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Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, spiritual leader, dies at 86

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Feb 17,2009
Preparations for masses in memory of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, who died yesterday evening at age of 86, began yesterday at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul. A five-day funeral ceremony will take place at the cathedral starting today and Kim will be buried on Friday. [NEWSIS]


Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, archbishop emeritus of Seoul, died yesterday at the age of 86.

Appointed in 1969 as the first cardinal from an East Asian country, Kim, then 46 years old, became the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

The late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan
Since Aug. 29 of last year, Kim had been under treatment at Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital in southern Seoul as his health deteriorated. Sources say his condition severely worsened in recent days. Kim had labored breathing and his blood pressure dropped yesterday afternoon and he lost consciousness, sources said. Doctors rushed to resuscitate Kim, but he died at 6:12 p.m., the hospital reported.

After Kim’s death, Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital removed his organs to honor his lifetime wish to be an organ donor.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul yesterday began preparations for Kim’s funeral mass at Myeongdong Cathedral.

In addition to his religious significance in Korea, Kim was respected as a spiritual leader of both Catholics and non-Catholics for promoting democracy in the country during the military dictatorship. After democratization, Kim did not hesitate to share his concerns with the public over major political and social events.

Born on May 8, 1922 in Daegu, Kim was ordained as a priest in 1951. He was named bishop of Masan in 1966 and received episcopal consecration later that year. In 1968, he was promoted to archbishop of Seoul and served in the position for three decades until his retirement in 1998. Beginning in 1967, Kim represented Korea six times at the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

On April 28, 1969, he was proclaimed Korea’s first cardinal by Pope Paul VI. He served as the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea twice.

According to Kim’s personal Web site, he first became actively vocal about social issues on Feb. 9, 1968 when, as the leader of the Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne (Young Christian Workers), he issued a statement condemning employer Simdo Textile of Gwanghwa, Gyeonggi, for firing unionized workers. After a joint statement by Seoul bishops to promote the rights of the laborers, both the government and the company came under pressure. Six days later, the government intervened and the fired workers were reinstated.

The incident was only the beginning of Kim’s active social participation.

During the 1970s, Kim was an active advocate of human rights. In the 1980s, Kim stood at the forefront of the country’s democratization.

After democratization, Kim worked for the rights of the disabled, the poor and prisoners on death row. He also worked to promote the rights of farmers and laborers.

After he retired from the position of archbishop of Seoul, Kim wrote two books, looking back on his life and faith. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk was appointed as Korea’s second cardinal in 2006.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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