Letter of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon to Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol
My Lord, Your Excellency
will have already heard what has happened in the capital since we
parted. We set sail as soon as we had completed our preparations, and a
favourable wind brought us in safety to the sea of Yen-pieng, which was
covered at that time by a quantity of fishing boats. My people bought
some fish, and went to the harbour of the island of Suney to sell it
again, but not finding purchasers, they sent a sailor ashore to salt it.
In the course of our voyage we passed by Pokang, and the islands of
Maihap Thetsinmok and Sotseng Taitseng, and at last cast anchor near
Pelintao. I saw there about a hundred fishing junks from Canton; they
kept very near to the shore, but the crew were prevented from landing by
sentinels, who were posted on the elevations of the coast, and
the tops of the hills. Curiosity drew a crowd of Coreans from the
neighbouring islands round the Chinese. I myself went near them at
night, and was able to speak to the master of a boat. I entrusted him
with the letters of your Excellency, and wrote some to MM. Beneux,
Libois, and Martre, as well as to two Chinese Christians. I added to
these two maps of Corea, with a description of the islands, rocks, and
other remarkable features of the coast of Hoang-hai. This place appears
very favourable for the introduction of missionaries, and for the
transmission of letters, provided sufficient precautions are taken in
making use of the Chinese. They make an appointment here for the fishing
every year, about the beginning of the third month, and remain there
till about the end of the fifth.
After having executed your Lordship's orders, we set out again, and returned to the harbour of Suney. Up to
this time my voyage had been very prosperous, and I hoped for an equally
fortunate termination of it. The fish which we had left was not yet
dried, which obliged us to stay longer in port. My servant Veran asked
leave to go on shore to reclaim some money which he had left in charge
of a family, with whom he had been concealed for seven years for fear of
After he had gone the
mandarin came to our boat, with some of his people, and asked to be
allowed to use it to drive away the Chinese junks. Corean law does not
allow the boats of the nobles
to be taken for the public service, and as I had been made, I do not know how, to pass with the people for a ianpan of
high rank, as the nobles are called, I should have fallen in their
estimation, and so done an injury to our future expeditions, if I had
given up my boat to the mandarin. Besides, Veran had prescribed for me a
line of conduct which I was to pursue in similar circumstances. I
therefore replied to the mandarin, that my boat was for my own use, and
that I could not give it up to him. His officers abused me violently,
and took my pilot away with them.
They came back in the evening, and
taking away another sailor, brought him into the court, where the
answers which both of them made when questioned, threw grave suspicions
upon me. The mandarin was aware that the grandmother of one of them was a
Christian. The officers then consulted together, and said: "We are
thirty; if this person is really noble, perhaps one or two of us may be
put to death, but not all; let us go and seize him." They accordingly
came at night, accompanied by several women of bad character, and
throwing themselves upon us like madmen, they dragged me by the hair,
some of which was pulled out, and tying me with a cord, they showered
kicks and blows with their hands and with sticks upon me. In the mean
time the remaining sailors under cover of the darkness of the night
crept quietly down into the boat, and rowed away as fast as they could.
When we reached the shore, the officers stripped me of my clothes, bound
beat me again with every sort of insult and sarcasm, and brought me to
the court, where a great many persons were assembled. The mandarin said
to me: "Are you a Christian?"
"Yes, I am," I answered.
"Why do you
practise this religion contrary to the king's orders? Give it up."
practice my religion because it is true; it teaches me to know God, and
brings me to eternal happiness: I know of no such thing as apostasy."
The torture was then applied to me, and the judge said, "If you do not
apostatise you shall die under the blows."
"As you please, but I will
never abandon my God. Do you wish to hear the truth of my religion?
Listen. The God whom I worship is the Creator of heaven and earth, of
men and of everything that is: He punishes sin and rewards virtue,
&c. Whence it follows that all men are bound to do homage to Him.
For my part, I thank thee, O mandarin, for making me suffer these
tortures for His love. May my God reward you for this benefit, and raise
you to a higher rank."
At these words the mandarin and the whole
assembly began to laugh. They next brought me a cangue about eight feet
long, which I immediately took up, and put on my neck, at which bursts
of laughter broke from all parts of the audience. I was thrown into
prison with the two sailors, who had already apostatised. My hands and
feet, my neck and my loins were tightly bound, so that I could neither
walk, nor sit, nor lie down. A crowd of people pressed round me out of
curiosity, and I spent part
of the night in preaching the faith to them, and
they declared that they would embrace it if it were not forbidden by the
The officers finding some Chinese articles in my bag believed
that I was of that country, and the next day the mandarin sent for me
and asked if I was a Chinese.
"No,'' I answered, "I am a Corean."
believing what I said he asked, "In what province of China were you
"I was brought up in Macao in the province of Koang-tong; I am a
Christian, and curiosity and the desire of propagating my religion
brought me to this country."
He then sent me back to prison, from
whence, five days later, I was taken by a subaltern and several men to
Kaiton, the capital of the province. The governor asked me if I was a
Chinese, and I answered as I had done to the mandarin of the island. He
put a great many questions to me about my religion, and I gladly took
the opportunity of speaking to him of the immortality of the soul, hell,
paradise, the existence of God, and the necessity of worshipping Him in
order to be happy after death.
He and his people answered, "What you
say is good and reasonable: but the king does not allow us to be
Christians." They afterwards asked me many things which would have
compromised the Christians and the mission, and I was very careful not
to reply to them. "If you do not tell us the truth," they said angrily,
"we will torment you in various ways.''
"Do what you please," I
answered; and running to the instruments of torture
I took them up and threw them at the governor's feet, saying, "See, I
am ready, strike me. I do not fear your tortures."
The officers removed
them immediately, and the servants of the mandarin came up to me and
said: "It is the custom for every body who speaks to the governor to
call himself So-in" (which means fool.) "What are you saying?" I
answered, "I am a great nobleman, and know nothing of such an
Some days afterwards the governor sent for me
again, and overwhelmed me with questions about China, sometimes speaking
by an interpreter to find out if I was really a Chinese, and ending by
ordering me to apostatise. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to express
my pity for him. The two Christians who were arrested with me were
overcome by the severity of the torture, and pointed out the house where
I had lived in the capital, besides betraying your excellency's
servant, Thomas Ly, his brother Matthew, and several others: they
confessed that I had communicated with the Chinese junks, and given some
letters to one of them. A detachment of soldiers was immediately sent
off to the junks, which brought back the letters to the governor. We
were very strictly guarded in separate cells, with four soldiers
watching us night and day, and a long cord tied to our loins. The
soldiers seeing seven scars which had been left on my breast by the ten
leeches which I had put on when I was ill at Macao, declared that I was
the Great Bear, and amused themselves by many jokes about it.
As soon as the king heard of our arrest he sent some officers to bring us to the capital: he had been told that I was a Chinese. During the journey we were not bound as we were in
prison, but our arms were tied with a red cord, as is done with robbers
and great criminals, and our heads were covered with bags of black
cloth. We suffered greatly on the way from the crowds, who thought I was
a foreigner, and pressed to see me, some even climbing up trees and
getting on the roofs of houses as I passed.
When we reached Seoul we
were thrown into the prison of thieves. The people of the court, hearing
me speak, said I was a Corean. The following day I appeared before the
judges, who asked me what I was.
"I am a Corean," I answered, "and I was
educated in China." Interpreters of Chinese were then called that I
might speak with them.
In the persecution of 1839
the person who betrayed us declared that three young Coreans had been
sent to Macao to study the language of the Europeans, so that it was
impossible that I should not be recognized: besides, one of the
Christians who was arrested with me had told them that I was their
countryman. I confessed to the judges that I was Andrew Kim, one of the
three Coreans mentioned, and I related to them all that I had gone
through in order to return to my country.
When I had told my story every one exclaimed, "Poor young man! From his infancy upwards he has been in trouble."
The judges ordered me to
conform to the king's orders and to apostatise, but I answered, "The God
who orders me to worship Him is above the king, and to deny Him is a
sin which the king's order cannot justify."
When it was suggested to me
to denounce the Christians I objected to them the duties of charity and
the commandment of God to love our neighbour. Being asked about religion
I spoke to them at length of the existence and unity of God, of the
creation and immortality of the soul, of hell, of the necessity of
worshipping our Creator, and of the falsehood of the religions of the
When I had finished speaking the judges answered: "Your
religion is good, but ours is so also, and therefore we practise it."
"If such is your opinion," I replied, "you ought to leave us alone and
live at peace with us. But instead of that you persecute us, and treat
us worse than the greatest criminals: you confess that our religion is
good, and you attack us as if its teaching was abominable.''
laughed loudly at my reply, and handed to me the letters and papers they
had taken. The judges read the two that were written in Chinese; they
only contained salutations to friends. They then told me to translate
the European letters, but I only explained to them what was of no
consequence to the Mission. They asked me about MM. Berneux, Maistre,
and Libois, and I answered "esse philosophantes in Sinis,'' that they
were studying philosophy in China.
Finding a difference between my
letters and those of your Excellency they asked me who had written the
latter. I said
in general that they were my letters. They showed me those of your
Excellency, and desired me to write like them, intending to entrap me,
but I was too cunning for them. "These characters," I said, "were
written with a metallic pen; if you will bring one I will do as you
"We have no pens of metal."
"Unless I have one I cannot form
characters like these."
A quill was then brought, and the judge gave it
to me saying, " Cannot you write with this instrument?"
"It is not the
same thing, but it will serve to show how a person who uses the European
characters can write different hands." Then making a very fine pen I
wrote several lines in a small hand, and afterwards I cut off the point
and wrote much larger. "You see," I said to them, "these characters are
not the same.'' This satisfied them, and they did not press me further,
but your Lordship will see from this how far our learned men in Corea
are behind those of Europe.
The Christians who were taken with me have not yet
been put to any torture in the capital. Charles and his companions are
in another prison, where we cannot communicate with them. Of the ten who
are here four have apostatised, but three of them repent of their
weakness. Matthias Ly, who played so vile a part in 1839, appears full
of courage and desirous of martyrdom, His example is followed by the
father of the convert Sensiri, by my pilot, and by Peter Nam, who
formerly gave such scandal to the faithful. We do not know when we shall
be led out to death, but we are full of confidence in the
mercy of the Lord, and trust that He will give us strength to confess
His holy Name up to our last moment.
The government has decided upon
seizing your Excellency's servant Thomas, and several other important
persons. The police seem rather tired, and not caring to look for
Christians any more, have said that they have all gone away to Itsen
Iantsi Ogni, and into the provinces of Tshong-tsheng and Tsella. I
entreat your Excellency and M. Daveluy to remain concealed until after
The judge tells me that three vessels, believed to be French,
have anchored near the island Oiento. He says they have come by order
of the Emperor of France, (a convenient expression in these countries,)
and that they threaten to do much harm to Corea; that two of them have
gone away with the intention of returning next year, and that the third
still remains in Corean waters. The government seems frightened,
remembering the death of the three Frenchmen who were martyred in 1839. I
was asked if I knew the reason of their coming, and I replied that I
knew nothing about it, but that they need not be afraid, for that the
French never did harm to any one without good reason. I have spoken to
them of the power of France, and of the liberality of her government. I
think they believe me, but they object to me that they have killed three
Frenchmen without coming to any harm. If French ships have really come
to Corea, your Excellency will doubtless be aware of it.
I have had to translate an
English map of the world, and have made two copies of it in colours,
which have pleased them much; one is intended for the king. Just now I
am engaged, by order of the ministers, in making a small compendium of
geography. They take me for a very learned man. Poor people!
I recommend Ursula, my
mother, to your Excellency. She was allowed to see her son for a day or
two after an absence of ten years, and then he was taken from her again.
Have pity upon her, I beseech you, and console her in her sorrow.
Prostrating myself in spirit at your Excellency's
feet, I salute for the last time my beloved father and revered bishop. I
likewise salute Mgr. De Besi, and send my respectful compliments to M.
May we meet in heaven.
From prison, 26th August, 1846.
-Andrew Kim, Priest, Prisoner of Jesus Christ