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South Korea

Film to feature Korea's first Catholic martyr-priest

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was beheaded for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith at the age of 25

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: November 15, 2021 06:01 AM GMT

Updated: November 15, 2021 06:23 AM GMT

Film to feature Korea's first Catholic martyr-priest

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-46), the first Korean Catholic priest-martyr, is now a subject of a new biopic film titled 'A Birth.' (Photo: YouTube)

Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Catholic priest of Korea who was martyred for his faith in the 19th century and declared a saint in 1984, is the subject of a new biographical film paying tribute to him on his 200th birth anniversary.

Prominent South Korean filmmaker Park Heung-sik will direct the film titled A Birth and filming is due to begin later this month, reported Korea Times. The film is expected to hit theaters in November 2022. Actor Yoon Si-yoon will play the role of St. Andrew Kim.

Director Park said he has undertaken extensive research of the life and legacy of the famed priest from his birth to his death at the age of 25.

"I want to tell people about the extraordinary achievements of Kim, not only as a Catholic martyr but as an adventurer who wandered across sea and land during a turbulent era. Kim was one of few Koreans who deliberately accepted Western culture through language and education. In other words, he was a leader of new thoughts," said Park.

The director, however, pointed out that despite being a biopic on a prominent religious leader, the film will not focus exclusively on religion but also on social, political and economic scenario of the era.

"In the Joseon era, cholera was a public health challenge. Now, we are fighting against Covid-19. The pandemic has reinforced inequality and made people more selfish. This movie will be heart-warming, with a contemporary resonance, as it will give a perspective on what we can learn from Kim to cope with the post-pandemic challenges. The world needs more people like Kim," he added.

It is my true honor to be joining this masterful movie. Since Kim's spirits and actions live in the hearts of so many, this movie has a different sort of pressure

Andrew Kim, born in 1821, was the son of Christian converts, according to Franciscan media. He was baptized at the age of 15. He then traveled to a seminary in Macau, China, and returned to his homeland after six years through Manchuria. The same year, he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai where he was ordained a priest.

Father Andrew was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter Korea secretly by a coastal route that would elude border patrols. He was arrested, tortured and beheaded by the Han River near Seoul in 1846.

The Saenamteo Martyrs' Shrine in Ichon-dong in Seoul's Yongsan District bears the legacy of the saint’s martyrdom. He is now the patron saint of clergy in Korea.

During the early days of Christianity in Korea, the country was ruled by the staunchly Buddhist Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) who viewed Christianity as a subversive Western religion. Thousands of Catholics were murdered for refusing to renounce their faith.

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The saint’s father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839. Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle and married man, was 45 when he died.

In 1984, during his visit to South Korea, Pope John Paul II canonized 103 martyrs including Andrew Kim, Kim's father Ignatius, Paul Chong and seven French missionaries who had been martyred in the 19th century. 

Actor Yoon will play young Andrew Kim and actors Lee Ho-won and Lim Hyun-soo will play two seminary students, Choi Yang-eop and Choi Bang-je, who traveled with him to Macau.

"It is my true honor to be joining this masterful movie. Since Kim's spirits and actions live in the hearts of so many, this movie has a different sort of pressure," actor Yoon said.

Choi Yang-eop, popularly dubbed the St. Paul of Korea for his massive evangelization efforts, is a Korean Catholic priest and first non-martyr who is on the final stage of achieving sainthood.

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