Peter Choe Pil-je (1770-1801)
Peter Choe Pil-je was born in 1770 to a family who practiced Chinese medicine in Seoul and ran a dispensary. He was the cousin of Thomas Choe Pil-gong who was martyred in 1801. He learned the catechism in 1790 with his cousin Thomas Choe and became a Catholic.
He was sincere and benevolent by nature. Peter Choe was known to be a good person. It is said that his Chinese medicine was known for its good quality and reasonable price. People trusted him. He was a good advisor as well. His cousin Thomas Choe always asked his advice whenever he wanted to do something. When he became a Catholic, Peter Choe practiced his religion earnestly. Even one of his younger cousins who spoke ill of Catholics praised Peter saying, ‘Choe Pil-je is a man we can imitate`.
Peter Choe was arrested during the Sinhae Persecution in 1791 with his cousin Thomas Choe, but he was not as religious as his cousin. He surrendered to the persecutors and was set free. After his release, he even wrote a false statement of confession for Thomas Choe and presented it to the government office.
However, Peter Choe returned to the Church and became even more sincere and religious than he was before. He committed himself to church activities and proclaimed the Gospel to non-believers. He instructed neophytes who met at his house. When Father James Zhou Wen-mo entered Korea, he visited him and received the Sacraments often and attended Mass. Peter Choe was arrested again by the police on December 19, 1800 (by the Lunar calendar) while the neophytes were gathered at his house. He was taken to the Justice Ministry and imprisoned.
His old father, who was very shocked by his son`s arrest, became ill and died. But before he died he accepted the Catholic doctrine and was baptized.
When Peter Choe heard in prison that his father had died, he asked the Justice Ministry for permission to attend the funeral service of his father. When the funeral was over he returned immediately to the prison. It is said that the officials of the Justice Ministry secretly advised him to run away. However, before he returned to the prison, he revealed to some friends his desire to die a martyr saying:
"I want to revenge the devil and repent for my sin of apostasy. My greatest happiness is to offer my head to profess my faith in Jesus Christ."
Peter Choe was interrogated and tortured both at the Police Headquarters and the Justice Ministry, but he never yielded. He was sentenced to death and taken outside the Small West Gate in Seoul, beheaded and died a martyr on May 14, 1801 (April 2, by the Lunar calendar). Peter Choe was 31 years old.