20 September 2008

The Korean Martyrs

Today the Church celebrates the Korean Martyrs under the title, 'Memorial of St Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr, St Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and Companions, martyrs'. These are a representative group of 103 martyrs killed during a number of vicious persecutions in the 19th century.
St Andrew was the first Korean priest. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred in 1839, seven years before his son, and beatified in 1925.

Among the 1839 martyrs were St Columba Kim Hyo-im, an unmarried woman of 26, and her sister, St Agnes Kim. Though they were disrobed in prison they were not molested. One of our Korean Columban lay missionaries in the
Philippines is named Columba Chang Eun-Yeal and has been working among the very poor in the Manila area for 17 or 18 years now. You can read more about the Korean martyrs here.

Catholics in Korea are given a Christian name along with their Korean personal name. In Ireland and Britain, especially Scotland, we're more familiar with St Columba of Iona, better known in his native Ireland as Columcille, 'the dove of the chapel'. I made a retreat in Iona in 2002 and met the person in charge of the restored abbey there. There's an ecumenical community there but it has a strong Presbyterian influence, as far as I know. The then director was surprised when I told him that there was a Korean St Columba - and a woman at that. I presume that St Columba Kim was named after St Columba of Iona. I made my retreat at Cnoc a'Chalmain, 'The Hill of the Dove', the Catholic house of prayer on the island. 'Columba' means 'dove'.

Cnoc a'Chalmain (above right)

The Columbans have been working in Korea since 1933. During the Korean War seven gave their lives.


Killed by North Korean soldiers on 27 June 1950. North Korean forces had crossed the 39th Parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea, on June 25. Tony was in charge of the second Columban parish in Chunchon city, not many miles south of the 38th Parallel. He, Monsignor Tom Quinlan and Frank Canavan had been urged by a U.S. Army officer to leave Chunchon on 26 June but they decided to stay. Tony was taken into custody, briefly interrogated and then shot dead. He was 37 years old. Quinlan, Canavan and later Phil Crosbie were taken into custody and the three of them took part in the notorious "Death March" to the far north of Korea. Along with them were many U.S. POWs and some civilians (many of them missionaries); the death rate from the hardships of the march was appallingly high. Consult PHIL CROSBIE'S book THREE WINTERS COLD and CAPTIVE IN KOREA by Philip Deane. Tony was born in Clogherhead, Co. Louth, on 20 June, 1913. Educated in C.B.S., Drogheda, 1921-1926; St. Patrick's College, Armagh, 1926-1931. Came to Dalgan 1931 and ordained there 1938. Went to Korea 1939.

Killed in Korea 4 July 1950, two days after North Korean troops occupied Samchok, his parish on the east coast, about 50 miles south of the border between North and South Korea. In the week between the outbreak of war and the occupation of his parish he had been urged by his people to leave but he refused to do so. He was 38 years old. It was not until March 1952 that his grave and body were located by Fr. Brian Geraghty. Jim was born in Bute, Montana, USA on 15 November 1911. Educated in St Mary's Newcastle, Co Down and St Malachy's, Belfast. Came to Dalgan in 1929 and ordained 1935. Went to Korea 1936.

Killed by North Korean soldiers on 29 August 1950 near Mukho, his parish, not far south of the border. He had gone to hide in the house of a catechist on June 28 or 29, when the North Korean army occupied Mukho. The catechist's house was about 5 miles northwest of the town. After 26 days the North Koreans discovered Paddy's whereabouts. He was arrested and taken to the police station in Mukho. The exact details of his death are unknown. His body was found on a mountain path by an old man gathering wood. He had been shot through the chest. Paddy was 35 years old. Paddy was born in Drumraney, Co. Westmeath, on 21 October 1915. Educated Drumraney N.S. 1920-1929, and St. Finian's College, Mullingar, 1929-1934. Came to Dalgan 1934 and ordained there 1940. Did pastoral work in diocese of Clifton, England, 194 1-1946. Went to Korea 1947.


Monsignor Patrick Brennan, an American and Prefect Apostolic of Kwangju, Korea, was taken into custody, along with Tom Cusack and Jack O'Brien, by North Korean troops on 24 July 1950. They were attached to the Columban Mission in Mokpo, in the south of the country. They were taken to Taejon prison and are presumed to have perished in the general massacre of prisoners there on the night of 24 September 1950. Their bodies were never found. Pat Brennan was 49 years old. Pat Brennan was born in Chicago on 13 March 1901. Educated at St. Rita's High School 1915-19 17; Quigley's Preparatory Seminary, Chicago, 19 17-1922; Mundelein Seminary 1922-1928. Ordained for archdiocese of Chicago 1928. Joined the Columbans in 1936 and went to Korea in 1937. Repatriated to U.S.A. as an enemy alien (by the Japanese) In 1942. Served as U.S.Army chaplain in Normandy, Germany and the Ardenne and was awarded the Soldier's Medal for bravery. Returned to Korea in 1946. Member of General Chapter of the Society 1947. Appointed Director of China region in 1947 and resided in Shanghai. A year later they Holy See appointed him Prefect Apostolic of Kwangju, Korea.

Killed during Korean War In Taejon on 24 September 1950. See Patrick Brennan above. He was 40 years old. Born Ballycotton, Liscannor, Co. Clare, on 23 October 1910. Educated Ballycotton, N.S., 1914-1924; St. Mary's College, Galway, 1924-1928. Came to Dalgan 1928 and ordained there 1934. Went to the Korea 1935.

Killed during Korean War in Taejon on 24 September 1950. See Patrick Brennan above. He was 31 years old. Born in Donamon, Co. Roscommon (Elphin diocese), on 1 December 1918. Educated Kilalla N.S. 1924-1925; Ballinrobe N.S. 1925-1931; St. Nathy's College, Ballaghaderreen 1931-1936. Came to Dalgan and ordained Dalgan (Navan) 1942. Served as British Army chaplain 1943-1948. Went to the Korea In 1949.

Died in North Korean prison camp on 6 December 1950 as a direct result of hardships experienced on notorious Death March of prisoners. See Anthony Collier above. He was 34 years old. Born Headford, Co. Galway, on 15 February 1915. Educated Headford Convent School 1919-1922; Headford N.S. 1922-1929; St. Mary's College, Galway, 1929-1934. Came to Dalgan in 1934 and ordained there 1940. Served in Galway diocese 1941-1948. Went to Korea in 1949.

In the 1960s the Columbans made a movie dcalled, I think, Path to Glory, which depicted the history of the Church in Korea. The 'narrator' was Fr Anthony Collier but the voice was that of Gregory Peck. I remember showing it to a group of sixth grade kids in Immaculate Conception parish, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, some time in 1970-71 when I was residing there while studying. At least one student was alert as he asked me at the end, 'How could Father Collier be narrating when he was dead?'


Unknown said...

Thanks for the interesting article. It is really an interesting phenomenon in Korea.

Unknown said...

Father, Thanks for this...When I contacted the Columban Fathers they didn't knos abou the film. My patron saint is St. Andrew Kim, so I was very interested in it.

Unknown said...

Father, Thanks so much for this! I am expecting to get a copy of this film by DVD! I knew that Appa Andrew (my name for St. Andrew Kim) was leading me in the right direction! It only took perserverance and contacting the right person!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you for your comments, Andrew. It is unusual to get a response so long after something is posted! Can you tell me where I can get the DVD of Path to Glory? though I am a Columban and have asked about it I haven't seen it for nearly 40 years.

Unknown said...

Father Sean, I didn't realize you were in the Philippines! Name is Kim as in akimisan. ☺ You could contact Father O'Keefe that is in charge of the Korean region. He is sending me a copy. From what I understand they recently had it put on DVD and showed it at a Hong Kong conference. Looking forward to seeing it and am sure Father O'Keefe will be happy to make sure you get one. I have his email, but dont' want to put it here. If you'd like to email me, I'll happily send it to you.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you for this information. I'll follow up on it. If I can't get a copy of the DVD I'll get in touch with you. I'm happy to know that the Columbans in Korea have re-issued this film.

Back in 1971 I showed it to a group of 6th graders in the Catholic school in Immaculate Conception Parish, Irvington-on-Hudson, where I was a resident priest at the time while studying. The narrator in the movie is Fr Tony Collier, featured in hti8s post, through the wonderful voice of Gregory Peck. Fr Collier was killed at the beginning of the Korean War. At the end of the film one boy asked 'How could Fr Collier be speaking when he's dead?' At least the boy was alert!.