South Korea resurrects Catholic martyrs of communism

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An official report from the South Korean authorities finally does justice to the many Christians murdered for hatred of the faith by North Korean communists in the aftermath of World War II.

We now know a little more about the fate of the massacres perpetrated more than seventy years ago by the Communists on several hundred North Korean Christians.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a South Korean state body – released a report on February 22, 2022, stating that 1,145 Christians, including 119 Catholics, had been systematically wiped out by North Korean forces beginning on September 26, 1950.

Massacres of clerics were perpetrated after North Korea issued orders to “eliminate reactionary forces” before its withdrawal from the South, according to the official report which is based on documentary research, direct testimony from witnesses still alive and investigations in the parishes of origin of the victims.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has thus made it possible to solve the enigma surrounding the fate of Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho.

The prelate, born in 1906, ordained a priest in 1933 while Korea was under Japanese occupation, was consecrated bishop in 1944 in order to occupy the position of head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pyongyang. Imprisoned in communist jails in 1949, they definitely lost track of him on that date.

In 2013, the official directory of the Holy See still attached to his name the laconic description of “disappeared”, however, the following year the prelate was presumed dead, as he would have been 108 if he had survived. The report published a few weeks ago by the authorities in Seoul officially confirms for the first time the death of Bishop Hong, which adds to the big black book of the victims of communism in the peninsula.

Ruled for several centuries – from 1392 to 1897 – by the Buddhist Joseon dynasty, the land of the morning calm later became a Japanese protectorate, until the end of World War II, when the peninsula was the scene of a confrontation by proxy between the United States on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and China on the other.

Between 1950 and 1953, the extremely brutal conflict caused the death of some four million people and the displacement of approximately ten million families.

For Fr. Francis Cho Han-geon, director of the Korean Church History Research Foundation, the report published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is of great importance for the Church, finally bringing justice to the many Catholics massacred in hatred of the faith by the communist hydra.

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