The Gwangju archdiocesan territory covers 12,623 square kilometers and includes Gwangju Metropolitan City and Jeollanam-do province.
The archdiocese was initially an apostolic prefecture and was carved out of Daegu archdiocese on April 13, 1937. It became an apostolic vicariate on Jan. 21, 1957, and then an archdiocese on March 10, 1962. The ecclesiastical province of Gwangju comprises the metropolitan Gwangju archdiocese with its suffragan dioceses of Jeonju and Cheju.
The Missionary Society of St. Columban played a key role in founding the archdiocese. In 2008, Gwangju archdiocese celebrated its 70th anniversary.
During the persecution of the Catholic Church in the 19th century, there were many martyrs in this area. Naju parish was established to pay tribute to the faith of the martyrs who lost their lives in front of the Naju Muhakdang (the site of a military training camp). Naju parish, which celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2004, erected a memorial shrine for the martyrs and restored the house of Archbishop Harold Henry, the first pastor of the parish, as his memorial hall.
In the Gwangju archdiocesan jurisdiction, the population is 3,430,216 at the end of 2016. (Some 6.7 percent of the whole population 51 million in the country). Most residents are ethnic Koreans.
Standard Korean is in use. English, a mandatory subject in schools, can be spoken and understood in business and tourist areas. All traffic signs are in English and Korean.
Gwangju archdiocese falls within the temperate zone and has the four distinctive seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The yearly average temperature of Gwangju is 13.6 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation in the region averages 1,289 millimeters. The warm currents of the western sea and the southern wind make the area warm and rainy. Most of the rainfall is concentrated in the rainy months (monsoon period) of June through September.
It is located at the southwestern tip of the Korean peninsula and borders the dioceses of Masan and Jeonju. It faces Cheju diocese across the sea. The area has vast fields and a coast in the west and there are 1,970 islands accounting for 62 percent of the islands of the country. The archdiocesan territory is known for its traditional arts. Gwangju (Kwangju) was the place of the May 18 Democratic Uprising in 1980 against the military coup.