The Korean Martyrs are one hundred and three Catholics who were martyred in Korea during the 19th century and canonized by Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) on May 6, 1984. One of the main martyrs is Andrew Kim Taegon, Korea’s first native Catholic priest.
Andrew was born on August 21, 1821. His parents were converts and his father, Blessed Ignatius Kim, was martyred in 1839. Andrew was baptized at the age of fifteen. He then escaped to Macao in modern day China and entered the seminary. He was ordained in Shanghai and returned to his homeland in 1842. Four years later, he was caught helping Catholic missionaries cross the border. He was tortured and beheaded by the Han River on September 16, 1846. After his canonization, Andrew Kim Taegon became the patron saint of Korean clergy.
Saint Paul Chong Hasang was the son of Augustine Jeong Yak-jong (1760-1801) a martyr who wrote the first Korean Catholic catechism. Paul was born around the year 1794. He and his mother went into hiding after his father and brothers were executed. When he came of age, he went to the bishop of Beijing and asked him to send more priests to Korea. He was about to be ordained himself when he was martyred on September 22, 1839.
The youngest of the Korean Martyrs was Saint Peter Yu Tae-chol. Peter was born into an aristocratic family sometime during the year 1826. His father, Augustine Nyou Tjin-kil, was Catholic and was martyred on an unknown date. His mother and sisters were against Peter’s religion and did nothing when he was arrested and tortured. While in prison, Peter encouraged others not to give up the Faith. He was strangled on October 31, 1839. He was thirteen years old.
Anna Pak Agi, one of the female martyrs, remained steadfast in the Faith despite horrific tortures and the betrayal of her husband and son. She was born during the year 1792. She made certain to marry a Catholic man and was deeply contemplative although she was not particularly intelligent. Anna, her husband, and their eldest son were all arrested at the same time. Her husband and son were later set free after they denied Christ Jesus. Although they begged her to save her life, she refused to let evil win. Anna Pak Agi was martyred on May 24, 1839.
The Korean persecution of Christians lasted from 1839 to 1866. At least eight thousand Catholic lost their lives during this period.