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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Hallelujah Korea, Part XII: Pungsuwon Cathedral, Hoengseong, Gangwon Province


Pungsuwon was the first catholic village in which over 40 faithful from Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, led by Saint Peter Shin Tae-bo, settled to escape the wrath of Shinyu Catholic Persecution of 1801. Over a period of 80 years, the settlers had led their religious lives without a priest until Father Le Merre (a French priest) came to the village in 1888. Succeeding Le Merre in 1896, Father Augustine Jeong Gyu-ha, along with Chinese engineers, began to build Pungsuwon Cathedral (Hanja: 豊水院聖堂).

The Cathedral which is located at 30 Gyeonggang Avenue-Yuhyeon 1st Street/Gyeonggangno-Yuhyeon 1-gil, Yuhyeon-ri 1097-beonji, Seowon-myeon, Hoengseong County, Gangwon Province - was completed in 1907 by the faithful Korean Catholics, the cathedral still remains a beautiful building; it is a popular spot for visitors, having frequently appeared in Korean dramas and films. It is the first cathedral built by a Korean priest as well as in Gangwon Province; it is the fourth cathedral built in Korea. Pungsuwon Cathedral was designated as Gangwon Provincial Local Cultural Property No.69 in 1982.

It is the first cathedral built by a Native Korean priest and the fourth oldest one in Korea. 90 years have passed since its construction, but it still has its beauty. It has produced more than 30 priests. During the Honoring of Blessed Sacrament Event, which has continued since 1920, more than 10,000 Catholics from all over the country visit this place.

As if witnessing the old history of the cathedral, two big zelkovas stand in front and a museum stands at the back. In the two-story museum, valuable books including the hand copied Bible used in the early days, holy water containers, remains, rosaries, crosses, and vestments are on display. Coming out of the museum, you can see the road of cross. Hike up the road like an early believer and you can see Reverend Augustine Jeong Gyu-ha’s grave and the rosary garden. In the garden, there is a statue of Virgin Mary that was sent by an American soldier who prayed to Virgin Mary and survived the Korean War (1950~1953).

The contrast between green trees and a white statue, the contrast between nature and man-made object makes you feel like you are in a picture. One good way to finish your pilgrimage is to go around the rosary garden and breath in the fresh air before you go down. Hoengseong County is in the process of creating Yuhyeon cultural tour site to develop this place as a religious holy land as well as a world-class tourist attraction.