The Augustinians came to Korea in the year 1985. This was the result of a direct initiative in Rome of the Augustinian General Chapter, the main governing body of the Order, in 1983.
Within two years of a commitment being made by the Province of Australia and the Province of England and Scotland to jointly sponsor the venture, the first community of four Augustinians was established in Korea at the invitation of the Diocese of Incheon. As the two Augustinians of the Anglo-Scottish withdrew, personnel from the Philippines Province of Cebu assisted in the Region from 1993 to April 2011. More recently in 2016, two Cebu Augustinian friars were sent to Korea. One Australian now remains, meaning that there are now three foreign-born Augustinians serving in Korea.
The Region accepted their first Korean candidates in 1990 and still regards the task of training these first indigenous Augustinians as its primary ministry. At the time of their Assembly in February 2016 there were eleven Korean-born members in solemn vows (six priests, four lay brothers, and one clerical student), six in simple vows and one postulant. One Australian priest remains there as the only expatriate Augustinian in Korea. The Region of Korea (now advanced to the status of a Delegation) completed its first major building program, the construction of a central house located in Incheon City, in 1994. In 1998 it Korea opened its second major building, at Kang-hwa Island, a rural area that is an hour by road from the city of Incheon; this Augustinian Formation Centre is for the use of the Augustinian candidates who study at the Incheon Diocesan Seminary, which is located nearby.
The next project was the purchase of a small house to the north of Seoul in the new Diocese of Uijeongbu. On 17 March 2005 three Augustinians moved there to this house in the mountains near the tiny village of Do-Shin-Ri, to form a new community. There they ministered to groups and individuals who came there to be led in prayer for one or more days. This house proved to be a temporary location that has now been replaced by a much larger Augustinian ministry at Yeoncheon nearby. Yeoncheon
On 8 October 2011 a ground-breaking ceremony took place at Yeoncheon, ninety minutes north of Seoul, on a location for an Augustinian priory, church, a columbarium, and a retreat house with fifteen double rooms. Up to two hundred people took part in the occasion.
Ground-breaking ceremonies are rather colourful affairs in Korea. Stands of flowers and expensive potted trees flank the approach, gifts from the construction firm and other well-wishers. There was a Mass and the blessing of the land and, of course, the usual introductions and ‘thank-you’ speeches followed. Then, the VIPs from the building construction company, the local Church and principal benefactors stand in a row behind a mound of carefully sculptured soil. They are first given white gloves then a pair of gold-tasselled scissors to cut together rainbow-coloured ribbons suspended over the soil. They were then each presented with a shovel, decorated with a big pink bow. On a given signal the notables all dig into the soil and throw it towards the camera.
Finally all guests were treated to a light meal of cold pork, shrimp dip and kimchee (spiced cabbage), accompanied by ‘makkolli’ (raw or unstrained rice wine, white in colour), and are given a gift box of rice cakes to take home as a memento. A benefactor purchased this new Yeoncheon site for the Order, and fund-raising has covered construction and outfitting costs. This new property is twice the area of the previous Augustinian land, borders a main road, is equipped with water and electricity and is thirty minutes closer to Seoul and Incheon, requiring only a ninety-minute drive.
Immediately after ground-breaking ceremony, construction of the Augustinian Priory (residence) began, and it was in use in May 2012. Further progress with the master plan has successfully taken place. The members of the Delegation have also endeavoured to foster an interest in the work and spirit of the Order among the lay people of the Korean Church with whom they come in contact through the formation of small groups of Secular Augustinians. These groups support the Order with their prayers and assist with their time and energies in many ways.
The blessing and opening of the extensions to the Retreat House of Our Lady of Good Counsel at Yeoncheon was conducted by the Bishop of Ui-Jeong-Bu, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-Heon, on Thursday 20th July 2017. The new facilities incorporate two new two-storey wings connected directly to the existing retreat house and forming a quadrangle or courtyard with an elevated bridge. The plan is for the Augustinian community to move from the former priory building to the upper floor of one wing and to use the older priory building as retreat house accommodation.
In Korea there are over twenty professed Augustinian members in the Delegation, all of whom were Korean-born except for two Filipino friars and one Australian friar.
For photographs of the Order of Saint Augustine in Korea, click hereLinkAugustinian website, Korea. Although written in Korea, it is woirth looking at recent "news" photographs of the Order in Korea. There are to be found in the second of the four columns, entitled News. http://www.osakorea.or.kr