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Chon Jin Am, the forgotten Buddhist Hermitage

by Emi Hailey Hayakawa, BTN, March 24, 2015

Seoul, South Korea -- In August 14th, 2014, Pope Francis visited South Korea. During this visit, the Pope had blessed 124 Korean Catholic soldiers at the Seoul beatification ceremony.  Korean Catholic has officially stated that the beginning of Catholicism began at Chon Jin Am, a Buddhist Hermitage.

Korean Catholicism began in the late 18th Century, Catholic doctrines began to spread in the Korean Peninsula. Without the helps of foreign missionaries, Korean intellectuals studied and developed the Catholic faith in Korea. The place where the Catholics developed their faith wasa Buddhist Hermitage known as Chon Jin Am.

Ven. Hye-Il, the Director of Department of Culture of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism states, “In all historical records, such as Dasan munjib (The Collection of Dasan), and Seungjeongwon ilgi (Journal of the Royal Secretariat) and the maps of the Joseon Dynasty, it is clearly indicated that Chon Jin Am existed in Kwangju of the Gyeongi province. Records also mention that people such as Yi Byuk, Lee Seong-hun, studied Catholicism within Chon Jin Am.”

For their faith, the Catholics came to the monastery of a different religion, and

Based on their faith, the Buddhists accepted and helped the people of a different religion.

Hak-Gi, Min, the 2nd District Chairman of Buddhist Council of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism states, “The Buddha did not prevent anyone from learning the teachings of other religions. The core of true compassion and tolerance of the Buddha’s teachings are shown in the Buddhist spirit by allowing the Catholics to keep their faith and to practice them within a Buddhist monastery.”

During that time, the government became wary of foreign doctrines and began oppressing the Catholic community. During that time, Chon Jin Am was a sanctuary for the Catholics.

And in 1801, a mass Catholic persecution was ordered by the government which came to be known as the Sinyu Persecution.

Ven. Hye-Il continues and explains that, “It is clear that during the Sinyu Persecution, many Buddhist monks were prosecuted and even some monks were executed along side with the Korean Catholics.”

For the sole reason that the Buddhist monks have protected and allowed the Catholics to enter their monastery, the monks of Chon Jin Am were also executed alongside with the persecuted Catholics. Chon Jin Am was forced to shut down after that.

The Buddhist hermitage, Chon Jin Am only exits now on ancient maps. Just as Pope Francis held the beatification ceremony, and just as the Catholics remember their saints,

Korean Buddhism must never forget the the history of Chon Jin Am, and it’s spirit.

Through the spirit of non-abiding charity,Chon Jin Am allowed Catholicism to take root in Korea. Chon Jin Am is the sacred site of Peace created by the universal compassion of Buddhism.

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