Sts. Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and Companions

In 1984 St John Paul II canonised Sts. Andrew and Paul and 101 other martyrs of Korea in Seoul and set their memorial on this day, 20th September. Included also among them were some priests of the Paris Society of the Foreign Missions (MEP).

Catholicism was first planted in Korea by Catholic lay Confucian scholars in the 17th ccntury who brought Catholic literature in Chinese from China. Chinese language in Korea was akin to Latin in Europe – it was the language of literature and scholarship. This was quite something as we know it was generally missionary clerics that spread the faith through the world at that time. But I feel that Korea was not the first society in which laymen first brought the Faith. There must have been many priestless places throughout the world in all of Catholic history where lay Catholics first lived and moved, only later to be sent priests and bishops.

St Andrew Kim (on our left in the picture above) was the first Korean Catholic priest and received his priestly training in Macau and the Philippines. After a little more than one year after his ordination in Shanghai in 1845 he was beheaded after tortures in Korea in 1846 at the ripe old age of 25. His last words were said to be:

This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.

St Paul Chong (on our right) was the son of Catholic parents, who were also martyred as were his brother, sister and uncle. After tortures he was paraded tied to a cross in a cart and finally beheaded in 1839 at around the young age of 45, just a little before his ordination was due.

I am always a little reserved thinking of the Korean martyrs. Their lot was most appalling and gruesome. I am not sure too many of us could endure what they accepted for their Lord. God our Father sends the necessary graces. How else to explain their extraordinary courage?

Catholics form about 10 percent of the population of Korea now. It has been a growing Church drenched in the blood of its numerous great martyrs. The Korean saints are all martyrs. Glorious St Andrew Kim, St Paul Chong and all holy martyr saints of Korea, pray for us that we may remain as faithful as you.

A little Korean video showing us about a film on the life of St Andrew Kim, gone to his eternal reward at age 25. It likens St Andrew’s short life to our Lord’s ascent of Calvary. It starts with St Andrew’s ordination in Shanghai.




About GC

Poor sinner.
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25 Responses to Sts. Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and Companions

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    I visited the memorial to St Andrew Kim at Martyrs Shrine in Midland Ontario on 30 July last.


  2. Toad says:

    Who tortured them to death? To kill someone else over a mere difference of opinion is always unholy, unspeakable, in fact.
    Nowadays there are a remarkable number of Koreans on the Camiino de Santiago.
    Not all Catholics, though.


  3. GC says:

    JH, first Korean priest – yes; first martyr – no, by quite a long shot and most certainly not the last.

    He is the patron of Korea and even has quite a following in the Philippines, and in North America where there are many Koreans. Still that was before Samsung phones and tablets and K-pop, which is everywhere over here now.

    Korea now is a world centre of cosmetic surgery. It’s said if you go to Korea, as thousands do, for facial modifications you have then to get another passport with new improved post-op photo in order to get out of the country. St Andrew Kim, St Paul Chong and Companions pray for us!


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    “…first Korean priest yes. first martyr no by quite a long shot…”
    GC: Thank you for pointing that out. The sign is ambiguous on his martyrdom seniority. I shall leave a note to that effect on his monument the next time I visit there 🙂


  5. GC says:

    Take an indelible marker pen to it and do the job, JH. There we go.

    Lots of selfies, Toad, with the Korean pilgs?


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    That’s funny, GC: I was thinking – as I was typing my last comment – maybe I should scrawl that correction in permanent marker pen above the plaque. But maybe not.


  7. With a change or two, one of Lear’s last lines could fit quite well in the context of these martyrs’ deaths:
    “Upon such sacrifices,…the angels themselves thrown incencse.”


  8. (Sorry, spelling:)
    With a change or two, one of Lear’s last lines could fit quite well in the context of these martyrs’ deaths:
    “Upon such sacrifices,…the angels themselves throw incense.”


  9. johnhenrycn says:

    Typos are the least of your faults, RJB. And mine too.


  10. GC says:

    Here are those angels, RJB.

    JH, you would have known that Pope Francis beatified 124 more martyrs of Korea in 2014?

    Here’s a short English language report on the history of the Korean Church and the martyrs.


  11. Toad says:

    I don’t take photos of any description,GC.
    But by jingo, the pilgrims do. There are probably now more snaps in existence of me onThe Camino with the furry fools – than there are of the Great Pyramid of Geezer


  12. Tom Fisher says:

    The hats. I love the hats.


  13. GC says:

    You mean the gats … I love the gats, Mr Fisher, as they are called. . . yes . . . gats.

    So in Korea, the song would have been Where did you get that gat, where did you get that tile?

    Black gats were worn by men who had passed the state Confucian examinations. Their tall cylindrical shape was where these men could pop their topknots, or sangtu, comfortably.


  14. Tom Fisher says:

    Fascinating. So portraying them in that garb is the equivalent of the orthodox / eastern tradition of showing saints with flowing beards to symbolize wisdom? Gats are new to me, but then again:


  15. GC says:

    Toad @September 20, 2016 at 19:54

    To kill someone else over a mere difference of opinion is always unholy, unspeakable, in fact.

    It appears a mere difference of opinion was not so mere for the rich and powerful in Korea in those times, Toad. Ideas have consequences> as one clever-clogs solemnly wrote about once not that long ago.

    I’m forcing my memory here a bit, but I think the young scholars and students who read the Catholic literature in China and brought it to Korea were very dissatisfied with the Confucian system of government in Korea at the time. Their reading of Catholic thought inspired them to try and improve things in accordance with the Catholic thought/teaching they read. Bound to get into trouble with the big-shots like the king and his retinue – which they did.

    I suppose all our “religion is the biggest cause of war” friends could be glad to learn that the Catholics really copped it in Korea in the 18th and 19th centuries. But perhaps I misjudge them. However, at least we can say that the Catholics were suffering for a very honourable reason indeed. And the xenophobia of the original “hermit kingdom”, Korea under the Joseon kings, seems to have played a large part in it too.

    Would be good to know more about the troubles, so I’ll try to find more.


  16. GC says:

    Mr Fisher (2 above) So portraying them in that garb is the equivalent of the orthodox / eastern tradition of showing saints with flowing beards to symbolize wisdom?

    Not quite, Mr Fisher, not quite. There were many different styles of gats and in the end I think everybody wanted to get a gat. There were gat-makers galore. They were the height of fashion.

    Although the precise form of early Joseon gat is indeterminable, records exist regarding the gat, the heukrip, the gojeonglip, the jungnip and the chorip. The shape of the gat was first discussed during the reign of King Seongjeong (r. 1469-1494), when it was name the ibche wonjeong-I cheomgwang, meaning that it had “a round top and a broad brim.” It was decreed that all gat would be produced following this format.

    It would appear that following King Seongjong, the gat neared its stage of completion. From the hemispherical crown and broad brim of the balip, the gat was altered to have a more cylindrical crown with a narrow top and a broader base, and was produced using a more diverse range of materials. Having undergone phases such as the pyeongnyangja and chorip, headgear in Korea culminated in the heukrip, which is representative of the Joseon period.

    Read more.


  17. kathleen says:

    GC – this has all been so interesting, and the pics and videos are wonderful. Many thanks.
    (Sorry, I’ve been too tied up with family matters to pop in to say so earlier. 😉 )

    “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”, once saith Tertulian.

    Never in recent centuries has that famous saying been better applied than to these thousands of courageous martyrs of South Korea, it would seem! Brutal persecution, torture and murder, and yet the Catholic Faith just spread and grew – a reflection of those tough early centuries of Christianity.

    The statistics are really staggering, and also very encouraging. In the year 1900, the percentage of all Christians in SK was just 1%. It now stands at 29% in just over 100 years, with Catholics making up nearly 11% (according to Pew Centre), but growing faster than the various Protestant groups. Amazing! Wiki says:

    “The Catholic Church in South Korea has seen prodigious growth in recent years, increasing its membership by 70% in the past ten years. At the end of 2014 there were 5,560,971 Catholics in South Korea — 10.6% of the population. In 2014, the Church grew by 2.2%, as over 98,000 Koreans became Catholic.”


  18. Toad says:

    “It appears a mere difference of opinion was not so mere for the rich and powerful in Korea in those times, Toad.”
    No indeed, GC. Differences of opinion are always more significant to those involved to those of us glumly watching on.
    But – look at the picture of the Korean saints in heaven. Everyone is just standing there – doing nothing. but staring at the dude’s gat. It’s a gat and a half, all right, but even so. All right to contemplate for the first half a million years, no doubt – but then it might get a bit dull. Maybe Hell is more fun?


  19. kathleen says:

    Maybe Hell is more fun?

    Ooh, I doubt it Toad; lots of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” down there! And nasty little devils pricking you with pitchforks whilst you roast. Your idea of “fun”? 😉

    Seriously though, it is the eternal absence of God, for Whom we were created, that brings the greatest suffering to the souls in Hell. No penance or mortification was too much for little seven year old Jacinta of Fatima to help save souls from going to Hell once she had seen its unspeakabe horrors.

    And the heavenly banquet? I remember cheeky girls at school, having seen pictures of saints just standing around or singing hymns among clouds saying, like you, that it all looked rather boring! That’s because Heaven is so far beyond our wildest imaginings in its wonders, that even the greatest of artists do not know where to begin to try to reflect it. Blessed souls who have had only the faintest of glimpses or inklings of Heaven given to them on Earth, find that their longing for it then becomes almost unbearable.

    “That which eye has not seen nor ear heard neither has entered into the heart of man is that which God has prepared for those that love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9)


  20. GC says:

    kathleen @September 21, 2016 at 20:22

    Yes kathleen, more than 30% of Koreans are now Christians and Korea sends out the second highest number of Christian missionaries in the world (USA, of course, sending the highest number).

    I gather the protestant missionaries only began arriving in Korea in the 1880s, mainly presbyterians. This was after the terrible persecutions of Catholics had ceased. I think I am pretty right saying this. The protestants were very busy setting up schools around the country. Many of the top universities in Korea today were protestant foundations.


  21. GC says:

    Toad @September 21, 2016 at 20:37
    Maybe Hell is more fun?

    As we keep trying to convince you, Toad, ultimately the choice is yours.

    What it sounds like in Korean when heaps of peeps elect to go the other way.

    Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
    and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
    and the King of Glory shall come in.
    Who is this King of Glory?
    The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

    Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
    and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
    and the King of Glory shall come in.
    Who is this King of Glory?
    The LORD of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
    (Psalm 24:7-10, King James version)


  22. GC says:

    Let’s have a last little biographical video on St Andrew Kim.

    Mr Fisher, the hats!


  23. GC says:

    Dedicated to Mr Tom Fisher:


  24. GC says:

    The splendid flowering of the Church in Korea today is indeed the fruit of the heroic witness of the Martyrs. Even today, their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the North of this tragically divided land. (St John Paul II at the canonisation of the Korean Martyrs, in Seoul 1984).

    For more of John Paul’s words in Seoul please go here.


  25. GC says:

    Saint Andrew Kim, the first Korean Priest: his apostolic journeys to introduce missionaries into Korea – his martyrdom

    If one day some fine Korean decides to sing of the Christian glories of his country, he will not be lacking in noble persons – children and virgins, men, women and elders – who died in the simplicity of their Faith. And if he were obliged to choose among this incomparable legion of witnesses of Jesus Christ, we may imagine that the features of Andrew Kim would capture his attention and that the brief and triumphant epic of the first Korean priest would give rise to inspiration in his soul. Indeed, this young man is exceptionally captivating.

    (Translated from Canon Léon Joly’s Le Christianisme et l’Extrême-Orient: Missions Catholiques de l’Inde, de L’Indo-Chine, de la Chine, de la Corée, P. Lethielleux: Paris, 1907).

    Read on.


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