her younger brother Paul Yi Kyŏng-ŏn (1790–1827).15 After having a mystical experience during her first communion, in 1795, Luthgarde, then a young girl, promised to remain a virgin her entire life. But because Catholicism was outlawed and because living a single life in a society in which everyone was expected to marry would bring unwanted attention, the resident priest in Korea, Father James Zhou Wen-mo, arranged a marriage between Luthgarde and Matthew Yu Chung-ch’ŏl (1779–1801), a man who shared her desire to remain celibate. They lived together without consummating their marriage until they were arrested during the 1801 persecution. Fortunately, copies of two letters Luthgarde wrote while she was in prison are extant. They reveal a woman who was not only pious but loving, always concerned with the health and well-being of her family, particularly her widowed mother and her husband. For instance, she described her worry about her husband’s condition in jail, particularly whether he was staying warm and whether he would be able to die a martyr or would apostatize. Her fears were relieved when she received a note taken from his body following his execution that said, “Little sister, we will meet in heaven,” showing that he shared her deep faith and reciprocated her chaste love. Luthgarde herself suffered torture bravely, exhorting her family members to hold on to their faith, until she, too, was martyred.

Luthgarde, her letters show, manages to be both feisty (when sentenced to banishment because her Catholic father-in-law had illegal contacts with foreigners, she insisted that as a Catholic she ought to be executed) and a proper young lady. The prison journal of her younger brother, Paul Yi Kyŏng-ŏn, however, presents a rather different aspect of Catholic martyrdom. Paul, perhaps because of his youth, avoided arrest in 1801 and survived to become an important Catholic leader, until he was arrested in the local persecution of 1827. Paul proved a most reluctant martyr, confessing quite freely to his interrogators that he was afraid to die and remembering in a melancholy way that he was being held in the same prison in which his sister had met her death more than two decades before. Paul described his own torture in detail, explaining how he called on Jesus and the Virgin Mary to help him endure. After revealing that he had passed out from the pain inflicted upon him, Paul wrote that God had blessed him, for Jesus had no one to comfort him during his Passion, but Paul had received medical attention and encouragement from his fellow prisoners. Though in many ways he was not as courageous as his sister, Paul managed to maintain his faith until he died in prison from the beatings he had received.

The Time of Imperialism

A combination of factors ended the period of anti-Catholic persecution. The Taewŏn’gun was forced to relinquish his power in 1874, when Kojong reached his majority. Shortly after that, Korea was forced to open its doors, not by a Western power but by Japan, with which it signed its first modern treaty in 1876. That treaty was followed by ones with other nations, including a treaty with France in 1886 that gave French citizens the right to “teach” in Korea, a clause that the French had successfully interpreted as giving them the right to conduct missionary work. Though the Catholics were not on the friendliest of terms with the government, they no longer had to fear being tortured and killed simply because of their faith. French missionaries returned and, with the help of Korean Catholic leaders, began to rebuild the Church. Thanks to these measures, the 8,000 Catholics the missionaries had found on returning to Korea in 1876 had by 1889 increased to over 14,000.16

Opening to the outside world during the time of high imperialism introduced new political and economic forces, as well as new ideas, such as Asianism, nationalism, and social Darwinism, that threatened the Confucian-based social order. The Korean government’s pursuit of modernization led to the introduction of a more intrusive tax system and bred a great deal of resentment. Some Koreans turned to religion, both as a source of stability in a time of change but also for practical reasons, as believers sharing the same faith would band together for mutual support and protection. The number of Catholics therefore rapidly increased, and by the time of Korea’s annexation by Japan in 1910, it had grown to more than 70,000. This growth was encouraged in part by some activist missionaries, such as Father Joseph Wilhelm (1860–1938), who used their status as powerful foreigners to advance the interests of their flocks. In fact, Catholics would resist, even violently, when they believed that others, including the government or the growing Protestant churches, encroached on what they saw as their rights.17

The French cleric who led the Korean Catholic Church, Bishop Gustave Mutel (1854–1933), abhorred such conflict, in part because he knew that similar strife had led to the Boxer Rebellion in China (1898–1901), which had claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Catholics, and to massacre of several hundred Catholics on Korea’s Cheju Island in 1901, and he removed Wilhelm from his post. Moreover, though Catholics in the countryside may have felt emboldened, in Seoul it became increasingly clear, particularly after the official separation of church and state in France in 1905, that the Catholic Church could not look to government for protection. Instead, it would have to make peace with whoever governed the country, first, with a Korean state intent on modernization and, later, with the Japanese colonial government.

Persecution had unified Korean Catholics, who relied on missionaries to administer the sacraments, and French missionaries, who relied on their flocks for protection, but the question of how to respond to Japanese imperialism created serious divisions between them. Many Korean Catholics hoped that the Church would play a positive role as they sought to strengthen their nation. In some ways it did—one Korean Catholic nationalist, Thomas An Chung-gŭn (1879–1910), helped to establish and manage schools connected to the church. However, the protectorate treaty of 1905 (also known as the Eulsa Treaty) and the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910, though both were illegal, were publicly accepted as legitimate by the major powers of the day and, consequently, by church leaders, as well. Thus, while individual missionaries may have sympathized with the Koreans, there was little the Catholic Church could do. In fact, because of its comparatively weak position in society, and the consequent need to avoid antagonizing the powerful Japanese colonial state, the church leaders punished the Korean Catholics who challenged the state, for instance, expelling seminarians who took part in nationalist protests. However, the hierarchy could not always control Korean Catholics. Thomas An Chung-gŭn would go on to assassinate Itō Hirobumi, a former prime minister of Japan and prime architect of the 1889 Meiji Constitution, who had played a key role in the colonization of Korea. While awaiting execution, An asked that Father Wilhelm be sent to him so he could receive the sacraments, but Bishop Mutel refused. He wanted An to publicly recant his act and was apparently fearful that if he did not do so, sending a priest to him would constitute support for the assassination. Wilhelm went anyway, hoping that he could convince An to repudiate his act (he failed). Mutel punished Wilhelm for his disobedience, but he appealed to the Vatican and was found to be in the right.18

Catholics in Korea faced considerable challenges during the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945). Although they were not actively persecuted for their faith, Catholics largely lived on the margins of society in poor rural areas, their numbers barely staying ahead of population growth.19 With such scant resources, they had to determine how to respond to the ambiguities of living in a colonial state that was indifferent or even hostile to their faith. For instance, missionaries and Korean Catholics were initially united in their opposition to Shintō rites, including ones that directly worshipped the Japanese emperor, who was viewed as a living god, as a form of idolatry. However, when Catholic bishops in Japan asked the Japanese government for an explanation of the Shintō rites, it stated that they were civil in nature. Based on that definition, the Vatican approved Catholic participation in those rites, something most, but not all, Catholics in Korea grudgingly accepted.20 Further illustrating the ambiguity of this time, the first Korean bishop, Paul No Ki-nam (1902–1984) was ordained in 1942, in part because there was a fear that the Japanese colonial state would replace the foreign missionaries in the Korean hierarchy with Japanese clerics. However, No, as an important public figure, was pressured into offering support for the Japanese colonial government and its wars of aggression. For this reason, instead of being celebrated universally by Korean Catholics as their first bishop, he remains a controversial figure.21

It should be stressed that not all was bad during this time. New missionary orders from Europe and North America came to work in Korea, allowing for further development of the Catholic Church. And despite this influx, the number of Korean Catholic priests was increasing (for example, there were ten Korean priests and thirty-six foreign missionaries in the Archdiocese of Seoul in 1912; by 1944 there were twenty-four foreign priests and fifty-two Korean ones).22 Despite their destitution, Korean Catholics provided education and healthcare, not only for the Catholic community but also for the wider society, and a growing number of nuns played a significant role. The work of creating materials for passing on the faith, developing forms of art and music that were both Catholic and Korean, and collecting materials for the future beatification and canonization of the Korean martyrs continued apace and helped to create a foundation for the rapid growth that would take place after the Korean War.23

The Time of Development

Japan’s surrender to the Allies on August 15, 1945, and the prospect of liberation led to euphoric celebrations among most Koreans. For Korean Catholics, the day had a special meaning because it was the feast day of the Assumption, the Catholic celebration of Mary being assumed bodily into heaven. However, Korean independence was quickly followed by the division of the country into two separate entities, each of which had its own government—a Communist one in the north and an anti-Communist one in the south—and the Korean War (1950–1953), a fratricidal and international conflict that killed millions of people without unifying the peninsula under either government. And like the country, the Catholic Church itself became divided: the northern half was swallowed up almost entirely by the totalitarian Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while the southern half enjoyed a level of religious freedom unprecedented in Korean history, though Catholics, like other Koreans, would still face serious challenges to their political and social freedoms from dictatorial regimes.

Religious freedom allowed Catholics to more openly engage with society, which was changing in ways that would lead to growth among all religions. Many South Koreans left their homes and tight-knit communities in the rural villages and looking for work, migrated to the growing cities, where they were likely to become lost in the crowd. Large numbers joined Christian churches, including Catholic ones, for the sense of community and practical help they offered and to seek spiritual solace and refuge during a time of great social change. Moreover, South Korea’s position on the front lines of the Cold War meant it would receive additional attention and aid from Catholics across the world, particularly the United States. Growing material and human resources meant that the Korean Catholic Church could become more active in establishing hospitals and schools. And doing so transformed the image of the Catholic Church from a religious community on the margins to one that was actively working to benefit Korea as a whole. Aided by the reforms of Vatican II (1962–1965), which included allowing the Mass to be said in Korean rather than Latin and encouraged the whole church, including the laity, to be active in society, this change meant that Catholicism would not only grow, but would also increasingly attract intellectuals and members of the middle and upper classes.24

As the Catholic Church came to include more educated and wealthier members, it also become more politically active.25 For instance, John Chang Myŏn (1899–1966), the prime minister of South Korea’s First Republic (1948–1960) was a Catholic. Chang later served as vice president and together with Bishop No helped to organize political resistance to president Syngman Rhee’s dictatorial regime, while also remaining a staunch anti-Communist. After Rhee resigned from the presidency, Chang would lead the short-lived Second Republic (1960–1961) as prime minister, until he was overthrown in a coup led by the military that eventually brought Park Chung Hee (1917–1979) to power. Although many Korean Catholics initially supported Park because of his anti-Communism and delivery of economic growth, as he became increasingly dictatorial, particularly following the infamous Yushin Constitution (1972) that had essentially given him absolute power, an increasing number would oppose him. Catholic resistance was led by such leaders as Cardinal Stephen Kim Su-hwan, as well as Bishop Chi Hak-sun, who was actually arrested and imprisoned by the Park regime. Progressive priests banded together to form the Priests’ Association for Justice. Lay Catholics likewise created socially active organizations, such as the Young Catholic Workers’ Association. Even after the overthrow of the Park Chung Hee dictatorship, authoritarian politics persisted into the next decade, as did Korean Catholic resistance. Korean Catholics played important roles in disseminating information following the government’s crushing of the Kwangju Democracy Movement and the massacre of civilians by the military government in May 1980. Many Catholics would therefore play important roles in the eventual democratization of the country, which can be said to have been completed with the peaceful transition of power from the ruling party connected with the earlier dictatorships to the new president, Kim Dae-jung (1924–2009), a democracy activist and Catholic, in 1993.26

By the 1980s, the Korean Catholic Church had much to boast about. It had gone from being a community that numbered only a couple hundred thousand to one that numbered about two million by the end of the decade. It had transformed itself from a small, persecuted, and marginalized community into an active and respected participant in Korean politics and society. And in 1984, Pope John Paul II came to Korea to canonize 103 martyrs (including ten French missionaries), raising them to the honor of the altars as saints. Growth of the church, though, slowed, and its active involvement with the rest of the Korean society continued. Twenty years later, in 2014, when Pope Francis visited the country to beatify 124 more martyrs, he could celebrate Korea as a success story—Catholics accounted for over 10 percent of the South Korean population, or approximately five-and-a-half million people.27 Pope Francis reflected on the significance of the martyrs of Korea in his homily for the beatification of Paul Yun Chi-ch’ŭng, the Catholic killed for burning his ancestor tablets, and his companions:

Today is a day of great rejoicing for all Koreans. The heritage of Blessed Paul Yun Chich’ŭng and his companions—their integrity in the search for truth, their fidelity to the highest principles of the religion which they chose to embrace, and their testimony of charity and solidarity with all—these are part of the rich history of the Korean people. The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world.28

Although the pope’s visit was greeted with jubilation (by Catholics and non-Catholics alike), not all Catholic leaders agreed with him. One important Catholic leader, Bishop Kang U-il, criticized the Korean Catholic Church for straying from the Gospel, and argued that the pope came not to congratulate it but to call it back to its mission of social engagement and activism. Kang had previously argued that the Korean term for pope, kyohwang, literally “doctrinal emperor,” should be changed to kyojong, literally “doctrinal teacher.” Since Kang did not question the similarly high-sounding title of bishop (chugyo, literally, “lord of doctrine”), it appeared that he was calling for a comparative demotion in the authority of the pope in favor of greater autonomy and indigenous leadership by the Korean bishops.29

Other divisions also appeared in the Korean Catholic Church. For instance, during Pope Francis’s meeting with religious communities on August 16, the spokesman for male religious communities, such as monks, thanked the pope, offering him the highest of praise, and criticized religious communities for having become lost in consumerism and secularism, departing from the charisms and identities of their particular orders. He was engaging in an indirect critique of more socially active religious orders in support of a more otherworldly spiritual focus.30 In contrast, the spokeswoman for female religious communities, such as nuns, though she also praised the pope, criticized neoliberalism and stressed how it important it was to share the Gospel by going out among the people.31 Thus, Francis saw in a single meeting one call for a return to traditional religious life focused more on individual salvation and another call for continued progressive change. It remains to be seen how the Catholic Church of Korea will navigate these divisions in the future, whether it will continue to engage in society as it has, whether it will focus more on a particularly Catholic understanding of the Gospel and spiritual salvation, or whether it will somehow manage to balance, or perhaps even synthesize, these different positions on what it should be and what it should do.

Discussion of the Literature

Most of the scholarship on Korean Catholicism, particularly that produced in English, focuses on the beginnings of the Catholic Church in Korea and the era of persecution. The two related questions that receive the most attention, and that scholars disagree on the most, are why did some Koreans convert to Catholicism and why were they persecuted? With respect to why some Koreans converted to Catholicism, some scholars focus more on internal developments within Korean Confucianism and the attractiveness of Catholic beliefs about the afterlife. At the same time, although they see the issue of ancestor rites as important, such scholars believe that there were other, more basic conflicts between Catholicism and Confucianism that could not be resolved, implying that a genuine synthesis between the two was impossible and that some sort of persecution was inevitable regardless of the position of the Catholic Church on the rites. In contrast, other scholars focus on Catholic ideals of equality between men and women and among different social classes as central to the popularity of Catholicism in Korea, and downplay the differences between Catholicism and Confucianism as distinct worldviews. These scholars tend to see believe that persecution arose out of the desire of Confucian elites to maintain the hierarchy and inequality that gave them power in society, and not from Confucianism itself, which, being an important part of Korean culture also allows them to emphasize that Catholicism is perfectly compatible with it. That being said, most scholars accept the persecutions as having multiple causes, the key difference between them being which factors are considered more significant.

An emphasis on social and gender equality tends to appear more in histories aimed at a popular audience. This should not be understood as a “dumbing down” of history, but rather represents a search for a “usable past,” in two related but distinct ways.32 First, an emphasis on equality allows historians to present Catholics as interested not simply in the next world but also in improving the one in which we all live. Thus South Korean Catholics, who do not face religious persecution, can still find meaning in the lives of the martyrs—it is not their deaths that should be imitated, but their willingness to do what was right, even at the risk of suffering. The martyrs can therefore be presented as models for positive social action. Second, emphasizing equality, though in many ways anachronistic, enables historians to present 18th- and 19th-century Korean Catholics as proof that Koreans could not only accept modern ideas but also successfully put them into practice. This allows them to challenge the Japanese colonial period as illegitimate (Koreans did not need the Japanese to become modern—if they had been left alone, they could have done it themselves). Moreover, this allows Korean Catholics to feel that their religion has contributed positively to their country.33

The search for a usable past also helps explain why Thomas An Chung-gŭn has received a great deal of attention in both academic and popular scholarship. As a Korean nationalist and Catholic, An is taken as proof that it is possible to balance the demands of nation and faith. However, apart from An, popular histories give comparatively little attention to the period of 1876 to 1945, in part because of the ambiguity and challenges of the colonial period. Though Catholics can be presented as heroically holding onto their faith while contributing to Korean modernity during the era of persecution, the story of this time period is simply too complicated, and it is hard to find any clear heroes, with the exception of An. Therefore studies tend to be more critical of the Catholic Church, particularly the foreign missionaries of this time period, which is seen as not being sufficiently sympathetic to nationalist goals. Unfortunately, these studies frequently take an anachronistic perspective that does not sufficiently consider the limited options available to the Catholic Church in Korea at the time. At times, there is a tendency to say very little about the contributions of foreign missionaries, particularly after the time of persecution. The complex issues raised by foreign influence in Korea also means that despite their historical importance, controversial figures such as the first Korean bishop Paul No Ki-nam are so politically charged that comparatively little has been written on them.

Part of the challenge of writing post-1945 history of Korean Catholicism is the alignment between divisions within the Catholic Church and contemporary Korean politics—how one presents Korean Catholic history typically supports either a conservative or progressive position. For instance, a narrative of Catholic history that connects conversion to Catholicism and persecution to Catholic ideas of equality is more likely to present Catholic engagement in democratization, anti-dictatorship, and human rights movements positively and to praise progressive organizations such as the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice. It is therefore comparatively easy to find work on Catholic political and social engagement in support of democratization, but topics that focus on conservative Catholic causes, such as anti-Communism, as well as on issues that are more internal to Catholicism, such as spirituality or pilgrimage, receive comparatively little attention. While on one side, people interested in those topics might find it difficult to find readily available information, on the other side, scholars wishing to do research on them will have the opportunity to be pioneers. It should be noted though that Korean-language scholarship has already started tackling these issues, and one can find much more in Korean on more contemporary Catholic history than in English. In particular, articles published in Han’guk kyohoesa (Korean church history), the journal of the Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso (Church History Institute), a Catholic research center, are a good place to start.

Primary Sources

One challenge for researchers interested in studying Catholicism in Korea is the variety of languages in which primary sources appear. Primary sources on the early history of Catholicism are typically in Classical Chinese, an older, nonstandardized version of Han’gŭl (the vernacular Korean alphabet), or French. Those languages are also important for later periods, as are Japanese and modern Korean, and German is also useful because some of the first missionaries to join the French in Korea were German. Fortunately, for those who are not proficient in all of these languages, there are some English translations. Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism in Chosŏn Korea, by Don Baker (with the assistance of Franklin Rausch), includes annotated translations of Alexius Hwang Sa-yŏng’s Silk Letter, a foundational document in the history of Korean Catholicism, as well as Sunam An Chŏng-bok’s On Celestial Learning, a Confucian critique of the new religion.34 Epistolary Korea, includes selections from Yi Sun-i and Yi Kyŏng-ŏn’s writings.35 Deberniere Torrey has translated important early Catholic documents, including the first Korean vernacular catechism Chugyo yoji (The Essentials of the Lord’s Teachings) and a collection of other early Catholic documents (The Record of a Dream of Yi Byeok, A Record of the Words of Ryu-Han-Dang, Meditation on Life after Death.36 Both editions of Catholic Korea: Yesterday and Today (the original, published in 1964, and an abridged version published in 1984) contain English translations of some Catholic materials.37 For materials produced in the early modern period on Korea primarily by missionaries working in Japan, see the English translation by Father John Bridge of Father Juan Ruize de Medina’s The Catholic Church in Korea: Its Origins, 1566–1784.38 Though it was written long before the establishment of the Catholic Church in Korea, an English translation of Matteo Ricci’s The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, would be useful for those interested in the origins of the Catholic Church in Korea. It was through that text that Korean scholars often first learned about Catholicism.39

For those who read French, Charles Dallet’s Histoire de l’Eglise de Corée, published in 1874, while not technically a primary source, relied heavily on primary materials collected by French missionaries working in Korea.40 It has been annotated and translated into Korean by An Ŭng-ryŏl and Ch’oe Sŏg-u published by the Church History Institute (Han’guk kyohoesa yŏn’guso).41 That institute has also published an annotated, eight-volume Korean version of Bishop Gustave Mutel’s journals, as well as materials on other important Catholic figures, such as Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn (1821–1846), the first Korean priest.42 Moreover, the Church History Institutes publishes copies of original Korean and Chinese primary sources on such subjects as catechists and the sacraments.43 Other important primary sources from early Catholic history have also been translated into modern Korean and published, including multiple versions of the Silk Letter (with Fr. Yŏ Chin-ch’ŏn producing excellent annotated versions), as well as excerpts from the Sillok during the 1801 persecution (the daily records of the Korean court, which appear in a multivolume series published by the Han’guk sun’gyoja hyŏnyang wiwŏnhoe, The Society for the Dissemination of Information on the Korean Martyrs) related to Catholicism.44 Interrogation records of Catholics are also of great importance, and reprints of the original Chinese and Korean translations are available (a recent edition of the latter has been published under the general title of Ch’uan kŭpkugan, the term referring to interrogation records).45 There are also multiple translations of the letters of Luthgarde Yi Suni and her brothers.46

For those interested in studying Catholicism after the time of persecution, the primary sources connected to Thomas An Chung-gŭn, particularly his own writings and interrogation reports (with those produced by Yun Pyong Suk and Sin Unyong being particularly helpful) are especially rich.47 For the colonial period to the 1960s, some of Bishop No Ki-nam’s work, such as his autobiography, Na ŭi insaenggwan: Tangsin ŭi ttuttaero (My view on life: following your will).48 Stephen Cardinal Ki Su-hwan (1922–2009), the leader of the Catholic Church during the era of military dictatorship, and an important human rights activist, published numerous books during his lifetime, and they, along with his memorial website, provide a lot of interesting information. Father Jim Sinnott’s chapter in More Than Witnesses provides the perspective of an American Catholic missionary during the time of dictatorship.49 Finally, Kim Dae Jung’s Prison Writings illustrates how his Catholic faith shaped this future president of Korea as a democracy and human rights activist.50

List of Korean holy sites published by the Catholic website “Good News” .

Arirang, an English-language channel based in Korea that airs programs on Korean culture and history, produced a series on Catholicism in Korea in honor of Pope Francis’s 2014 visit, and covered the visit itself.

Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso.

P’yŏnghwa Pangsong. A Catholic organization that produces television and radio shows, as well as a newspaper and other publications.

Sillok.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea. This site includes an interesting survey of Korean Catholic history.

Further Reading

Baker, Don. “The Religious Revolution in Modern Korean History: From Ethics to Theology and from Ritual Hegemony to Religious Freedom.” Review of Korean Studies 9, no. 3 (2006): 249–275.Find this resource:

    Chang, Tongha. Han’guk kŭndaesa wa Ch’ŏnjugyohoe. Seoul: Kat’ollik Ch’ulp’ansa, 2006.Find this resource:

      Chérel-Riquier, Evelyne. “The South Korean Catholic Church’s Attitude towards North Korea: From Antagonism to Development of Dialogue and Cooperation.” Journal of Korean Religions 4, no. 2 (2013): 67–92.Find this resource:

        Cho, Hyŏn-bŏm. Chosŏn ŭi sŏn’gyosa, sŏn’gyosa ŭi Chosŏn. Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso, 2008.Find this resource:

          Cho, Kwang. Chosŏn hugi sahoe wa Ch’ŏnjugyo. Seoul: Kyŏngin Munhwasa, 2010.Find this resource:

            Ch’oe, Sŏn-hye. “Han’guk Chŏnjaenggi Ch’ŏnjugyohoe wa kongsan: Ch’odae chuhan kyhwang sajŏl pŏn chu Bŏn chugyo (Bishop Byrne) rŭl chungsim-uro.” Han’guk kyohoesa 44 (June 2014): 359–399.Find this resource:

              Choi, Jai-Keun. The Origins of the Roman Catholic Church in Korea: An Examination of Popular and Governmental Responses to Catholic Missions in the Late Chosŏn Dynasty. Norfolk, UK: Hermit Kingdom Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                Finch, Andrew. “French Catholic Spirituality and the Nineteenth-Century Korean Church.” Journal of Korean Religions 6, no. 1 (2015): 225–256.Find this resource:

                  Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso, ed., Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoesa. Vols. 1–5. Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso, 2009–2014.Find this resource:

                    Kim, Sebastian, and Kirsteen Kim. A History of Korean Christianity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                      Park, Pyong-Gwan. “The Christian Spirituality of Cardinal Sou-hwan Kim: Contextualized and Interpreted.” Journal of Korean Religions 6, no. 1 (2015): 191–223.Find this resource:

                        Rausch, Franklin. “Dying for Heaven: Persecution, Martyrdom, and Family in the Early Korean Catholic Church.” In Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in Korea: From Ancient to Contemporary Times. Edited by Charlotte Horlyck and Michael Pettid, 213–235. Honolulu University of Hawai’i Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                          Rausch, Franklin. “Visions of Violence, Dreams of Peace: Religion, Race, and Nation in An Chunggŭn’s A Treatise on Peace in the East.” Acta Koreana 15, no. 2 (2012): 263–291.Find this resource:

                            Roux, Pierre-Emmanuel. “The Catholic Experience of Chosŏn Envoys in Beijing: A Contact Zone and the Circulation of Religious Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century.” Acta Koreana 19, no. 1 (2016): 9–44.Find this resource:

                              Torrey, Deberniere Janet. “Separating from the Confucian World: The Shift Away from Syncretism in Early Korean Catholic Texts.” Acta Koreana 15, no. 1 (2012): 127–145.Find this resource:

                                Yang, In-sŏng. “Ilchaeha Chang Myŏn (Chang Myŏn, 1899–1966) ŭi kyhoe hwaldong.” Kyohoesa yŏn’gu 47 (December 2015): 91–121.Find this resource:

                                  Yi, Tae-Jin, Eugene Park, and Kirk Larsen, eds. Peace in the East: An Chunggŭn’s Vision for Asia in the Age of Japanese Imperialism. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2017.Find this resource:

                                    Yŏ, Chin-ch’ŏn. Hwang Sayŏng <Paeksŏ> yŏn’gu: Wŏnbon kwa ibon pigyo kŏmt’o. Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso, 2009.Find this resource:

                                      Yun, Sŏn-ja. Ilche ŭi chonggyo chŏngch’aek kwa Ch’ŏnjugyohoe. Seoul: Kyŏngin Munhwasa, 2002.Find this resource:

                                        Notes:

                                        (1.) For a study of Catholic missionary work in China and Japan, see Liam Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2007).

                                        (2.) Don Baker, Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism in Chosŏn Korea, with Franklin Rausch (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), 8–16.

                                        (3.) Baker, 23–29.

                                        (4.) Don Baker, “Catholic God and Confucian Morality: A Look at the Theology and Ethics of Korea’s First Catholics,” in Korean Religions in Relation: Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, ed. Anselm M. Min (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016), 93–101.

                                        (5.) Baker, Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism, 59–82.

                                        (6.) Franklin Rausch, “Dying for Heaven: Persecution, Martyrdom, and Family in the Early Korean Catholic Church,” in Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in Korea: From Ancient to Contemporary Times, eds. Charlotte Horlyck and Michael Pettid (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014), 213–235.

                                        (7.) For this information, and more on the issue of equality in Catholicism, see Cho Kwang, “The Meaning of Catholicism in Korean History,” in The Founding of Catholic Tradition in Korea, ed. Chai-shin Yu (Mississauga, Canada: Korea and Related Studies Press, 1996), 117–119.

                                        (8.) For instance, Columba Kang Wansuk gathered together a community of perpetual virgins and widows. For a study on her, see Gary Ledyard, “Kollumba Kang Wansuk, an Early Catholic Activist and Martyr,” Christianity in Korea, eds. Robert Buswell Jr. and Timothy S. Lee (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), 38–71.

                                        (9.) Baker, Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism, 47–52.

                                        (10.) For an overview of the period between 1791 and 1801, see Baker, 83–101.

                                        (11.) Baker, 164 and 185.

                                        (12.) For an English overview of this time period, see Jai-Keun Choi, The Origins of the Roman Catholic Church in Korea: An Examination of Popular and Governmental Responses to Catholic Missions in the Late Chosŏn Dynasty (Norfolk, UK: Hermit Kingdom Press, 2006), 142–219.

                                        (13.) For more extensive analyses of the causes of persecution, see Choi, 220–274; and Franklin Rausch, “Like Birds and Beasts: Justifying Violence against Catholics in Late Chosŏn Dynasty Korea,” Acta Koreana 15, no. 1 (2012): 43–71.

                                        (14.) Baker, Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism, 201.

                                        (15.) This material is examined in more detail in Franklin Rausch, “Dying for Heaven.” For an extensive analysis of the writings of Luthgarde Yi Sun-i, see Deberniere Torrey, “Separating from the Confucian World: The Shift Away from Syncretism in Early Korean Catholic Texts,” Acta Koreana 15, no. 1 (2012): 127–145.

                                        (16.) Chang Tongha, Kaehanggi Han’guk sahoe wa Ch’ŏnjugyohoe (Seoul: Kat’ollik Ch’ulpan’sa, 2005), 26–27.

                                        (17.) For an overview of Catholicism in Korea from 1876 to 1910, see Franklin Rausch, “The Bishop’s Dilemma: Gustave Mutel and the Catholic Church in Korea,” Journal of Korean Religions 4, no. 1 (2013): 43–69. For numbers, see Don Baker, “From Pottery to Politics: The Transformation of Korean Catholicism,” in Religion and Society in Korea, eds. Lewis Lancaster and Richard Payne (Berkeley: Institute for East Asian Studies, University of California, 1998), 145.

                                        (18.) For a study of An’s ideas and their relationship to Catholicism, see Franklin Rausch, “Visions of Violence, Dreams of Peace: Religion, Race, and Nation in An Chunggŭn’s A Treatise on Peace in the East,” Acta Koreana 15, no. 2 (2012): 263–291.

                                        (19.) Baker, “From Pottery to Politics,” 139–148.

                                        (20.) Yang In-sŏng, “Ilche ŭi singmingji chebae wa Han’guk kyohoe,” in Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoesa 5, ed. Han’guk Kyohosesa Yŏn’guso (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa yŏn’guso, 2014), 19–34.

                                        (21.) See Yang In-sŏng, “No Ki-nam sinbu ŭi Kŏng-sŏng Taemok Kujang chakchwa e taehan yŏn’gu,” Kyohoesa yŏn’gu 35 (December 2010): 5–38.

                                        (22.) These and other statistics related to the Catholic population can be found in Cho Hyŏn-bŏm, “Chosŏn Taemokgu ŭi punhal kwa jŏngbi,” in Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoesa 5, 65–179.

                                        (23.) See Cho Hyŏn-bŏm, “Sun’gyo pokja ŭi tansaeng kwa kyohoe ŭi pyŏnhwa”; and Paek Pyŏng-gŭn, “Ch’ŏnjugyo ŭi kyoyuk, sahoe, munhwa hwaldong,” in Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoesa 5, 277–301, 427–439.

                                        (24.) See Don Baker, “Sibling Rivalry in Twentieth-Century Korea: Comparative Growth Rates of Catholic and Protestant Communities,” in Buswell and Lee, Christianity in Korea, 283–308.

                                        (25.) For an overview of this period, see Baker, “From Pottery to Politics,” 148–164.

                                        (26.) For Catholic political activism in the 1970s and 1980s, see Kim Nyung, “The Politics of Religion in South Korea, 1974–1989: The Catholic Church’s Political Opposition to the Authoritarian State” (PhD diss., University of Washington, 1993). See also the historical narrative produced by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea at.

                                        (27.) Extensive statistics on Catholicism can be found on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea website.

                                        (28.) Homily of Pope Francis, Holy Mass for the Beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 Martyr Companions, August 16, 2015.

                                        (29.) See Kang U-il, “Kyohwangnim kwa Han’guk chugyo tŭl ŭi mannam chugyohoeŭi uijang Kang U-il chugyo ŭi hwanyŏngsa,” in Puranch’isŭk’o kyohwang panghan mesiji: Ilŏna pich’uŏra, ed. Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoeŭi (Seoul: Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoeŭi, 2015), 88–90.

                                        (30.) Hwang Sŏng-mo, “Kyohwangnim kwa Han’guk sudo kongdongche tŭl ŭi mannam Han’guk namja sudohoe sado saenghwaldan changsang hyŏbŭihoe hoejang Hwang Sŏng-mo sinbu ui hwanyŏngsa,” in Puranch’isŭk’o kyohwang panghan mesiji, 99–100.

                                        (31.) Lee Kwang-ok, “Kyohwangnim kwa Han’guk sudo kongdongche tŭl ŭi mannam Han’guk yŏja sudohoe changsang yŏnhabhoe hoechang Lee Kwang-ok sunyŏ ŭi hwanyŏngsa,” in Puranch’isŭk’o kyohwang panghan mesiji, 101–102.

                                        (32.) For a discussion of this concept, see chapter 2 of John Fea, Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 25–46.

                                        (33.) For an example of such a reading of Korean Catholic history, see Inshil Choe Yoon, “Martyrdom and Social Activism: The Korean Practice of Catholicism,” in Religions of Korea in Practice, ed. Robert E. Buswell Jr. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 355–375.

                                        (34.) Baker, Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism.

                                        (35.) Jahyun Kim Haboush tr., “Letters of the Catholic Martyrs,” in Epistolary Korea: Letters in the Communicative Space of the Chosŏn, ed. Jahyun Kim Haboush, 359–374 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

                                        (36.) Deberniere Torrey, Jugyo Yoji (Seoul: KIATS Press, 2009); Deberniere Torrey, The Record of a Dream of Yi Byeok, A Record of the Words of Ryh-Han-Dang, Meditation on Life after Death (Seoul: KIATS Press, 2007).

                                        (37.) Joseph Ch’ang-mun and John Jae-sun Chung, Catholic Korea: Yesterday and Today (Seoul: Catholic Publishing Company, 1964 and 1984).

                                        (38.) Juan Ruiz de Medina, S. J., The Catholic Church in Korea: Its Origins, 1566–1784, trans. John Bridge, S. J. (Seoul: Published for the Royal Asiatic Society by Seoul Computer Press, 1991).

                                        (39.) Matteo Ricci, The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, tr. Doublas Lancashire and Peter Hu Kuo-chen, S. J. (Boston: Institute of Jesuit Sources, Boston College, 2016).

                                        (40.) Charles Dallet, Histoire de l’Eglise de Corée, 2 vols. (Paris: V. Palmé, 1874).

                                        (41.) Charles Dallet, Han’guk Ch’ŏnjugyohoesa, 3 vols., trans. An Ŭngryŏl and Ch’oe Sŏg-u (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso).

                                        (42.) Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’gu, ed., Sŏng Kim Tae-gŏn Andŭrea sinbu ŭi sŏhan (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohosesa Yŏn’guso, 1996).

                                        (43.) Yŏm Su-jŏng, Hoejang (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohosesa Yŏn’guso, 2006); Yŏm Su-jŏng, Yŏngse, Kohae, Sŏngch’e, Kyŏnjin (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohosesa Yŏn’guso, 2009).

                                        (44.) Yŏ Chin-ch’ŏn, Nuga chŏhŭi rŭl wirohae chugettsŭmnikka (Seoul: Han’guk Kyohoesa Yŏn’guso, 1999); Cho Kwang, ed., Sinyu pakhae charyojip (Seoul: Han’guk Sun’gyoja Hyŏnyang Wiwŏnhoe, 1999).

                                        (45.) O Hang-nyŏng, Kim U-ch’ŏl, Yi Sŏn-a, eds., Ch’uan kŭpkugan (Chŏnju: Hŭrŭm, 2014).

                                        (46.) Yi T’ae-yŏng and Yu Chongguk, tr., Tong-jŏng pubu sun’gyoja: Yi Sun-I Rugalda okchung p’yŏnji (Chŏnju: Ch’ŏnjugyo Chŏnjugyogu, 2011).

                                        (47.) Yun Pyong Suk, An Chunggŭn chŏn’gi chŏnjip (Seoul Kukka Pohunch’ŏ, 1999); For an instance of Sin’s work, see Sin Unyong, trans., An Chunggŭn sinmun kirok [The interrogation records of An Chunggŭn] (Seoul: Ch’aeryun, 2010).

                                        (48.) No Ki-nam, Na ŭi insaenggwan: Tangsin ŭi ttuttaero (Seoul: Hwimun, 1978).

                                        (49.) Jim Sinnott, More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea’s Democratic Revolution, ed. Jim Stentzel, 412–451 (Seoul: Korea Democracy Foundation, 2006).

                                        (50.) Kim Dae Jung, Prison Writings, tr. Choi Sung-il and David R. McCann (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).