Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Dynasty, Psalms 118 , Luke 7:36-50, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Korean Martyrs, Christianity on Korea

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: 
Dynasty, Psalms 118 , Luke 7:36-50, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Korean Martyrs, Christianity on Korea

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  dynasty  dy·nas·ty  [dahy-nuh-stee]

Origin:  1425–75; late Middle English  < Late Latin dynastīa  < Greek dynasteia. See dynast, -y3

noun, plural dy·nas·ties.
1. a sequence of rulers from the same family, stock, or group: the Ming dynasty.
2. the rule of such a sequence.
3. a series of members of a family who are distinguished for their success, wealth, etc.


Today's Old Testament Reading - Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 28

1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever.
2 Let the House of Israel say, 'His faithful love endures for ever.'
16 Yahweh's right hand is victorious, Yahweh's right hand is triumphant!'
17 I shall not die, I shall live to recount the great deeds of Yahweh.
28 You are my God, I thank you, all praise to you, my God. I thank you for hearing me, and making yourself my Saviour.


Today's Gospel Reading -   Gospel Reading - Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, suddenly a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of person it is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ He replied, ‘Say on, Master.’ ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he let them both off. Which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one who was let off more, I suppose.’ Jesus said, ‘You are right.’ Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

• Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the woman with the perfume who was accepted by Jesus during a feast in house of Simon the Pharisee. One of the aspects of the novelty of the Good News of Jesus is the surprising attitude of Jesus toward women. At the time of the New Testament women lived marginalized. In the Synagogue they could not participate in the public life and they could not be witnesses. Many women, though, resisted this exclusion. From the time of Ezra, the marginalization of women had been increasing on the part of the religious authority (Ezr 9, 1 to 10, 44), and the resistance of women against their exclusion, also increased, as we can see in the stories of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Noemi, Suzanne, and the Sulamite and others. This resistance found echo and acceptance in Jesus. In the episode of the woman with the perfume there is inconformity which springs up and the resistance of the women in the life of every day and the acceptance of Jesus.

• Luke 7, 36-38: The situation which breaks out the debate. Three completely different persons meet with one another: Jesus, Simon, the Pharisee, a practicing Jew, and the woman, whom they said that she was a sinner. Jesus is in the house of Simon who has invited him to dinner with him. The woman enters, and she places herself at the feet of Jesus, and begins to cry bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears, and dries them with her loose hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with perfume. To get the hair loose in public was a gesture of independence. Jesus does not draw back, nor does he send the woman away, rather he accepts her gesture.

• Luke 7, 39-40: The reaction of the Pharisee and the response of Jesus. Jesus was accepting a person, who, according to the custom of the time, could not be accepted, because she was a sinner. The Pharisee, observing everything, criticizes Jesus and condemns the woman: “If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of person it is who is touching him and what a bad name she has”. Jesus uses a parable to respond to the provocation of the Pharisee.

• Luke 7, 41-43: The parable of the two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, the other 50. Neither one was able to pay, both of them were forgiven. Which of them will love their master more? Response of the Pharisee: “The one who was let off more, I suppose!” The parable presupposes that both, the Pharisee and the woman, had received some favour from Jesus. In the attitude that both take before Jesus they indicate how much they appreciate the favour received. The Pharisee shows his love, his gratitude, by inviting Jesus to eat with him. The woman shows her love, her gratitude, by her tears, the kisses and the perfume.

• Luke 7, 44-47: The message of Jesus for the Pharisee. After having received the response of the Pharisee, Jesus applies the parable. Even if he was in the house of the Pharisee, invited by him, Jesus does not lose the freedom to speak and to act. He defends the woman against the criticism of the practicing Jew. The message of Jesus for the Pharisees of all times is this one: “The one who is forgiven little, loves little!” A Pharisee thinks that he is not a sinner because he observes the law in everything. The personal assurance that I, a Pharisee, create for myself many times, in the observance of the Law of God and of the Church, prevents me from experiencing the gratuity of the love of God. What is important is not the observance of the law in itself, but the love with which I observe the law. And using the symbols of the love of the woman, Jesus responds to the Pharisee who considered himself to be in peace with God: “you poured no water over my feet; you gave me no kiss, you did not anoint my head with perfumed oil! Simon, in spite of the banquet that you have offered me, you have loved very little!”

• Luke 7, 48-50: The word of Jesus to the woman. Jesus declares that the woman is forgiven and then adds: “Your faith has saved you, go in peace!” Here we have the novelty of the attitude of Jesus. He does not condemn but he accepts. It is faith which helps the woman to encounter herself and to encounter God. In the relationship with Jesus, a new force springs up in her and makes her be born again.

Personal questions
• Where, when and how are women despised or rejected by the Pharisee of today?
• The woman certainly would not have done what she did if she was not absolutely certain that Jesus would accept her. Do the marginalized and migrant persons have the same certainty today?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  St. Andrew Kim Taegon

Feast Day: September 20
Patron Saint: Korean Clergy

Andrea Kim Taegon
Andrea Kim Taegon (김대건 안드레아, Hanja: 金大建) (1821-1846), more commonly known as St. Andrew Kim Taegon in the English-speaking world, was the first Korean-born Catholic priest. In the late 18th century, Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in Korea, and was introduced by laypeople. It was not until 1836 that Korea saw its first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrive, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Catholicism.

Born of yangban, Kim's parents were converts and his father was subsequently martyred for practising Christianity, a prohibited activity in heavily Confucian Korea. After being baptized at age 15, Kim studied at a seminary in the Portuguese colony of Macau. He also spent time in study at Lolomboy, Bulacan, Philippines, where a statue of his stands in a village. He was ordained a priest in Shanghai after nine years (1844) by the French bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol. He then returned to Korea to preach and evangelize. During the Joseon Dynasty, Christianity was suppressed and many Christians were persecuted and executed. Catholics had to covertly practise their faith. Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were:

Before Ferréol, the first Bishop of Korea, died from exhaustion on the third of February, 1853, he wanted to be buried beside Kim, stating, “You will never know how sad I was to lose this young native priest. I have loved him as a father loved his son; it is a consolation for me to think of his eternal happiness.”

On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized Kim along with 102 other Korean Martyrs, including Paul Chong Hasang, during his trip to Korea. Their memorial is September 20.


  • The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints (2): St. Kim Tae-gon Andrew, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea Newsletter No. 27 (Summer 1999).


Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


Today's Snippet I:  Korean Martyrs

Korean Martyrs
The Korean Martyrs were the victims of religious persecution against the Catholic Church during the 19th century in Korea. At least 8,000 adherents to the faith were known to have been killed during this persecution, 103 of whom were canonized en masse in May 1984.


Catholicism had entered Korea in the seventeenth century by means of books written by Jesuit missionaries in China and brought back by visitors to Beijing. Although no Koreans were converted to Catholicism by these books until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the ideas of the Catholic priests espoused in them were debated and denounced as heterodox as early as 1724. The strong and dynamic Catholic communities were led almost entirely by educated lay people of the aristocratic classes (as they were the only ones who could read the books that were written in Hanja) until the arrival of the first French missionaries in 1836.

The Catholic community suffered major persecutions in the years 1839, 1846 and 1866, chiefly for the religion's refusal to carry out the traditional worship of ancestors, which it perceived to be a form of false idolatry, but which the State prescribed as a cornerstone of culture.

The persecutions produced at least 8,000 known martyrs. Among them were the fervent Korean priest Andrew Kim Taegŏn and the Korean lay catechist Paul Chŏng Hasang. The vast majority of the martyrs were simple lay people, including men and women, married and single, old and young. 79 martyrs of Korea were beatified in 1925 and 24 more were beatified in 1968 and the combined 103 martyrs were canonized in 1984, with their feast day set on September 20. Currently, Korea has the 4th largest number of saints in the Catholic world.

From the last letter of Andrew Kim Taegŏn to his parish as he awaited martyrdom with a group of twenty persons:
My dear brothers and sisters, know this: Our Lord Jesus Christ upon descending into the world took innumerable pains upon and constituted the holy Church through his own passion and increases it through the passion of its faithful....
Now, however, some fifty or sixty years since the holy Church entered into our Korea, the faithful suffer persecutions again. Even today persecution rages, so that many of our friends of the same faith, among whom I am myself, have been thrown into prison. just as you also remain in the midst of persecution. Since we have formed one body, how can we not be saddened in our innermost hearts? How can we not experience the pain of separation in our human faculties?
However, as Scripture says, God cares for the least hair of our heads, and indeed he cares with his omniscience; therefore, how can persecution be considered as anything other than the command of God, or his prize, or precisely his punishment?...
We are twenty here, and thanks be to God all are still well. If anyone is killed, I beg you not to forget his family. I have many more things to say, but how can I express them with pen and paper? I make an end to this letter. Since we are now close to the struggle, I pray you to walk in faith, so that when you have finally entered into Heaven, we may greet one another. I leave you my kiss of love.
Claude-Charles Dallet wrote a comprehensive history of the Catholic Church in Korea.
The Korean Martyrs were known for the staunchness, sincerity, and number of their converts.
Coreans, unlike Chinese and Japanese, make the most staunch and devoted converts; they have their vices, but there is something exceedingly lovable in the simple Corean character. ... The Annamese make better converts than either Chinese or Japanese, whose tricky character, however, they share; but they are gentler and more sympathetic; they do not possess the staunch masculinity of the Coreans.
An observation, founded upon many years' experience, may not be out of place here, and that is, that among all Asiatic nationalities there is probably none more inclined to be converted to Christianity than the Corean. A Chinaman gets baptized in consideration of the worldly and material advantages which he expects to gain thereby; the Corean has nothing of the sort to expect, but only persecution, torture, and often death itself. He becomes a Christian from conviction, not from any mercenary motives.
The Corean possesses the most perfect dispositions for receiving the faith. Once convinced, he accepts and attaches himself to it, in spite of all sacrifices it may cost him. - Berneux, bishop and martyr of Korea
Certainly few countries, if any, have to tell of such a painful apostolate, or of one which has had such success. Japan alone in later days can boast a martyrology at all to compare with that of Corea in the number of the slain, or in the heroism of those who died for Christ.
They were canonized in May 1984 by Pope John Paul II. In a break with tradition, the ceremony did not take place in Rome, but in Seoul.


  • Baker, Don (1999). "Catholicism in a Confucian World." In Culture and the State in Late Choson Korea. Edited by Haboush and Beuchler. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, p. 20
  •  Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John (1993). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
  • Dallet, Charles (1874). Histoire de l'Église de Corée, Volume 1. Paris: Librairie Victor Palmé. (French)
  • Dallet, Charles (1874). Histoire de l'Église de Corée, Volume 2. Paris: Librairie Victor Palmé. (French)
  • Fathers of the London Oratory (1859). The New Glories of the Catholic Church. London: Richardson and Son.


Today's Snippet II :  Christianity in Korea

The practice of Christianity in Korea revolves around two of its largest branches, Protestantism and Catholicism, accounting for 8.6 million and 5.1 million members respectively. Roman Catholicism was first introduced during the late Joseon Dynasty period. In 1603, Yi Gwang-jeong, Korean diplomat, returned from Beijing carrying a world atlas and several theological books written by Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary to China. He began disseminating the information in the books and the first seeds of Christianity were sown. In 1758 King Yeongjo of Joseon officially outlawed Catholicism as an evil practice. Roman Catholicism was again introduced in 1785 by Yi Sung-hun. Korean Christians were subject to persecution and hardship but this did not deter believers.

Many were martyred, especially during the Catholic Persecution of 1801 and later, the most famous of whom was Andrew Kim Taegon, who was beheaded in 1846 at the age of 25 for his practice of a foreign religion. The Joseon Dynasty saw the new religion as a subversive influence and persecuted its earliest followers in Korea, culminating in the Catholic Persecution of 1866, in which 8,000 Catholics across the country were killed, including 9 French missionaries. The opening of Korea to the outside world in the following years brought religious toleration for the remaining Catholics and also introduced Protestantism. The first Presbyterian missionary in Korea, Horace Newton Allen, arrived in 1884 and remained in Korea until 1890, by which time he had been joined by many others.

The growth of both was gradual until the middle of the 20th century, when a number of factors encouraged the growth of Christianity in Korea, and its growth since the 1960s has been significant enough that the number of adherents to Christianity surpassed that of adherents to the traditional religions. Today, Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Roman Catholicism in South Korea face different challenges, with Korean Protestantism struggling with controversy and a declining number of followers, while the Catholic Church in Korea has increased its membership by 70% in the last ten years. Anglicanism in Korea has also experienced significant growth in the recent decades.


Seohak was the introduction of technology, philosophy and most prominently, Catholicism and Western ideas to Joseon Korea in the 18th century. It is also occasionally referred to as Cheonjuhak (천주학; 天主學;Ch’ŏnhak) which means 'Heavenly Learning'.


Catholicism entered Korea indirectly in the 18th century via limited transmission of royal messengers carrying books from missionaries in Qing China. In this way, Seohak slowly entered Korea in the form of foreign books translated into Classical Chinese. This is unique in that Catholicism originally spread without the direct influence of missionaries in Korea. Although, eventually foreign missionaries entered Korea in 1836.

Seohak was seen as a western philosophy, instead of a religion, which embraced new technology. This movement was initially accepted only by a minority of progressive thinkers and even fewer people were ready to accept the Catholic aspect of Seohak.

Allegedly, in 1784 after Yi Sung-hun was baptized in Beijing, he came to Seoul and baptized Yi Byuk in the personal home of Kim Pom-u at the present site of Myeongdong Cathedral. In the spring of 1785, this location was the site of an arrest for holding a religious meeting. Although Yi Sung-hun would be released, Kim Pom-u would later be remembered as the first Catholic martyr in Korea after his initial exile and subsequent execution.


Many of the Korean elite saw Seohak as a modified form of Buddhism which threatened the social order of the time. Furthermore, it promoted the idea of social equality which challenged the established order at the time. In addition, many Korean Catholics refused to do ancestor worship due to religious conflicts. This eventually led to the Catholic Persecution of 1801.

Roman Catholicism in South Korea

The Roman Catholic Church in South Korea is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome. The history of Catholicism (and Christianity in general) in Korea began in 1784 when Yi Seung-hun was baptized while in China under the Christian name of Peter. He later returned home with various religious texts and baptized many of his fellow countrymen. The Church in Korea survived without any formal missionary priests until clergy from France (the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrived in 1836 for the ministry.

During the 19th century, the Catholic Church suffered persecution by the government of the Joseon Dynasty, chiefly for the religion's refusal to carry out ancestral worship, which it at first perceived to be a form of idolatry, but which the State prescribed as a cornerstone of its culture. Despite the century-long persecution that produced thousands of martyrs, 103 of whom were canonized by Pope John Paul II in May 1984, including the first Korean priest, St. Andrew Dae-gun Kim, who was ordained in 1845 and martyred in 1846 - the Church in Korea expanded. The Apostolic Vicariate of Korea was formed in 1831, and after the expansion of the Church structure over the next century, the current structure of the three Metropolitan Provinces, each with an Archdiocese and several suffragan Dioceses, was established in 1962.

The Roman Catholic Church in South Korea has seen prodigious growth in recent years, increasing its membership by 70% in the past ten years. Part of this growth can be attributed to the Church's relatively positive perception by the general public for its role in the democratization of South Korea, its active participation in various works of social welfare, and its respectful approach to interfaith relationship and matters of traditional Korean spirituality. As of December 31, 2011 the church has 5,309,964 Catholics in South Korea — 10.3% the population. South Korea (and by extension the Catholic Church in all Korea, north and south) has the fourth largest number of saints in the Catholic Church since 1984 as categorized by nation. There are 15 dioceses including three archdioceses of Seoul, Daegu and Gwangju, and the military ordiniate. The North Korean Catholic Church is ecclesiastically united with South Korea, composed of two dioceses of Pyongyang and Hamheung (suffragan to the Metropolitan of Seoul) and the only territorial abbey outside Europe, that of Dokwon.

Catholic Persecution of 1801

The Catholic Persecution of 1801, also known as the Sinyu Persecution (신유박해, 辛酉迫害), was a mass persecution of Korean Catholics ordered by Shameless regent Dowager Queen Jeongsun during King Sunjo of Joseon's reign on April 8, 1801 (the 26th of the 2nd lunar month).

Events leading up to the execution include the "Hwang Sa-yeong Incident". Church leader Hwang Sa-yeong wrote a letter that was both critical of the Joseon government and also advocated a plan to ask for a Western ship to come to Korea in an effort to aid the persecuted Catholics. The letter was intercepted on its way to Beijing. This enraged the reclusive government and Hwang was later executed.

Not all Catholics were executed, however. Some 199 were exiled and were both ridiculed and watched closely for the remainder of their lives.

Growth of Christianity


"In the 1960s the church reached out to people who were oppressed, such as prostitutes and new industrial laborers. As the Korean economy was burgeoning, the issue of the industrial labor force came to the fore as one of the most important areas of evangelization work. Churches established industrial chaplaincies among the workers within factories. In addition, with military service mandatory for men in South Korea, the part the chaplain's corps in the armed forces became equally important. Many soldiers converted to Christianity during their military service."

Academic sympathy

Matteo Ricci's books provoked academic controversy when Yi Gwang-jeong brought them into Korea, and academics remained critical for many years. Early in the 17th century, Yi Su-gwang, a court scholar, and Yu Mong-in, a cabinet minister, wrote highly critical commentaries on Ricci's works, and over the next two centuries academic criticism of Christian beliefs continued. Some scholars, however, were more sympathetic to Christianity. Members of the Silhak (실학; "practical learning") school believed in social structure based on merit rather than birth (see classism), and were therefore often opposed by the mainstream academic establishment.

Silhak scholars saw Christianity as an ideological basis for their beliefs and were therefore attracted to what they saw as the egalitarian values of Christianity. When Christianity was finally established in Korea, there was already a substantial body of educated opinion sympathetic to it, which was crucial to the spread of the Catholic faith in the 1790s. An 1801 study indicated that 55% of all Catholics had family ties to the Silhak school.

Lay leadership

As a result of the influence of the Silhak school, Christianity in Korea began as an indigenous lay movement rather than being imposed by a foreign ecclesiastical hierarchy. The first Catholic prayer-house was founded in 1784 at Pyongyang by Yi Sung-hun, a diplomat who had been baptized in Beijing. In 1786, Yi proceeded to establish a hierarchy of lay-priests. Although the Vatican ruled in 1789 that the appointment of lay-priests violated Canon Law, Christianity was introduced into Korea by indigenous lay-workers, not by foreign prelates. Since Christianity began as largely a grass roots effort in Korea, it spread more quickly through the population than it would if it had originated with outsiders with no initial popular support.

Hangul, literacy and education

Hangul, a phonemic Korean alphabet invented around 1446 by scholars in the court of King Sejong, was used little for several centuries because of the perceived cultural superiority of Classical Chinese (a position similar to that of Latin in Europe). However, the Catholic Church became the first Korean organization to officially recognize the value of using Hangul, and Bishop Berneux mandated that all Catholic children be taught to read it. Christian literature printed for use in Korea, including that used by the network of schools established by Christian missionaries, mostly used the Korean language and the easily learned Hangul script. This combination of factors resulted in a rise in the overall literacy rate, and enabled Christian teachings to spread beyond the elite, who mostly used Chinese. As early as the 1780s, portions of the Gospels appeared in Hangul; doctrinal books such as the "Jugyo Yoji" (주교요지) appeared in the 1790s and a Catholic hymnary was printed around 1800.

John Ross, a Scottish Presbyterian missionary in Manchuria, completed his translation of the Bible into Korean in 1887 and Protestant leaders began a mass-circulation effort. In addition, they established the first modern educational institutions in Korea. The Methodist Paichai School for boys was founded in 1885, and the Methodist Ewha School for girls (later to become Ewha Womans University) followed in 1886. These, and similar schools established soon afterwards, helped the expansion of Protestantism among the common people, and Protestants surpassed Catholics as the largest Christian group in Korea. Female literacy rose sharply, since women had previously been excluded from the educational system.

Korean Tradition

The spread of Christianity in Korea was aided by the similarity of certain Christian doctrines with a number of Korean traditions. Unlike prevailing Chinese and Japanese religions of the time, shamanist Koreans had a monotheistic concept of a Creator-God, whom they called Hwan-in or Hana-nim (하나님) (later also Haneul-nim, 하늘님/하느님, or Hana-nim, 하나님). According to an ancient myth, Hwan-in had a son named Hwanung (환웅), who in turn had fathered a human son named Dangun in 2333 BC. According to the story, Dangun founded the first Korean state and taught his people the elements of civilization during his thousand-year reign. There are several variants of the myth, one of which depicts Dangun as having been mothered by a virgin. Some modern theologians have even attempted to explain the Christian concept of the Trinity in terms of the three divine characters in the Dangun myth. These parallels helped the Korean people's understanding of various Christian teachings, such as the incarnation of Jesus.

Korean nationalism

One of the most important factors leading to widespread acceptance of Christianity in Korea was the identification that many Christians forged with the cause of Korean nationalism during the Japanese occupation (1910–1945). During this period, seven million Koreans were exiled or deported and a systematic campaign of cultural assimilation was attempted. In 1938, even use of the Korean language was prohibited. However, the distinctly Korean nature of the church was reinforced during those years by the allegiance to the nation that was demonstrated by many Christians. While the subsequent constitution of South Korea guarantees freedom of religion as well as separation of church and state, the South Korean government has been favorable to Christianity, regarding the religion as an ideological protection against Communism.

On 1 March 1919, an assembly of 33 religious and professional leaders known as the "March 1 Movement" passed a Declaration of independence. Although organized by leaders of the Chondogyo religion, 15 of the 33 signatories were Protestants, and many of them were imprisoned. Also in 1919, the predominantly Catholic pro-independence movement called "Ulmindan" was founded, and a China-based government-in-exile was at one time led by Syngman Rhee, a Methodist.

Christianity was linked even more with the patriotic cause when Christians refused to participate in worship of the Japanese Emperor, which was required by law in the 1930s. Although this refusal was motivated by theological rather than political convictions, the consequent imprisonment of many Christians strongly identified their faith, in the eyes of many Koreans, with the cause of Korean nationalism and resistance to the Japanese occupation.

Minjung theology

The Christian concept of individual worth has found expression in a lengthy struggle for human rights and democracy in Korea. In recent years, this struggle has taken the form of Minjung theology. Minjung theology is based on the "image of God" concept expressed in Genesis 1:26–27, but also incorporates the traditional Korean feeling of han, a word that has no exact English translation, but that denotes a sense of inconsolable pain and utter helplessness. Minjung theology depicts commoners in Korean history as the rightful masters of their own destiny. Two of the country's best known political leaders, Kim Young-sam, a Presbyterian, and Kim Dae-jung, a Roman Catholic, subscribe to Minjung theology. Both men spent decades opposing military governments in South Korea and were frequently imprisoned as a result, and both also served terms as President of the Republic after democracy was restored in 1988.

One manifestation of Minjung theology in the final years of the Park Chung-hee regime (1961–1979) was the rise of several Christian social missions, such as the Catholic Farmers Movement and the Protestant Urban Industrial Mission, which campaigned for better wages and working conditions for laborers. The military government imprisoned many of their leaders because it considered the movement a threat to social stability, and their struggle coincided with a period of unrest which culminated in the assassination of President Park on 26 October 1979.

Social Change

Many Korean Christians believe that their values have had a positive effect on various social relationships. Traditional Korean society was hierarchically arranged according to Confucian principles under the semi-divine emperor. Women had no social rights, children were totally subservient to their parents, and individuals had no rights except as defined by the overall social system. This structure was challenged by the Christian teaching that all human beings are created in the image of God and thus that every one of them is equal and has essential worth. According to Kim Han-sik, this concept also supported the idea of property being owned by individuals rather than by families (or by the heads of families).

Christians regarded the emperor as a mere man who was as much under God's authority as were his subjects, and Christian values favored the social emancipation of women and children. The church permitted the remarriage of widows (as taught by the apostle Paul, not traditionally allowed in East Asian societies), prohibited concubinage and polygamy, and forbade cruelty to or desertion of wives. Christian parents were taught to regard their children as gifts from God, and were required to educate them. Arranged child marriages and the neglect of daughters (who were often regarded as less desirable than sons in Asian culture) were prohibited.

Cultural significance

Prior to the Korean War (1950–1953), two-thirds of Korean Christians lived in the North, but most later fled to the South. It is not known exactly how many Christians remain in North Korea today, and there is some uncertainty about the exact number in South Korea. It is known that by the end of the 1960s there were around one million Protestants in South Korea, but during the "Conversion Boom" period ending in the 1980s, the number of Protestants increased faster than in any other country. The 2005 South Korean census showed 29.2 percent of the population as Christian, up from 26.3 percent ten years previously. Presbyterian Churches are the biggest Protestant denominations in South Korea, with close to 20,000 churches affiliated with the two largest Presbyterian denominations in the country.

South Korea provides the world's second largest number of Christian missionaries, surpassed by the United States. GSM, the missionary body of the "Hapdong" General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of Korea, is the single largest missionary organization in South Korea. South Korean missionaries are especially prevalent in 10/40 Window nations that are hostile to Westerners. In 2000, there were 10,646 Protestant South Korean missionaries in 156 countries, along with an undisclosed number of Catholic missionaries. According to an article published in 2004 "South Korea dispatched more than 12,000 missionaries to over 160 countries in comparison to about 46,000 American and 6,000 British missionaries, according to missionary organizations in South Korea and the West". According to an article published in 2007 "Korea has 16,000 missionaries working overseas, second only to the US". In 1980, South Korea sent 93 missionaries and by 2009 it was around 20,000.

Seoul contains 11 of the world's 12 largest Christian congregations. A number of South Korean Christians, including David Yonggi Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, have attained worldwide prominence. Rev. Abraham Park Yoon-Sik, Senior Pastor of the Pyungkang Cheil Presbyterian Church (one of the largest Christian churches in South Korea), is the author of the History of Redemption Series of books which have garnered strong praise from theologians worldwide. He is also the co-founder of the Abraham Park Kenneth Vine Collection biblical museum in Seoul. Aaron Tan, director of the Hong Kong architectural firm called Research Architecture Design, described the night scene of Seoul as "full of glowing Christian crosses".


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