Sebastian Kwon Sang-mun (1769-1802)
Sebastian Kwon Sang-mun was from a noble family, that played a definitive role in the foundation of the Catholic Church in Korea. He was the son of Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin who made a great contribution to the foundation of the Catholic Church in Korea and the nephew of Ambrose Kwon Cheol-sin who was the senior of the Founding Fathers of the Catholic Church in Korea. Ambrose Kwon was one of the most renowned scholars of that time. After his father died, Sebastian Kwon became the step-son of his uncle in accordance with Korean custom at that time.
Born in 1769 in Yanggeun, Gyeonggi-do, Sebastian Kwon was a devout Catholic from his childhood, inheriting the faith from his family. When he grew up, he participated faithfully in Church activities. He prayed with Paul Yun Yu-il, his neighbor, and other believers and studied Catholic doctrine diligently.
When his father Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin died a martyr during the Sinhae Persecution in 1791, Sebastian Kwon became worried and decided to distance himself from the Church. But, when Father James Zhou Wen-mo came to Korea, he renewed his faith in God, and moved to Seoul to receive the Sacraments. While he was in Seoul he visited Father James Zhou with other Catholics and organized meetings. Later on he returned to his hometown, Yanggeun.
When Father James Zhou had to hide during the Eulmyo Persecution in 1795, Sebastian Kwon offered him refuge in his house for three days. He learned the catechism from Father James Zhou.
He was arrested with other believers in Yanggeun in June 1800 when the persecution was going on in that region. He was frequently interrogated and tortured in the Yanggeun prison and the Gyeonggi governor`s office. However, he stood firm and professed his faith in God. While the Shinyu Persecution of 1801 was in full swing, he was transferred to Seoul. There he was harshly interrogated and tortured at the Police Headquarters and the Justice Ministry.
Once Sebastian Kwon was tempted to save his life at the Justice Ministry. However, he repented. He professed his faith in God by retracting his previous statement, and willingly enduring cruel punishments. The judge listened to his last statement and pronounced the death sentence on the following charge:
"Even since the death of his father Kwon Il-sin, Kwon Sang-mun has been deeply involved in the Catholic religion, using evil words and writings to confuse the public."
Then the Justice Ministry ordered to `send Kwon Sang-mun to his hometown and execute` him as a warning to the people of Yanggeun about the Catholic religion. He was beheaded at the Yanggeun execution ground on January 30, 1802 (December 27, 1801 by the Lunar calendar) and died a martyr. Sebastian Kwon was 33 years old.