News / Asia

Pope to Bring Message of Peace to South Korea on First Asia Trip

FILE - Catholic nuns attend mass at the Jesuit Apostolic Center in Seoul.
FILE - Catholic nuns attend mass at the Jesuit Apostolic Center in Seoul.
Simone Orendain

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Korea next week, where he is expected to meet with the president, spend time with Asian youth and put 124 Catholic Church martyrs on track toward sainthood. This is the first visit by a pope to any Asian country in almost 20 years.

South Korean officials describe the visit of the pontiff to their country for the first time in 25 years as “very significant.” 

Kim Hyunjun, director of the culture and sports division at South Korea’s Office of Government Policy Coordination, said the popular pope has often mentioned the need for amity between North and South Korea.

“I view that his visit has an implication of wishing peace on the Korean peninsula and reconciliation between the two Koreas, and I expect a mood of harmony, sharing and peace to be created through his visit,” said Kim.

But this week, church officials in Seoul said a state-run Catholic group from the North declined an invitation to attend the pope’s Mass for “peace and reconciliation.” Media reports say the North Korean Catholic Association, which is not part of the Vatican structure, cited upcoming joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea as a provocation. The exercises start around the end of the pope’s visit.

Pope Francis is scheduled to call on President Park Geun-hye. He is also expected to meet with family members and victims of the Sewol ferry accident in April that left more than 300 people dead.

The overloaded vessel overturned in waters along the southwestern coast. Most of the dead were high school students on a field trip. Their families have demanded that the government pass a law that would allow for an independent inquiry into the accident. Dozens of people have been on a hunger strike for several weeks at a major square in Seoul where Francis is set to celebrate Mass with one million faithful.

The Vatican says it has also invited women who were victims of sex slavery during World War II to the Mass for peace and reconciliation.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea says there are more than five million Catholics in the country - about 11 percent of the population. Korea is believed to have one of the faster growing Catholic populations in Asia.  

The pope will spend time with young people during the Asian Youth Day events in Chungcheong province, more than 100 kilometers south of Seoul. 

South Korea-based Lay Missionary Monika Jaruga is on the preparatory committee for Asian Youth Day. She said even non-Christians inquired about the weeklong conference on leadership and spirituality of young Catholics.

“They wish to see [the] pope. They would like to participate in some of the events… There was a man he started to tell me, ‘Ah… it will be really a good time for Korea.  We are expecting to see [the] pope!’” said Jaruga.

The youth day events will be taking place in the Daejeon Diocese, which is where most of the persecution of Korean Catholics took place. During a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries the government executed 10,000 Catholics for their beliefs, which went against the king’s rule and flew in the face of the Confucian-based society.

Unlike in other countries where Christianity spread, Korean nobility, not foreign missionaries, founded the Catholic Church. They learned about the faith through Catholic writings that were translated into Chinese. 

During this trip Pope Francis is scheduled to beatify 124 of the original founders.  Beatification places a candidate in the last stage before sainthood.

Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the pope has an affinity toward Asia and he has told the cardinal that he wanted to share in the suffering of those who were persecuted.

“I remember the Holy Father saying how much he admired, admired, those who suffered on account of their faith. In fact he said, ‘If I meet any one of them I will kiss their hands or kiss their feet.’ And he was talking about Asia,” said Tagle.

Tagle told VOA that Asia is “very important” for the Catholic Church, which is tracking the growth of its ranks in the region. In 1910, the World Christian Database estimated about 14 million Catholics were living in the Asia Pacific region, accounting for 5% of the Church. A century later, that number has grown to 121 million, accounting for about 12% of Church members.

The pope’s first overseas visit of 2015 will include the Philippines and Bangladesh in January.

You May Like

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs