Key Events in Korean History: From Persecution to Cyberattacks and Diplomatic Expulsions

SEOUL, South Korea — Today marks several significant anniversaries in Korean history, ranging from the execution of a Catholic bishop in the 19th century to a cyberattack on South Korean government websites in 2011.

According to Yonhap News Agency, on this day in 1866, Bishop Simeon Francois Berneux, who had been in Korea since 1851 as its fourth bishop, was executed. This event was part of a broader persecution campaign against Western missionaries and their Korean converts, which persisted until 1871. This dark period in Korean history resulted in the deaths of approximately 8,000 Korean Catholics and nine foreign missionaries, underscoring the rulers' determination to isolate the nation from Western influence. The first Catholic Church in Korea was established earlier in 1784.

In a significant geopolitical development on this day in 1885, China and Japan signed a treaty in Tianjin, a city in northeastern China, agreeing to withdraw their military forces from Korea. This decision followed a tense period where Chinese forces had intervened in Korea to suppress a progressive movement by young Korean radicals in 1884, and Japan had deployed troops to counterbalance China's presence. The treaty averted a potential military conflict between China and Japan on the Korean Peninsula.

On this day in 1993, the Korean Medical Association took a major step in the medical field by officially recognizing "brain death," defined as the irreversible cessation of all brain functions. This recognition marked a significant advancement in medical ethics and practice in South Korea.

The National Assembly of South Korea passed three important bills on this day in 1994, aimed at supervising elections, fundraising, and municipal governance. These legislative measures were intended to enhance the transparency and integrity of the country's political processes.

In more recent history, on this day in 2011, South Korea experienced a significant cyberattack that targeted the websites of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, along with around 40 other government agencies and financial institutions. The attack, which paralyzed the affected websites from morning to evening, was later attributed to North Korea by South Korean police, marking a notable incident of cyber warfare between the two Koreas.

In 2017, diplomatic tensions escalated when Malaysia decided to expel North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, giving him 48 hours to leave the country. This decision was made more than a week after Malaysia recalled its ambassador from Pyongyang, following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Kuala Lumpur. The North Korean regime was widely suspected to be behind the killing.

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