The Martyrs of Korea
Celebrated on September 20th
Christianity first came to Korea through books, sent from China. The first Koreans were baptised in Peking in 1784. Ten years later, a Chinese priest visiting Korea found 4,000 Christians. He stayed with them until he was killed in 1801. For the next 30 years, the community did not have a priest.
In 1837, Pope Pius VII sent Bishop Laurence Imbert with two priests from the Paris Missionary Society to China. Christianity was punishable by death at that time, so they worked in secrecy and lived in incredibly poor conditions. But the growing numbers of Christians could not remain hidden forever. Violent persecutions began and the three priests allowed themselves to be arrested to avert a riot. They were beheaded at Seoul on 21 September 1839. Later 78 Koreans were martyred. In 1846 the first Korean priest, Andrew Kim, died for his faith. The entire group was canonised in May 1984.
At least 8,000 (as many as 10,000) Catholics were killed during this period. A further group, Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions were declared ‘Venerable’ on February 7, 2014, and on August 16, 2014, they were beatified by Pope Francis during the Asian Youth Day in Gwanghwamun Plaza, Seoul, South Korea. Their feasts are celebrated today and 9 May.