Patriot and pioneer: Seo Sang-don, a hero of Korean Church

A bust of Seo Sang-don greets guests on the workplace of Daegu Archdiocese in Daegu, the third-largest metropolis in South Korea and a Catholic stronghold.

Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil unveiled the bust in 2011 as half of actions to pay tribute to Seo forward of the a hundredth anniversary of his loss of life.

During the ceremony, the prelate hailed Seo as one of the pioneers who performed essential roles within the introduction and development of the Catholic Church in Daegu together with Bishop Florian Demange (1887-1938), a French missionary and the archdiocese’s first bishop.

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When Seo died in Seoul on June 30, 1913, Bishop Demange attended his funeral and paid homage by calling him “a nice fellow and extraordinary craftsman who remained an abnormal man regardless of being wealthy.”

“He served the Church and the Church additionally helped him. He completed a lot of good issues. He donated the websites of Daegu Cathedral Church, bishop’s home, workplace, seminary and homes from missionaries. We ought to stay as much as his nice virtues. We are very grateful to him,” Bishop Demange wrote in his diary, in response to an article in Catholic Times by Andrew Lee Kyung-gyu, an emeritus professor at Daegu Catholic University.

The prelate recalled that when Seo was requested to assist Daegu Diocese to develop and broaden with land and monetary assist, he mentioned: ““All my property belongs to God and the Blessed Mother. I intend to donate the cash I’ve amassed to the Church.”

He additionally helped Catholic missionaries and trustworthy going through brutal persecution and execution in Korea

Seo, whose Christian identify was Augustine, is hailed as a nationwide hero for his excellent contribution to the nationwide dept compensation that sought to revive delight and sovereignty after Japanese imperial rule.

His life and works (1850-1913) advanced round two missions — residing and spreading the Catholic religion and restoring nationwide spirit and delight.

Seo Sang-don was born on Oct. 17, 1850, to a Catholic household of martyrs that performed a important function in spreading the religion in Korea. His great-great-grandfather Seo Gwang-soo and his 5 sons embraced Catholicism in 1784 through the early years of Christianity in Korea.

Seo’s father died in 1859 when he was 9, so he grew up in his maternal grandfather’s home in Daegu together with his mom and sister. As a youngster of the 1800s, he raised his pocket cash by doing errands, fetching firewood and delivering groceries and different items.

As he reached 18, with assist from native Catholics and the Church, he prospered in agriculture in addition to producing paper, linen and cotton merchandise. He produced an annual common of 30,000 baggage of rice, a enormous sum in these days. By the age of 35, he had turn out to be a profitable entrepreneur and philanthropist in addition to a well-known determine in Daegu.

He additionally helped Catholic missionaries and trustworthy going through brutal persecution and execution in Korea.

In 1908, he established Seonglip School for boys and two years later opened one other faculty with the identical identify for women in what was a extremely progressive transfer at the moment. In 1906, he turned concerned with Daegu Gwangmunsa, a company that sought to coach the Korean folks and revealed textbooks, magazines and newspapers. He additionally joined the effervescent independence motion towards Japanese rule.

Seo was extraordinarily saddened when one of his uncles was mysteriously assassinated. The killing had each non secular and political dimensions as his uncle was a religious Catholic and joined protests towards a coverage that allowed Japan to make use of all Korea’s ports. He was additionally a sturdy opponent of rising racism and persecution of Catholics below Japan’s imperial rule.

The scenario worsened as Korea turned a protectorate of Japan on the finish of the Joseon dynasty’s rule (1392-1897) by means of the Korea-Japan Eulsa Treaty in 1905 following Japan’s victory within the Russo-Japanese War that very same 12 months.

Japan’s excessive colonization and exploitation left Korea with enormous money owed. By 1906, Korea’s debt to Japan was estimated to be a whopping 13 million gained.

The 13 million gained nationwide debt is a matter of life and loss of life for our nation

As the nationalist motion towards Japanese rule began to sprout throughout Korea, activists like Seo felt the nation’s delight and sovereignty may solely be restored if the money owed have been repaid.

“The 13 million gained nationwide debt is a matter of life and loss of life for our nation. If we pay it off, we are going to stay. If not, the top of Korea is an inevitable consequence. We shall pay it off with the facility of the folks to guard our nation and its sovereign rights,” Seo informed lots of of members of Daegu County Council as he inspired them to hitch a nationwide motion to repay the debt.

He turned a distinguished determine within the National Debt Redemption Movement. Joined by compatriot Kim Gwang-jae, Seo mobilized Koreans to contribute to the fund.

This voluntary motion with a nationalist tilt turned extensively fashionable. People from all walks of life — from farmers, monks and merchants to hairdressers, woodcutters and beggars — all began to donate no matter they may.

There are fashionable legends that folks stop smoking for months to donate to the fund and it even impressed Korean emperor Go Jong to surrender smoking. “My folks stopped smoking and are amassing cash to repay the nationwide debt, so I can’t smoke anymore,” the emperor mentioned.

Japanese rulers have been suspicious and livid over the motion, which finally failed to gather 13 million gained. But for the primary time in Korean historical past, it succeeded in unifying Koreans primarily based on patriotism and irrespective of socioeconomic standing, gender, caste and creed.

As a believer, patriot and pioneer, he put into observe the spirit of duty and sharing

It additionally infused the thirst for independence amongst Koreans following Japan’s defeat to allied forces in World War II. However, nationwide unity was dismantled as Japan left Korea divided between the south and north, triggering the Korean War.

Yet the National Debt Redemption Movement is taken into account a golden interval in Korean historical past. In 2017, the motion was registered as a UNESCO Memory of the World.

In 2008, Seo’s home in Jung-gu of Daegu, the place he lived and labored, turned a museum that pulls many guests.

The Foreign Debt Redemption Movement Memorial Hall in Daegu additionally enlivens the reminiscence of Seo Sang-don and serves as a heart of training and enlightenment.

Seo stays a nationwide hero to Koreans and a pioneer of Daegu Archdiocese, a bastion of Catholicism within the southwestern Korean Peninsula with about 492,000 Catholics.

Professor Lee of Daegu Catholic University says Seo was a nice instance of religion personified. “As a believer, patriot and pioneer, he put into observe the spirit of duty and sharing. We are referred to as to mimic his nice deeds.”

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