James Heo In-baek (1822-1868)
James Heo In-baek was born in 1822 in Gimhae, Gyeongsang-do to a peasant family. He lived in Eonyang. He was 24 years old when he heard about the Catholic Church and became a Catholic. He practiced his religion faithfully and was greatly respected by the other believers.
James Heo taught the catechism to his wife Pak Jo-i and his children. He lived with his wife as brother and sister to pursue a celibate life for God. He persevered in his efforts of self-denial living a humble life. He also helped the poor and took care of the sick.
James Heo was arrested by the police in 1860 when the Gyeongsin Persecution broke out. He was taken to Eonyang where he was punished many times. Despite interrogation and torture he confessed openly that he was a Catholic. After fifty days in prison he was transferred to Gyeongju. He kept professing his faith in God and was kept in prison for eight months. At that time the king ordered that the persecution be stopped. James Heo was set free and returned home.
James Heo moved to Jukryeong, Ulsan (now, Icheon-ri, Sangbuk-myeon, Ulsan-si, Gyeongnam). He met Peter Yi Yang-deung and Luke Kim Jong-ryun. They prayed and worshipped the Lord together, and earned their living by selling wooden goods. He never neglected prayer and meditation, and often expressed his wish to die a martyr.
Jukryeong was relatively safe when the Byeongin Persecution broke out in 1866 and many Catholics around the country were arrested. In 1868, the police found out about the Jukryeong Christian Village. They arrested James Heo and his fellow Catholics. As he was being taken to Gyeongju, he said to his family, “Pray for me and think of the story of the martyrdom of Saint Barbara."
When they reached the Gyeongju military base the interrogation began. James Heo confessed bravely that he was a Catholic. He did not reveal the whereabouts of the other believers or Catholic books. The chief commander became infuriated and ordered that he be beaten severely. His body was bleeding and his leg bones were broken. But his faith in God remained firm.
James Heo was transferred to Ulsan with his companions. He was interrogated and tortured again. He was sentenced to death and taken to `Jangdae` (now, Byeongyeong-dong, Ulsan-si, Gyeongnam) where the Military Command Headquarters was located. On September 14, 1868 (July 28, by the Lunar calendar), he was beheaded and died a martyr with Peter Yi, the catechist and Luke Kim. James Heo was 46 years old.
At the moment of martyrdom he prayed and called aloud the names of Jesus and Mary. Pak Jo-ye, his wife who followed him to the execution ground took his body and buried it secretly.