Paul Pak Gyeong-hwa (1757-1827)
Paul Pak Gyeong-hwa, known as ‘Dohang`, was born in Hongju, Chungcheong-do to a noble family. He became a Catholic when he was about 33 years old. He was wealthy and respected by the villagers. Andrew Pak Sa-ui, who was martyred in Daegu in 1839, was his son.
Paul Pak was arrested during the persecution that broke out soon after he became a Catholic. For this reason, his faith was not strong enough to endure hard trials for his belief. So, he was released. His betrayal, however, became an opportunity for him to strengthen his faith. He committed himself to performing his religious duties faithfully. He even left his hometown to settle down in a mountainous area in order to practice his faith life more diligently.
When Father James Zhou Wen-mo entered Korea, Paul Pak visited him and received the Sacrament of Baptism. He read Catholic books with a passion and tried to introduce people to the Church. He taught the catechism to believers and showed his children, by good example, how a person who believes in God must live.
At the age of 60, Paul Pak moved to Gamagi in Danyang, Chungcheong-do with his family. There he heard the news about the Jeonghae Persecution that broke out in 1827. He told the Catholics not to worry and encouraged them to remain faithful to God. He moved to Meongemok in Sangju, Gyeongsang-do. He was arrested in late April while he celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord, with the faithful and was taken to Sangju.
On his way to Sangju, full of joy, Paul Pak said to the faithful; "Let us today give thanks to the Lord for giving us this great opportunity to suffer for Him." As a result he was recognized as the head of the Catholics and was tortured more severely than the other Catholics. Despite this, his faith in God was never shaken. Even when he was being tortured, he said, "Though my body is exposed to the chief official, my soul is in the hands of my Lord." He encouraged the other faithful in prison and took care of them rather than thinking of himself in his old age.
On realizing that he could not make Paul Pak give up the Catholic religion, the chief official of Sangju ordered that he be sent to Daegu. His children were also taken to Daegu after they professed their faith in God. All of them, except Andrew the eldest son, were set free.
The governor of Daegu ordered that Paul Pak be tortured continuously for three days. He did not change his mind. Then he was sentenced to death and imprisoned. One day the prosecutor made him discuss religious doctrine with a Buddhist monk. On hearing his clear and convincing explanation, the officials admired him saying, `Catholicism is a true religion.`
When the governor was changed, Paul Pak was dragged from prison and interrogated and tortured all over again. Due to his old age and previous suffering he could not endure the torture anymore. He felt his final day was coming closer. So he called his son and his Catholic companions, and said:
"Please, think this prison is Heaven. Don`t be preoccupied with your families outside. You follow me. It is truly a blessing to die for Jesus Christ."
Then he surrendered his soul to the Lord in peace. It was on November 15, 1827 (September 27, by the Lunar calendar). Paul Pak was 70 years old. It is said that when the faithful came to change the burial site, five months later, he still looked as peaceful as before.