Paul Yi Guk-seung (1772-1801)
Paul Yi Guk-seung also called ‘Seong-gyeom` was born to a noble family in Eum-seong, Chungcheong-do. He moved to Chungju later. His pen name was `Miam`.
When he grew up, Paul Yi heard about the Catholic religion that was proclaimed in the region of Chungju. In order to learn more about the new religion, he visited Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin who was living in Yanggeun, Gyeonggi-do. While leaning the catechism he was moved by God`s grace, and began to practice his religious duties earnestly.
When he returned home, his teacher tried to change his mind, but in vain. His faith in God was not strong enough yet to give his life to God in martyrdom. This is indicated by the fact that he was set free after being arrested by the police in Chungju during the Eulmyo Persecution of 1795.
However, on returning home he deeply repented his mistake and weakness and tried to do penance for his sins. His parents wanted him to marry, but he refused because he was afraid that he could not fulfill his religious duties, and decided to remain a celibate. Despite this his parents kept insisting on marriage. So Paul Yi moved to Seoul to avoid his parents` pressure.
Paul Yi became a teacher and he used the opportunity to teach the Catholic faith to many people. He studied the catechism with Church leaders including John Choe Chang-hyeon and Augustine Jeong Yak-jong. He helped the Church with great devotion and received the Sacraments from Father James Zhou Wen-mo.
As a result, Paul Yi`s name was widely known. When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801, his name was given to the police by the Catholics who had been arrested and interrogated. The police searched for him and found him. They took him to the Police Headquarters. On the way Paul Yi kept praying constantly.
When Paul Yi reached the prison he met Ko Gwang-seong from Hwanghae-do who was about to leave after renouncing his religion. Paul Yi advised him with his ardent faith to tell the chief official; "It is not I that betrayed my religion, but the devil who deceived me and spoke through my mouth." Encouraged by Paul Yi, Ko Gwang-seong died a martyr. While undergoing severe interrogation and torture, Paul Yi too experienced the same temptations as Ko did.
God knew the true heart of Paul Yi and gave him power to profess his faith. But it was only after he was purified by many trials that God allowed him the grace of martyrdom. He made the following statement at the Justice Ministry:
"I was so deeply imbued with the Catholic religion during the past ten years that it was like as if it became a part of my body. Though I might be sentenced to death, I cannot renounce my faith in God. When I was arrested earlier in Chungju, I agreed to `Change my mind` but it was not my true intention at all. Rather it was because of the severe punishment."
Finally Paul Yi was sentenced to death on July 2, 1801 (May 22, by the Lunar calendar). A few days later he was transferred to Gongju, Chungcheong-do. He was beheaded and died a martyr. Paul Yi was 29 years old. It is said that his nephews took his body and buried it in Gongju.