Korea's Religious Places - 3.4 Jeonju Jeondong Cathedral, Jeonju
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
|← Previous||Korea's Religious Places||Next →|
|3)* Incheon Dapdong Cathedral, Incheon||4)* Jeonju Jeondong Cathedral, Jeonju||5)* Chungdong First Methodist Church, Seoul|
Jeonju Jeondong Cathedral (Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do)
In the southwest quadrant of Korea, we can find the Jeondong Cathedral in the provincial capital, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do. Unlike the Seoul cathedrals, Myeong-dong and Yakhyeon, which are built on hills, the Jeondong Cathedral is on flat land in the center of the city. The cathedral is built near where Catholic martyrs were executed; in fact, the first two martyrs, (Paul) Yun Ji-chung (1759–1791) and Gwon Sang-yeon (1751–1791), were executed there in 1791. There followed waves of executions in 1801, 1839, and the 1860s, but the first martyr, Paul Yun, lived in Jeonju.
Yun’s story is interesting. He was from an upper-class family that would ordinarily perform ceremonies for the ancestors, beginning with the funeral for one’s father. Yun, a recent convert to Catholicism, chose not to lead the funeral for his mother in the standard Confucian format. His decision attracted the attention of the local officials, who already had disagreements with believers of the new, imported religion. At that point it was not called Catholicism, or today’s equivalent, Cheonjugyo (literally, the Church of the Lord of Heaven), but rather, then, it was called Seohak, literally Western Learning. Unfortunately, Catholicism was perceived as pro-West and anti-East. The first death in this conflict was the execution for heterodox practice, refusing to perform the ceremonies for one’s deceased parent. And the first martyr was Paul Yun. The Jeonju Jeondong Cathedral is a vivid reminder of the heritage of martyrdom and suffering of the Catholic Church in Korea.