emerged - self-propagation and persistence under conditions of severe persecution. Korean Catholicism was not initially the work of foreign missionaries, and thus had sufficient internal strength to maintain itself against great social and political forces.

The appointment of the first missionary was the result of concerns by the bishop in Peking that the fledgling community had created an ecclesiastical structure which was not apostolic in character, i.e. it had not been created by the Roman Catholic Church. The first priest was Father Chou Wen-mu, a Chinese who, owing to the threat of persecution, upon arrival in 1795 sought refuge in the home of an aristocratic lady, Kang Wansuk. In that year, there were some 4,000 believers. By 1800, the Catholic community had increased to 10,000, causing great concern amongst governmental circles who saw this development as a social and a political threat because of Catholicism's recruitment of people from the lower classes. With the sudden death of the tolerant King Chongjo in 1800, his young son came to the throne as a boy. King Sunjo's grandmother, who ruled as queen regent, initiated the first of a series of violent persecutions which were to last for three-quarters of a century.

Three-quarters of a century of persecution: 1800-1871 The Sinyu Persecution of 1801 marks the end ofthe church of scholar aristocrats and the beginning of an underground, persecuted church of the people. Part of the ferocity of this first great persecution was due to the contents of a letter written by Hwang Sayong to the bishop in Peking appealing for a western navy and army to protect the fledgling church. Reading this intercepted letter convinced many government officials that Catholicism endangered both the moral fabric of society by its objections to the performance of the chesa rites, and the existence of the state through its apparent connections to European powers. In the Sinyu persecution many of the key aristocratic leaders of the church were executed, while those who survived either fled to remote rural areas and hid themselves, or divested themselves of their high-class status by taking up menial jobs such as potters and itinerant pedlars. In this way, they came into contact with the poorest and most distressed members of Korean society, with the result that Catholicism spread rapidly amongst the lowest level of society.

Following the conclusion of this first national persecution, local suppressions of Catholicism continued to occur, most notably between 1811 and 1814. After that time, national persecutions broke out roughly every twelve years, the Urhae Persecution of 1815, the Chonghae Persecution of 1827 and the

0 0

Post a comment