Lawrence Pak Chwi-deuk (1769? -1799)
Lawrence Pak Chwi-deuk who was born in Myeoncheon, Hongju, Chungcheong-do, heard about Catholicism for the first time in his hometown. He then learned the catechism from Saba Ji Hwang when he went to Seoul, and became a Catholic. On returning home, he prayed fervently and tried to proclaim the Gospel to his family and neighbors. When the Sinhae Persecution broke out in 1791, many Catholics in his hometown were arrested and imprisoned.
Lawrence Pak visited them often and encouraged them. He was arrested one day when he went to the chief official and protested saying, “Isn`t it a terrible crime to beat innocent people and imprison them for several months?"
He was transferred to Haemi and Hongju to be punished. He never lost his faith in God or became discouraged. Less than one month after he was imprisoned, an order was given to set him free. So he lost the opportunity of the honor to die a martyr.
Following his release, Lawrence Pak again practiced his religion and proclaimed the Gospel to his neighbors, while keeping in contact with James Won Si-bo and Francis Bang. When the Jeongsa Persecution broke out in 1797 an order was given to arrest him again. Upon hearing the news, he escaped to another place, but he gave himself up when he heard that his young son had been arrested in his place.
When the interrogation started, Lawrence Pak explained all about the Catholic doctrine point by point. The angry chief official ordered that he be tortured, but to no avail. After being interrogated and tortured many times, he was put in prison for many months. In the meantime, a new chief official came. Lawrence Pak was interrogated again by him, but he professed his faith in God just as before. He was then transferred to Hongju.
In Hongju, Lawrence Pak answered the same questions in the same way, and endured all kinds of punishment with great faith. Then the chief commander of Hongju became angry at him and gave the order `to put him in prison, break his legs and put him to death.` The chief officer reported the fact to the governor, who sent an order `to beat his legs and to kill him unless he surrendered after being beaten fourteen times.` Afterwards Lawrence Pak had to stay in prison for months and was often punished in the presence of the chief commander. Once he was stripped of his clothes, abandoned for the night and left in a muddy hole in the cold and rain. He wrote to his mother as follows:
"Two months after I was imprisoned, I reflected on how I could win God`s grace. Then in my dream, I saw the cross of Jesus saying, `Follow the cross.` This revelation is a little bit dim now, but I will never forget it."
Lawrence Pak was beaten more than one thousand four hundred times. He was not even allowed to drink water for eight days. Prison guards, thinking that he was dead, stripped him and left him deserted, outside. But he was not dead. Lawrence Pak was imprisoned again. He told the prison guards; "I will not die from hunger or beatings, but I will die if you hang me."
When the faithful visited him the following night, all his wounds were miraculously healed. The prison guards thought it was magic, and they hung him with a rope. He died a martyr on April 3, 1799 (February 29, by the Lunar calendar). Lawrence Pak was about 30 years old.