[Our Museums] Legacy of early Catholics at Korean Catholic Martyrs' Museum
Sitting tall on a cliffside on the Han River, the Korean Catholic Martyrs' Museum is located in a spot of historical tragedy and religious significance.
A five-minute stroll from Hapjeong Station, visitors pass through a memorial park at the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine before reaching the museum entrance.
In the late Joseon period, many Koreans faced execution for believing in Catholicism, which was introduced to the country in the 1780s through books sent by European missionaries in China.
The 230-year history of the Korean Catholic Church is marked by lengthy periods of persecution. A testament to this past is inscribed at the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine, bearing the memories of the brutal Byeongin Persecution that began in 1866.
The name "Jeoldusan" translates to "beheading mountain," a chilling reminder of the tragedy when thousands of Korean Catholics were executed here.
Regent Heungseon Daewongun, enthroned in 1864, first sought Catholic assistance in preventing Russia's southward advance as imperialist powers sought to expand their influence in Asia. However, court ministers' objections to the involvement of heretical groups and their aid from France led to a shift in policy, resulting in the 1866 Catholic persecution campaign. By then, the number of Korean Catholics had increased to 23,000 from 15,000 in 1851.