The title of The Martyred refers to twelve North Korean Christian ministers who are shot to death by Korean Communists early in the first year of the Korean War. Intelligence officers of the South Korean forces seek to establish, for propaganda purposes, that the ministers died as true martyrs in defiance of their captors’ attempts to win their allegiance to Communism. The narrative develops two movements in counterpoint; one is physical and historical, the other psychological and spiritual.
The historical movement is the first year of the Korean War. The North Korean Communist regime had sought to bring all of Korea into the Communist sphere. South Korea resisted the military and political takeover, and its capital, Seoul, was captured. The South Korean and United Nations troops drove the invaders back and captured the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, which is the scene of most of the action in The Martyred. A dreary and dispiriting winter of occupation is followed by the evacuation of Pyongyang and a retreat before the new advance of Communist forces.
As the physical situation of territorial command deteriorates, the spiritual situation of faith versus unbelief simultaneously moves toward resolution. The focus of the spiritual matter is the Communists’ execution of twelve Christian ministers and their sparing of the lives of two others. Captain Lee, the narrator of the story, is assigned by Colonel Chang to interrogate the survivors, Mr. Shin and Mr. Hann, to ascertain that the twelve died as true martyrs, presumably betrayed by Shin and Hann.
The question of faith and unbelief arises from the uncertainty about the manner of the ministers’ deaths. Captain Lee has learned that one of the ministers was the...
(The entire section is 721 words.)