CBCK is a site for all kinds of information about the Catholic Church in South Korea, and its history. It’s got a ton of info on the Korean martyrs, many of whom are very inspiring.
I have to admit that my favorite is St. Agatha Kim A-gi, who was very devout and determined, but who also had so much trouble memorizing and understanding things that she not only couldn’t learn her catechism, but couldn’t even learn the basic prayers. All she could do was repeat the names of Jesus and Mary.
But when she was arrested and questioned, and could only explain her faith by saying Jesus and Mary, she still refused to renounce it.
“Is it true you believe in the Catholic Church?”
“I don’t know about anything but Jesus and Mary.”
“If you can save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn’t you reject them?”
“I would rather die than reject them.”
She was tortured, but stayed stubborn, and eventually was taken to prison and the company of other Catholics. “Agatha who only knows Jesus and Mary” was a great inspiration to everyone. She hadn’t been baptized before because she had had such trouble learning the faith; but at that point, it became obvious that her heart-knowledge was that of a confessor, and she was baptized in prison. This gave her new strength, which was good because she was targeted for tons of torture and punishment before she was martyred.
Something I didn’t know that this site told me: she was a woman from a pagan family who married into a pagan family, but her older sister became Catholic and then basically nagged Agatha into belief. (To be fair, this sort of thing is an older sibling’s job in Korean culture!)
St. Lucia Pak Hui-sun is another great example. Even as a teenaged pagan/Confucian, she was outstandingly virtuous, serving as the queen’s lady in waiting and resisting the advances of the king. She was also as learned as she was beautiful, studying deeply in Chinese as well as in Korean. But she was unsatisfied, and at age 30 she began to study the forbidden — Catholicism. She escaped the court by feigning illness, and persisted despite family disapproval, living in poverty rather than going back to normal court lady life. Her sister came and lived with her, and both ended up converting to Catholicism.
When the police came to arrest them, St. Lucia came outside to greet them, inviting them to share food and wine as welcome guests. She said that since their coming was permitted by God’s will, it was good to receive them willingly.
In prison, St. Lucia acted as a catechist and evangelist, teaching everyone. (But not doing so well with St. Agatha, who apparently already knew all she needed to know!) Since she had the standing of a court lady, she received worse treatment than most of the others. (Because her conversion was seen as a betrayal of the Korean court and Korean law.)
As with a few of the women in prison together, she was tortured in open court and clearly was wounded savagely, as well as having her leg broken. But their wounds repeatedly healed in the course of a day or a few days, so that they could appear in court without wounds. This caused their judges and torturers both fear and an increase in fury. The miraculous healings were attributed to evil magic.
St. Lucia admonished her executioner not to hold back, but to execute her with a single stroke of the sword. She was beheaded on May 24, 1839, along with St. Agatha Kim A-gi, St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, and several other martyrs of various walks of life.