Thomas Han Deok-un (1752-1802)
Thomas Han Deok-un was a native of Hongju, Chungcheong-do. In October 1790 he was initiated into learning the catechism from Paul Yun Ji-chung and became a Catholic. The following year Paul Yun was arrested during the Sinhae Persecution and died a martyr in Jeonju. Nevertheless Thomas Han secretly practiced his new religion with fervor.
When he heard that the Chinese priest Father James Zhou Wen-mo entered Korea, Thomas Han wanted to meet him to receive the Sacraments, but, his dream never came true.
In order to have more freedom for his religious life, Thomas Han left his hometown in October 1800 and moved to Euil-ri, Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do (now, Hakui-dong, Uiwang-si, Gyeonggi-do). He faithfully pursued his religious life by praying and reading, and devoted himself only to fulfilling God`s will. He liked to gather the faithful and teach them the catechism. His teaching and words were singleminded.
When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801 Thomas Han disguised himself as a merchant of pottery made with a dark glaze and went to Seoul to check out the situation of the Church and the faithful because he was very anxious about them.
When he reached Cheongpa-dong on the way to Seoul, Thomas Han happened to find the dead body of Luke Hong Nak-min covered with straw matting. Surprised and saddened, Thomas Han paid homage to him. Then he sternly reproached Hong Nak-min`s son Protase Hong Jae-yeong for not having been martyred along with his father. With this reprimand, Protase Hong renewed his faith in God and earnestly practiced his religion. He died a martyr in 1839. Then Thomas Han found Peter Choe Pil-je`s body outside the Small West Gate in Seoul and had a funeral rite for him.
It was actually very dangerous to take care of the corpses of Catholics during the time of persecution because it meant revealing ones Christian identity. Thomas Han was arrested by the police and taken to the Police Headquarters. He was interrogated and tortured many times. Despite this he never revealed the names of other Catholics nor renounced his faith. He was finally sentenced to death with other believers and taken to Namhansanseong, Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do.
He was beheaded there and died a martyr on January 30, 1802 (December 27, 1801 by the Lunar calendar). Thomas Han was 50 years old.
He made the following final statement prior to being sentenced to death:
"I deeply believed in Catholicism thinking it to be the right way of truth. Though I am sentenced to death, I have no intention of changing my mind about following the teaching of my religion. My only wish is to die for God as quickly as possible."