Francis Yun Ji-heon (1764-1801)
Francis Yun Ji-heon was born in 1764 to a renowned scholarly family in Jinsan, Jeolla-do (now, a region between Geumsan-gun and Nonsan-si, Chungnam). Paul Yun Ji-chung who was martyred during the Sinhae Persecution in 1791 was his elder brother.
Francis Yun learned the catechism from his elder brother Paul Yun, who came to know about the Catholic religion by reading books that he obtained from his relatives, soon after the Catholic Church was established in Korea. He accepted the Catholic teaching after he studied these books. In 1787 he was baptized by Peter Yi Seung-hun. After his baptism Paul Yun introduced the Gospel to his family and relatives, and with his younger brother Francis he practiced the teaching of the Church faithfully.
As his brother was martyred in 1791, Francis Yun no longer could live in his hometown. He left it with his family and moved to Undong, Gosan, (now, Jeogu-ri, Unju-myeon, Wanju-gun, Jeonbuk). He transcribed religious books and practiced his religion faithfully. He welcomed people who came to see him on hearing his reputation and taught them the catechism. He led many people to the Church. In 1795 he received the Sacraments from Father James Zhou Wen-mo who visited Jeogu-ri. He also participated in sending Thomas Hwang Sim to Beijing as a secret envoy of the Church.
When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801 Francis Yun‘s involvement in Church activity was reported to the government office. As a result, he was arrested with his companions and imprisoned in the Jeonju governor`s office. He had to go through severe interrogation and torture many times in front of the governor. He said nothing but what had been already revealed. He witnessed that he did not abandon the Catholic religion by saying the following:
"I cannot abandon the Church`s teaching which I have loved so much to the point that it has penetrated deep into my bones and become part of my very body. I have no choice but to say I will die for it ten thousand times …… I do not fear the national law because I believe firmly in the doctrine of heaven and hell."
At that time the persecutors were searching frantically for the reason why Catholic envoys were being sent to Beijing. Francis Yun was taken to Seoul with other Catholics by the order of the royal court. He had to undergo severe interrogation and torture at the Police Headquarters and the Justice Ministry.
However, Francis Yun defended his faith in God to the end. He had his last interrogation at the Supreme Court and signed the written death sentence. He was transferred again to Jeonju and hacked to pieces. He died a martyr on October 24, 1801 (September 17, by the Lunar calendar). Francis Yun was 37 years old.
After his martyrdom, his wife and children in Gosan were exiled to a remote place.