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Diocese of Pyongyang

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Diocese of Pyongyang
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The Pyongyang diocesan territory has a land area of 42,939 square kilometers and covers Pyongyang city, and the provinces of Pyongannam and Pyonganbuk in North Korea.

According to a Changchung Church lay leader, North Korea has some 3,000 Catholics but no resident priest. About 200 Catholics attend Sunday prayer services at Changchung Church. The three district councils of Donghae (East Sea), Sohae (West Sea) and Pyongyang have a total of 500 worship places.

The diocese belongs to the ecclesiastical province of Seoul which comprises Seoul archdiocese, the dioceses of Chunchon, Daejeon, Incheon, Suwon, Uijeongbu, and Wonju, two North Korean dioceses of Hamhung and Pyongyang, and the Territorial Abbacy of Tokwon, also in North Korea.

In 1927, the Pyongyang apostolic prefecture was carved out from the then diocese of Seoul. The prefecture was entrusted to Maryknoll priests who had worked there since 1923. Monsignor Patrick Byrne, former apostolic delegate to Seoul from 1947-50, became its first apostolic prefect. The prefecture was elevated to apostolic vicariate in 1939 and Bishop William O'Shea became the first apostolic vicar.

But Bishop O'Shea was repatriated by Japanese colonialists after the Pacific War broke out in 1941. Archbishop Paul Ro Ki-nam of Seoul, the first Korean bishop in the country, then managed the vicariate as its apostolic administrator until Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho, the second Korean prelate, became its apostolic vicar in 1943. Bishop Hong was arrested by communists in the North and went missing in 1949. Since the Korean War, the North has not had a resident priest.

The vicariate was elevated to a diocese in 1962 when the Korean Church hierarchy was formally established.

In 1985, the late Bishop Daniel Tji Hak-soon of Wonju visited Pyongyang to meet his younger sister. It was the first time a prelate in the South visited the communist country since the Korean War. In 1998, then Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Choi Chang-mou of Seoul, now archbishop of Kwangju, visited Pyongyang as a delegate of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, then apostolic administrator of Pyongyang. This was the first pastoral visit to North Korea by a Korean bishop since the Korean War. Bishop Choi, president of Seoul archdiocese's National Reconciliation Committee, celebrated a Mass in the North's only Catholic church, Changchung Church.

In June 2002, Bishop Paul Choi Deog-ki of Suwon visited Pyongyang and delivered 2,002 soccer balls. From Sept. 8-10, 2005, Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejeon, president of the committee for "Caritas Coreana" of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK), visited the capital of North Korea to attend the completion ceremony of a cultivation facility for seed potatoes donated by Caritas Coreana.

The (North) Korean Roman Catholics' Association was set up in June 30, 1988. Samuel Chang Jae-on has been its president since its establishment. The association published a catechism and a prayer book in 1991.


The population of Pyongyang diocese as of 1943 was 3,650,623, all ethnic Koreans. Recent statistics are not available.


Korean language is in use.


Pyongyang diocese falls within the temperate zone and has the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The yearly average temperature is 9.3 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation in the region averages 940 millimeters. Most of the rainfall is concentrated in the rainy months (monsoon period) of June through September.


Most of the land in the northern part of the Pyongan region is mountainous, while its southern region has plains, mountains and rivers. In the 1940s, industry was developed in the northern region thanks to a hydroelectric power plant, and farming developed in the southern region. Pyongyang was the ancient capital of "Gojoseon," the first country-state built in Korea (2333-108 B.C.), and of "Goguryeo" (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), also one of the ancient Korean kingdoms.

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