The Search for Hidden Heretics in the Joseon Royal Court – Martyr’s Country, Part 8

I am covering more of volume 3 from the 4 volume series of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  this time, and this will be the last installment of the series after all.   Chapter 3 continues with Inspector Kyechang Son, who is 38 years old, and elaborates on the details of how the left and right police bureaus function.   Son himself is characterized as wise and tenacious as an officer, but he is sympathetic to gisaeng and prostitutes, and participates in the drinking and carousing too.  The left and right police bureaus have around 70 men each, and Son is considered an ambitious officer.  He sees this request from Minister Cho to purge Catholics from the royal court as his opportunity to get a promotion.  He has also wild heard stories about how young Catholic women lose their minds over the west.  Some of these concerns in Joseon were rooted in the physical differences the yangban perceived between Joseon and Western men and the supposed emotional effect of Western men on women.

After speaking with Minister Cho, Inspector Son confers with Inspector Jang about throwing the believers into prison.  They plan on acquitting them if the women apostasize and discuss how taking children away from the women will break them more quickly.  They surmise that the Catholic women will apostasize in order to get their children back.  The inspectors don’t think the Catholic men will be as malleable and consider beating them, discussing in grisly detail how their blood will run down their bodies from the whipping.  The inspectors want to shut them up with their incessant talk about God.

Then the story shifts to the Samcheongdong Valley, where a strange scene is happening at Baekryeonsa Temple. Two people are there talking about theological issues such as the soul and heaven.  It’s already dark out.  One of the men is Yu Jingil, who is among the many Catholics executed in this 1839 persecution, and he is thinking about the fleeting nature of wealth and social status and considers the hardships to come. He soberly assesses that there are black clouds on the horizon for the community.

Yu is also thinking about a figure at the royal court, Kim Yugeun, who was more famously known by his pen name Yellow Mountain (Hwangshan). The text then goes into Hwangshan’s history in the royal court, tracing it back to Prince Sado’s death. Hwangshan is close to the current regent, Queen Dowager Sunwon, who is his sister.  He is her confidant that she consulted when she had any serious problem.  For whatever reason, other observers in the royal court make sarcastic remarks about this arrangement.

Hwangshan was the eldest son of Kim Josun, and their branch of the Kim clan was from the Andong Kim family.  When Sunjo ascended to the throne at age 11 and died at 45, he was mostly a puppet.  In reality, all of the political power rested with Kim Josun, his father-in-law after a certain point in his reign.  Queen Dowager Sunwon was Sunjo’s wife, and Kim Josun was her father.  Note that Kim Jeongsun, the Queen Dowager during Sunjo’s reign, was from the Gyeongju Kim clan.  They are not traditionally considered the same family, and when Jeongsun retired from power in 1804, time that Kim Josun most likely stepped into that power vacuum. The rest of this chapter reviews the factional fights in the royal court going back from Yeongjo and Sado to Jeongjo, the death of Catholics during the Sinyu Persecution,  and finally ending with more details about Sunjo’s reign.

Chapter 5 begins with a group of desperate people longing for the coming of a new world. Buddhist amulets are selling like hotcakes, and shamans are doing brisk business.  There is a general feeling that the social situation was very dark and that the Catholics were in danger.  They figure heaven will help them, and they discuss where the Catholic households were in a particular village and where they can eke out a living.  Most Catholics at this time live in poverty.

The characters mention in passing the connection between Catholic troubles and their unwillingness to perform the ancestor rites.  They also point out that Catholics don’t have their dead cremated when they die, as is the Buddhist custom, which makes them conspicuous.  The Catholic community coped with the aftermath of the Sinyu persecution by abandoning their houses and property and taking refuge in the sparsely populated areas of the mountains.  Then the chapter turns to the similarities between the child kings during that Sinyu era and the current one and delves into court politics surrounding Queen Dowager Sunwon again.  I think the Catholic community has some hope that Sunwon has softer views of them than previous monarchs.  However, since Kim Josun’s death, there is more uncertainty about how the Catholics will fare.

The next chapter begins with a description of a flourishing shop selling ramie fabric in the middle of a city.  I’m unclear how many shops this part is discussing, and it may be a second shop in the vicinity that sells needles, exotic cloth, fur items, ointments, and various kinds of sugary candies. The novel goes off on a long but interesting tangent into describing one of the merchant’s residences and his array of animal skins that he sells.   The man in question is Kim Juman, and the conversation focuses primarily on sable furs.   A middle-aged woman wearing a long hooded cape comes by the shop, and taking it off, she enters the shop or the house attached to it.  This house is where the Catholic community’s bishop resides and is considered the main place of worship as well.  In a room nearby, Jeong Hasang is reading aloud in Latin.

The story pauses to review some of the history of French priest Maubant and Bishop Imbert.  Then it notes that Kapnyeong has been entrusted with this shop’s day to day business.  Someone lets Hasang know that Court Lady Park is there to see him; I think this woman announcing her is pretending to be a married couple with Hasang for the sake of the larger village community.  The two go in to chat with Lady Park.  Among the news she brings, Lady Park mentions that Hyoim and Hyosun have taken a boat from Sonae and that Han Ryangmok was seen in the company of a police inspector.  They also discuss Ryangmok’s interest in Hyoim and some details about the Queen Dowager.  Eventually, Lady Park moves on to talk a bit with Kim Juman before leaving, trying to get more sable fur for the palace from him.

The final chapter of part 2, chapter 7, continues to follow this new character, Court Lady Huisun Park, who also goes by the baptismal name Lucia.  She joined the royal court when she was 13 and has lived there for more than 20 years.  At age 18, she encountered King Sunjo walking around the grounds, and he was commented on her beauty.  Sunjo was 29 at the time, in his prime, but Park Huisun was not as interested in him even though he sought her out among the court ladies.  As he went around the court looking for her, she asked another court lady for help evading him since she didn’t want to be  his concubine.  She got sick over it, and the king asked for medical assistance for her, disappointed that they couldn’t be together.  The story goes into her continuing difficulties evading the king but also highlights how she is now pulled into Queen Sunwon’s circle.  This part leaves the impression that she had quite a struggle against Sunjo’s romantic advances and that he was considered a somewhat ineffective, weak leader generally.

The rest of this chapter shows Lady Park meeting with Jeong Hasang to discuss police surveillance on a particular mountain where the community is hiding.  She’s starting to realize that, should another wave of persecution start, she may not be able to rely on Queen Dowager Sunwon for help as she had hoped.   She also mentions that it was her wish to turn the house where they were meeting for their chat into Joseon’s first convent and had been envious when the Western priests described Western convents to her.  Kim Hyoim enters the conversation here for a bit, too, since she is one of the group of women staying there and reads to the assembly about the ascension of Mary.  At the end of this chapter, Inspector Son is pondering his secret order to hunt down any Catholic ladies in the royal court.

It turns out that my souvenirs from Jeoldusan have a painting of Park Huisun among them that I’ll post here.

Park Huisun Card

She’s the one in the center.  I don’t know anything about the two women on either side of her in the picture.

Volume 3 continues with part 3, “A Wild Night,” which has 9 chapters.  In chapters 1 and 2, Han Ryangmok is still looking for the woman in the white mourning clothes, Hyoim, who has captured his interest so much.  The more dramatic Park Huisun drama picks up again in chapter 3.  This chapter begins with Lady Park and the court ladies finishing their religious services and finding two white porcelain jars and one sable fur left beside the door to the attic where they have been holed up.  Lady Park has left them there for Hyoim and Lady Bae to examine before she gives the items as a gift to Queen Dowager Sunwon, and the women wholeheartedly approves.

The scene changes rather abruptly, and after dawn three court ladies are out walking along the road past the back of the Left Police Bureau.  Inspector Son steps into their path, startling them.  When the court ladies hear his introduction, they all turn pale. They are escorted into the police bureau, and Inspector Baek and Inspector Jin are present to assist Inspector Son.  Inspector Son rips off the hooded cape Lady Bae is wearing over her head and throws it to the floor, while Inspector Jin does the same with the other two court ladies’ capes.  The other two court ladies are named Lady Seong and Lady Heo.  Lady Bae maintains her calm appearance while the other two are trembling in fright at the turn of events.  Inspectors Son and Jin grab Lady Bae roughly by the arms to take her in for questioning separately.

This begins the new wave of persecution of the Gihae year, and the rest of the volume follows the investigation by the Left Police Bureau.  In the next chapter, they raid the fur shop of Kim Juman where Jeong Hasang is staying with Bishop Imbert.  Hasang wakes the bishop as the police arrive so he can get dressed and leave.  Chapter 5 has Inspector Son and a young police bureau official at a house where they are screaming for someone to open the door, and the storyline just intensifies from here.

Martyrs 3

Although I’m skipping volume 4, we know from historical records that Park Huisun, Kim Hyoim, and Jeong Hasang among other characters introduced here are arrested and go to their deaths.  I’ll cover this section with more paintings from the Korean website that profiles the main figures and manga pages to explain the general storyline in lieu of reading the final volume. What I won’t be able to determine at this time is whether fictional character Kapnyeong dies in this wave or whether he survives to witness everything, but he hasn’t played that huge of a part in this section of the novel series to matter as much.  One difficulty with a novel of this scope is that the cast of characters is so large, you can’t focus on all of them, and there were thousands who died during these purges.  At least you get a taste of the little-known history from what I’ve covered here.

Martyrs 8

Turning to the manga version of the martyrs, the pages I picked out to close this series with jump around in the book a bit.  First, I have a page with Hasang as a young man talking with his mother Yu Sosa.


Martyrs Page 4

The next two pages are from a different chapter in the manga which has a summary of the Gihae persecution starting with the police bureau raid of a house and the execution of community members.  Notable here are the two or three Western priests included in the massacre this time.

Martyrs Page 5

This is the last page I’m posting from it. It looks like a former believer has informed on them to instigate the raid.  The police bureau are still looking for the Western priests.

Martyrs Page 6

I’ll end the series here since I need to get back on track with this year’s schedule.

Part eight of an eight part series

Next time:  We will return to China to look at children’s book The Dim Sum Anthology by A Nong!





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Living Dead Weekend – Haunting at Ice Pine Peak Alternate Artwork

In honor of the Living Dead Monroeville weekend, which is coming up in three weeks, I decided to draw a new cover page for my webcomic for my horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak for you to get you in the mood.

HIPP Alternate Splash Page Final Resized

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The Police Bureau Officer and the Buddhist Mourners – Martyr’s Country, Part 7

This post I’m reading more of volume 3 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  and continuing to add some extra information from the manga that covers the life of Jeong Hasang among other figures.

Chapter 4 of part 1 continues with Inspector Son’s group meeting with Officer Baek in the mountains.  Han Ryangmok and Seokpal are accompanying the group of police bureau officers and hear Baek tell Son that he thinks there was a Westerner in disguise among a group of mourners he saw.  The text mentions to the reader that among this party of mourners is Kim Kapnyeong, now age 58, and Jeong Hasang is now a leader, entrusted with household and business matters.  He often spends time reading or diligently studying Latin in his room.  When his Latin was good enough, he received holy orders from the bishop.  This is an important responsibility for a community that hasn’t had access to priests for a lot of years, and often boys would go to Macau to receive holy orders and return.

After a brief mention of this, we return to the conversation between Inspector Son and Officer Baek.  He asks if Baek detained the mourner he suspected of being in disguise or took him to the police bureau.  He didn’t but did recognize Jeong Hasang among the group, however.   They also talk about returning to the Left Police Bureau in Hanyang to pursue a different criminal, this time a murderer, an arsonist.

An officer is dispatched as Inspector Son and Han Ryangmok smoke pipes together and talk further about the mourners.  At that moment, Officer Kang returns with the two officers Han Ryangmok had beaten over the captive women.  Kang declares the mourners are Joseon citizens.  Surprised, Inspector Son and Han Ryangmok determine after some questioning that one mourner in the party was missing when the officers had inspected them.  The officers think the remaining mourner could have hidden along the route down the mountain in the weeds. However, they also didn’t see the women who were going to the Buddhist mass that they had detained earlier among the group.  Ryangmok thinks this sounds strange, so he and Seokpal plan on going up to the temple themselves.

The next chapter shifts to the perspective of the temple and the sound of a wooden bell resounding through the thick foliage on the mountain.  This introduction leads into a fairly detailed description of the temple complex, including references to the bell house, a Big Dipper temple, and the temple dormitory.  The temple had had regular visitors, but these have fallen off after time.

When Han Ryangmok arrives at the temple’s main hall and approaches the Buddha, his heart skips a beat as he sees the figure of a woman in white mourning clothes as well as an old priest preparing an invocation nearby.  Ryangmok notes the woman’s beauty, completely enchanted by her.  After he is there a bit, he hears raised voices.  Seokpal is in the garden talking with a young monk in his early twenties.  Ryangmok goes out to them and asks if it is okay if they stay the night at the temple, pretending that they came across it by accident.  Since the temple is surrounded by a thick hedge, this is the only way he can investigate whether the Western priest is hiding there.

The monk Shijaseung takes them to their room, where they wait for the Buddhist service to finish.  At the end, the old priest comes out with the sisters Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun walking behind him.  When they see Ryangmok, they are jubilant, and Hyoim talks with him.  Surprisingly, he mentions his interest in the foreign priest hiding there, but she tells him he is mistaken about that, that the priest left quickly.  As Hyosun returns to their room because she is tired, Ryangmok realizes that Hyoim is very different from the gisaeng he frequents.  Meanwhile, Shijaseung asks him to come back for evening services, and Ryangmok returns to his room to eat and smoke.  He and Seokpal talk for awhile, especially about women.  Finally, Seokpal asks him if he came to the temple to find this woman, and Ryangmok surmises that Hyoim is a widow and explains why he thinks so to Seokpal.

The next chapter flashes back to the moment they met two years earlier at the dock in autumn.  Seokpal and his cousin Seokju dealt in medicinal herbs and came up to Hanyang.  Chapter 7 starts with a reference to a Buddhist monster, a geumkangyacha, which is more commonly known as a yaksha in English, crushing someone’s neck.   It’s running with a sword in its hand and has an angry face.



This monster was in Han Ryangmok’s dream that night, which we realize when he wakes up.  He talks with Seokpal awhile, then a bell rings in the temple, though it’s still dark outside.   In another room in the temple, Hyoim also awakens and worries about the priest Maubant.  Shortly after the sun rises, she leaves the temple with her sister, and Ryangmok is upset to hear from Shijaseung that she left without saying goodbye.  He and Seokpal leave the temple and end up at an inn in another village, but he’s still thinking about the sisters.

Meanwhile, Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun end up at a farmhouse in that same village.  The farmhouse is connected to the temple monks.  With the help of the old monk and Shijaseung, they arrange for the priests Maubant and Jeong Hasang to escape the temple by changing out of their mourning clothes and heading off through a cave.   Hyoim thought Han Ryangmok wasn’t a police bureau officer and was happy to see him at the temple, but she also felt flustered under his hot gaze.  Now in the farmhouse, she launches into a long prayer about it and later visits with the house’s owner and Shijaseung.

The next chapter returns to the priest Maubant and the party of believers fleeing the temple.  Maubant left before Inspector Son’s arrival and went with Jeong Hasang’s party to the docks to take a ship to Sonae.  His companions Kim Kapnyeong and Kim Sunseong remain behind to take care of traces they left behind at the inn they stayed at as they continued on their journey.  Jeong Hasang’s party crosses over to Majae, his hometown that he left 38 years before after the Sinyu persecution.  They discuss what the priest should do if the police start patrolling the area and come up with a few placess where other believers could be called upon.

Chapter 9 continues with Kim Kapnyeong and Kim Sunseong still near the Buddhist temple.  They meet up with Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyosun at the farmhouse and talk with them and Shijaseung.  This chapter mentions the six or so villages where Catholics now live in some of the households, which has served as their community base since the Sinyu persecution.  Kim Sunseong tells Hyoim about Han Ryangmok’s reputation in the capital for being a womanizing libertine, and she mentions a woman named Court Lady Park in the Royal Court who is watching there for any signs of danger for the community.  Lady Park is set to plead on the Catholic community’s behalf if need be and explain to the Queen Dowager that it isn’t heretical.   There’s more details about this and Han Ryangmok in the final chapter of part one, but the chapter ends with Han Ryangmok returning to Hanyang.

Part 2 of volume 3 is titled “Ssanghojeong and Baekryeongsa,” which seems to be a reference to two specific locations, probably Buddhist, and this part has 7 chapters.  Here is information on Baekryeonsa Temple, if that turns out to be the second reference:

In chapter 1 of part 2, the story returns to the police bureau’s chief official and his bureau officers at a special police box.  Inspector Son is here thinking about the Westerner he’s on the lookout for.  He considers his interest in this man isn’t trivial because of what happened 38 years earlier with the infiltration of the Chinese priest Chu Munmo.  This chapter goes into a fair amount of introspection on this topic by the inspector before he starts to smoke with a colleague who talks with him about nobleman Hyeong Pan, the Minister of Justice who lives at Ssanghojeong.  Son has just been summoned to visit Hyeong Pan at a private dinner.  Inspector Son sets off on horseback to the Minister’s villa.

At the start of the next chapter, Inspector Son arrives in front of Ssanghojeong, gets off of his horse and enters the house’s outdoor garden.  A man asks why he has come, and the inspector asks for the master of the house, Hyeong Pan, introducing himself as Police Bureau Officer Son Kyechang.  Son talks with the servant about Han Ryangmok awhile before meeting with Hyeong Pan, and they laugh about him.  When the servant takes Son through the gates and into the room where he is to meet with Hyeong Pan, he finds Cho Inyeong, the Minister of the Interior, waiting for him instead.   Cho Inyeong tells him they only summoned the most talented officers of the Left and Right Police Bureaus.  Son is overwhelmed by the honor.

The conversation finally turns to the Catholics, and Cho asks Inspector Son what he thinks of them.  He says he doesn’t know much about Catholics other than that they teach absurd things like going to heaven or hell when you die.  Cho agrees that it is a heresy that is deluding the masses.  Son also adds that they refrain from the ancestor ceremony.  Cho says that such an evil vice in their county should be pulled out by its roots, that letting it continue to grow would only make it a bigger concern.  Then he mentions the ladies in the Royal Court falling into this very heresy.  Son says he never heard about this situation and sits rigidly at attention as Cho continues to explain how the king is to the country as the heart is to the body in a long speech.  He complains that Western barbarism is like a virus infecting the Royal Court, leaving Son with the strong impression that they are to start looking for Catholics among the court ladies in order to purge them, especially in the Queen Dowager Sunwon’s circle.

Now I want to point out here as I end the reading for today’s post that the Confucian yangban were very much against any supernatural interpretation of life, which was also their complaint against the Buddhists, not just the Catholics.  This time period also saw the Buddhist sects losing influence and power, though they weren’t in as bad of a position as the Catholics and weren’t executed as far as I’ve read like them either.  Perhaps that’s why there’s such a strong identification in this particular volume of the Catholics with the Buddhists and why Buddhist monks were aiding them in evading the authorities.  Also, both Buddhism and to an even greater extent Christianity had doctrines of God and Buddha that struck at the central importance of the king to society, which was very strong in Confucianism.  There couldn’t be two rival leaders for the yangban’s loyalties.

Returning to the manga I started to look at last time, the section on Jeong Hasang jumps around a lot, going from scenes of the present where the monk is driving two kids to various monuments associated with the Jeong brothers, to scenes of the early activities of the Practical Learning movement that led to the Jeong brothers’ interest in Catholicism, then to scenes of Jeong Yakjong’s arrest and execution.  It goes on much further than that, with the monk and kids meeting Jeong Hasang himself and talking with him, but I’ll save that part of the story for later.  Here is the illustrated version of some of what we already read about Jeong Yakjong’s death in volume 2 in previous posts.

Martyrs Manga Pg 1

This is the part where they discover the church goods in the box and use it as a pretext for arrest.

Martyrs Manga Pg 2

Next we see Jeong Yakjong being interrogated.

Martyrs Manga Pg 3

Here is the lead up to his execution, which is not shown in the next frame.  While this book does show the severed heads in silhouette or hanging from stakes in the distance in the stories of the other martyrs, it is a fairly gentle treatment.  However, you do get to see the double executioners that I mentioned dancing before the procession to the execution place in previous posts.

I’ll determine if I need an extra post to finish this series next time.  I may just finish up with volume 3 and be done with it, since it is a matter of historical fact that many of these characters in the Catholic community were executed by beheading in 1839.  It’s not like we’re reading to see what happens, and the details of the executions get repetitive after awhile, though Hwang Sayeong was special.  His story had a lot of drama that needed to be covered separately and in depth.  However, when I have a minute to look ahead to volume 4 and see which characters it focuses on, I may change my mind.  I never need an excuse to read historical fiction, because I love it, but when I do multiple book series, I seem to top out at about 3 volumes maximum.  We’ll see if that record holds this time.

Part seven of an eight part series



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Anime Mini Appearance

I have a few new details on my upcoming appearances for May through June.  One is that I am now scheduled to be speaking at Anime Mini in Greensburg on “Musical Interludes: K-On, La Corda D’Oro and Beyond” on May 20th at 2PM.  Details on that event can be found here:

I will be at the Monroeville Library as scheduled later the next week, then for the Living Dead Weekend in June, I have more details on how this will be set up.  I wasn’t sure where it was going to be held exactly, but I will be in the Steel City Con portion at the convention center, while other parts of the event will be in the mall proper:

In other news, I’m making a lot of progress on my new Korean language textbook that I am preparing for my online classes, and here is the likely front cover:

Koren Guide Cover Copy

So that should be available in another month or so.  It is currently under review and revision.


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A Yangban Scoundrel Meets a Beautiful Catechist – Martyr’s Country, Part 6

We’re starting volume 3 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”)  this time, and we have a new fictional character that becomes the center of the action right away.   The year is 1839 now, the gihae year of the pig which the persecution takes its name from, and the current king is 12 year old King Heonjong who took the throne in 1834.  The regent is his grandmother Queen Sunwon who was also known as Queen Dowager Myeongyeong here; the young king is the grandson of the child king Sunjo who ruled during the earlier Sinyu persecution.  Oddly, we have the nearly exact same unstable political situation developing in this wave of persecution that precipitated the 1801 wave.

As in the beginning of volume 1, we have boats riding along the Han River on their way to Sonae.  We’re back at the dock unloading goods from a ship bearing a man of around 30 years old and his attendant.  He’s tall and stately, but his clothes give away that he doesn’t have a prominent government post.  People recognize him as Han Ryangmok and greet him.  He and his sidekick Seokpal are traveling through the region, and Han Ryangmok is hung over and looking for a hospital where he can get a rice cake cure for it.  The sailors nearby are all chattering about him, surprised that he isn’t more famous.  Ryangmok has a reputation as the head of a gang of ruffians although he is a yangban, and women consider him quite handsome.  There are rumors he may be an illegitimate son by way of explanation for his dissolute lifestyle of drinking, rabble-rousing and frequenting gisaeng houses back in Hanyang.  In fact, the word hanryang actually means “playboy” in Korean, a nice play on words by the author.

In these first few chapters, there are some festivals are going on in Sonae and Hanyang, filling them with the sound of raucous singing and laughter of the drunken revelers, troupes of traveling entertainers, and musical instruments like the gomungo.  Han Ryangmok starts off in the pubs then ends up at the kibang, the formal name for gisaeng houses.  Then the story shifts to Han Ryangmok and Seokpal riding around the mountains on their horses, encountering all sorts of different people.

In one place, he sees some people who are very  poor and sickly with a baby that disturbs him enough to throw some money at them before continuing on his journey.  He and Seokpal discuss the widespread corruption in the government, but their talk is interrupted as they find the pass blocked not far from a roadside shrine by two men and two women who have been arrested and apparently assaulted.  The men are positively identified as officials from the left police bureau.  The women, who are wearing white mourning clothes, try to make themselves look presentable by smoothing their hair and adjusting their clothes as Han Ryangmok and Seokpal approach them.

There is some controversy between Han Ryangmok and the police bureau officials over whether the women were violated.  The officials insist they have done nothing wrong, but Han Ryangmok looks at the women and thinks that it is plainly obvious that they were.  It comes out that the officials were in the mountain district to arrest Catholics because that’s where the group gathers at a Buddhist temple.  The police felt the women seemed suspicious, perhaps are catechists, and the men insist again that they didn’t rape the women, noting that believers wear a cross in their clothes as a strange talisman.  Han Ryangmok doesn’t believe them at all.

One of the women, who has a regal beauty and surprising bearing, explains to him that she was going with her sister to Buddhist services when they were arrested on the pretext of being Catholics.  The police bureau officials then asked them to take off their jackets and intimidated them.  The police listen to this explanation with impatience.  When it’s their turn to speak, they ask Han Ryangmok where in the world can such oppression be found?  They suggest they wouldn’t ask criminals under arrest to strip in the street.  The woman looks at them angrily, then complains to Ryangmok about the corruption and misrule of the people, noting how the police are like bandits.  Han Ryangmok flinches since he is also part of the social class she is trashing, and he blushes.

Suddenly, Seokpal brandishes his whip against the police bureau officials, who scream in terror and crawl away.  The woman tells him that heaven has sent them to help and mentions that their family lives near Dongdaemun gate with their mother, who also goes to the temple often.  The text notes she’s in her mid-twenties and describes her rare beauty in greater detail.  Seokpal suggests that it’s time to go, and the woman encourages them to leave.  The men head for another mountain pass through a valley where they pass through another village and stop briefly to chat.

In chapter 3, they stop at an inn where a man abruptly interrupts them to gruffly summon them into the next room.  It turns out to be left police bureau Inspector Son, whom Ryangmok is friends with, and he demands to know why they were visiting the mountains.  Ryangmok wants to know why that interests him.  They exchange jokes and order something to eat before turning vaguely to the subject of the arrested catechists.  Son wonders how he knew about it and won’t tell Ryangmok what he knows, but he mentions the assumption that the Catholics stir up trouble and are treasonous conspirators.

Martyrs 5

A Scene from the Sinyu Persecution of 1801

Again, the novel points out that Ryangmok is the capital city’s leading playboy and ruffian, yet he has the police bureau officers wrapped around his finger and cooperates with their investigations.   The barmaid and innkeeper bring in their food as the discussion continues.   Son asks Ryangmok if he heard the strange rumors about the Catholics sneaking foreign men in to spread their ideas.  Ryangmok asks what he means, and Son elaborates on the extraordinary appearance of these men, who have blue eyes and blond hair with features like a goblin’s face.  Son elaborates that there are three men from the west, which surprises Ryangmok, who expected Son was only talking about one man.  Ryangmok asks if these men have been arrested, and Son says they are gathering information on them at a Buddhist temple in the area.  The mention of the temple perks up Ryangmok’s ears.  He finally tells Son about the two women under arrest that he met in the mountains going to a Buddhist temple to attend a Buddhist service.  Son suspects the sisters were Catholics.  With this news, Ryangmok says he must leave.

But a young man, Officer Kang, runs in and greets Ryangmok before he can depart.  He talks to the men about seeing three or four men dressed in bamboo mourning hats, including a man over forty, at a temple.  Son confirms Kang’s impressions and answers his questions about which bureau officers are watching the temple in question, stating that it is Inspector Hwang and Officer Jin assigned to that location.  Ryangmok seems to think these are the police he routed when he encountered them with the women.  Officer Kang rushes out of the inn, leaving Ryangmok to probe Son about the identity of the mourner who has them so concerned.  Was the man a Westerner?  Son says yes, he’s sure it was given the very big differences between Western and Joseon faces.  He mentions a prediction he made has come true but doesn’t elaborate on what he means.  Ryangmok expresses a desire to see this “ghost face” for himself.  The three men leave the inn and head for the village near the temple.

In chapter 4, the plot shifts to the Buddhist monastery and activity there.  A young Western priest sits across from the 80 year old head Buddhist priest in a secluded room.  The young Western priest’s name is Maubant, but he goes by the Korean name Nabaekdarok.  To one side sit Jeong Hasang, Yu Jingil, and Cho Shincheol.  These men are the new generation of Catholics, and we now see young six year old Hasang from volumes 1 and 2 as an adult in his mid-forties.  They have all come to listen to the old Buddhist priest’s stories of when the Catholic community was first founded in Joseon.  This temple was apparently where those believers had gathered to study Western thought and Catholic doctrine.  The Buddhist priest complements the Western priest on his Korean and asks about his hardships since coming to Joseon, but Jeong Hasang interrupts to say that heaven has seen to the priest’s needs so there have been no hardships.

They talk a bit about the major characters we covered in volumes 1 and 2, many of them from the Jeong family, but they are interrupted by Kim Sunseong who has come to inform them that police have been spotted in the neighborhood.  He says Kim Hyoim had returned and told them about this development.  When she comes in behind him to elaborate, Maubant asks her if this is true.  She tells them the story of the police insulting her and Han Ryangmok saving her.  The assembly determines that the police have come from Hanyang looking for the Western priest and wonder how they picked up his trail.  They want to hide him somewhere else, but they don’t have a plan and ask the Buddhist priest for help.


A Scene of Catholics in Korea in the 1800s

The scene then shifts back to the three men leaving the inn.  Han Ryangmok, Inspector Son and Seokpal have now arrived at the outskirts of the village.  Inspector Son is walking in the lead, feeling triumphant with Inspector Shinim and five other left police bureau officers accompanying him and Han Ryangmok and Seokpal assisting them.  A Sapsal dog from the village is barking at them as they arrive.   Son inquires about Inspector Hwang, and he is told that both Inspectors Jin and Hwang went to watch the Buddhist temple.


The Korean Sapsal Dog, Dispeller of Ghosts and Evil Spirits

I’m going to stop there for now since I have a lot of other media I want to bring into the discussion at this point.  I added a few paintings up above from the Korean Catholic website I linked to a few posts back that I have been digging through for more interesting things to help teach this series.  I also have a painting with Kim Hyoim on it that I got when I was in Seoul at the museum.  It’s kind of exciting to finally have some idea who these people are.

Kim Hyoim Kim Hyoju

Kim Hyoim and Kim Hyoju (성 김효임, 성 김효주)

At this point, I want to start talking some about the manga I got at the related shrine in Seoul called Jeoldusan, which translates to “chopped head mountain,” because this section of the historical novel features some of the same figures that the manga does.  When I visited the shrine and its museum, I noticed the manga version of the lives and deaths of some of these figures commemorated there was available, which I thought was really unique and something I would find interesting to read once my Korean got better. The full-color manga is Gildong Na’s Great Korea’s Martyred Saints  (나길동의“위대한 한국의 순교성인들”), and it is widely available on Korean books sites, though I am unclear if it is available for shipping to the US. It was published in 2005 and is 200 pages long.  I’ve never seen anything like it at any religious site I’ve visited anywhere in the world, so I had to get it.  I will post some of the drawings from it here and in the next few installments of this series as I finish the novels.

Jeong Hasang

Jeong Hasang Paul (성 정하상 바오로)

This page is a really striking painting of Jeong Hasang that appears to be painted on some sort of cloth, maybe burlap.  It’s one of my favorite frames in the manga.  As you will see in later installments of this series, the manga style is not this sophisticated for the most part and includes real life photos of related places and artifacts.

The stories of the historical figures are framed by a conversation between a friar and two children who come to visit him in his study.  The manga jumps around to highlight different figures martyred at various times in the 1800s, going back and forth between the different waves of persecution, but I will highlight the section on Jeong Hasang Paul, as he is known here. This is a page where the friar explains to the children what happened to Jeong Yakyong (Dasan) during his exile and shows them his house in Majae when he returned from exile.  It looks like he was exiled for 18 years in Kangjin, Jeollado at the southern tip of Korea and spent the time writing 500 volumes of books.

Jeong Yakyong

I did discover in this manga that the Jeongs’ brother-in-law Yi Byeok mentioned in volume 1 of the novels is a real historical figure, and finally I found Hasang’s sister Jeong Jeong Hye at least in a few frames.  One page has a very small family tree of some of the peripheral figures showing Yi Byeok and Hwang Sayeong’s connection to the Jeong clan.  I’ll continue to weave portions of the manga in with the novels for the rest of the series, and I may add one more part to this series if I can’t finish the story adequately in the next two posts.

Part six of an eight part series

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New Discussion of Jennifer Lin’s Book Promotion For Her Family Memoir

As promised, I got the second of my series on local Asian-American author appearances ready at my secondary blog.  Journalist and Chinese-American Jennifer Lin recently came to Pittsburgh to promote her new family memoir.  Her grandfather and great-uncle were Christian leaders during the tumultuous 20th century in China, and her presentation of the conflict makes for exciting reading.  Here is the link:

I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled series here shortly.


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Spring Schedule of Author Appearances

As spring kicks into high gear, I will be speaking and appearing at a few upcoming events around town.

First up, on May 24th at 7PM, I will be giving my presentation “‘Godzilla, Monster Movies, and Toho Studios” at the Monroeville Library at 4000 Gateway Campus Blvd, Monroeville, PA 15146.  I had great turnout at Tekko for this presentation, and this will give people around town another opportunity to check out the series.

Then I will be making an author appearance and selling my novels at the special horror expo that has been put together by some of the local promoters, the Living Dead Weekend, which will be held at Monroeville Mall from June 9th through the 11th.  It’s going to be quite an exciting lineup, and I’ll be featuring my award-winning horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, which has some zombie and mummy action in addition to the ghosts it features.  It should be a fun time.  You can find details here:

I might have one more event in late May, but I haven’t been given the green light on that yet.

In the meantime, I also was fortunate enough to cover the appearances of a few Asian-American authors at a local university.  I was the total fangirl and even had a few minutes to talk with them and get signed copies of their books!  The first write up of author Julie Otsuka is up at my affiliate blog:

This was a huge month-long or more string of events community wide that was wrapped up by this author presentation, and it was all focused on her literary novel, When the Emperor Was Divine.  I did a whole run-down of the complete series of events as well as posted some primary sources for readers interested in learning more about the Japanese internment camps of World War II, including some manga-style artwork done by one young Japanese woman in the camps.

I hope to have the write up of the other author appearance later this month once I’ve read the book, but it’s all good stuff.

As for other projects, I’m wrapping up my first draft of my Korean language textbook, so my Korean 1 and Korean 2 classes of my Enlightened Rabbit Scholastic Society project will be available for online students.  I’m going to be flexible about class start dates for the first year or two, so feel free to let me know you are interested regardless of when.  If you want to keep up specifically on that program, be aware that I have a blog on the site behind the landing page where I keep all of my course offerings and the pdf brochure for download.  I’ll be starting to blog Korean-related stuff on this more frequently, so if you want to, bookmark it or subscribe to it:

Looking ahead to what I have programmed for this blog, I’ll be adding some manga to the current series on the Korean historical novel I’ve been reading, then we’ll look at a Chinese children’s book and some special Japanese manga to catch up to my usual schedule.  I’ve got lots of great stuff planned for this year and next year, so be sure to check out all of my channels.

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The Cruel End of the Sinyu Persecution and a Quiet Interlude – Martyr’s Country, Part 5

In this post, I promise I’m going to finish up volume 2 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의 ”순교자의 나라”) for real this time.  I keep saying that and then find it really interesting and dramatic, and it takes me longer than I thought to get through what I want to cover.  I’m not sure how accurate the novel is, because this is historical fiction rather than a non-fiction history book, but it’s hard to put down regardless.   This is a good time to remind readers that most K-drama and historical novels are exciting but often only use actual history as source material, so they shouldn’t be taken as factual.  Since this was set only a few centuries ago, more of it should be accurate than is typical of such novels.

Picking up with volume 2 chapter 10, the first paragraph begins “Mun Yeongin is dead.  Kang Wansuk is dead.”  Very dramatic, even traumatic, statements after the last few chapters depicting the executions.  They look for a place to bury Yeongin Mun out in the mountains, then Kapnyeong visits with Yoo Sosa and Hasang before he goes out with Kim Hanbin to look for a man named Hwang Shim.  They go back to his hometown to find him, meet with friends and relatives trying to come up with some lead on his whereabouts, also stopping in Kang Wansuk’s hometown of Deoksan where they try to find Hong Pilju.  Then they resume their search for the elusive Hwang Shim in Hanyang.

One of Hwang Shim’s realtives suspects Kapnyeong of being with the police, but Kapnyeong reassures him that he is not.  Apparently Hwang Shim was driven out of the area because he is a church member, so there is some concern as to who might be asking about him.  Kapnyeong wants to meet him and presses for more information.

Chapter 11 is a very long chapter that begins the details history of Hwang Sayeong, who is sitting alone in a cave in the mountains thinking of his past.  His father died before he was born, leaving his mother Widow Yi to raise him alone.  There were rumors in his youth that he was a prodigy, and his mother vows to raise him to be a man her late husband would be proud of.  Of course, Korean men took a new name upon reaching adulthood, and his name back then, called an 아명 amyeong, was Shibok, not Sayeong.  His mother tries to get him a tutor, but the ones she hires don’t last more than a year.  When he turns 15, he goes to Majae to implore Jeong Yakjong to become his tutor and teach him the Confucian classics.  Jeong Yakjong for his part arranges for Widow Yi, to come live in Jeong Yakyong’s empty house since he is now in Hanyang working for the king.

After studying together for awhile, Jeong Yakjong wants him to apply for the state exam in the fall, and Shibok asks if he’s too young.  Yakjong tells him there are no age restrictions, so Shibok applies and begins studying for the exam day and night.  Some observers think he can’t pass the exam.  Finally, Shibok goes to Hanyang alone to the testing place, which is the Myeongnyundang Lecture Hall where several hundred Confucian scholars aged twenty through forty are waiting.  The next day at the hall a public notice has been posted with a crowd surging around it.  Shibok is surprised to see he passed the initial exam in first place.  He hadn’t expected to place so high.  The next court examination is rumored to be held a year later.

Meanwhile, Shibok marries the daughter of Jeong Yakjong’s oldest brother Yakhyeon.  This daughter was known by her childhood name as Nanju, but her adult name is Jeong Myeongryeon.  At this time, Jeong Yakjong gives Shibok the official name Sayeong and a pen name of Deokso.  His fiancee goes to Jeong Yakyong’s house to live with Widow Yi while Hwang Sayeong goes to Hanyang for more exams.

King Jeongjo is in attendance when they read off Hwang Sayeong’s name as the top exam candidate for the jinsa degree.  The king comes over to have a word with Hwang Sayeong and asks his name, family origin, and age.  When he answers that he is only 17, Jeongjo looks surprised.  Then Hwang Sayeong returns to Majae to give Jeong Yakjong the good news.

The novel at this point goes deeper into Jeongjo’s policy of appointing a lot of Namin faction members, the movements of the Noron at royal court, and the mention of Jeong Yakjong leading Hwang Sayeong to Catholicism.  One day Jeong Yakjong is reading books in a sneaky manner that catches his eye, and Hwang Sayeong asks him what kind of books they are.  He answers they aren’t books Hwang Sayeong needs to know about.  But Sayeong wants to borrow them, so Jeong Yakjong goes into his attic and brings him one, and Sayeong stays up all night to read it.  It is Matteo Ricci’s explanation of Catholic doctrine, and this part goes back into that history of the faith coming to China.  Sayeong questions him about it later, and they discuss things like the doctrine of the trinity and the saints, etc.  He finally asks Jeong Yakjong how to formally become a believer, but first he goes through with the marriage ceremony to Myeongryeon.

Later in Hanyang, he gets into discussions about Catholicism and Jeong Yakjong, even with Jeongjo, but when he sees Jeongjo’s impatience with him, he realizes he shouldn’t speak about it and that he could throw away his glorious future at the royal court if he joins the church.  He spends a little more time thinking about Chu Munmo’s arrival and the years leading up to Jeongjo’s death that resulted in the current factional disputes before chapter returns to the present and the errand he sent Kapnyeong on.

The next chapter turns back to Kapnyeong and Kim Hanbin as they look for Hwang Shim out in the villages.  Kapnyeong eventually finds him and brings him back to Hwang Sayeong, who has related many stories about Hwang Shim.  However, Kim Habnin stays in Hanyang to meet someone, though this surprises Hwang Sayeong, who was expecting him to return to the countryside.  In reality, Kim Hanbin is at the police bureau tied up and being plied with liquor by the officers.  Finally, Kapnyeong, Hwang Sayeong and Hwang Shim return to Hanyang, though most of the rest of this chapter is them discussing Mun Yeongin, and the next chapter continues following the storylines of these three until the plot climaxes with the decision of Hwang Sayeong to send abroad for help for the community.

Hwang Sayeong asks Kapnyeong to get some silk then writes his letter on the silk to the bishop in China.  This chapter has a number of long excerpts from that letter, though I’m not going to get deeply into those details and the controversy surrounding them since they have been discussed in various forums over the internet (see link below in this post for some of that conversation – Hwang Sayeong continues to be a somewhat polarizing figure for this letter).  In the letter, he primarily describes the persecution of Catholics in Joseon and is looking for some way that the community beyond Joseon’s borders can come to their aid before the entire community is slaughtered by the authorities.   He suggests everything from diplomatic pressure to military intervention as ways for the outside church to help them.

The storyline then shifts to two men at the police bureau, Kim Hanbin and Hwang Shim. They both are interrogated in a trial by Investigator Im, who questions them about their beliefs and about Hwang Sayeong.  They are then thrown back into the jail, where they are crumbling under the pressure and discuss how hard it is to stay silent in the face of the various torture methods used on them.  That night, Hwang Shim breaks down and talks about Hwang Sayeong, so Investigator Im takes him the next day for a separate trial.  The most severe forms of leg screw torture are applied to him for hours until he begs for his life.

In the next chapter, Hwang Sayeong is taken to the police bureau because they found the silk letter he wrote to the foreign bishop asking for him to aid the Catholic community.  They had used a method of sewing the silk letter into clothing to smuggle it out, which was a common method for the church to use, but the letter still fell into their hands in spite of that precaution.   Inspector Im is involved in the investigation, and he has Hwang Sayeong whipped severely and sent for trial.

The investigators find the writing on the letter to be very exotic, and when the Royal Court finds out about it, Dowager Empress Jeongsun has her ministers pass judgement on it.   When Hwang Sayeong’s trial begins, he is brought in wearing a cangue and shackles.  The judge orders them removed so he can be seated in a chair.  He demands to know who wrote the silk letter for him, trying to find who else may be involved, but Hwang says it is his work alone.  The judge wants to know more about the letter’s recipient.  Apparently at this point in the handoff of the letter, it was Hwang Shim, and as we saw in the previous chapter he has already been arrested by the police bureau and told them whatever they wanted to know.   Hwang Shim was supposed to act as a messenger to deliver the letter to a bishop in China.

The judge moves on to question Hwang Sayeong about the contents of the letter and demands to know if he is a citizen of Joseon or a citizen of some other country since the letter is a declaration of war!  When Hwang doesn’t answer, the judge accuses him of being a traitor to the country and says that the letter is proof since it is written in his own hand.  The judge goes further with his condemnation, saying he doesn’t understand Hwang at all and mentions Hwang’s heritage as a descendant of a yangban house with a strong Confucian pedigree, holding a jinsa degree from the civil service exam, even receiving royal favor and more!  Now he is a criminal, and his actions can’t be tolerated.  It is impossible to pardon such a tremendous crime.  Everyone is silent.  Hwang Sayeong just chews his lip.

The judge then allows him to speak before his execution.  Hwang launches into a very long speech detailing how he feels free to speak his mind now since he knows there is no way he can escape death.  The general themes of his speech include the history of scholarly learning, Catholic teaching arriving from China after coming originally from the West, Confucianism and heresy.  He talks about Chu Munmo and why the Chinese priest came to Joseon to minister to the community.  Hwang Sayeong ultimately calls the assembly narrow-minded.  I was thinking as I read this that it’s a good thing that he was already sentenced to death when he said that, though he was already wanted even before the letter became a factor and likely would have been killed anyway.  He does suggest that there is no way they can interpret his words the way they are given the context of the letter and accuses them of distorting his meaning.  They for their part point out the part where he calls for Western armies to come to Hanyang and the royal court.

Meanwhile, as Hwang Sayeong’s trial comes to a close, a memorial is prepared to request Jeong Yakyong (Dasan) and Jeong Yakjeon be sent into exile.  Then Hwang Sayeong’s conspirators Hwang Shim and Kim Hanbin are punished.  At this point, the text is interrupted by an excerpt of some other document detailing the fate of both of these men; they are to receive the death penalty, too.  I’m not going to get into the details, but they mention Kim Hanbin as Jeong Yakjong’s steward, which I hadn’t picked up on earlier.  They list where each man to be exiled will be sent, so Yi Chihoon will be exiled to Geoje Island, Jeong Yakjeon to Shinji Island, but Jeong Yakyong’s exile location is left a little unclear.

Hwang Sayeong’s trial ends, and on November 5th, 1801, he is taken to be executed.   The executioners’ sword dance begins after the judgment is publicly read.  There are five or six executioners since others are to be executed with Hwang.  As they rush toward him, Hwang says a final prayer echoing Jesus on the cross, then calls out for his mother, asking her to forgive him for being a bad son. He also addresses his wife Myeongryeon and child Kyeonghan, saying all of them will meet again in paradise.  The executioner beheads him before he can finish his sentence.

Hwang Sayeong’s letter caused the arrest and deaths of at least some of the remaining Catholics, and the list given here is long: Jeong Kwangsu, Hong Ikman, Kim Kyewan, Son Kyeongyoon, Kim Ilho, Byeon Teukjung, Jang Deokyoo, Kim Wiho, Song Jaegi, Han Deokyoon, Hong In, Kwan Sangmun, Choi Seolae, and Yi Kyeongdo.

In the final chapter in part 1, a small ship ferries beheaded criminal Hwang Sayeong’s family to Moseulpo on Jeju Island during a wintry night.   This short chapter tracks Widow Yi, his wife Myeongreyon and his two year old son Kyeonghan as they travel from Mokpo to the mostly uninhabited Chuja Islands nearby where they will live in exile.  The Chuja Islands are rather remote and forbidding, and I doubt most people have heard of them, so here are some photos:

It’s a very cruel end for two women and a child.

Part 2 in volume 2 is titled “Waiting for the New Age,” and I’m only going to briefly go over them since this is the transition to the Gihae Persecution of 1839, so it covers a little of what happens in the 38 years until it occurs.  In chapter 1, two boys are walking along a country road.  One of them looks as haggard, as if they were forty.  That young man is actually twenty-year-old Kim Kapnyeong.  Believers are gathering near Bulgoksan Mountain in this chapter at the beginning, and by 1802 Kapnyeong visits Jeong Yakjong’s son Hasang again as a child, there are some details about the church community more generally, but by the last chapter of this volume, Kapnyeong is 28 years old andmarried to a woman named Kayeong.  They have started a family and are living in the village of Sugudae.  This is ten years after he had been expelled from the village of Gajaeul.   It ends on a really quiet note, but the next volume picks up in 1839 almost immediately.  I’ll start that volume next time and supplement it with a manga I picked up at the main shrine and museum on these historical events in Seoul.

It would be interesting to investigate whether there was a trial transcript for Hwang Sayeong.  There might be, since we have a record of an analogous Western figure, Joan of Arc, that is often used for dramatizations.  Obviously, they have a copy of the silk letter, so perhaps there is more extant.  Clearly, author Dowon Park is highlighting the similarities between Hwang’s execution and  Jesus’ crucifixion in this novel.  It is a very sympathetic portrayal given the controversies surrounding the actual historical figure of Hwang Sayeong, which you can read about here:

I’m slowing down a little for this series since I’m pushing to get my Korean language textbook written and published, but I specifically picked something long and juicy in Korean like this to supplement my work on that project to help it along.  I’ll eventually catch up once this is done, but I’m adding a lot of content to my secondary blog, too, The Sun Rises in the East, so be sure to look there if it’s getting too long between posts here.

Part five of an eight part series

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Waiting for the New Age: The Wave of Bloody Executions Begins – Martyr’s Country, Part 4

In this post, I’m continuing to look at volume 2 of Dowon Park’s Martyr’s Country (박도원의”순교자의 나라”).  In part 1 chapter 6, the story continues with Kang Wansuk being taken to jail.  Hong Pilju is there to see her, and she tells him to keep his wits about him, that the Lord is always at his side.  She sees the guards watching them and says it louder.  The guard tells them to shut up.  Yoon Jeomhye is also brought to the jail, and so they have a little reunion though Jeomhye finds the cell’s conditions rather disgusting.  They talk about heaven and receiving their reward.  There are other women in the cell, at least three, and Wansuk introduces herself to them by her baptismal name Columba and explains she is the attendant to the community’s priest.  The old woman asks her where the priest is now, and Wansuk says she doesn’t know and hasn’t had any news from him since he left them.

In the next scene, Mun Yeongin arrives at her mother’s house, aware that the police bureau officers are following her.  She approaches cautiously, but she doesn’t see them.  Her mother lives at the house alone now, and she asks her daughter why she has come home.  Yeongin tells her she wanted to see her mother, but also mentions how uneasy she feels about the situation.  Her foster mother Wansuk sent all of them back to their families.

The next morning, Minister Chu stops by the house and tells her not to worry, that she’ll be safe there, but later when her mother goes out to run an errand, the police arrive and question Yeongin when she comes to the door.  They ask her if she’s part of the church community, and she replies that she is.  One officer tells her she’s beautiful and wonders how she ended up a Christian.  She preaches to them a little about receiving Jesus and gaining eternal life, but the officer explains why he doesn’t believe in such things.  They arrest her, though I’m not sure if that’s before or after her mother gets home.

Then Minister Chu returns and hears the details about Yeongin’s arrest.  He’s flabbergasted and rushes over to the police bureau to inquire about her.  He ends up at a nearby pub for a bit but is drawn outside as three carts go past, each carrying two prisoners sentenced to death.  The street is full of spectators who are taunting them, though the prisoners seem aloof.  As he considers going back to the pub to drink, Minister Chu hears Jeong Yakjong shouting and someone beating a drum.  The group is being taken to the execution ground.

The next chapter continues the scene with the death row procession passing through Seosomun.  Minister Chu sees who specifically is riding in each of the three carts: Yi Seunghun and Choi Pilgong are in the first, Choi Changhyeon and Hong Kyoman are in the second, and Hong Nakmin and Jeong Yakjong were in the last one.  The executioners do a sword dance in the middle of the spectators.  The text notes that they don’ t just chop off heads in one stroke, and the first of the prisoners called to the executioner’s spot is Yi Seunghun.  Choi Pilgong comes next, and his execution is described in more detail with his hands being cut and bloodied.  Then Choi Changhyeon is brought forward, his face full of light.

At this point, Jeong Yakjong begins speaking, though there is a lot of speechifying in this chapter anyway.  He talks about Jesus and why death isn’t frightening to believers, then the military guard and executioner end his talk and cut his head off.  This part has a little more detail than the other deaths, though it doesn’t linger in any case.  After he dies, Minister Chu hears the people reacting to his death, including believers who are wondering if he truly was now in heaven and other theological reflections.

Minister Chu immediately thinks of Mun Yeongin and what she may face; somewhere when I was flipping through the rest of this volume to get a feel for the whole story arc and the book’s organization, I ran across a place where Kapnyeong calls Minister Chu Yeongin’s beloved, so there must be some low-grade romance going on there that he’s so interested in her and now agonizing over what may happen to her.

그렇게 사람들이 말하는 소리를 듣던 추 봉교는 심각하게 고민하지 않을 수 없었다.  문영인!  그녀가 아니었으면 이렇듯 절박하게 생각할 필요도 없었으리라.  그것이 모두 문영인을 인연으로 천주교를 알게 된 까닭이었다. ( Martyr’s Country, Volume 2, p. 112)

Hearing what people were saying, Minister Chu couldn’t help but feel despair.  Mun Yeongin!  If it wasn’t for her, he would have nothing to worry about.  Because everyone knew her connection to the Catholics.  (My translation)

He wonders how he can bail her out of the police bureau jail, however, and stops by a pub to meet Capital Officer Kam from the left police bureau there.  He introduces himself to Kam as Chu Samgil of the arts inspection bureau or someplace along those lines in the capital.  After they greet one another, Minister Chu launches into his questions about the Catholic community, which seems to surprise Kam.  Minister Chu explains further his concern is regarding a woman who he can’t forget and whom he wants to make his wife immediately.  Kam asks if he would take her as a concubine, and Chu says no and asks how many more days until he loses his wife to execution!

(I’m not sure about the requirements for someone of Minister Chu’s station or what Yeongin’s exact status is at this point in the story, but perhaps it was considered more appropriate because she is a criminal and a Catholic for her to be taken as a concubine instead of a legal wife in spite of her earlier role as a court lady serving in the bedchamber of King Jeongjo.  Perhaps that is the source of Kam’s strange question.)

Kam seems a bit indignant, but Minister Chu asks how much money he wants to release Yeongin.  He also tries to explain how Yeongin was arrested and her Catholic beliefs.  In this section, Chu uses the “사랑하는 여인” phrase, his beloved woman, which solidifies the idea that they are romantically linked.  Nothing really comes of this conversation, and the chapter turns instead to Yi Junchang in 1791.

The next chapter returns to the storyline of Hwang Sayeong and Kim Kapnyeong.  They start off discussing whether they should return to Hanyang and finally decide to leave the next morning.  Three days later they arrive in Hanyang, and when they arrive at the house in Hundong, they discover a group of police bureau officers there!  Now they discover that Kang Wansuk was taken to jail along with her female attendants and that Jeong Yakjong was among six people in the church that were beheaded.    Kapnyeong decides to go to Majae to see Jeong Yakjong’s family, but they are no longer living in their house but are staying elsewhere.  Their original home has been abandoned and is considered the house of a traitor.  Kapnyeong is directed to Sir Cha’s house instead, which turns out to be an ordinary farmhouse.  He immediately runs into Jeong Yakjong’s young son Hasang.

Hearing them talking, Jeong Yakjong’s wife Yoo Sosa appears and begins crying when she sees Kapnyeong.  They had gotten Jeong Yakjong’s corpse but were unable to put it in the ancestral graveyard.  There was some controversy with his older brother Jeong Yakhyeon over burying him there because Yakjong was declared a traitor, so the family turned to Kim Hanbin for help.   When Sosa asks about where Scholar Hwang has been, Kapnyeong explains they were roaming the mountains.

This is another very long chapter, but it goes into more detail briefly about the fate of the rest of the Jeong brothers.  His oldest brother Yakhyeon remains head of the clan, while his other two brothers Yakjeon and Yakyong (Dasan) were sent into exile and confined.  Since volumes 3 and 4 will skip ahead nearly 40 years to the Gihae persecution, characters like Yoo Sosa and Hasang, Hasang’s sister Jeonghye, and even perhaps the uncles in exile should become central characters, but we’ll see.  Kapnyeong probably ties the whole series together, too, but these are just my predictions.  I haven’t flipped through those books yet.

1801 Jail

The next day, Kapnyeong beings traveling again and is reunited with Hwang Sayeong in a pottery workshop.  They realize the church community’s core leaders have been massacred!  Hwang Sayeong is having a hard time dealing with Jeong Yajong’s death since not only did he consider Yakjong a mentor, but he also is an in-law to Yakjong since Hwang Sayeong is married to Jeong Yakjong’s niece.  The rest of this chapter has Hwang Sayeong reminiscing and reflecting on the situation.  More details are given about some of the others executed with Jeong Yakjong.  At the end of the chapter, he sends Kapnyeong back to Hanyang to assess the situation and quietly return with a full report.

In chapter 9, Kapnyeong meets Kim Hanbin along the way back to Hanyang, and Kapnyeong confirms to Kim Hanbin that Hwang Sayeong is hiding out in a remote cave.  They discuss the rumors surrounding Chu Munmo since they don’t really know where he is.  When Kapnyeong arrives in Hanyang again, he seeks out the house of Yi Kyeongdo and asks for the latest news on the situation.  He hears about another woman Yi Suni who was also beheaded from the community as well as a list of people who were taken into custody and subjected to an even more brutal method of dismemberment using animals instead of swords.

Kapnyeong leaves Yi Kyeongdo and heads for the jail where Mun Yeongin is being held.  He plans on talking with her about her situation and trying to confirm rumors that the priest Chu Munmo has turned himself in.  Kapnyeong is told that Minister Chu’s request to have Yeongin released was rejected.   I’m not sure which character Kapnyeong is discussing this with since a few names are flying around, perhaps Yi Kyeongdo here, but they talk about the possibility of the death penalty judgement being dropped against the women.  However, the women have not made a declaration of apostasy but instead have been preaching and singing loudly about their faith.  It’s hopeless to expect the women to be freed, which leaves Kapnyeong depressed.

He goes to the jail to see Yeongin and runs into Minister Chu, so they visit her together.  The conversation doesn’t go well, and Minister Chu is particularly upset since Yeongin can’t be persuaded to do what’s necessary to save herself.  She says they will meet again in heaven and asks about Hwang Sayeong.  Kapnyeong tells her not to worry about Hwang.

The next scene of the chapter occurs on July 3, 1801.  Kapnyeong is waiting at the police bureau office.  Finally, the guards start leading the prisoners out of jail.  There are four women: Yeongin is third in line, and Kang Wansuk is first.  Someone points out that Yeongin was formerly a court lady, and they all admire her unusual beauty with some rude commentary.  Questioning begins as to what crime they had committed that led to the community being wiped out.  The answer of course is Catholicism, though there is some acknowledgement that this is also the Noron faction sweeping away the Namin faction.

As the crowd gets rowdy, Kang Wansuk is suddenly beheaded.  The executioner goes quickly down the line: Kim Yeonyi, Mun Yeongin, and lastly Kang Kyeongbok.  Kapnyeong approaches and looks upon Yeongin’s corpse and her blood all over the ground.  He says a prayer.  The police immediately notice him and demand to know what he thinks he’s doing.  Minister Chu comes forward, and they try to claim her body and prepare it for burial by replacing her bloody clothes.  Kang Wansuk’s remains are also seen to, but the situation for Yeongin was different since her household had no son.

Mun Yeongin

Mun Yeongin

I’m going to stop reading here and wrap up volume 2 next time since this is a good moment in the story to pause.

Part four of an eight part series





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A Video Book Reading of Noir-Magical Girl Novella Kumori and the Lucky Cat!


I finally got around to preparing some videos of me reading my 2016 noir-magical girl novella Kumori and the Lucky Cat.  This time I was able to learn more about how to use the recording software, so the audio should be better.  They are posted to my Enlightened Rabbit Scholastic Society channel, where you will be able to access all of my book reading videos as I post them, so feel free to subscribe to that channel.  I don’t plan on posting a lot there, but any video I post will be located there.  Here are the KLC videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

In these videos, I’m doing a little of the cosplay that I like to do at my personal appearances.  Incidentally, I just got word that I’ll be presenting “Godzilla, Kaiju Eiga, and the Amazing Toho Studios” at Tekko this year on April 7thin addition to me selling my books at Steel City Con across town later that weekend.  Details on Tekko can be found here:

Otherwise, things are progressing well on the Beginning Korean textbook I’m working on for the rollout of my next two online classes.  More details will be forthcoming on that soon, as well as some exciting coverage and interviews on East Asian publishing on my affiliate blog, The Sun Rises in the East, in the coming months.



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