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Kim, Andrew, Paul Chong, and 101 companions

(1839—1846)


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Martyrs in Korea (1839–46 and 1866–7).

Andrew was the first Korean priest; Paul was a prominent layman who came from a family which had already experienced martyrdom. Both in different ways contributed to the survival and growth of Christianity after their deaths. Paul was martyred in 1839, Andrew in 1846. Sixty-seven of the Korean companions were killed between 1839 and 1846; the remaining twenty-five suffered in the later persecution of 1866–7. In 1886 a treaty with France brought the persecutions to an end, except for the massacres in 1901 and the killings during the Korean war in 1950–3.

The Church in Korea began in the late 18th century with individual baptisms in China and the spread of Christian books. The role of laypeople was unusually prominent because for a long time no priests were allowed in the country. Nobly born laypeople like Paul Chong laboured long and hard to obtain missionary priests for his country, travelling nine times to Beijing and writing to Pope Pius VII (c.1820) to ask for his help for the 10,000 Korean Catholics. He would also go to Uiji on the borders to meet any priests who were able to come: they were then provided for by a network of families from many walks of life. These risked their lives to help them live in hiding and celebrate the sacraments.

In 1831 the vicars-apostolic were appointed from the Société des Missions Etrangères at Paris. The first died on his way in Mongolia in 1835. His successor Laurence Imbert entered Korea in 1837, disguising himself in the traditional mourning clothing with a basket over his head. The next year two more French priests arrived. The anti-Christian xenophobic government came to hear of them and started a severe persecution. The bishop and the priests gave themselves up to save the Korean laity and were beheaded at Saenamt'o. Their hopes of saving their followers proved to be in vain. Sixty-seven lay Koreans, including Paul Chong, his mother and a sister, were all executed between 1839 and 1841.

A principal need for the Church was the development of a native clergy. In 1837 three young Koreans went to Macao for seminary training, one of whom was Andrew Kim. He returned home in 1845 to contact the catechists, departing soon afterwards to escort bishop Joseph Ferreol and a French priest into Korea. Andrew was then ordained priest, but his time of ministry proved short. He started to make arrangements for the import of other missionaries, but he was arrested in 1846. He was put in prison, from which he wrote a fine letter of encouragement to his followers. In spite of his impressive personality and considerable linguistic skills he was beheaded at the age of only twenty-six, in 1846. Both the French missionaries and the native Koreans suffered alike prison, torture, stripping, and beheading. The vast majority of the 103 martyrs were Koreans, but the missionaries provided indispensable contributions towards building up the Church in Korea. All were commemorated together in the beatifications of 1925 and 1968 and in their canonization by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Feast: 20 September. See also Korea, Martyrs of.

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Subjects: Christianity.


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