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September 20th - Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions

St. Andrew Kim,
St. Paul Chong Hasang,
& Companions

Feast Day: September 20th

Patron Saint: Korea, Korean Clergy
Deaths: 1839-1867 (103 martyrs)

The story of the Korean Martyrs is an interesting one. During the 18th century, the Korean peninsula was ruled by the Joseon Dynasty, which based most of its societal structure on Confucianism. Society was hierarchical and only the wealthy nobility and scholars were in a privileged position. If you didn't fall into either of those categories, you found yourself in a position of lower-class. The lower-class was the backbone of Korean society. They worked the hard jobs, paid the taxes that supported society, and provided the man-power for the military. Of course there was also a slave class that was even below the lower-class.

The Bible was first introduced to Korea from China by scholars, but many treated the book as nothing more than a book of stories. Those who would truly spread the faith were the lower-class and slaves. It was because the Bible introduced a loving God who valued all of creation. It was a God who Himself became incarnate and would have lived a life similar to that of the lower-class. It was this group of people, the "friends of the teaching of God in Heaven" who spread the faith like a firestorm.

Soon after the spread of the faith throughout even the remotest regions of the peninsula, it was only a few dozen years by the time over 4000 people considered themselves "Friends." They formed home churches, much like the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. And it was in this way that the first priest missionaries from China would find them. Searching for worthy candidates for priesthood, these priests selected were Andrew Kim.  Andrew Kim would become the first native priest of Korea.

Unfortunately, soon after Christianity started spreading even more throughout Korea, the government tried to put a stop to it. Andrew Kim would be martyred 13 months after his ordination at the age of 26 in 1846. Paul Hasang, a Korean Seminarian, would be martyred as well. The government didn't like this idea of a classless society that was preached about in the Bible. By 1866, there were 20,000 Catholics in Korea and about half were martred (10,000+). 

On May 6th, 1984, Pope John Paul II would travel to Seoul to Canonize the  103 martyrs. Pope Francis would Canonize more Korean martyrs on August 16th, 2014 also in Seoul Korea. It is estimated that 10% of the Korean population is Catholic, and even though Catholicism is relatively new to the peninsula, Korea has the 4th largest population of Martyrs in the Church's history.