Roman Catholicism in South Korea
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The history of Catholicism (and Christianity in general) in Korea began in 1783 when Yi Sung-hun was baptized while in China under 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, Catholic Church suffered persecution by the government of 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 Church structure for next century, the current structure of three Metropolitan Provinces each with an Archdiocese and several suffragen 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 could 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. There are now over 5.1 million Catholics in South Korea — over 10% 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) by nation. There are 15 dioceses including three archdioceses of Seoul, Taegu and Gwangju, and the military ordiniate. North Korean Catholic Church is ecclesiastically united with South Korea, composed of two dioceses of Pyongyang and Hamheung (suffragen to the Metropolitan of Seoul) and the only territorial abbey outside Europe, that of Dokwon.
Roman Catholic Dioceses in Korea
Metropolitan Province of Seoul
- Archdiocese of Seoul
- Diocese of Chuncheon
- Diocese of Incheon
- Diocese of Suwon
- Diocese of Daejeon
- Diocese of Uijeongbu
- Diocese of Wonju
Metropolitan Province of Daegu
Metropolitan Province of Gwangju
- Military Ordinariate of South Korea
Dioceses in North Korea
The dioceses in North Korea are ecclesiastically suffragen to the Province of Seoul. The South Korean bishops serve as the Apostolic Administrators of the Diocese.
- Diocese of Pyongyang-Archbishop of Seoul as the Apostolic Administrator
- Diocese of Hamheung-Bishop of Chuncheon as the Apostolic Administrator
- Dokwon (덕원) in North Korea is the See of the only Territorial Abbey outside Europe. The abbey has been vacant for more than 50 years until Fr. Francis Ri was appointed the abbot in 2005. The Abbey was never united with or changed into a diocese presumably due to the lack of effective church activity in the area since the division of Korea at the end of World War II.
- (English) Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea
- The Catholic Church in South Korea by Giga-Catholic Information