Catholic Church In Korea

 History

 

Catholic Church and Korean Society under Colonial Rule(2)


1. Context of the Times


    Since the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910, Japan intensified its hard line military rule over Korea. However, after the March 1st Independent Movement in 1919, Japan eased a bit of its control. But from the 1930's, during the period of full-scale invasion of China, Japan increased again tough military control over Korea making it their military base.
    Under the colonial rule, nationalist movements against the colonialism continued to increase following the March 1st Independent Movement. It is worthy of noting that the communist movement was one of the Korean independent movements at that time. The communist movement first started in Korea in the 1920's and led various campaigns aimed at achieving national independence and overcoming class conflicts separately from the other nationalists who struggled for national causes since the end of the 19th century. Japanese colonialists oppressed both Korean nationalists and communist movements.
    The world Church at that time was under the influence of the First Vatican Council and emphasized traditional teaching of the Church. Also during this period important events occurred in the world such as the Russian Revolution in 1917, the nationalization of all Church properties by the Mexican government in 1927, and the Spanish Civil War in 1938. The succession of events, together with the expansion of communism, raised sense of crisis within the Catholic Church. In such a climate the Popes issued anti-communist Pontifical Letters and made clear Church's position.
    Fascism also became a strong force in the 1930's while in East Asia Japan began full-scale invasion against its East Asian neighboring countries and intensified its exploitation of Korean people. During World War II many Korean people in their struggle for independence took part in military battles against Japan. Finally Japan was defeated in August 15, 1945 and Korea was liberated.

 

2. Church and Communism


    Communism started in Korea as a national independence movement during the colonial period, and the Korea Communist Party was established in 1925. From the beginning, the Korea Communist Party, regarding the religion as superstition and an opiate of the people, proclaimed anti-religion views. On the other hand, the world Church, seriously challenged by the growing political force of the Communist Party, stressed anti-communism to protect herself. This position greatly influenced the Catholic Church in Korea. The Japanese fascist government took advantage of the situation by using the threat of communist expansion as a justification to invade China and enforce its own anti-communist policy. Also they justified repression against Korean nationalists who followed the communist line.
    Given this situation, the Catholic Church in Korea took vigorously anti-communist stance and presented the Church's position through books and publications. Anti-communist documents of the Pope were translated into Korean. These publications, however, contained erroneous views of communism and the Church's criticism of the inhuman aspect of communism. Certain Church leaders even backed the Japanese anti-communist policy, which was in reality a mere ploy to gloss over its invasion of China, by identifying it with the Church's position on communism. To a certain extent such confusion paralyzed the Church's ability to criticize the Japanese policy of invasion during the World War II. Stirred up by these mood some Catholics, who remained indifferent to national causes, supported the anti-communist movement. Certain leftists criticized these Catholics for being pro-Japanese.
    The anti-communist ideology fashioned by the Church at the time continued to have a considerable influence in the history of the Catholic Church in Korea even after 1945. The Church in the North, where the Russian Army was stationed, suffered due to its anti-communist stance. After the Korean War, the Church was wiped out in North Korea.

 

3. Issue of Shinto Worship

    
    One of the Japanese invasion policy was to forcibly ?Japanize? Koreans and one of the methods of this end was to force Koreans to worship at the Shinto Shrine, a traditional religious ritual of Japan. In the process of Japan's modernization the government emphasized Shintoism as the foundation of the national spirit. Thus Shinto worship contained an aspect of nationalistic ritual of Japan. Consequently the militarists forced the Japanese people as well as all the people under their rule to practice Shinto worship in order to get the support of people for their war project and to infuse in them pro-war ideology.
    In 1925, the Catholic Church in Korea published ?Directives for Catechist? which condemned Shinto worship as heresy and prohibited the faithful from attending the ceremony. Some Catholic students were expelled from public schools when they refused to attend the Shinto ceremony to observe the Directives. Korean Catholics in general refused to participate in it for the same reason. While the Church and the Japanese government wrangled over the issue of Shinto worship, the Catholic Church in Japan asked its government whether this worship was a religious rite or a civil patriotic ceremony of the Japanese people. The government answered that it was a civil ceremony. By responding in this way the Japanese government wanted to avoid conflicts between Shintoism and other religions. Subsequently the Holy See sent a directive to the Apostolic Nuncio in Japan in 1936 to allow Catholics to participate in Shinto ceremony on the ground of Japanese government's view of Shinto worship. This directive was applied to the Korean Catholics as well.
    The Catholic Church in Korea was aware that the Shinto ceremony included the worship of traditional Japanese gods. Therefore the majority of the Koreans protested against it. Rev. John Morris, M.M., who was the Prefect of the Pyongyang Apostolic Prefecture, had to leave his mission post because he refused to attend Shinto worship. Despite the directives of the Vatican, many Korean Catholics chose to follow their conscience and refused to attend the Shinto worship. A number of priests, religious and laity were arrested and suffered persecution at the hands of Japanese authorities because they refused it. Compared to the resistance of the Protestant Church, however, Catholic resistance was weaker. For this, the Catholics received hard criticism from their Protestant counterparts.

 

4. Conclusion


    Towards the end of the colonial era, the Japanese persecution of the Church became harsher. Certain hymns and songs were banned under the pretext that their words were subversive. Japanese police arrested Christians who prayed for peace, charging them with spreading anti-war ideology. The Church was ordered to publish books only in Japanese language and forced to set up organizations that would support Japan's war policy. Nonetheless, in the midst of these hardships. Korean Catholics continued to pray for liberation of nation and peace in the world.

List of Articles
No. Subject Views
16 Catholic Church in Korea Growing and Rejuvenating 43297
15 Church's Concern for Justice and Development of Culture 25629
14 Catholic Church in Korea in the 1960's 36742
13 Catholic Church in South Korea after the Korean War 38800
12 Establishment of a Divided Era and the Church 21751
11 Liberation of Korea and the Church 32146
» Catholic Church and Korean Society under Colonial Rule(2) 28474
9 Catholic Church and Korean Society under Colonial Rule(1) 24973
8 Situation of the Catholic Church in the Colonial Period 21321
7 Korean Catholic Church and the Nationalist Movement 47080
6 Age of New Discovery 20917
5 Impact that the Catholic Faith has Made Upon Korean Traditional Society 39533
4 Persecution of the Catholic Church in Korea 46168
3 Development of the Early Catholic Church in Korea 28254
2 Characteristics of the Early Catholic Church in Korea 24076
1 Dawn of Catholicism in Korea 40282



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