Posted by: rbbadger | December 1, 2009

Korean Gregorian Chant

In Korea, there has been some interest generated in the Latin Mass and in Gregorian Chant.  While neither are a regular feature of most parishes here, some parishes do like to use chant.  I visited one of them this past Sunday.

I visited Seocho-dong Catholic Church, a parish on the south side of the river.  It is not too far away from the Supreme Court and the Seoul University of Education.  I had heard from a fellow blogger that they have Mass in Latin every Sunday at 9 PM.  So, I decided to go. 

They didn’t have Mass in Latin, but they did have a Gregorian chant Mass of sorts.  Instead of singing the chants in Latin, they sang them in Korean.  It was really very lovely and worked surprisingly well.  Korean is a tough language to translate things into, especially from Latin.  Also, the Gregorian chants basically fit the Latin language like a glove.  Rendering them in any other language is difficult, especially in Korean which features much longer sentences than Latin does. 

I will definitely be going back, though it still seems wrong to me to go to church at 9PM on Sunday.  In case anyone stumbles across this blog and might be interested in going, here is how you get there.  Take Line 3 of the subway to the Seoul University of Education Station (교대역) and then take exit 13.  Take the village bus number 03.  The stop is right outside the exit, so don’t miss it!  Get off at the Seocho-dong Catholic Church (서초동성당) stop.



  1. I am sorry I thought it was a Latin Gregorian Chant Mass, but it turned out not to be a Latin Mass. I got the information from Confraternity of the Traditional Latin Liturgy. It is interesting they sing the Korean translation of Gregorian Chant.

    Lioba Jeong-Sun Lee is the music director of the 9 pm Chant Mass. She is the instructor who is teaching the Gregorian Chant class at Seogang Univ. I think most of the choir members are the students of her class.

    Yeah, 9 pm Sunday Mass is very late, which tells how Gregorian Chant is marginalized in Catholic liturgy in Korea. You might have better time at Gregorian Chant Mass that will be offered by Fr. Choi Hoyoung at 7:00 pm on Dec. 5 at St. Benedictine Abbey in Jangchung-dong.

    • I was very glad to attend the Mass at Seocho-dong Catholic Catholic, even if the Mass and the chant was in Korean. The music director does quite an admirable job with her schola. It is clearly a labour of love on her part.

      The only time we hear chant at the Cathedral is for the antiphons of Palm Sunday. Other than that, there isn’t much. On the other hand, they do quite a bit of polyphony. Last time I attended the Cardinal’s Mass, which was on August 15th, we had a Gounod Mass in Latin. I’ve noticed more and more Latin in the motets which the choir sings.

      When I’ve received communion from the Rector of the Cathedral, Monsignor Raphael Park Shin-eon, he doesn’t say “그리스도의 몸” but “Corpus Christi”! But that is probably only because I’m a foreigner. The Cardinal always likes to include a little message to foreigners in English and Italian sometimes.

  2. That should get you home really late Sunday nights, huh? Wonder why it’s so late?

    • Many Korean parishes have late night Sunday services. The Cathedral’s last Mass of Sunday is at 9PM. Often, the parishes have a youth Mass at 7PM, something which is quite necessary, as high school students do go to school on Sundays especially when they are preparing for the university entrance examination.

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