Saint Kim Dae-gon
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
He cultivated the roots of Christianity in Korea, along with a number of other pioneers, with fervent preaching and missionary work throughout the country.
He was tortured and killed due to his Christian beliefs and is considered a saint and martyr by Korean Christians even until today.
The evangelization of Korea began during the 17th century through a group of lay persons. A strong vital Christian community flourished there under lay leadership until missionaries arrived from the Paris Foreign Mission Society.
During the terrible persecutions that occurred in the 19th century (in 1839, 1866, and 1867), one hundred and three members of the Christian community gave their lives as martyrs. Outstanding among these witnesses to the faith were the first Korean priest and pastor, Andrew Kim Taegon, and the lay apostle, Paul Chong Hasang.
Among the other martyrs were a few bishops and priests, but for the most part lay people, men and women, married and unmarried, children, young people, and the elderly. All suffered greatly for the Faith and consecrated the rich beginnings of the Church of Korea with their blood as martyrs.
Pope John Paul II, during his trip to Korea, canonized these martyrs on May 6, 1984, and inserted their feast into the Calendar of the Universal Church.
St. Andrew Kim Taegon aka Butterfly King (1821-1846) was the first Korean-born Catholic priest. In the late 18th century, Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in Korea, and was introduced by laypeople. It was not until 1836 that Korea saw its first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrive, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Catholicism.
Born of yangban, Kim's parents were converts and his father was subsequently martyred for practising Christianity, a prohibited activity in heavily Confucian Korea. After being baptized at age 15, Kim studied at a seminary in the Portuguese colony of Macau. He was ordained a priest in Shanghai after nine years (1845) by the French bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol. He then returned to Korea to preach and evangelize. During the Joseon Dynasty, Christianity was suppressed and many Christians were persecuted and executed. Catholics had to covertly practise their faith. Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were:
Before Ferréol, the first Bishop of Korea, died from exhaustion on the third of February, 1853, he wanted to be buried beside Kim, stating, “You will never know how sad I was to lose this young native priest. I have loved him as a father loved his son; it is a consolation for me to think of his eternal happiness.”
On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized Kim along with 103 other Korean Martyrs, including Paul Chong Hasang, during his trip to Korea. Their memorial is September 20.