Today is the feast of Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and ninety-eight other Korean people who rather than give up their Faith submitted to having their heads chopped off.
From the sixteen hundreds on Korea was called the Hermit Kingdom because it cut off its contacts with the outside world, letting no one in and no one out. However, to keep their independence from China they were obliged to send a yearly delegation bearing gifts for the emperor in Peking. In 1776 members of that delegation met with fine Catholic Chinese, and they studied a Chinese catechism written by Jesuits. Some of them were baptized, and they brought the Faith back to Seoul.
At first they set up their own church, ordaining their young men as priests. Then, in 1792 a Chinese priest came, straightening them out, telling them they couldn’t make each other priests. Andrew Kim, their first Korean priest, was smuggled out as a teenager in 1828. Then, after a full course of studies in Shanghai, he was smuggled back in as a twenty-five year old ordained priest. After serving his people for less than a year he chose decapitation on the bank of the Han River rather than giving up his Faith. Paul Chong who died with him was a forty-five year old family man.