Harvard-Yenching Institute Lunch Talk; co-sponsored by the Korea Institute
Byung-Sul Jung, Professor, Department of Korean Language and Literature, Seoul National University; HYI Visiting Scholar
Chair/discussant: Si Nae Park, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Yi Suni (1779-1801) was a martyr for early Korean Catholics, famous for her letters from prison sent to her mother and sisters-in-law before her death. These letters show not only her beliefs, but also the level of thought of early Korean Catholics. Korea is the last country in East Asia in which a Catholic church was built. The first Catholic priest came to Korea in 1794, over two hundred years after Catholicism had reached East Asia. Surprisingly, before this priest came to Korea, the Catholic church in Korea had already been built. By reading Catholic books translated into classical Chinese, Korean Catholics had established their faith. Although the beginning of Catholicism in Korea was later than in other East Asian countries, Korean Catholics had great enthusiasm for this new faith. Using recently discovered materials, this talk will reexamine the characteristics and meanings of early Korean Catholics in Korean history.