Korea and the Holy See celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2017: in particular, the commemoration of the sending of the first permanent Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See in Korea.
The diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Korea began in 1947 when Pope Pius XII sent the first "apostolic delegate", Father Patrick James Byrne to Korea, shortly after the liberation of Korea from Japanese dominion.
As Fides reports, for the occasion, Korean President Moon Jae-in has asked Archbishop Igino Kim Hee-Jung, who is president of the Bishops' Conference of Korea, to represent the whole Korean nation and to meet the Holy Father to celebrate this anniversary. Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung will be accompanied by Seong Youm, former Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See, in the special mission in the Vatican planned for the coming months.
By sending a "Permanent Delegate", the Holy See was one of the first countries to recognize Korea as an independent nation after the liberation from the Japanese colonization. Patrick James Byrne, American missionary of the Maryknoll's fathers, was consecrated Bishop in 1949, but when the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was kidnapped and died in prison. He is now part of the group of 213 Korean priests and laity whose beatification process has begun. Bishop Thomas Quinlan was also abducted along with Byrne, but he was able to return. Quinlan later served as the second Apostolic Visitor to Korea in 1954.
In those years, the South Korean government sent a delegation to the Paris conference in 1948 to be recognized as the Government of the Korean peninsula. At that time the Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris (then Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII) greatly helped the Korean delegation to obtain recognition from many delegations of Catholic countries.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II visited South Korea for the first time to attend a ceremony commemorating 200th anniversary of Korean Catholicism. The pontiff made a second papal visit in 1989 to attend the 44th Eucharistic Congress. Pope Francis also made a papal visit to South Korea in 2014 for the beautification of the 124 Korean martyrs and for the sixth Asian Youth Day.
Then Korean President, Kim Dae-jung visited the Vatican in 2000, becoming the first Korean head of state to do so. Presidents Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye also made their visits to the city-state. (Fides)