Francis Choe Bong-han ( 1785? -1815)
Francis Choe Bong-han, also called ‘Yeo-ok`, was born in Daraegol Village, Hongju, Chungcheong-do (now, Nongam-ri, Hwaseong-myeon, Cheongyang-gun, Chungnam). His childhood name was `Jin-gang`, He learned the catechism from his father when he was a boy. Andrew Seo Seok-bong and Barbara Ku Seong-yeol who were martyred in 1815 or 1816, in Daegu, were his parents-in-law.
Francis Choe moved to Museongsan in Gongju. On hearing that Father James Zhou Wen-mo had come to Korea, he went to Seoul to meet him with his mother and sister. His father had died about that time.
In Seoul Francis Choe received the Sacraments from Father James Zhou and lived in Augustine Jeong Yak-jong`s house. He shared a close relationship with Alexius Hwang Sa-yeong and Thomas Choe Pil-gong. In the meantime his mother died. He asked his sister to stay at Augustine Jeong`s house and he himself returned to his hometown.
He thought about living as a celibate, but due to the constant pressure from his relatives he changed his mind. He married the daughter of Andrew Seo Seok-bong. After his marriage Francis Choe moved with his wife and parents-in-law to the Noraesan Christian Village in Cheongsong, Gyeongsang-do (now, Norae 2-dong, Andeok-myeon, Cheongsong-gun, Gyeongbuk), and lived with the faithful.
On Easter Sunday in 1815, while they were celebrating the Solemnity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the police, led by an informer, invaded the Noraesan Christian Village and arrested them all. They were taken to Gyeongju. When they were arrested, Francis Choe told his fellow Catholics to charge him with all responsibility, if they were interrogated. But as this fact was already known he was punished more severely.
While he was in prison in Gyeongju, noticing that his mother-in-law was losing the courage to stand firm in her faith, Francis Choe kept encouraging her not to abandon her faith in God. He himself showed a strong and humble attitude in the midst of severe punishment and torture.
When Francis Choe was transferred to Daegu, he was recognized as `the head of the Catholics`. This meant that he had to go through more severe punishment. In the course of interrogation and torture he fainted many times, but his courage and zeal remained steadfast. However, he was not able to endure the repeated punishments and died a martyr in prison. Francis Choe was about 30 years old. It was around May 1815 by the Lunar calendar.
The following is an excerpt from the written sentence on Francis Choe that was pronounced by the governor of Daegu:
"Choe Bong-han is the head of the Catholics in prison. When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801 he collected religion books and went to a remote mountain in Gyeongsang-do. There he formed a Catholic community and instructed those foolish people. Therefore he deserves to be punished severely according to the national law."