While the circle of friends and relatives around Yi Pyok was able to reconcile Confucian and Catholic beliefs and practices, the vast majority of the Korean literati remained firmly opposed to Catholicism. The situation deteriorated further when instructions coming from Bishop Alexandre de Gouvea (17511808) in Beijing forbade both the appointment of 'lay priests' in the Korean churches and Catholic participation in ancestral rituals. This had tragic consequences. When Paulus Yun Chi-ch'ung burnt his mother's ancestral tablets, in accordance with de Gouvea's instructions, he was executed on 8 December 1791 for his offence against Confucian tradition. Some prominent converts now withdrew from the church; however, the overall number of adherents continued to grow, aided by the general policy of toleration maintained by the Korean King Chongjo. By the end of the eighteenth century, the number of Korean converts had increased to over 10,000.

King Chongjo's policy of toleration, however, came to an end with his sudden death in 1800. The Shinyu Persecution of 1801 began as soon as the formal mourningperiod for the king was over. In the course ofthe persecution, perhaps as many as 300 Catholics died as a result of either formal execution or from wounds suffered under torture. The Chinese priest, Jacobus Zhou Wenmo, who had secretly entered Korea in 1794 and assumed leadership of the Korean Christians, was executed in 1801. Yi Sung-hun was beheaded, even though he had publicly renounced his faith years earlier. Among other prominent Christians who perished was Hwang Sa-yong. At the start of the persecution, Hwang had gone into hiding in the countryside where he wrote a letter to Bishop de Gouvea in Beijing. In this famous 'silk letter', he described the persecution in detail and asked for western military assistance to rescue the beleaguered Catholics and compel the Korean government to grant religious freedom. The interception of Hwang's letter led to a change in official Korean government policy towards Catholics. Until now, the Korean authorities had sought to suppress the Catholics primarily as an intellectual and moral threat. After 1801, however, they began to view Catholicism as a more serious threat to Korea's political independence. Yet the self-evangelizing Korean church not only survived but continued to grow in the face ofthe ferocious anti-Christian campaigns during the early decades of the nineteenth century.


1. Arthur Leonard Tuggy, The Philippine Church: Growth in a changing society (Grand Rapids,

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