Korea’s first church, Yakhyeon Catholic Church

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Most travel guides list the Myeongdong Cathedral as one of Seoul’s key attractions that tourists would want to tick off their list. But did you know that Seoul is home to a church that is even older and more beautiful than Myeongdong Cathedral?

Yakhyeon Catholic Church is one of Seoul’s better-kept secrets, perhaps because it isn’t located within the shopping district. But it’s actually really accessible, just five minutes’ walk from Chungjeongno station Exit 4 (Green Line 2).

Yakhyeon Catholic Church as featured in the K-drama Iris

The church itself is a gorgeous red brick building in the Gothic style. Originally built in 1892, it was reconstructed after a fire. With golden light from the afternoon sun beaming through stained glass, it’s the perfect setting for a wedding – or a K-drama. Here it is in Iris, with Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee walking down the aisle (image credit: dramabeans):

Yakhyeon Catholic Church as featured in the K-drama Iris

K-drama actress Kim Tae Hee looks at a statue of Mother Mary in Yakhyeon Catholic Church

The church compound also has a museum about the birth of Christianity in Korea. This is really interesting because Korea is the only country where Christianity was not spread through missionaries from Europe, but by local Koreans who obtained scriptures from China. It also gives you a hint of why Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Korea today.

Don’t miss the chapel with relics from the martyrs executed just a stone’s throw away at the Seosomun Park. Historically, this was the area in front of the western city gate of Hanyang (Seoul), hence it’s use as an execution ground to set an example to the commonfolk. But far from stamping out the spread of Christianity, the sight of the Korean martyrs going joyfully to their deaths, with the promise of eternal salvation, was somehow attractive to the oppressed masses who converted by the thousands.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.


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