Peter Won Si-jang (1732-1793)
Peter Won Si-jang was born in 1732 in Eungjeong-ri, Hongju, Chungcheong-do (now, Seongdong-ri, Hapdok-eup, Dangjin-gun, Chungnam) to a common class family. Between 1788 and 1789, a few years after Catholicism was introduced into Korea, he and his cousin James Won Si-bo heard about the teaching of the Catholic religion and became Catholics. At that time Peter Won was about 57 years old. ‘Si-jang` was his adult name.
Peter Won decided to leave home for one year to study the catechism. During that time he realized that `the Catholic faith is a medicine to keep human life alive for thousands of years.` On returning home, he explained to his friends and relatives the major points of the catechism. God`s grace empowered his explanations and moved all his friends and relatives who listened to him. They promised to believe in God. He was not baptized at that time.
Peter Won was nicknamed `tiger` because of his wild and fierce character. But with the practice of Christian virtues he grew in gentleness. He distributed his fortune to the poor and devoted himself to teaching the catechism to his neighbors and introduced them to the Church. Because of such activities his name became known to the magistrate.
In 1791, when the Sinhae Persecution broke out, the magistrate of Hongju sent the police to arrest both Peter Won and James Won. His cousin James escaped on the advice of friends, but Peter Won was arrested and taken to the government office in Hongju. Peter Won was immediately taken to the magistrate who interrogated him to force him to renounce his faith in God. But he did not yield, saying, "I can neither betray the Lord nor my fellow Christians, nor tell where the church books are."
The magistrate became angry at him, and ordered him to be beaten on the buttocks, seventy times. Despite this, he continuously explained his duty to God and to parents, and the teaching of the Catholic religion.
During the time he was in prison, Peter Won was often called to the magistrate and interrogated, and ordered to apostatize. However, he continued to explain the Catholic teaching to the magistrate. One day a believer came to visit him in prison and baptized him.
The magistrate of Hongju reported to the governor about Peter Won and was given an order `to beat Won Si-jang to death.` The magistrate took Peter Won out of prison and tortured him again, but he could not change his mind. Then the magistrate, as a last resort, decided to appeal to his paternal love. Peter Won had several children who were waiting for their father`s return with great anguish. Upon hearing about his children, however, Peter Won answered as follows:
"My heart is moved deeply by stories of my children, but as the Lord Himself calls me, how can I refuse to respond to His call?"
The magistrate of Hongju wanted to conclude the case as soon as possible. He ordered that Peter Won be given his last meal, according to practice, and beaten to death, but he still survived. Then the magistrate ordered that water be poured on him and that he be taken outside and left to freeze to death.
As soon as the water was poured on Peter Won it froze. Nevertheless, he only meditated on the Passion of Jesus. Then, making his final prayer of thanksgiving, Peter Won offered his life to God. It was on January 28, 1793 (December 17, 1792 by the Lunar calendar). Peter Won was 61 years old.