For Roman Catholics, it’s a tradition to celebrate saints’ feast days every year. It is evident in how we Filipinos hold colorful festivals and events annually to commemorate patron saints and important figures in Catholicism. And every day, a number of saints celebrate their feast day at the same time–and it’s no different for today, September 20.
But what’s special about September 20 is that at least 16 Korean saints have it as their feast day. It’s most likely because of the bulk canonization of Korean martyrs who died during different dynasties in the history of South Korea. (Read: 5 Ways To Honor Saints And Devotions This September)
So for today, let us look at some of these Korean martyrs, specifically the women, who remained faithful to their religion despite being tortured and eventually killed for it.
Korean Martyrs: St. Agatha Chon Kyonghyob
St. Agatha Chon Kyonghyob was born in 1790 and was martyred in 1839. She was among the 79 who were beatified by Pope Pius XI for their heroic virtues. The saint is one of the many who died in the persecutions of 1839 (Ki-hae persecution), 1846 (Pyong-o persecution) and 1866 (Pyong-in persecution).
Korean Martyrs: St. Agatha Kim
St. Agatha Kim, or Kim A-gi, was one of the first nine persons who were persecuted in 1839 at the Small West Gate in Seoul. She had been imprisoned for three years before her persecution along with two other women, Kim Ob-I Magdalene and Han A-gi Barbara. She was not Catholic until her sister, who was a devout Catholic, visited her and taught her about God and His teachings. St. Agatha Kim was canonized on May 6, 1984 by Saint Pope John Paul II.
Korean Martyrs: St. Magdalena Ho Kye-im
St. Magdalena Ho Kye-im, or Kim Ob-i, was imprisoned with St. Agatha Kim from 1836 to 1839, and afterwards persecuted for her Catholic faith. Unlike others, St. Magdalena Ho Kye-im was Catholic from birth and she grew more faithful as she became older. She taught the Catholic doctrine to her neighbors, even if it meant attracting the unwanted attention of those who want to persecute Catholics. She was canonized alongside St. Agatha Kim and a handful of other Korean martyrs in 1984. (Read: The Rundown: The Steps Taken Before Sainthood)
Korean Martyrs: St. Agatha Yi
St. Agatha Yi was imprisoned in 1839 at the age of 17, together with her parents Yi Kwang-hŏn Augustine and Kwon Hŭi Barbara. She was repeatedly beaten to force her to renounce her faith, but Agatha wouldn’t budge. Despite being lied to by the prison guards who said that their parents had already renounced their faith, she and her brother Damian wouldn’t renounce their faith and deny God. She was strangled to death in 1840, after being whipped hundreds of times and beaten 90 times.
Korean Martyrs: St. Agatha Yi Kyong-i
St. Agatha Yi Kyong-i was born a Catholic, but was married to a eunuch. When she disclosed this to Bishop Lawrence Imbert (now St. Lawrence Imbert), he told her to separate from him–and she did. She then lived with Kwon Chin-i Agatha as her mother could not support her due to poverty. The two were eventually arrested and tortured badly for their faith, but they both didn’t give up their faith. St. Agatha Yi Kyong-i was beheaded in 1840 at the age of 27.
Korean Martyrs: St. Lucia Park Huisun
St. Lucia Park Huisun was born into a wealthy family, and was highly literate in Korean and Chinese. She was regarded for her beauty and intelligence that she became a lady-in-waiting to the queen at the royal palace. However, she started becoming dissatisfied with life at the palace that she sought a greater meaning of life. That’s when she discovered Catholicism and was determined to leave the palace to pursue a life that followed Catholic teachings. St. Lucia Park Huisun was eventually imprisoned and tortured for her religion, but was not afraid of dying and being by the Lord’s side. She was even said to have told her torturer, “I have a request to make. When you cut off my head do not lose your nerve. Do it with one stroke of the sword.” (Read: Remembering St. Andrew Kim Taegon On His 200th Birth Anniversary)
Other Korean saints celebrating their feast day today are:
- St. Andrew Kim Taegon
- St. Agatha Yi Kannan
- St. Agatha Yi Sosa
- St. Anna Kim
- St. Cecilia Yu
- St. Lawrence Imbert (a French priest part of the 103 Korean martyrs)
- St. Martha Kim
- Martyrs of Korea
- St. Susanna U Surim
- St. Terese Yi Mae-im
- St. Thomas Son Chason