Story of L’Abbe Pierre Pasquier

Old Korea

The Catholic Church in Korea started when Yi Sŭnghun came back from China after he had been baptized. He met Yi Pyŏk and Chŏng Yakchŏn, and together they built a faith community. The community remained viable even after small and large persecutions (about 10) during the almost 100 year long period starting with the Sinhae persecution (辛亥迫害) of 1791 (King Chŏngjo, reign year 14), followed by the four major persecutions in 1801 (King Sunjo, reign year 1) the Sinyu persecution (辛酉迫害), in 1839 (King Hŏnjong, reign year 5) the Kihae persecution (己亥迫害), in 1846 (King Hŏnjong, reign year 12) the Pyŏngo persecution (丙午迫害), and 1866 (King Kojong reign year 3) the Pyŏngin (丙寅迫害), thus martyring a lot of believers.

The first major persecution started in 1801 in the valley of Kanyang of Kanyang-ni, Yesan-ŭp, Yesan-gun, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province (Korean: 충청남도, Ch’ungch’ŏng namdo), in which over 300 Catholics were executed. From 1801 to 1834, like sheep without a shepherd, the scattered Catholics were wandering in the wilderness without knowing where to go. They found a nest in the valley to hide and built a village for their fellow believers. The Catholic Church of Korea finally acquired freedom for mission by the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Korea and France of 1886.

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When Bishop Blanc died in 1890, Priest Coste (高宜善, 1842~1896) temporarily became the head of the diocese. At that time the number of the missionaries in Korea reached up to 20. Father Coste selected two priests who had been sent by the Paris Foreign Missions Society. They were sent to an area called Naep’o, and built two parish churches. One priest was named Father Curlier (南 一良, 1863~1935), who entered Korea on June 21, 1889, and the other was Father Pasquier (朱 若瑟, 1866~ ?) who arrived in Korea on October 3, 1889.

Father Curlier was in charge of the Yangch’on parish (currently Sangjang-ni, Kodŏk-myŏn, Yesan-gun, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province), and priest Pasquier was in charge of Kanyang-gol (currently Kanyang-ni, Yesan-ŭp, Yesan-gun, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province). Father Pasquier arrived in April 1890, and practiced his ministry for five years, until he became seriously ill. Initially Father Pasquier wanted the place at the hill at Kanyang-gol of Chunggok in Sim-san, Yesan, but searched among many other historic places because he wanted to have monumental building sites for the churches. He picked the site at Haptŏk (currently Old Haptŏk) in the central area of Naep’o. When the Tonghak Peasant Rebellion began, the church of Nae-po was severely damaged.

Father Pasquier, fearing that he could be killed by the revolutionary forces, left a note stating; “In this current situation, I recommend my spirit to God, and I offer my life for the faithful brethren and for the Church of Korea.” (In his letter to Bishop Muttel; ‘Analysis of French Missionaries in Mission and Enlightenment between the end of 19 century to early 20 century by Kwŏn Hŭiyŏng’).

In 1895 when Father Pasquier became severely ill, he and father Curlier were ordered to Seoul by Bishop Muttel who wrote in his diary:
“April 7, 1895. Yesterday morning father Pasquier couldn’t get up. His rheumatism is still at the same level.”
“April 19, 1895. Father Pasquier is still in bed. (Light and darkness of the Catholic church in Korea 26.)”
Thus Father Pasquier received permission to go back to France for treatment, but soon came back to Korea.

At that time in Ch’ungch’ŏng Province there were 53 districts responsible for the tax burden, and Kolmoe village was one of them. Kongse-ri was the location where the official storehouses were located. The government collected and stored the tax-(rice). In this village, the Catholic believers were densely housed. Father Pasquier had marked out this area as a base of new faith many years before. Just before removing himself from Korea, he sent a report to Bishop Mutel suggesting: “At the beach and in a delta area which has been formed by two big rivers, the land of this village is very productive and good for cultivating rice. In front of this village, there is a beautiful hill, it is an area at the end of the high mountain range which looks down the Asan-ŭp 10 ri (4 km) away. The top of the hill is surrounded by the castle wall, and a long time ago there was a grain storehouse in there but this is now ruined. I dreamed several times how it would be nice if a church would be built in that high place.”

It was Father Devise (成 一論), who ministered for 34 years at Kongse-ri, who fulfilled the dream of Father Pasquier. (Seoul Newspaper; Editorial writer Sŏ Kongch’ŏl; Traveler’s Journal of the culture inheritance with a story; “A dream of a father with blue eyes… I will build a beautiful church on the grain storehouse!”)

Currently located in Kongse-ri, Inju-myŏn, Asan City, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province, the cathedral of Kongse-ri is still one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Korea.

In 1903, Okch’ŏn was established by Father Pasquier as the Kongju Parish Church, according to the record of the Fathers Chin Peter Guinard (陳普安, 1872~1944) and Chu Peter Paquier (朱 若瑟, 1866~) (July 1897-December 1968). Later Father Pasquier was transferred to Inch’ŏn, where he established the current T’ap-tong Inch’ŏn Church, and did a lot of memorable work. He then went back to Paris, and in 1905 he retired from the Paris Foreign Missions Society.

Figure 1: COREA in land used envelope, addressed to the Monsieur l’abbe Pasquier, missionaire apossalique (Apostolic Mission), Gang-gyung-dong, Gong-Ju, bearing KPC13/SC18 2 Ri grey (x2), KPC14/SC19 1 cheon green (x9), KPC16/SC30 2 cheon blue (x18), KPC19/SC23 5 cheon pale rose (x10) and KPC21/SC25 10 cheon violet (x2) total 41 stamps, tied by VERNACULAR datestamp “Gong-Ju Kwang-Mu year 7 (1903) July 30”. Very fine 5 color franking paying the 116 cents rate.

This gorgeous collection, which I recently purchased, included a large envelope which bore a total of 41 Ewha series stamps: 2 Ri grey (x2), 1 cheon green (x9), 2 cheon blue (x18), 5 cheon pale rose (x10) and 10 cheon violet (x2), totaling 116 cents was sent to Father Pasquier in 1901 when he was ministering for the parish church of Kongju, (Ch’ungch’ŏng namdo). His name was in Chinese 朱 若瑟, in Korean 주약슬 (Chu Yaksŭl).

I honor his sacrifice and service for the Catholic mission for Korea as a young man of 23 years of age.

(My other collections can be seen at:

Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.

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