Philip Hong Pil-ju (1774-1801)
Philip Hong Pil-ju was born in Deoskan, Chungcheong-do to a noble family. He learned the catechism from Louis Gonzaga Yi Jon-chang around 1790 and became a Catholic. His childhood name was ‘Mun-gap`.
Philip Hong`s father hated the Catholic Church from the beginning. His step-mother Columba Kang Wan-suk learned the Catholic doctrine earlier than Philip Hong and became a devout Catholic. She was faithful to her religion and instructed her step-son. Philip Hong respected his step-mother Columba Kang as a model Catholic.
When the Sinhae Persecution broke out in the following year Philip Hong moved to Seoul with his grandmother and mother. His father`s rejection of the Catholic religion made it difficult for them to practice it in their hometown.
In Seoul, Philip Hong practiced his religion with great ardor with his family. When his mother Columba Kang hid Father James Zhou Wen-mo in her house on May, 1795 Philip Hong became Father James Zhou`s aid and altar server. Philip Hong married the daughter of Anthony Hong Ik-man, and both of them helped the church.
As his house became a center of the Catholic Church in Korea he had to move, with his mother, from one place to another in order to hide Father James Zhou and other Catholics who were sought by the police. At the same time he kept in close contact with church leaders including Augustine Jeong Yak-jong, the catechist, continually nourishing his faith. In the meantime, his name and his mother`s name became known to Church people.
When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801, his name was on the wanted list of the police. The police rushed into his house and arrested everybody including Philip Hong and his mother.
At the Police Headquarters, Philip Hong had to go through severe interrogation and punishment. The persecutors tried to make him reveal the whereabouts of Father James Zhou and report on all of his activities. But, Philip Hong did not open his mouth. As severe torturing continued, however, his mind became weaker. Just at that moment, his mother Columba Kang happened to see him on her way to the investigation office. She encouraged him saying, "My son Philip, do you not know that Jesus Christ is with you to help you and to enlighten you? Why do you want to go the wrong way?" Hearing that, Philip Hong repented his weakness right away, and declared to the interrogator with determination, "I will never give up my religion."
In the meantime, his mother Columba Kang was martyred, but Philip Hong had to suffer in the prison for a long time. During that time he never changed his mind or lost courage. He was finally sentenced to death with his Catholic companions. He was taken outside the Small West Gate in Seoul, beheaded and died a martyr on October 4, 1801 (August 27, by the Lunar calendar). Philip Hong was 27 years old.
The final statement he made to the Justice Ministry before his death sentence reads as follows:
"One in heart with my step-mother, I was deeply imbued with the Catholic religion. My sin is big because I violated the national law by respecting and serving a foreigner, Father James Zhou Wen-mo, as my father and considered him to be a precious person. Besides, I organized a secret community of men and women. For this I was criticized by people who said I tempted foolish people and led them on the wrong way. I am willing to accept anything for Jesus Christ, even the death sentence."