Matthew Kim Hyeon-u (1775-1801)
Matthew Kim Hyeon-u was the child of a concubine of the famous translator of Myeongryebang in Seoul. Thomas Kim Beom-u, who died in exile around 1786, was his elder half-brother, and Barnabas Kim I-u, who was martyred when beaten at the Police Headquarters during the Shinyu Persecution, was his elder blood brother.
Soon after the Catholic Church was introduced into Korea, Matthew Kim learned the catechism from Thomas Kim. He and his elder brother Barnabas became devout Catholics. It was Peter Yi Seung-hun who baptized both brothers. The two brothers lived in a difficult situation because their elder brother Thomas Kim was exiled during the ‘Myeongryebang incident` in 1785. Despite that, they never gave up their religion, and continued their prayer life secretly.
When Father James Zhou Wen-mo came to Korea in late 1794, Matthew Kim became actively involved in Church activities with his brother Barnabas. He met Father James Zhou at the house of Philip Hong Pil-ju and formed a Catholic community with some prominent Catholics, including Thaddeus Jeong In-hyeok and Peter Choe Pil-je. The community met often to study Catholic teaching and to pray.
When Father James Zhou took refuge in his brother`s house during the persecution, Matthew Kim attended Mass. He and his brother Barnabas joined the `Myeongdohoe`, a community of lay believers that Father James Zhou had established. When Father James Zhou visited his brother`s house again in 1800, Matthew Kim attended Mass with other Catholics.
Matthew Kim was arrested with his brother Barnabas when the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801 and was taken to the Police Headquarters. It is said that when Matthew Kim was arrested a large and splendid cross appeared in front of him, pointing the way to the prison.
At the Police Headquarters, the judge interrogated and tortured matthew kim and his brother to force them to renounce their faith in God. But they only repeated what was already known, and did not reveal the names of other Catholics. They were transferred to the Justice Ministry and endured harsh punishment, with strong faith, and were sentenced to death. The following is an excerpt from the written sentence:
"The three brothers were deeply imbued with the Catholic religion and committed evil acts. They studied Catholic books and led many people, men and women, in erroneous ways by deceiving them, and confused the world. Though they have to die from punishment, they claimed to the end that the `Catholic religion is right."
Matthew Kim was taken outside the Small West Gate in Seoul with his other eight companions on July 2, 1801 (May 22, by the Lunar calendar), beheaded and died a martyr. Matthew Kim was 26 years old.