Francis Yi Bo-hyeon (1773-1800)
Francis Yi Bo-hyeon was born in Hwangmosil, Deoksan, Chungcheong-do (now, Hoeum-ri, Godeok-myeon, Yesan-gun, Chungnam) to a common class family. His father died when he was young. He was stubborn and reckless in his youth and adolescence.
When he was 20 years old, Francis Yi learned the catechism from Thomas Hwang Sim, who was living near his hometown and accepted the Catholic religion. Later on Thomas Hwang Sim became a secret envoy of the Church and traveled to Beijing. He married Francis Yi‘s sister. Soon after he discovered the truth, Francis Yi corrected his wreckless behavior. Though he did not want to, he married to obey his mother. Then to freely practice his religion, he moved with Thomas Hwang to Yeonsan, Chungcheong-do. In 1795 he invited Father James Zhou Wen-mo to his house and received the Sacraments.
As he came to understand the Catholic teaching in a deeper way, Francis Yi`s faith in God increased day by day. Sometimes he even went to the mountain to pray alone and practice mortification for his sins.
In 1797 when the Catholics were arrested during the Jeongsa Persecution, Francis Yi who was never afraid of the persecution, tried to encourage his family and fellow believers to be faithful to their religion. Every day he reminded them of the Passion of Jesus and encouraged them "to profess their faith in God with courage, and not to miss the opportunity of going to Heaven."
One or two years after the Persecution, Francis Yi had a premonition about the onset of danger. He invited all the village people and offered them food and wine, saying, `This is my last feast.` Indeed two days after that, the police came to Yeonsan to arrest him. They took him to the magistrate.
The magistrate of Yeonsan who confirmed that Francis was a Catholic tried to make him betray God and confess the whereabouts of other Catholics and Church books. But Francis Yi refused to become an apostate. He replied, "I cannot give books on God, who is the Great King of the universe, into the hands of the chief official." The chief official was very angry with him and ordered that he be beaten severely and put in prison.
Later on, on the order of the governor of Chungcheong, Francis Yi was taken to the chief commander of Haemi who ruled the region of his hometown, Deoksan. There he was again punished many times to force him to betray his religion. But it was in vain. He replied to the interrogator as follows:
"The origin of human beings is the Lord who created them at the beginning of the world. So it is impossible for me not to worship Him."
Francis Yi was punished for more than half a day, but he stood firm. In prison, he kept praying peacefully and encouraged the other Catholic prisoners. The chief commander of Haemi consulted with the governor about Francis Yi. The governor sent an order to `beat him to death if he does not confess all`. Consequently, he had to go through interrogation and torture one more time. After that the chief commander presented him with the written sentence of the death penalty. He signed it with serenity.
The following morning Francis Yi was taken to the market place and was severely beaten. He was still alive. Then the persecutors knocked him to the ground and they beat his genitals until he died. This was the way Francis Yi died a martyr. It was on January 9, 1800 (December 15, 1799 by the Lunar calendar). Francis Yi was 27 years old.
A few days later some of the faithful came to get his body. They found Francis Yi`s face bathed in a mysterious peace and with a smile despite having endured such cruel punishment. It is said that several people who witnessed it became Catholics.