An official biography of Cardinal Kim Sou-Hwan was published last year, just ahead of the seventh anniversary of his passing. It was the first official biography of Kim to be approved by the archdiocese of Seoul.
In this piece, we ruminate on the tumultuous life of Cardinal Kim: the son of a potter and descendant of a martyr; who grew up in a shabby house in the mountains; who became the youngest cardinal in the world; who stood at the center of the turbulent history of contemporary Korea as a leader of the religious world and a counterweight to society.
We also share some of the 360 pictures painstakingly collected by Lee Choong Ryul, the author of the biography (“아, 김수환 추기경”). The cardinal’s 87 years testify to a life lived as a firm, upright tree as well as a deep forest, engraved with the contemporary history of Korea.
— Jeon Byung-geun
Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan was born in Namsan-dong, Daegu, in 1920. The residence of the bishop of the Daegu diocese was behind the St. Justino Seminary, which is on the left of this photograph. A large number of Catholic families lived in the area. Towards the end of the Joseon dynasty, when Catholics were persecuted, believers hid in the mountains and made a living by making and selling red clay pottery (onggi). Later in his life, Kim chose “Onggi” as his pen name. He kept the name to himself, thinking that he was a lesser man compared to the ancestors of his faith. When the archdiocese of Seoul founded a scholarship foundation to foster priests for mission work in North Korea, they named it the “Onggi Scholarship Association”.
He was born Kim “Soun-han”
Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan was originally named “Soun-han”. He and his brothers had been named using the syllables that were common to the same generational group of their family clan. The first and second sons of the family were named Dal-soo and Pil-soo, and the fourth and fifth were named Dong-han and Soun-han. However, as he prepared the documents to enter a seminary at the age of 12, he found that his name had been registered as “Sou-hwan”. The government official who had filled out the birth certificate must have misunderstood Sou-hwan’s father, who had a thick Chungcheong Province dialect. “Well, what can you do?” said his mother. “Sou-hwan’s good, too, isn’t it?” Soun-hwan repeated the name in his head—“Kim Sou-hwan, Kim Sou-hwan”—and it wasn’t bad. From then, he became Kim Sou-hwan.
A late child
In a journal entry, Cardinal Kim wrote: “My mother was 40 when she conceived me, and she’d felt ashamed of having me at an age when she would see her first grandchild, since her first daughter was also pregnant with her first child. Even when I was born, she didn’t breastfeed me. Instead, I was fed by my sister, who had given birth to a child of her own. Around that time, I fell ill and came close to death. We lived near the residence of the bishop of Daegu, so my mother took me and ran to the bishop so that I could depart after receiving the sacrament of confirmation. Maybe it was the grace of the confirmation, but thankfully I regained my health. Only then did my mother take pity on me and feed me her milk.”
“I wanted to get married and be a good son…”
A picture of the students of the minor seminary program at St. Justino Seminary. The new students are sitting in the front row, and the third from the left is Kim Sou-hwan. This is the oldest surviving picture of Cardinal Kim. His grandfather had been a martyr. Cardinal Kim’s mother told him and his older brother Dong-han to pursue the Catholic priesthood. Cardinal Kim recalled that at the time he wanted to become a merchant, get married, and support his parents and family, but he could not refuse his mother’s wish.
Tattered uniform and a borrowed dictionary
A picture from around 1938. Kim is the second from the right. His uniform pants seem worn out. Cardinal Kim recollected, “My family wasn’t well off at the time I attended the minor seminary. I couldn’t purchase a Latin dictionary, so I borrowed one from friends.”
“Stephen, why did Mr. John call you to his office?”
Sou-hwan caught his breath and answered, “I received a slap for writing in the test we took a few days ago that I have no thoughts on the Emperor’s mandate since I am not a citizen of the Japanese Empire. He told me that I’m too dangerous to be a priest. I think I might get expelled.”
— Vol. 1 pg. 100-101
Drafted during his studies at a minor seminary in Japan
A picture of Kim Sou-hwan and his classmates from a minor seminary in Japan. Kim is fourth from the left. After finishing the minor seminary program at Dongsung High School in Seoul, he was selected as a scholarship recipient of the archdiocese of Daegu to study at Sophia University in Tokyo. He also enlisted in the Japanese military in compliance with the mandatory conscription of student soldiers. He was trained as a cadet to be stationed in Japan, but he failed to pass the ideological purity test and was stationed as a private on Chichijima Island.
Cardinal Kim as a seminary student and his family
A family portrait taken in early January 1944. The third from the left in the top row is Cardinal Kim. To his right is his older brother, Kim Dong-han. The woman with glasses in the center of the front row is their mother.
Excavation of remains during his time in the military
The excavation of the remains of a missing American pilot. The person wearing glasses in the center is presumed to be Cardinal Kim. Japan surrendered when he was serving as a student soldier at Chichijima, and Cardinal Kim received the order to participate in the excavation under the American military. Later, Cardinal Kim also attended the Japanese War Crimes Trials in Guam as a witness.
When the Japanese military dispersed, Korean student soldiers climbed up the mountain in groups and embraced each other in tears. Thinking “people in Korea would be running into the streets, waving Taegeukgi (Korean flags) in the air and shouting hurrah!”, Cardinal Kim fell to his knees, signed the cross and breathed a prayer of thanks. Ahn Byung-ji also kneeled down and prayed. When the two rose to their feet, Korean student soldiers offered each other “celebratory” cigarettes. Kim Sou-hwan asked for one, saying that he’d like to smoke one on this happy day. It was his first cigarette, but it tasted sweet rather than bitter.
— Vol. 1 pg. 137
His brother Kim Dong-han, the first navy chaplain
The picture of Cardinal Kim and his older brother Kim Dong-han (right) taken when Dong-han came to see his family before enlisting in the navy as its first chaplain. In his later years, not wanting to cause any trouble, Dong-han left for the countryside while his younger brother was appointed to bishop, and later archbishop and cardinal. He spent the rest of his life with poor and marginalized people who suffered from tuberculosis.
He was completely taken aback. His mind went blank… He returned to Daegu. But he was a young man of 25. It was impossible to get it out of his mind… As time passed, he found peace in his heart once more. He was sure that his true calling was the priesthood.
Kim Sou-hwan visited the orphanage again to see her and turned down her marriage proposal. He even yelled at her so that she wouldn’t have any feelings left for him.
— Vol. 1 pg. 157-158
Priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal
Bowing down to obey God’s will
Cardinal Kim was ordained a priest on September 15, 1951. Korea had been right in the middle of the Korean War. The picture is of Kim Sou-hwan, a deacon at the time, lying prostrate on the floor at the rite of Ordination. Because there are two people lying prostrate on the floor, it is difficult to tell who is who. Deacon Jeong Ha-gwon (currently Monsignor) who was ordained with Kim said the person on the right was Cardinal Kim, because they had stood by year of birth, with the eldest on the right.
What is “prostration”?
Prostration is an act of acknowledging one’s flaws and expressing the hope that God would fix them. Moreover, it also symbolizes one’s obedience to God until death, taking the lowest place and emptying oneself like Jesus Christ.
The parish priest of Andong Church
After he was ordained, Kim Sou-hwan was appointed as the parish priest of Andong Church, which is in the background of the picture. At the time, the population of Andong was about 50,000, and over 80 percent of 497 registered parishioners were in extreme poverty.
Before leaving for Germany
A picture taken with his brother, navy chaplain Kim Dong-han (right), before Kim Sou-hwan left for Germany. Cardinal Kim believed that he needed a more systematic education in order to spread Catholicism to society and non-believers. He first looked at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, but eventually decided to attend the University of Muenster in Germany where Joseph Hoeffner, an expert in Catholic social doctrine, was teaching at the time.
Mining experience in Germany
A picture taken during a mining experience session with Korean students who had been receiving nurse’s training in Germany in August 1957. It fell to Kim to lend an ear to their tearful grievances.
President of the Catholic Times
Kim Sou-hwan returned to Korea at age 42, exactly eight years after he went to study in Germany. Immediately upon his return, he was appointed president of The Catholic Times at Daegu. He personally translated the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”, the most important document released by the Second Vatican Council, and published it in several installments.
Picking up the pen for the “churches of the world”
Cardinal Kim’s essay, published in five installments in The Catholic Times while he served as a secretary to the bishop of Daegu. Through this essay, Kim called for the restoration of the Catholic spirit and life. These are important documents for understanding the reasoning behind Kim leaving for Germany to study Catholic social doctrine at the age of 34.
Ordained as the bishop of Masan, “for the many”
The Bishopric Ordination of Kim Sou-hwan. The picture on the top shows Kim Sou-hwan lying prostrate during his bishopric ordination, and the bottom is a picture of priests signing the oath of obedience. Kim was appointed the first bishop of Masan, which had been separated from the Diocese of Busan. His pastoral motto was “Pro vobis et pro multis (For you and for many)”.
Two years later, appointed Archbishop of Seoul
The banner announcing the enthronement ceremony of the Archbishop of Seoul at Myeongdong Cathedral on May 29, 1968. Kim was installed as an archbishop a mere two years after his appointment as a bishop. He chose “Church of the World” as his pastoral goal and declared, “The church needs to serve the society with all its might.”
First encounter with President Park Chung-hee: “Please do not cross the line”
Archbishop Kim Sou-hwan’s visit to Cheongwadae for a conversation with the then president, Park Chung-hee. The presidential secretary told Kim not to cross the line drawn on the floor when shaking hands with the president. That way, he would naturally lean forward and bend his head. He was also advised to listen to the president as much as possible during the 15-minute meeting.
The youngest cardinal in the world
On March 28, 1969, Kim Sou-hwan became the youngest cardinal in the world at the age of 46. Now, he had the right to vote in papal elections and to be elected pope. It was a great and joyous occasion for the Korean Catholics. People believed that Pope Paul VI’s decision was based on the rising status of Catholicism in Korea, “The country of martyrs”, and reflected his expectations of the church’s reform and modernization.
“If we do not overcome the irrationalities of our society, we might face an appalling fate of having to choose between dictatorship or violent revolution.”
Cardinal Kim paused and looked at the congregation. At the words “dictatorship” and “violent revolution”, every person who had gathered for the Sunday Mass sat frozen in their seat.
“Why? If this law is passed, and the president implements this law [Special Act on National Security], the people of this country will neither trust nor respect the president but fear him and shun him. And beyond that, they will come to hate him.” It was later said that President Park ordered the broadcast of the mass to be stopped at this point.
— Vol. 1 pg. 389-390
On the brink of dictatorship, Park Chung-hee “did all the talking”
As the Park Chung-hee administration headed for dictatorship, tensions brewed between the government and Catholicism. To alleviate this situation, First Lady Yuk Young-soo arranged a meeting between Cardinal Kim and President Park. The picture above shows Cardinal Kim (farthest right), who traveled down to Jinhae on the special train along with the president, listening to the president’s national action plan. Cardinal Kim sat across from the president for a total of eleven hours—seven hours in the train and four hours at the government office in Jinhae. However, President Park did all the talking, and the cardinal left without telling him what he wanted.
A statement of demand: “Revoke the state of emergency”
The Park Chung-hee Administration announced the July 4 South-North Joint Communique and issued an emergency order to freeze loans on August 3. At this, Cardinal Kim demanded that the government lift the state of emergency and announced “Six Clauses of the Conviction of the Catholic Church in this Time of Difficulty”.
In confrontation with the Yushin regime
With the declaration of the Yushin Constitution and martial law in October 1972, tensions between the Park Chung-hee administration and the Catholic Church began to escalate. Cardinal Kim demanded revisions to the Yushin Constitution. In this photograph, Cardinal Kim is worriedly watching Bishop TJi Hak-soun, reciting the Declaration of Conscience at St. Mary’s Hospital after he had been incarcerated and released by the government for his involvement with the National League of Democratic College Students. At the time, not a word about the Declaration of Conscience was published in the media. Afterwards, Bishop Tji was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 15 years of suspension of practice for inciting sedition and violating emergency decrees, and was put under court custody.
Visits to slums – “Are you really a cardinal?”
Cardinal Kim liked to take care of the socially disadvantaged and visited them whenever he could. A picture taken at the “House of Cooperation” near the shantytown in Mokdong, which he visited after receiving a phone call from The Fraternity of the Little Sisters of Jesus. Cardinal Kim took a few buses, got off at the bus stop the sisters had told him of, and finally arrived at the convent after asking for directions a number of times. The people of the village challenged him on whether he was really a cardinal.
The collapse of the Yushin Regime and paying respects to the dead
Cardinal Kim, paying respects at the mortuary set up in Cheongwadae after the death of President Park Chung-hee. Prior to this, Cardinal Kim had warned the Yushin Regime: “The people will not stay under the thumb of the regime. One day, people will rise against the oppressive regime. That is why dictatorships are collapsing around the world…There is no guarantee that this will not happen in our country, is there?”
A meeting with President Chun Doo-hwan and the new military regime: “Please lift the martial law”
Cardinal Kim met with the President Chun in 1980 and requested a swift revocation of the state of emergency and martial law.
“To create a just society that the government purports to achieve, politicians must be deeply aware that the value and the dignity of man is an absolute necessity. In this way, the spirit of love can settle among the people of society, and ultimately lead to a jubilant and just society.
Yet instead of providing a clear answer, President Chun Doo-hwan only talked about the position of the government.
General Chun Doo-hwan spoke at length about the reasons behind the December coup d’état. After he finished, Cardinal Kim revealed his thoughts.
“After listening to what you said, I understand certain parts. But fundamentally, our nation’s government should not be similar to an outlaw gunfight in a Western film. It is tragic that the authority over the military changes depends on who takes out their gun first. You only gained power over the military because you pulled out your gun first. Isn’t that right?”
The look in General Chun Doo-hwan’s eyes hardened.
— Vol. 2 pg. 21-22
Friend to the poor
A dinner of expired canned food at Nanjido
Cardinal Kim leading a Christmas mass at the Children’s House at Nanjido in Sangam-dong, Seoul. Seeing that the media had found out and were clamoring to report his visit, creating a huge commotion, Cardinal Kim held the masses in private. On this night, he shared a meal made with expired canned food with the residents of the neighborhood and comforted them.
Bucheon sexual torture incident: “I don’t know what to say…”
A hand-written letter to Kwon In-suk, the victim of sexual torture at the Bucheon Police Office. Kim Sang-cheol, one of Kwon’s lawyers, requested that Cardinal Kim send a letter, as it would provide comfort and consolation to the victim and also help spread awareness of the incident.
Dear Ms. Kwon,
I’m not sure how to offer words of consolation.
I believe and pray that the Lord watches over you with grace, as you courageously stand for the restoration of your conscience and humanity.
I hope that you keep courage, entrust everything to God, who is the truth, and stay in good health.
July 18, 1986
Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan
Denouncing the torture and murder of Park Jong-cheol
In January 1987, when Park Jong-cheol was pronounced dead after undergoing torture, Cardinal Kim demanded that the government come to its senses through homilies in masses. He also asked to publish the homilies in Seoul Bulletin, which was distributed to all Catholic churches in the archdiocese of Seoul every Sunday. The pictured bulletin was published that February 1.
Sharing a bowl of Makgeolli at the “Magdalena’s House” in the red light district
“Magdalena’s House” was a welfare organization for sex workers in Yongsan. It was affiliated with the Seoul Catholic Social Welfare Center of the archdiocese of Seoul. Upon the request of Lee Ok-jeong, the head of the welfare center, Cardinal Kim paid a visit, played a game of yut (a traditional Korean board game) and drank makgeolli. He enjoyed visiting rural churches, and spending time with laypeople, learning and playing new card games. He never refused the lowest, shadiest places.
With the sister of Magdalena’s House
A picture taken with President Lee Ok-jeong of Magdalena’s House (farthest left), Sister Joanna Mun (farthest right), and others. Born in the US, Sister Mun had been in charge of distributing number cards to the patients at Mary Knoll Hospital in Busan, gaining her the nickname Sister Mun (mun means “door” in Korean).
Leading the post-death eye donation movement
In 1988, the year the Seoul Olympics was held, Cardinal Kim announced the “One-Body, One-Spirit Movement.” He led the “Post-Death Eye Donation Movement” to help the visually impaired, “Helping the Poor Countries through Rice Offerings”, and other movements. And in 1990, he signed up to donate his eyes.
“Mea culpa, mea culpa”
Cardinal Kim putting a “Mea culpa” sticker on his car. “Mea culpa” is a phrase from the Confiteor, a Catholic prayer of penitence. The Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea distributed the stickers as part of its movement to restore trust in the Catholic Church, which spread throughout Korea.
Lastly, regarding the question of whether he switched his stance from progressive to conservative, Cardinal Kim answered, “I didn’t intentionally change my stance, or examine myself about the political stance I’d taken. I prayed about what to do as a religious person according to the circumstances. When our country had not been democratized, I spoke for democratization. Now that there is confusion in the process of democratization, I have simply expressed my concern.”
— Vol. 2 pg. 267 (An excerpt from an interview with Kyunghyang Shinmun in celebration of the 44th anniversary of the founding of the newspaper in late September 1990)
Suicide note incident and a prayer in agony amidst insomnia
Cardinal Kim, praying while propping himself up with a cane before the mass commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of St. John, at the Order of Discalced Carmelite in Seoul on May 20, 1991. He was at the time suffering from extreme insomnia due to the difficult circumstance that Korea was in. On the same day, Kang Ki-hun held a press conference to refute the allegations that he had written another person’s suicide note. Kang, the general affairs manager of the National Democratic Alliance of Korea, had staged a demonstration at Myeongdong Cathedral along with Seo Jun-sik, the head of the human rights council in the alliance. The government warned that it would exercise governmental authority.
What was the Kang Ki-hun suicide note incident?
In 1991, the prosecution indicted and punished Kang Ki-hun for writing the suicide note of Kim Ki-seol, the social manager of the National Democratic Alliance of Korea, who burned himself to death. Kang was indicted on the charges of aiding and abetting a suicide, writing the suicide note for Kim, who threw himself offf the top of a building at Seogang University, shouting “Roh Tae-woo should resign!” Kang was sentenced to three years in prison and a year and a half of suspension of practice, and was released after completing his sentence in 1994. However, in 2005, the National Police Agency’s Committee for the Investigation into Past History announced that the handwriting on the suicide note was likely to belong to Kim Ki-seol. Then, in 2007, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission requested a reanalysis of Kim’s suicide note by the National Forensic Service. In November of the same year, the National Forensic Service reversed its 1991 analysis result. Kang was acquitted with the Supreme Court’s final ruling on May 14, 2015.
“Tico, the Cardinal’s Car”
In July 1992, a Daewoo Tico advertisement featuring Cardinal Kim was published in a major newspaper in Seoul. A Daewoo Motors employee who saw the cardinal in a Tico had requested Cardinal Kim’s approval on the ad to encourage people to purchase smaller vehicles. However, it was halted as people opposed using the cardinal for commercial means. Nothing that involved him went over without causing some kind of an uproar.
Hand-in-hand with foreign laborers
Cardinal Kim turned down a grand celebration in 1994 for the 25th anniversary of his appointment. Instead, he presided over a mass for foreign laborers on April 24. After the service, he held the hands of foreign laborers and offered them words of comfort in the front yard of Myeongdong Cathedral.
“Let us become a society that can cry”
This picture from January 1989 shows Cardinal Kim with the volunteers at Jeonjinsang Welfare Center in Siheung-dong, Seoul. It was taken after the 20th anniversary mass, which was held in a temporary greenhouse, before the completion of a new building for the welfare center. The center had been founded in a shantytown in 1975 to provide voluntary medical care and relief efforts for the poor. Cardinal Kim said the following words in his homily that day: “This year, let us pray and make efforts to transform this society that we are living in, not into a heartless, money-grubbing society, but a society that respects people, an affectionate society, a society that can cry for others.”
The cardinal’s rage
Cardinal Kim, looking distressed and walking out from an emergency diocesan presbyteral council of the archdiocese of Seoul, convened after the government sent troops to Myeongdong Cathedral (June 1995). The government sent troops to stop the demonstration of the labor union leaders of Korea Telecom when negotiations to serve arrest warrants to them failed.
Visiting the May 18th National Cemetery at Mangwol-dong
On February 8, 1996, Cardinal Kim visited the May 18th National Cemetery at Mangwol-dong in Gwangju and prayed for the spirits of the victims and those who fought for democracy. At the request of families of the victims to “come visit before the cemetery is relocated to a larger site”, Cardinal Kim visited the cemetery with others, including Youn Kong-hi, the Archbishop of Gwangju.
— Vol. 2 pg. 178
Cardinal Kim at a poor hillside village, “a desolate island in the ocean”
For about 20 minutes, Cardinal Kim walked up an alley of a poor hillside village in Mia-dong, Seoul, soon to be redeveloped. At the top of the hill was Solsaem Community, where Cardinal Kim offered words of comfort and consolation to the residents a few days before the village was to be demolished. Looking at the night view of Seoul beneath the hill, he thought that the village was not part of Seoul, but rather a desolate island floating in the ocean. Later, Solsaem Community became Sewing Production Cooperation, Solsaem Ilteo, and Recycling Cooperation.
“Let us first care for the needy”
Cardinal Kim on June 16, 1990, visiting the “House of Peace”, a rehabilitation center for released inmates operated by Saetmaru Community in Geumho-dong. When the people who lost their home after the village was demolished came to Myeongdong Cathedral and set up camp, Cardinal Kim emphasized the “preferential choice for the poor” and the churches’ spirit of “spreading the gospel through the rejuvenation of small communities”. Around ths time, several chapels were created in a number of poor villages. This place was one of them.
“Brother Ko, have you felt solitude?”
“Yes, I tend to lead a solitary life.”
“I’ve been feeling a horribly painful solitude these days. It’s an absolute solitude that I’d never felt in the 86 years of my life. People love me, yet I feel that they are pulling themselves away from me, and it also makes me doubt God. I feel as if everything is being severed from me, and I’m floating in pitch-black outer space…”
His voice was weak, but he seemed to be screaming in pain.
“Maybe God is trying to teach me that when everything falls away, He is the only one who remains. He is probably doing this do me to make me love Him more, don’t you think? If we die, you and I would all be the same. When I die, I’ll appear in your dreams and let you know.”
— Vol. 2 pg. 524 (A conversation in a journal entry from May 23, 2008, recorded by Father Ko Cheon-geun, the secretary to Cardinal Kim)
Cardinal Kim had once failed to recognize Brother Choi Thomas even after saying hello at the Yongin Priest Cemetery. Brother Thomas had been the class monitor when they’d attended the minor seminary together. Cardinal Kim was unaware that Brother Thomas had suffered burns. When he found out that he hadn’t recognized Brother Thomas, he forever reproached himself, even writing about it in his journal. After a few years, Cardinal Kim saw Brother Thomas at a Christmas Eve mass and embraced him. He explained his relationship with Brother Thomas to the congregation and even wrote him a letter of apology when they parted. In the letter, Cardinal Kim wrote:
“Brother Thomas, for the longest time, I regretted failing to recognize you when we last met. Please forgive me with your generous heart. It wasn’t intentional. If you’d said something about the seminary, I would’ve realized it right away… I wish you peace in the grace of the Lord.”
“Actually, I’m a fool”
In 2007, Cardinal Kim turned 85. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Dongsung High School, the alumni association of the school planned an art exhibition to support their scholarship fund. The association also asked Cardinal Kim to draw something for the exhibition as well. Cardinal Kim immediately took out an oil stick, drew a man with a buzz cut and wrote “a fool”. It was his own portrait. Cardinal Kim said, “Actually I’m a fool… I know full well that God is great and that He is Love and Truth itself, but I live without understanding it deep in my heart…”
Oh, my good old home
Cardinal Kim drew several pictures. After he drew his own portrait, he looked back on his past, and recalled the memories of the old house at Yongdae-ri, Gunwi, in North Gyeongsang Province, where he lived for eight years since moving from Seonsan at the age of four. He began to draw the house with an oil pastel. After he drew the thatched roof of the house, he also sketched the cottonwood that stood next to the house. Then he drew the crescent moon he used to watch as he waited for his mother. It was the moon from over seventy years ago, and this picture was his “Ode to Mother”.
In his later years
After retirement, Cardinal Kim lived at the bishop’s residence in Hyehwa-dong. When he began to lose his strength, he refrained from going out. It soon became difficult to walk around the garden of his residence and the low-lying hill nearby. When he grew tired from walking, Cardinal Kim would sit down on a bench and get lost in his thoughts, gazing at Bukhansan Mountain in the distance.
“Love each other”
On February 16, 2009, Cardinal Kim’s condition plummeted due to tuberculosis, which had surfaced the day before. To the people who came to see him, he said his last goodbye.
“I’ve been loved so much my whole life. Thank you very much. I hope you love each other as well.”
He breathed his last at 6:12 p.m. on the same day. He was 87.
The following day, two people with visual impairment received surgery and removed the bandages covering their eyes. They saw light. It was Cardinal Kim’s last act of love.
Cardinal Kim was one of the few spiritual leaders in the contemporary history of Korea. He loved the weak, and he was an arbiter who resolved inextricable social conflicts through dialogue. I thought that we might be able to find the path and the direction our society should take in the life and spirit of Cardinal Kim, as well as in the values that he pursued throughout his life. That is the reason I wrote this biography.
— Lee Choong Ryul
All images and excerpts courtesy of Lee Choong Ryul.