Paul Yun Yu-il (1760-1795)
Paul Yun Yu-il, also called `Inbak`, was born in 1760 in Jeomdeul, Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do (now, Geumsa-ri, Geumsa-myeon, Yeoju-gun). He lived in Yanggeun, Hangamgae (now Daeseok-ri, Gangsang-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun). James Yun Yu-o who was martyred in 1801 was his younger brother and Agatha Yun Jeom-hye and Lucy Yun Un-hye were his cousins.
Paul Yun came to understand the Catholic faith gradually through books while he studied under Ambrose Kwon Cheol-sin in Yanggeun. Then he learned the catechism from Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin, younger brother of his teacher Ambrose Kwon, and became a Catholic. From then on, he devoted himself to teaching his family the catechism.
In 1789, the leaders of the Catholics decided to send a secret envoy to Bishop A. Gouvea in Beijing to report on the current situation and discuss the future of the Catholic Church in Korea. Paul Yun was sent because he was a trustworthy person and well versed in knowledge and Christian doctrine. Furthermore, he had a gentle manner.
Paul Yun hid the letter of the faithful to the Bishop of Beijing in his clothing and disguised himself as a Korean merchant. He left for Beijing in October 1789. In 1790, he met the Bishop of Beijing in Namdang and Lazarist missionaries in Bukdang. While in Beijing Father N. J. Raux, a Lazarist, gave him conditional Baptism and Confirmation. He also received instruction on `the preparation necessary to send a priest to Korea.`
When Paul Yun returned to Korea in 1790, the leaders of the Korean Catholics made concrete preparations to invite a priest. In this regard, he made another short trip to Beijing that year. Bishop A. Gouvea sent Father dos Remedios to Korea as he had promised the Korean Catholics. But Father dos Remedios was unable to cross the border because he missed the Korean secret envoys. Never one to be discouraged, Paul Yun tried indefatigably to invite another priest in collaboration with Saba Ji Hwang and Matthias Choe In-gil. He finally succeeded in secretly bringing in Father James Zhou Wen-mo, a Chinese priest, at the end of 1794.
After the arrival of Father James Zhou to Korea, Paul Yun was in charge of communication with the Catholic Church in Beijing. The arrival of Father James Zhou soon became known to the royal court. Consequently, all Catholics were in danger. Father James Zhou succeeded in escaping quickly with the help of the Catholics. Matthias Choe, who sheltered him in his house, decided to disguise himself as Father James Zhou and allowed himself to be arrested by mistake.
Eventually the persecutors came to know the full details of how Father James Zhou entered Korea, as well as the names of Paul Yun and Saba Ji who had helped him. Both Paul Yun and Saba Ji were arrested immediately and were severely punished, together with Matthias Choe. They did not reveal the activities of Father James Zhou and professed their faith in God to the end. On realizing that it was beyond their capacity to make them betray, the persecutors beat them to death and threw their bodies into the Han River. It was on June 28, 1795 (May 12, by the Lunar calendar). Paul Yun was 35 years old.
Bishop A. Gouvea, on hearing the full story of their martyrdom through a secret envoy, wrote as follows about the courage that Paul Yun and his companions had shown at the moment of their martyrdom:
"To the question of the persecutor; `Do you worship Jesus who died on the cross?` they replied courageously, `Yes, we do.` When they were asked to renounce their faith in Christ, they declared; "We are ready to die a thousand times rather than to renounce our faith in our true Savior Jesus Christ`."