Peter Yi Tae-gwon (1782-1839)
Peter Yi Tae-gwon, also called ‘Seung-hwa`, was born in Hongju, Chungcheong-do to a common class family. When he was young, Peter Yi learned the catechism from his parents. Yi Mu-myeong who was arrested in 1801 during the Shinyu Persecution and died in exile in Jeolla-do was his father. Paul Yi Yeo-sam who was martyred in Hongju in 1812 was his uncle.
During the Sinhae Persecution in 1791, Peter Yi was arrested at the age of nine, and set free. And during the Shinyu Persecution in 1801 he was arrested again with his father, uncle and elder brother. But once more he was set free. He was re-arrested in 1802 with his uncles.
This is an indication that Peter Yi had shown his frailty. However, he faithfully practiced his religion when he was freed. He dedicated his life to studying Catholic teaching, transcribing the religion books and distributing them to the faithful, thus spreading the Good News to his neighbors. In 1827, he moved with his mother and family to Jeolla-do and there he suffered much from the persecution once again. He wanted to escape to a safer place, but he had no courage to go alone. He decided to stay with his family and wait for God`s will, while his younger brother escaped.
Before long the police invaded the village where Peter Yi and his family lived. He was arrested and taken to Jeonju. There he went through terrible interrogation and torture. Physically weakened, he said momentarily `I will give over the Catholic books and tell the whereabouts of my fellow believers.` But, he retracted his statement and kept silence. Despite continued severe interrogation and torture he professed his faith in God with heroic courage. Then the governor of Jeonju, decided to kill him, and was forced to nermain, ordered him to be imprisoned.
Peter Yi was forced to remain in prison for twelve years with Peter Kim Dae-gwon and Job Yi Il-eon. During that period he signed his written sentence of death three times and consistently refused to save his life by betraying God. during the Gihae Persecution in 1839 he was taken to the market place in downtown Jeonju and was beheaded according to the king`s order and died a martyr. It was on May 29, 1839 (April 17, by the Lunar calendar). Peter Yi was 57 years old.
During his imprisonment Peter Yi wrote a journal at the request of Father St. J. Chastan. The following is an excerpt from the written sentence of death that the Justice Ministry sent to the king:
"Yi Tae-gwon was deeply imbued with the Catholic religion both day and night, therefore I want to treat him according to the national law."