This image, provided by the Diocese of Jeonju, shows the locations where the remains of three Korean Catholic martyrs were recovered in Wanju in March. (Diocese of Jeonju)
JEONJU -- The remains of three people known as the first Korean Catholic martyrs have been recovered in Wanju two centuries after their deaths, the Diocese of Jeonju said Wednesday.
The remains were identified as those of Paul Yun Ji-chung and James Kwon Sang-yeon, who were beheaded in 1791, and Yun's younger brother Francis Yun Ji-heon, who was quartered in 1801, the diocese said during a press conference in Jeonju, 243 kilometers south of Seoul.
They were found in March in Wanju, just outside of Jeonju, near the burial grounds of another beatified person's family members during work to convert the site into a sanctuary, according to the diocese.
The remains were confirmed to belong to the martyrs following historical research and DNA testing.
"The discovery of the remains is a truly amazing and monumental event," Bishop John Kim Son-tae, head of the Jeonju diocese, said in a statement.
"This is because our Church, which has grown on the foundation of the bloodshed by martyrs, has finally found the remains of the people who began the history of martyrdom," he said.
The bishop said he gives "deep thanks, praise and glory to God, by whose providence this happened."
"I would like to share this overwhelming emotion and joy with fellow believers," he added.
The martyrs were among the first Korean Catholics killed by Korean rulers who feared the spread of Catholicism would undermine the nation's Confucianism-based ruling ideology.
All three were beatified by Pope Francis in 2014.
The diocese said the remains showed cuts made by a sharp object around the necks of Paul Yun Ji-chung and James Kwon Sang-yeon, and around the neck, upper arms and left femur of Francis Yun Ji-heon. (Yonhap)