Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 23, 2009
Korea's Kim defended human rights
Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan
BY CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Korea’s first cardinal, an outspoken defender of human rights, died in Seoul Feb. 16 at the age of 86.
Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was born in Daegu in May 1922, ordained a priest in 1951 and was named bishop of Masan, Korea, in 1966.
He was named archbishop of Seoul just two years later and served as head of the archdiocese for 30 years until his retirement in 1998.
Pope Paul VI named the 46-year-old archbishop a cardinal in 1969.
As archbishop of Seoul, Kim called on the laity to evangelize North Koreans, whose communist government restricts their religious freedom.
He was also dedicated to interreligious dialogue and coordinating diverse charitable and social service activities.
In 1999, Kim said it was absolutely essential for Catholics to have a better appreciation for other religions and recognize that they contain “precious jewels” for Christians, as the Second Vatican Council taught.
His initiatives promoting and defending human rights were “quite courageous” given the “difficult internal political situation” at the time, said a Vatican biography.
One of the main focuses of the cardinal’s work had been pressing for reconciliation between North and South Korea and for freedom of religion in the communist North.
Kim and the local Church came to be seen as defenders of human rights against dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. Many local people have called the late cardinal the guardian of human rights and democracy.
He often told people that his journey to the priesthood was not easy; he was forced to serve in the Japanese army during the Second World War when he was a seminarian.