The tide of Christian mission activity reached Korea in the 17th century, when copies of Catholic missionary Matteo Ricci's works in Chinese were brought from Beijing by the annual tributary mission to the Chinese Emperor. Along with religious doctrine, these books included aspects of Western learning such as the solar calendar andother matters that attracted the attention of the Choson scholars of Sirhakp’a, or the School of Practical Learning.
By the 18th century, there were several converts among these scholars and their families. No priests entered Korea until 1794, when a Chinese priest James Chu Munmo visited Korea. The number of converts continued to increase, although the propagation of foreign religion on Korean soil was still technically against the law and there were sporadic persecutions. By the year 1865, a dozen priests presided over acommunity of some 23,000 believers.
With the coming to power in 1863 of Taewon’gun, a xenophobic prince regent, persecution began in earnest and continued until 1873. In 1925,79 Koreans who had been martyred during the Choson Dynasty persecutions were beatified at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and in 1968 anadditional 24 were honored in the same way.
During and after the Korean War (1950-53), the number of Catholicr belief organizations and missionaries increased. The Korean Catholic Church grew quickly and its hierarchy was established in 1962. TheRoman Catholic Church in Korea celebrated its bicentennial with a visit to Seoul by Pope John Paul II and the canonization of 93 Korean and 10 French missionary martyrs in 1984. It was the first time that acanonization ceremony was held outside the Vatican. This gave Korea the fourth-largest number of Catholic saints in the world, although quantitative growth has been slow for Catholicism.