Catholicism first came to Korea as the result of Koreans’ interest in Western academic studies. Korean diplomatic missions to the imperial court of China came across Jesuit missionary books and brought them back to Korea. In 1784, during a trip to China, a young Korean named Lee Seung-hoon met a French priest, Father Grammont, who taught him about Catholicism. Lee Seung-hoon was baptized and upon returning to Korea, he set up a small church. He was the first person to preach the Catholic doctrine in Korea.
At the time of its establishment in Korea, during the latter part of the 18th century, the Catholic Church faced prosecution because its teachings violated beliefs revered by Confucian society. This conflict continued until the end of the 19th century. Some of the most well-known cases of mass persecution from that time are the Sinyu Persecution of 1801, the Gihae Persecution of 1839, the Byeongo Persecution of 1846, and the Byeongin Persecution of 1866. In 1876, as Korea was opening its doors to the west, Catholicism gained acceptance, but was later forbidden under Japanese Colonial rule from 1940-1945. During this time, the Catholic Church continued its work in education, medical care, and other missionary work. From this period on, the number of Catholics in Korea increased drastically, as did the number of churches. In 1969, Cardinal Su-hwan Kim was appointed the archbishop of the Seoul Archdiocese, and in 1989, Pope John Paul II visited Seoul to attend the 44th International Eucharistic Congress.
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