The Lives of the 103 Martyr Saints of Korea
Saint John Baptist Yi Kwang-nyol (1795~1839)
John Yi Kwang-nyol was a younger brother of the martyr Augustine Yi Kwang-hon. John became a Catholic with his elder brother. John was outstanding in honesty, enthusiasm and faith. Soon after he decided to become a Catholic, he was listed among the important Catholics who used to travel to Peking. John was baptized while he was in Peking. After his return home, he abstained every day, and he decided to lead a celibate life. His spiritual life was so outstanding that everybody admired him. John always wanted to be one with God.
John was arrested on April 8, 1839. He was twisted and beaten with sticks. It was customary that for each interrogation an executor had to hit a criminal with the stick 30 times until each stick was broken. Therefore, for each interrogation 30 such sticks had to be ready. Whipping was done with flexible branches tied together and these could take the criminal's flesh off if he was hit hard enough.
John endured all the pains and was determined to witness to his faith. He was supposed to be killed with his brother Augustine, but according to the old Korean law, two brothers could not be killed on the same day. So Augustine was killed first and John had to wait in prison. His words and deeds in prison impressed so many people.
According to the government document Sungjungwon Diary, John was beheaded outside the Small West Gate on July 20, 1839, with seven other Catholics. He was 45 years old when he was crowned with martyrdom.
Saint Barbara Kwon Hui (1794~1839)
Barbara Kwon Hui came from a family of martyrs. She was the wife of Augustine Yi Kwan-hon, mother of Agatha Yi and a sister-in-law of John Yi Kwang-nyol.
Barbara was born to a pagan family, but later she became a Catholic with her husband. She risked danger by providing room and board for Bishop Imbert and the missionaries. She also permitted the people to use her house as a gathering place for Mass and catechism classes.
After Barbara was arrested in 1839, she was tortured a number of times. What caused her greatest pain was to see her 16-year old daughter, Agatha Yi, who was arrested with her mother, suffer cruel tortures, hunger, thirst and cold.
Barbara was taken outside the Small West Gate on September 3, 1839. She was beheaded there with five other Catholics. She was 46 years old when she received the crown of martyrdom.
Saint Mary Yi Yon-hui (1804~1839)
Mary Yi Yon-hui was the wife of the martyr Damian Nam. Mary had a strong will and was a very intelligent woman. Like Barbara Kwon, she used to welcome Bishop Imbert and the missionaries into her home, a very dangerous act at that time, and provide them with accommodation. When the people gathered in her home, she used to take care of them, teaching them and preparing them to receive the sacraments. Her gracefulness and modesty pleased everyone around her.
Mary was 36 years old when she was arrested in 1839. She was tormented by the policemen in prison. When she scolded them for their ungentlemanly conduct, her husband Damian advised her that a Catholic should die like a tame lamb. After that she endured all abuse and cruelty with no complaints.
Her 12-year old son was in a separate prison cell. The prison guards used to torture him so that Mary could hear her son's screams. The prison guards used to tell Mary how the boy was tortured. She was afraid that her son might be overcome by the tortures and give up his faith. She tried to calm herself down, reassuring herself that all the trials were for the greater glory for God. One of the witnesses testified that she loved God from the bottom of her heart and that the only thing she wanted was Heaven. She was severely beaten and twisted.
Mary was beheaded outside the Small West Gate on September 3, 1839, with five other Catholics. She was 36 years old when she died for the faith.