Matthias Choe Yeo-gyeom (1763-1801)
Matthias Choe Yeo-gyeom was born to a noble family in Mujang, Jeolla-do. He learned the catechism from Paul Yun Ji-chung when he was young. After his marriage he met Louis Gonzaga Yi Jon-chang and continued to study about the Catholic teaching, becoming a devout Catholic. At that time his parents-in-law lived in Hansan, Chungcheong-do. He met Louis Gonzaga Yi there.
Returning to Mujang, Matthias Choe practiced his religion with great ardor and proclaimed the truth to his neighbors, leading many people to God.
When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801, Matthias Choe escaped to the house of his parents-in-law in Hansan. In Mujang many Catholics, including those who became Catholics through Matthias Choe were arrested. In the course of the interrogation of these Catholics, Matthias Choe`s name was made known. So he was arrested in Hansan on April 13, and was interrogated. The governor gave orders to transfer him to Mujang.
When Matthias Choe arrived at the government office in Mujang, the magistrate began to interrogate him without delay and tortured him. The magistrate, soon realizing that he would not change his mind, ordered that he be transferred to Jeonju. There Matthias Choe had to go through another harsh session of interrogation and torture, but he did not yield. Then, by chance he met two devout Catholics in prison, Stanislaus Han Jeong-heum and Andrew Kim Cheon-ae. They encouraged one another and shared their friendship.
Matthias Choe and his fellow Catholics were forcibly carried to Seoul. They were interrogated and tortured both at the Police Headquarters and the Justice Ministry and their faith remained unshaken. The Justice Ministry sentenced them to death on August 21, 1801, and ordered that they be taken to their respective hometowns and executed. Matthias Choe was transferred to Mujang. He was beheaded and died a martyr some days later at the Gaegap marketplace (now, Gapchon, Gongeum-myeon, Gochang-gun, Jeonbuk). It was on August 27, 1801 (July 19, by the Lunar calendar). Matthias Choe was 38 years old.
The following is an excerpt from the written death sentence on Matthias Choe that was pronounced by the Justice Ministry:
"Choe Yeo-gyeom first learned about the Catholic religion from Yun Ji-chung and afterwards he met Yi Jon-chang, and studied it further. By tempting other people with the Catholic teaching and deluding them he ruined himself as well as the other people. Therefore, he deserves death ten thousand times."