Paul Oh Ban-ji (1813-1866)
Paul Oh Ban-ji was born to a family with deep roots in Jincheon, Chungcheong-do (now, Sagok-ri, Iwol-myeon, Jincheon-gun, Chungbuk). His family was relatively rich, but, he was not interested in studying until he reached adulthood. After his marriage, he squandered all his fortune by living a dissipated life.
It was around 1857 or 1858, when he was over 40 years old that Paul Oh came to know about the Catholic faith. After that he became a sincere Catholic. He moved to Jijanggol in Jincheon (now, Jiam-ri, Jincheon-eup, Jincheon-gun) with his family to have more freedom to practice his religious life. There he embraced poverty, with a Christian spirit and performed his religious duties faithfully, according to the teaching of the Church.
His sincere Christian life came to be known to his neighbors. When the Byeongin Persecution broke out in 1866 the Cheongju military headquarters dispatched the police to Jijanggol. He was arrested with a young man and imprisoned in Jincheon. On March 13 (January 27, by the Lunar calendar), he was transferred to Cheongju.
In the Cheongju Military Headquarters, Paul Oh had to go through interrogation and cruel torture. But he did not reveal any Church activities and kept repeating, `I am a Catholic, I am a Catholic.` One day, the prison guards hit Paul Oh`s head on the way to his prison cell causing it to bleed. He protested saying, "Kill me, if you want. But why do you beat me without the order of the chief official?"
In prison, Paul Oh stayed with the young man who was arrested with him and Paul Bae who was newly arrested and brought in. The chief official had no intention to kill these three people, so, he tried to persuade them by all means to change their minds and make them say, `I betray God.` But Paul Oh resisted the temptation with strong faith. However, even Paul`s earnest encouragement did not save the two young men from falling into the trap of the sweet words of the chief official. The excerpt from the letter that Paul Oh wrote to his son in prison reads as follows:
"Be faithful to your Christian duties and pay off your debts. If ever you are arrested, do not hesitate to die a martyr for the Lord."
The chief official, on realizing that he would not change his mind, pronounced the death sentence. Paul Oh did not stop professing his faith in God, saying, "I cannot betray Jesus Christ though I have to die ten thousand times." He was taken outside the South Gate of Cheongju to be executed. The official in charge of the execution wanted to try to get him to betray God one more time. He gave Paul Oh a piece of paper and ordered him to write that he would betray God. But Paul Oh refused squarely and said; `I cannot betray my Lord`.
At that moment the executioner rushed at Paul and strangled him to death, in front of the crowd. It was on March 26 or 27, 1866 (February 10 or 11, by the Lunar calendar), that Paul Oh died a martyr. Paul Oh was 53 years old.
It is said that when Paul Oh was martyred, a rainbow appeared across a fair sky. The arch, starting from Paul Oh`s body reached the heavens. His son and some believers came to take his body and buried it near Jijanggol.