Korea and Beyond
The Prohibited Sect of Yaso: Catholicism in Diplomatic and Cultural Encounters between Edo Japan and Chosŏn Korea (17th to 19th Century) – Pierre-Emmanuel Roux
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The Prohibited Sect of Yaso: Catholicism in Diplomatic and Cultural Encounters between Edo Japan and Chosŏn Korea (17th to 19th Century)*
Historians have for many years struggled to determine if the conversion to Catholicism of a few thousand Korean prisoners during the invasion led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉 between 1592 and 1598 – the so-called Imjin war or Imjin waeran 壬辰倭亂 – shall belong to the history of the Korean Church or the Japanese Church. The controversy erupted when the Spanish Jesuit Juan Garcia Ruiz de Medina (1927–2000) published a provocative book on the origins of the Korean Catholic Church. First written in Spanish in 1986 under the title Orígenes de la Iglesia Católica Coreana desde 1566 hasta 1784, it has been translated in Japanese (1988), Korean (1989), and finally English (1991).1 In this book the author takes pains to explain that the baptism of Peter Yi Sŭnghun 李承薰 (1756–1801) in Beijing in 1784 cannot be considered the correct birth date of the Korean Catholic Church, because Jesuit missionaries and Japanese Christians entered the Chosŏn kingdom during the Imjin war and even proselytized among Korean prisoners. With no Korean historical sources, Medina argues that these prisoners might have returned home in the following decades and retained their faith during two hundred years. So it comes as no surprise that Medina’s book caused a stir among modern Korean historians of the Catholic Church who strongly criticized the author for...
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