A REASON FOR THE PERSECUTION OF EARLY CHRISTIANS
The main reason of persecution of early Christians in Roman society was due, aqmong other things, to their in their distinctive life-style. The word used to describe the Christian in the New Testament is the term hagios, often translated "saints." It means holy ones, but its root suggests the meaning "different." So, holy things are different from other things.
Fundamental to the Christian life-style and the cause of endless hostility was the Christian's rejection of idolatry.
SITUATION IN KOREA
In 1777, a group of Korean scholars studied the writings of Confucius and MenciuS. Among the books which the group had for discussion were several Catholic books, which had been brought from China. Pyuk Lee became convinced that here was the answer to all the philosophical problems that had been troubling him. And several scholars converted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the beginning of Christianity in Korea.
One of the scholars was sent to China to get more information about the Christian doctrine. Since then they kept in touch with Catholic priests in China. One day, the scholars sent a letter to China asking for information and clarification about various things concerning Christianity, and they got the answer from them. The reply was a great shock, for the Bishop forbade Christians from taking any part in ancestor worship.
THE PROBLEM OF ANCESTOR WORSHIP
Ancestor worship was/is an important aspect of Korean social and religious life. To forsake ancestor worship would mean shaking the very foundations of Korean morality. But one believer, Yoosong Chi, who was a well-known scholar, burnt the ancestral tablets which he had. Shortly after this, when his mother died, he did not set up a tablet for her, nor did he carry on the usual worship. Two anti-Christian noblemen had him arrested. He was tortured and executed.
From this, a wide-spread persecution began in 1791. At least 400 well-known Christians were publicly martyred and there were probably many others who gave their lives for the faith.
THE PROBLEM OF IDOLATRY
The Christian fear of idolatry also led to difficulties in making a living.
The supreme cause of Roman persecution of Christians arose from the tradition of emperor worship. There was one notable Roman policy that the required the burning of incense to the emperor's statue. The Jewish Christians refused to worship the emperor as a living god.
THE JAPANESE COLONIZATION OF KOREA AND EMPEROR WORSHIP
Under the Japanese colonization of Korea, around 1910, thirty million people of Korea progressively lost their freedom. The Japanese rule was cruel. By police pressure, exploitation, imprisonment, execution and massacre, they sought to reduce the Korean people to subjection in a way that is reminiscent of the Dark Ages. Eventually religious freedom was also attacked, and the relatively large and flourishing Christian church came under fire as one of the remaining bulwarks of independence. One of the Japanese campaigns to unify and 'Japanize' the Koreans was the official doctrine of the deity of the emperor. With it went an insistence that all should take part in the national rites connected with Shinto shrine worship. The Shinto shrines were pagan worship, and many Christians refused to perform this worship. It has a remarkable similarity to the demand in early Christian times that incense should be offered to the Roman emperor. The more the Japanese threatened the Christians, the stronger became the Christians' faith. Hundreds of pastors and Christian leaders went to concentration camps rather than bow even in token obeisance to an emperor who said he was God. (pg.16-17, the untold Korean story).
THE ISSUE OF THE SABBATH DAY AND PERSECUTION
There was another persecution by the communists around 1946. After independence from Japan, there was a turmoil of politics in Korea. There was a movement to establish a republic, and there was also a movemen to establish a communist rule. The northern part of Korea was taken by the communists. They judged people as criminals if the people had any frienship with the Americans, held a government office under the Japanese or the Republic of Korea government, or if they were Christians. The communists wanted to bring the church under their complete control for their own purpose. While it too had its political overtones, The first clash between the communists and the Christians occurred when the Christians unitedly the "Sunday issue" in connection with the puppet election set for Sunday, to decide what to do about it. They made the following declaration: keeping the Sabbath day holy is of the life of the church, so there should be no attendance upon things other than worship on the Lord's Day. Government and religion should be kept separate. The church stands for freedom of religion and assembly, etc. So this declaration brought a lot of persecution, many were imprisoned and martyred.
THE CHURCH GROWS AS EVER!
By the early Christians' sacrifice and their blood both in Roman Empire and Korea, many churches were planted, and many came to Christ. The mustard seed died in order to grow as a large tree and bear fruits.