A faith denied, pickets eyed, a professor’s beliefs decried

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A faith denied, pickets eyed, a professor’s beliefs decried

July 19, 1846
Christianity and Catholicism seem to be growing in influence in Korea during the 21st century. In the 19th century, when Roman Catholics arrived, things were different. At the time, Confucianism ruled; the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) persecuted Catholics as espousers of an evil doctrine.
Even so, missionaries succeeded in forming a congregation that included Kim Dae-geon, who on this date, still in his 20s, died a martyr. In his hometown in South Chungcheong province, Mr. Kim saw both his great-grandfather and father dying in prison for their Christian beliefs.
Born to a devout Catholic family, Mr. Kim followed his parents’ path. Baptized as Andrea by a French priest, he headed to Macao to study theology, French, Chinese, Latin and other Western fields. When ordained he became the first Korean Roman Catholic priest.
Back on the peninsula, Mr. Kim trod a thorny path, spending most of his time in catacombs. While wandering about spreading the gospel, Mr. Kim was stopped by Joseon Dynasty troops, then imprisoned in Seoul and tortured on charges of spreading evil heresy to innocents, until he died. Among his last words before execution were, “I’m finally heading to my Lord.”
In 1984, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Mr. Kim a saint.

July 20, 1995
Long after Japanese occupation ended in 1945, the nation was rife with rumors that the Japanese had planted iron pickets all over the peninsula to stop the flow of the land’s spirit and energy. On this date, the government announced that it had found 20 iron pickets ― in Seoul, in a Gangwon province village and on mountaintops all over. The government said it had removed 16 pickets, leaving four to be pulled out on Aug. 15, Liberation Day.

July 20, 1998
Song Du-yul, a sociology professor at the University of Munster in Germany, is one Korean who cannot touch Korean soil. On this date, the National Intelligence Service announced that Mr. Song had a second identity, that of Kim Cheol-su, high-ranking official with North Korea’s Workers Party. Mr. Song firmly denied the assertion.
After graduating from Seoul National University as a philosophy major, Mr. Song went to Germany in 1967 for further studies. There, he engaged in more than digging into Marx.
In 1974, while his home country was under the Park Chung Hee military regime, Mr. Song took up the helm of an opposition group. Since 1991, he had visited North Korea more than 10 times, incentive enough for the South Korean government to brand him an anti-state figure. When Mr. Song tried to return home, he was refused entry.
Mr. Song began to pen columns for the Hankyoreh, a leftist newspaper, and published two books: “Has History Ended?” and “The Conversation with the 21st Century.” Most recently, Mr. Song tried to return to be awarded the Late Spring Reunification Award in commemoration of the late Moon Ik-hwan, a pro-democracy activist. His efforts were futile.


by Chun Su-jin
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