BRIEF HISTORY AND PRESENT STATUS
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MISSION IN KOREA
Updated May 1, 2005
Written by Fr. Justin Kang, Tae-Yong
Administrator of Korean Orthodox Mission
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, South Korea
The "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" called the
Eastern Orthodox Church launched in Korean peninsula through the approval
of the Tsar Nikolai II by the resolution (No. 2195) of Russian Orthodox
Synod at St. Petersburg on 1897, thus established Russian Orthodox Church
in Korea (ROCK) .
The first missionaries were Archimandrite Ambrosy, Deaconate monk Nikolai,
Reader Krashin. They were expected to arrive at Seoul in 1897, however,
due to the competitions among nations and resistance movement by lots
of Korean people toward all foreigners, it was not easy for them to
enter into Korea.
They tentatively stayed with Russian army at Novo Kiev (presently 'Kraskino',
at that time, 2,000 Koreans were living there and many of them were
Orthodox Christians). Fr. Ambrosy gave instructions and sermons towards
Russian soldiers. In his sermon, he said that the corrupted army should
be born again with the Christ's spirit to win the war, which finally
made him to return to St. Petersburg. This is because some of the army
leaders were angry with his sermon and accused him innocently. Two years
later, the reader Krashin gave up his mission duty since he was extremely
exhausted to stay in the military camp located at desolated area.
In 1897, with much patience, Fr. Nikolai waited and was permitted to
enter Korea. He launched far and harsh road toward Korean Orthodox Mission.
Fr. Nikolai was preparing the mission while waiting the second missionaries.
The Synod of Russian Orthodox Church organized the second team, they
gave Ukase to Archimandrite Chrysanthos Shetkovsky and Reader Jona Levshenko
They entered into Korea on 1900, and started their mission work with
Fr. Nikolai Alexeyev. On March, 2nd (in old calender), 1900, they served
the first Divine Liturgy in Korea cellebrating the Great Martyrs Feothora
Thyrona inside the Russian embassy located at Chungdong, Seoul.
At that time, Navy choir from Chemulpo (presently 'Incheon' where the
Incheon international airport is located) harbor also praised the Lord.
Participants were Russian ambassador Pavlov, envoys from Korean empire
as well as many other celebrated persons. Korean newspapers such as
"Hwangsung Shinmun" and "Chosun Daily" reported
this event with the title, "the Russian Mission", and described
that Fr. Chrisantos and other missionaries came to Korea to propagate
the Russian Orthodoxy in Korea. After that time, another newspaper called,
"Empire Shinmun" also reported that many men and women were
baptized and became members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Church was consecrated as St. Nikolai II Church, commemorating St.
Nicholas the Wonderworker as well as the Tsar Nikolai II who actively
supported the Korean mission.
Fr. Chrisanthos was troubled in doing the mission due to language problem.
In addition, collisions between Korean and missionaries from the West
were occurred due to lack of understanding of the Korean culture and
tradition. Laymen considered Fr. Chrisanthos and his coworkers as same
as the people from the West. However, Fr. Chrisanthos managed this difficult
circumstances by cooperating with 15 Korean-Russians in spreading the
Russian Orthodox Faith.
As for the place for constructing the Orthodox Church in Korea, both
Russia and Korea were favorable to each other at first. The Korean emperor
Kojong donated $12,000 (Mexican dollars) to Tsar Nokoai II for purchasing
a land for Russian Orthodox Church (January 19, 1898). The Tsar Nikoai
II expressed his gratitude to Korean Emperor Kojong (January 23, 1898).
However, the relation between Korea and Russia became not so favorable
due to strong competition in Korea among countries including Japan.
Due to such reasons, Korean government did not permit the entrance of
Russian missionaries to Korea. In addition, Korean officials did not
permit the construction of the church. At that time, Tsar Nikolai II
declared that he does not want to receive the donation from Korean Emperor
Kojong, then he returned the money $12,000 (Mexican dollars) back to
Korean Empire (April 20, 1898). [References: Russian National Document
Archives, Summary of Documents related to Korea; 1. Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Russian Federation, Foreign Policy Document Archives of Russian
Empire; 2. National Document Archives, Russian Federation, Military
History; 3. National Document Archives, Russian Federation, translated
from Russian into Korean by Prof. Park, Jong-Hyo, Moscow University,
printed by the Korea Foundation].
According to the telegram from Russia on April 11, 1898, the ambassador
Mitunina (¬¯. ¬¤. ¬®¬¡¬´¬À¬¯¬ª¬¯¬¡) purchased some areas (the place was at Chungdong,
where KyungHyang newspaper is presently located) for the place for Church
building. He paid $10,650 (Mexican dollars). He also purchased private
land by paying $820.
They completed the construction of the church building of Russian Orthodox
Church in Korea (ROCK) between 1901-1902. They decorated interiors of
the Church and placed five Russian bells which tolled beautifully (The
bells are presently used by Greek Orthodox Church in Seoul).
After setting up other things, Fr. Chrisanthos consecrated the Church
on April 17th, 1903. The Russian Church in Seoul was of big interest
to many Korean people. A cathederal was to be constructed soon after.
However, unfortunately, due to the war between Russia and Japan, the
mission and the plan for building the cathedral were not easy to proceed.
After the 6th day from the beginning of the war, Russian missionaries
returned to their country, which was beyond their will.
In 1906, after the Russo-Nippon war in 1904, a new mission team consisted
of administrator Fr. Pavel Invanovsky and Ivan Kang, Han-Tak, reestablished
the Russian Orthodox Church mission in Korea. Ivan Kang, Han-Tak was
Korean-Russian who translated Russian church books into Korean.
They tried to build a memorial place for Russian soldiers who were killed
in the war with the permission of the Tsar Nikolai II, however, due
to Japanese it was not permitted.
In 1911, jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea was changed
to the Vladivostok diocese from the original jurisdiction, the Russian
Orthodox Synod at St. Petersburg.
The Vladivostok diocese decided to ordain Ivan Kang, Hantak since Korean
priest was definitely needed. Bishop Sergei of Vladivostok ordained
him as deacon on 1911, and the next year 1912, Ivan Kang, Han-Tak was
ordained as a priest, who was the first Korean priest of Russian Orthodox
Church. Fr. Kang, Han-Tak was in charge of "Garuge" parish
(Garuge, Kyoha-myon, Paju-kun, Kyungki-do, Korea).
In 1914, Fr. Parazin became the administrator of Korean mission, he
tried to develope Korean mission to the level of independent church,
however, he returned without achieving his goal. Following his position,
Vladimir, a server who was not ordained any priesthood. It is evaluated
that the Korean mission was not successful in his time.
In 1917, Fr. Feodosy came to Korea as an administrator. He went to Japanese
Orthodox Church due to his illness. He passed away in 1931 in Japan.
In 1917, due to the tragic Boshevic revolution, a fierce storm of persecution
swept the whole Russia. First, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev was killed,
the persecution and murder were endless.
In 1918, the first administrator of Korean Orthodox Mission Fr. Ambrosy
martyred at St. Petersburg, and Tsar Nikolai II, the strong supporter
of Korean Orthodox Mission, assassinated at Ekaterinburg with his Royal
In the same year, Fr. Ivan Kang, Han-Tak served at Harbin, and he passed
away at there in 1939.
After the revolution, Fr. Kim, Hee-Jun (Korean who was a citizen of
Russia) kept the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea lonely. He was a missionary
since 1912, and was ordained as a deacon in 1913 by Bishop Sergei. Fr.
Kim, Hee-Jun performed his holy duty while several administrators were
On February 29, 1922, the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea (ROCK) was
included into Japanese Orthodox Church's jurisdiction.
In 1923, Metropolitan Benjamin of St. Petersburg was killed and many
priests, monks, nuns, and believers were killed. The ROCK was just barely
existed without any financial support.
In 1924, the deacon Luke Kim, Hee-Jun ordained as a priest by Bishop
Sergei, and he led the Korean mission. According to the late Pavel Kim
in 1985, Fr. Luke Kim, Hee-Jun had kept the ROCK with firm belief like
that of martyrs. However, he passed away due to malnutrition.
In 1931, Fr. Alexander came to Korea from Japan, but he went to Harbin.
In 1932, Fr. Alexey Kim, Eui-Han ordained as a deacon by Bishop Sergei.
In 1933, Fr. Porikali came to Korea from Japan, but he left Korea in
In 1945, Japan was defeated in the World War II and withdrew from Korea.
Therefore, the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea lost its jurisdiction
In 1947, Fr. Alexey Kim, Eui-Han ordained as a priest by Bishop Benjamin.
Fr. Alexey Kim performed his holy duty under tremendous social and financial
difficulties. He was a faithful and good shepherd, who encouraged Korean
believers to keep the Orthodox Faith.
In July 9th, 1950, Fr. Alexey Kim, Eui-Han was kidnapped to North Korea.
Up to now, we do not know what happened to him after that time. Without
any shepherd, the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea was slowed down gradually.
During the period, 1952-1954, Fr. Andrew and Fr. Daniel who were belonged
to Greek army sent to Korea during the Korean war, dedicated to reconstruct
the St. Nicholas church at 22 Chung-dong, Seoul. They sent Korean Boris
Moon, Eichun to Japan, and Japanese bishop Irene ordained him as a priest
of Russian Orthodox Church in Korea in 1954.
In 1956, Fr. Boris Moon, Eichun led all believers of the Russian Orthodox
Church in Korea to the Greek Orthodox Church's jurisdiction (Constantinople's
jurisdiction of South and North America). So, the mission of the Russian
Orthodox Church in Korea was ended.
Since the end of the World War II, the Russian Orthodox Church property
was belonged to Korean government. Fr. Boris Moon and his coworkers
succeeded in taking the property of St. Nicholas Church from Korean
government. They insisted that the property was given by the Emperor
Kojong, which is not true. The property was given by Tsar Nikolai II.
In spite that the property was of Russian Federation and of Russian
Orthodox Church, Fr. Boris Moon and coworkers sold the St. Nicholas
Church (at 22 Chung-dong, Seoul, where the Kyung-hyang newspaper building
is presently located) on December, 1966. With that money made from selling
the real estate, they purchased another place (424-1 Ahyun-dong, Seoul)
and built a new church in Byzantine style, which exists up to now.
However, the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea reestablished similar
to the appearance of blossoming spring after coldness and sufferings
On the Easter of 1994, the Synod of Bishops of Russian Orthodox Church
of Outside Russia gave a Ukaz to a Korean priest Fr. Justin Kang, Tae-Yong
as an administrator of the Russian Orthodox Church in Korea. The mission
of Russian Orthodox Church in Korea restarted after 38 years.
Since 1994 to 1997, Fr. Justin Kang, Tae-Yong performed his mission
activity by opening mission center and St. John the Theologian Church
at TongEui-dong, Chongno-ku, Seoul. At that place, he taught the Tradition
and Faith of Russian Orthodox Church and ran a publishing company. Fr.
Justin Kang, Tae-Yong published several books such as, "the Divine
Liturgy", "the Eastern Orthodox Church-its history and theology",
and small introductory book, "Orthodox Church", he also published
bimonthly magazine called, "Eastern Orthodoxy".
In the book, "the Eastern Orthodox Church-its history and theology"
(Publishing Co. Orthodox Korea), the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop
Hilarion and the recommendation of Cardinal Kim, Soohwan of Roman Catholic
Church in Korea are contained. In particular, the book was chosen by
the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Korean government as the "Book
of the Year" in 1996. So, Korean government purchased about 400
copies and distributed them to whole national libraries in Korea.
Fr. Justin Kang gave several invited talks and lectures on the teaching
of the Orthodox Church, mainly on Russian tradition, at universities,
churches, monasteries, and symposia. He also published several papers
on the Liturgy and Holy Sacraments of Orthodox Church in a few Korean
After the first visit on 1997, His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion visited
Korea again on 1999. His Eminence visited's St. Paul`s Valley, 451-1
Yonghwa-ri, Keunduk-myon, Samchuk, Kangwon-do, and consecrated St. Anna
church, baptized Mr. Park, Ho-Young (Peter), Kang, Seong-In (Paul),
and Kang, Sang-Hoon (Timothy), and ordained Kang, Byung-Song (Sergei)
as a subdeacon, Kang, Young-Gwang (Paul) as a reader. His Eminence Archbishop
Hilarion visited Korean Blessed Martyr's monastery of Roman Catholic
Church and Nasilian monastic community of Protestant Church, and introduced
the tradition of monaticism of Eastern Orthodox Church. His Eminence
visited officially Archbishop Jung, Chul-Beom of Anglican Church in
Korea. His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion also visited St. Nicholas Cathedral
in Seoul in following the footprints of the Russian Orthodox Church
in Korea, which suffered so many difficulties.
Presently, ROCK has five candidates for priesthood and a few candidates
for nuns. At 451-1 Yonghwa-ri, Keunduk-myon, Samchuk, Kangwon-do, where
St. Anna church is located, we run the "Orthodox Hermitage"
in an area called, St. Paul's valley. At the Orthodox Hermitage, several
people study the Orthodox Spirituality by contemplating and practicing
the Jesus Prayer. We also provide some retreat programs. We also make
Russian Traditional Icons (mainly reproduction of originals) and translate
Orthodox spiritual books into Korean.
We pray that our Lord would provide the necessary fund to publish following
books which are ready now; "The Law of God", "The
Eastern Orthodox Church-its history and Theology, revised edition",
"The Orthodox Way-revised edition", "The Wonderworking
Icons", "Introduction to the Jesus Prayer", "Introduction
to the Philokalia (Dobrotolyubie)". The
book, "the Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way",
is printed on December, 2003.
Through the website (http://www.korthodox.org) we provide Orthodox theological,
traditional, and spiritual materials, such as "Lives of Saints;
St. Sergei of Radonezh, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and St. John of Shanghai
and San Francisco", etc., including above books as e-books for
We also have organized the Korean Orthodox Mission Basic Community,
which consists of a few people gathered in the name of Jesus Christ
and Orthodox teaching and spirit. We have about ten KOMBCs presently
We earnestly pray to our Lord to provide for us the strong financial
stability to perform the holy mission actively. Although, we are now
in a difficult situation with little financial support, we witness and
follow our Lord like the Apostles and martyrs in the early Churches
and like the new martyrs under the Soviet regime.
On June 29, 2003, the "All Russian Saints" feast day, His
Eminence Archbishop Hilarion awarded Fr. Justin to wear the Kamilavka
at Croydon Church. Archbishop Hilarion made a resolution to establish
the "St. Nikolai Foundation" to perform the Russian Orthodox
Mission. Its objects is to commemorate the Tsar martyr St. Nikolai II
who opened the exchange between Korea and Russia for the first time,
and to make people (who have distorted historical view) have correct
understanding of the Tsar martyr St. Nikolai II, and to honor his virtuous
life as a faithful Orthodox Christian. The foundation will perform the
mission of Gospel toward the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia, from
Seoul as a core of these areas.
The Korean Orthodox Mission is preparing to establish the St. Nikolai
foundation. With the prayers of the Tsar Martyr Nokolai II, we hope
that our Lord Jesus Christ would bless the Korean Orthodox Mission.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Korea (ROCK) including several KOMBCs
are small and weak now, however, like a small mustard seed, we sow our
faith to see its growth to a big tree to complete the holy duty of our
Lord Jesus Christ with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
+ May the Glory would be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit