John Yu Mun-seok (1784-1801)
John Yu Mun-seok, also called ‘Mun-cheol`, was born in 1784 to a noble and rich family in Chonam, Jeonju, Jeolla-do (now, Namgye-ri, Iseo-myeon, Wanju-gun, Jeonbuk). Augustine Yu Hang-geom who was martyred during the Shinyu Persecution in 1801 was his father. John Yu Jung-cheol was his elder brother and Lutgarda Yi Sun-i was his sister-in-law.
John Yu`s family accepted the Catholic religion when his father Augustine Yu became a Catholic. He learned the catechism from Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin from Yanggeun, Gyeonggi-do, right after Catholicism was introduced into Korea. From then on, his father taught the catechism to his family, friends and relatives. His house became the center of the Catholic community of Jeolla-do. Thanks to such a family environment, John Yu grew up in a religious atmosphere from the time he was a child.
When Father James Zhou Wen-mo visited the Chonam village in 1795, John Yu was 11 years old.
When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801, Augustine Yu, John Yu`s father, was arrested and taken to Seoul from Chonam. Then Yu Jung-cheol and his relatives were arrested and imprisoned in Jeonju. Fortunately John Yu was not arrested. During that whole summer he frequently visited the prison providing his brother with food.
However, this situation did not last long. In the middle of September of the same year, John Yu was also arrested along with other family members and they were imprisoned. At that time John Yu promised his family that he would die for the Lord and prepared himself for it. His determination and promise were written in the letter that his sister-in-law Lutgarda Yi wrote in prison:
"We five people were unanimous in our firm resolution to give our lives completely to God even to the point of martyrdom. By opening our hearts to one another we came to know that we all have the same burning desire to die for God …… and so, all our regrets and anxieties vanished. Each day, we are nourished by divine grace and love, and divine joy grows in our hearts. It seems that there are no worries left in our hearts."
The governor of Jeonju requested the royal court to make a judicial decision on John Yu and his family. The royal court sent an official to Jeonju immediately to take charge of the case. As a result, John Yu and his brother Yu Jung-cheol were hanged and died martyrs. It was on November 14, 1801 (October 9, by the Lunar calendar). He was 17 years old and single.