This photo is from a Catholic retreat in 1912.

History of Catholicism in Korea

Spanish Jesuit priest Gregorio Céspedes was possibly the first Catholic missionary in Korea, arriving in Busan on 27 December 1593. However, Catholicism (and Christianity in general) in Korea more generally began in 1784 when Yi Seung-hun was baptized while in China under the Christian name of Peter. He later returned to Korea carrying religious texts, and baptized many fellow countrymen. The Church in Korea continued without formal missionary priests until a Chinese priest, Zhōu Wénmó arrived in 1794.

During the 19th century, the Catholic Church was targeted by the government of the Joseon Dynasty. Despite a 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 Taegon Kim, who was ordained in 1845 and martyred in 1846 – the Church in Korea expanded.

The Catholic Church in South Korea has seen significant growth in recent years, increasing its membership by from 7.9% of the population to 11% over the past twenty years. At the end of 2017 there were 5,813,770 Catholics in South Korea – 11.0% of the population.

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Seo Sang Don in Daegu, Korea (1912) with French Catholic priests flickr photo by michaelseangallagher shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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"Seo Sang Don in Daegu, Korea (1912) with French Catholic priests" flickr photo by michaelseangallagher https://flickr.com/photos/michaelgallagher/5947088257 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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