In 2023, around a hundred boxes of archives from the Korean mission (19th-1980s) were classified. Their inventory is now published on our website. This invaluable description will enable all researchers interested in the history of Korea to know what they can find in the IRFA archives.
- The inventory of the “Korea” collection is now available on our website.
- The complete finding aid can be downloaded as a PDF file.
- Documents can be consulted in our reading room under the usual conditions.
History of the Korean mission (1836-1980)
In 1790, the Christian community in Korea sent letters to Mgr de Gouvéa, Bishop of Peking, requesting the arrival of a priest capable of organizing a true Christianity linked to Rome. It was not until 1831 that the Pope entrusted the Church of Korea, erected as an apostolic vicariate, to the Société des Missions étrangères de Paris. In 1832, Barthélémy Bruguière, coadjutor of the Vicar Apostolic of Siam, was appointed Vicar Apostolic.
The year 1836 marked the beginning of the MEP’s work in the country. Persecution soon brought the missionaries’ work to a halt: between 1839 and 1884, many were martyred. The 1886 Franco-Korean treaty, which included a clause on religious freedom, enabled the MEPs in Korea to enter a period of easier existence, from 1886 to 1950. From 1890 to 1933, the apostolate of Mgr Gustave Mutel was an opportunity for the missionaries to strengthen their action on the peninsula, which was gradually being won over by Japanese influence.
The Korean War (1950-1953) brought new difficulties for the missionaries, and marked the end of the mission in the north of the country. At the end of the conflict, the Foreign Missions in Korea entered a new era: the MEP priests placed themselves at the service of the Korean dioceses, which saw Christianity grow in number and influence.
To find out more about the mission, visit the Korea page, which contains a wealth of resources on the country.
Consecration of Seoul Cathedral, 1898, ©IRFA Iconothèque
Sub-series 5C : Korea contains the holdings of the MEP Catholic missions in Korea between 1870 and 1980.
- It comprises both early archives collected after the closure of Series A in 1940, and archives produced after that date.
- It thus completes sub-series 6A09 and follows on from it.
The collection consists mainly of ongoing correspondence between the missionaries of Korea and the various MEP bodies and establishments. In addition, there are a few documents bearing witness to the life of the mission, notably the Seoul and Daegu bulletins, as well as the personal fonds of missionaries containing both documentation (biographical notes, press cuttings and conferences) collected by archivists or the general secretariat, and correspondence. These personal fonds complement the missionaries’ personal files kept in Series D, to which it is still important to refer for a general overview of the resources available at Irfa.
Filing plan structure
-5C-SE : Seoul (1831-1948)
-5C-DG : Daegu (1911-1948)
-5C-CO : Région Corée (1948-1978)
-5C-MAR : Martyrs de Corée
-5C-PH : Photocopies et transcriptions d’archives
For more details, see the online inventory.
“Colombe Kim martyre en Corée en 1839”, ©IRFA Iconothèque