Process Under Way for North Korean Martyrs

Died During the Regime of Kim Il-sung

SEOUL, South Korea, MAY 27, 2007 ( The process for the beatification of 36 North Koreans martyred during the 1949-’52 Stalinist regime of Kim Il-sung has opened.

The announcement was made Thursday by the Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey in South Korea, which exercises ecclesial jurisdiction over the North Korean Abbacy of Tokwon.

According to Abbot Simon Petro Ri Hyeong-u, apostolic administrator of the Territorial Abbacy of Tokwon, “The community of Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey is full of aspiration to honor the witness of faith shown by our predecessors.”

The initiative also has a political value, according to Until now, the Seoul government has exerted its influence to avoid the commemoration of these martyrs in order not to provoke a diplomatic incident with the present regime in the North, led by Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung’s son.

The process is for the beatification of Benedictine Abbot Bishop Boniface Sauer, Benedictine Father Benedict Kim and companions.

These men, according to Sabas Lee Seong-geun, vice postulator for the cause, “all died in the North Korean communist death camps during that terrible wave of anti-Catholic persecution after the communists came to power. We remember them together because in some way they are all linked to the Tokwon Abbey.”

Since the end of the civil war in 1953, the three local ecclesiastical jurisdictions and the whole Catholic community in North Korea have been wiped out by the Stalinist regime. Not a single local priest has been left alive and all foreign clergymen have been expelled, AsiaNews said.

There are neither resident priests nor ecclesial structures. According to Vatican sources, Catholics in North Korea number 800, far fewer than the 3,000 recently acknowledged by the government.

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