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CBCK Newsletter No.24 (Fall 1998)

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From the Editor:

Look on the Bright Side

    Under the IMF-controlled economic situation most Koreans are frustrated economically, mentally and psychologically and the restructuring program has produced the serious problem of mass layoffs. According to a government report the unemployment rate as of the end of July was 7.6% with 1.65 million people out of work.
    The real figure however is said to be double that of the government report. More than 10 million Koreans are expected to suffer from this situation for at least several years to come. Eventually predictions seem to become reality. Although the numbers are relatively small yet we can see the following problems appearing: parents divorcing, runaway children, the abandonment of children, instability and breakdown of the families of the jobless, fraud, robbery and an increase of impulsive crimes etc ...
    However, there are both bright and dark sides to this reality. Such economic and social crises have caused people to reflect on some things that are more valuable and precious to them than material wealth. In other words, people now ponder: "What is man? What is the meaning and the purpose of life? What is goodness and what is sin? What gives rise to our sorrows and for what purpose? Where is the path to true happiness? What is the truth about death, judgment, and retribution beyond the grave? What finally, is that ultimate and unutterable mystery which engulfs our being, and where does our journey lead us?" (Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, No.1).
    The year 2000 is the Great Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. According to the Bible, the Jubilee year begins with the sounding of a trumpet on the day of atonement which is the tenth day of the seventh month of the year after the seventh Sabbatical year. Today if we understand the deep meaning of forgiveness and reconciliation and if we live it out with sincere hearts, the year 2000 will be a true jubilee, a year of restoration for the justice of God and His divine grace.
    As Vatican II was the providential event in preparing for the Great Jubilee Year, the current economic crisis now engulfing so many people can become a providential occasion to prepare ourselves for the Great Jubilee Year. Herein lies precisely the very mission of the Church for this time. At the moment it seems as if the dark side is flourishing when compared to the bright side. However, if we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit we will certainly see the great light. Let's look on bright side!

Fr. John Kim Jong-su
Secretary General
Catholic Bishops' Conference
of Korea

 

 

 

Farmers are Collaborators of the Creator

Message on the 3rd Farmers' Sunday:

"Farmers Are Collaborators of the Creator"

    On the occasion of the 3rd Farmers' Sunday July 19th, Bishop Augustine Cheong, president of the Caritas Coreana and the chairman of the National Save-Our-Farm Movement, stressed the role of farmers as collaborator of the Creator. "Each farmer has to fulfill his/her role of stewardship that God has granted them as members of the community of life," his message read. Bishop Cheong invited urban dwellers to help the farmers' lives by purchasing domestic farm products and at the same time he asked farmers to be faithful in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as faithful collaborators of God, the Creator. Christian farmers and urban citizens should meet in solidarity and fraternal love in Jesus, he said. Following are excerpts of his message.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Today, we celebrate the 3rd Farmers' Sunday as we march toward the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. We thank you for your concern and the interest in agricultural issues you have shown since the establishment of the Farmers' Sunday by the Bishops' Conference two years ago. In this special time of celebration of the Farmers' Sunday we are invited to a deeper reflection on the role and rights of the rural community so that this day can be rooted in faith and grow.
    The general economic reality of our country which is under IMF-controlled restructuring is dark and frustrating but the reality of the rural community and of farmers is even worse. The farmers are in particularly difficult situation because of the soaring price of feedstuffs, oil and fertilizers. Also a lack of manpower due to the aging rural population leaves the rural community in a very vulnerable situation. All things considered their future is very unpredictable and fragile.
    What we eat, the environment, our life and health are jeopardized by such things as the open market for agricultural products and by pollution. In one word it can be said that we are in the midst of a serious crisis.
    Concerned by this situation the Church has made several efforts to solve it by promoting interest in and through a revival of the rural community. Agriculture is without doubt one of the most important elements necessary to conserve and protect the created order. For this reason the Church is very interested in promoting the betterment of the farming community and as a consequence the episcopal conference established the Farmers' Sunday in 1995.
    We have to carry out our role as stewards of life wherever we are. City people should remember that they have a common task and a destiny that is related to that of the farmers and rural community. We have to recognize that farmers are precious people who produce healthy edible food for us.
    The farmers should do their farming work proud of the fact that they are collaborators of God, the Creator. These efforts should be translated into the creation of a "community of production" in rural parishes and into the creation of a "community of life" in urban parishes that consume the rural products. In this way rural people and urban people will meet each other as brothers and sisters in one "community of faith". We should not forget that the future of what we eat and of agriculture, our life and health will depend on these efforts.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    God is a farmer(Jn 15,1). We must not forget that even at this very moment farmers are toiling in the fields in silence with sweat on their brows. We have to thank the farmers and pray to God to grant his blessing for the prosperity of our agriculture.

July 19th, 1998
Third Farmers' Sunday
Bishop Augustine Cheong
President of Caritas Coreana

 

Let Us Tear Down Walls of Division and Build a Peace Tower

Message on the 50th anniversary of the National Foundation Day:

"Let Us Tear Down Walls of Division and Build a Peace Tower"

Rt. Rev. Placid Ri, president of the Committee for the Evangelization of North Korea, issued a message on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the National Foundation Day, Aug. 15th. He made a strong appeal to both the South and North Korean governments to build a peace tower by tearing down all the old walls created by ideologies and systems. Following are excerpts from his message.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    On this occasion of the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary we want to greet the 70 million Korean people and pray that God will grant them his divine graces and blessings.
    This solemn feast of the Assumption of our Virgin Mary is a day of immense joy and grace for the entire Church. For us, the Korean people this day coincides with both our liberation day from Japanese colonial rule and the 50th anniversary of our national foundation day, and so is a day of great significance for all of us!
    However when we look back upon the 50 years since the foundation of the nation we see that the Korean people have had to face so many upheavals and conflicts which drained their energy. Nevertheless, time and again they overcame these obstacles and achieved the prosperity we enjoy today. However since last Winter we are struggling to emerge from the critical economic recession and high unemployment brought on by the IMF-controlled restructuring. Still we trust in the Korean people's wisdom and potential energy which will help them to overcome the present difficulties. We should make this an opportunity to make our society more human.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters!
    Let us reflect once more on the reality of the Korean people which is still divided, and let us pray to God to help us on our journey toward reconciliation and peaceful reunification. By reflecting on the meaning of all the sufferings and sacrifices that we had to endure in the past let us repent of our mistakes and wrong doings and admit our faults.
    For the past half century, both the South and North were only preoccupied with building high walls dividing both sides by stressing the differences between ideologies and systems. Now however, it is time to break down all these false images created by ideologies and systems in order to build a peace tower leading to a new history and our salvation.
    Since the election of the new government the civilian exchanges between the two Koreas has shown some progress but the deeply rooted mistrust and apprehensions are still there.
    In addition to this the governments of both the South and North have been unable to demonstrate their genuine willingness to give up their vested interests in order to embrace each other to realize the common good of the Korean people which is peaceful reunification. We have to pray for the two governments so that they may change their policies and work for this reunification or what can be called the second building of the nation.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,
   As we have repeated so many times, the road to authentic unity will be made possible only by mutual trust and forgiveness and true reconciliation will be achieved only by unconditional forgiveness.
    The wall which the half century of division has built in our minds is wider than the actual de-militarized zone. Therefore peaceful reunification will be possible only when the scars and hurts in the hearts of both South and North Koreans are healed.
    We have to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron of the Catholic Church in Korea, to intercede for us the grace of the reconciliation and unity of all 70 million Koreans. We need unity in our faith, sincere repentance and a loving heart for each other.
    The economic crisis in South Korea and the famine in North Korea may become a path leading toward "coexistence" and mutual collaboration. Thus let us accept it with humble hearts and make it an opportunity for mutual rescue.
    May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us so that we all may become seeds of reconciliation and unity.

Aug. 15, 1998
Rt. Rev. Placid Ri
President
Com. for Evangelization of NK

 

 

 

Campaign to Help North Koreans Will Continue to 2000

Campaign to Help North Koreans will Continue to 2000

    On the occasion of the integration of the Reunification Pastoral Committee of Seoul Archdiocese into the Korea Reconciliation Committee of the Archdiocese of Seoul(KRCAS) on Aug. 23rd, the Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Choi, president of KRCAS, announced its decision to continue the North Korean relief campaign up to the year 2000. The KRCAS will focus its efforts on pastoral preparation for the reunification of Korea through education and prayer. On Sep. 1st, in a memorandum Bishop Choi made an appeal to priests who are interested in evangelization in NK to apply before Sep. 12th and said that he would need 50-60 priests. "A special preparation will be necessary for the evangelization of the North Korean people who have been taught to idolize Kim Il-sung and who have been indoctrinated with the Juche(self-reliance) ideology and atheism, Bishop Choi said.
    The formation of priests for the evangelization of the North is significant and timely at this particular time when all Koreans are preparing for unification in one way or another. As an example the Protestant Church has already started preparatory work for the re-construction of 2000 churches in North Korea. In 1945 at the time of the national liberation from Japanese colonial rule, there were 54 Catholic parishes in NK; 20 parishes in Hwanghae-do belonging to Seoul diocese, 23 parishes in Pyongyang diocese and 11 parishes in Hamheung diocese. Bishop Choi called on the faithful to participate generously in the campaign and proposed that they donate 0.2 percent of their monthly income to the project. This sharing will be a costly sacrifice for many South Korean Catholics who already are suffering financially but it can become a good preparation for the Great Jubilee Year, Bishop Choi stressed.
    According to the UN report, two million N. Koreans or nearly 10% of the population are estimated to have died during the past three years of continuous famine. Over the past three years, the famine has resulted in the death of 300,000 to 800,000 people annually, with the number of deaths peaking in 1997, the worst year of famine. The KRCS presented these figures as a cogent reason for South Korean Catholics to help their Northern brothers and sisters.

1. Economic Crisis of South Korea and the Current Situation of North Korea
    Both South and North Korea are facing their most serious crisis since the Korean War. In South Korea as many as 1.5 million people lost their jobs and many people are suffering economically because of the IMF-brokered restructuring that was introduced last winter. The number of homeless people is increasing day by day and nobody knows how many more people will be affected in the near future. However the South Koreans are determined to overcome this crisis and seem very capable of succeeding. North Korea however has seen its food production paralysed by successive floods and drought since 1995 with the result that we are told that some 2 million people died of starvation. The weakest people such as pregnant women, women after childbirth, children and the elderly are those who are most affected by the disasters. This situation is expected to get worse for some time yet.

2. Economic Destruction and Determination to Overcome
   We have to try to understand the hidden plans of God who has allowed such hard situations that the South and North have to face. We have to take it as a lesson and reflect on our past and correct our failings and our abnormal, corrupt and unethical practices. This is a great need at the present time and can be seen as a command of God asking us to transform conflicts into mutual help, hatred into love, war into reconciliation, division into unity and harmony. The trials we face may be a punishment from God given for our correction. When God allows such a crisis He grants us, at the same time, the grace and strength to overcome it. Jesus said that He will be with us always. Thus we have to accept this crisis as a new challenge and as a possibility for a better world.

3. Self-examination and National Reconciliation Movement
    Most of us seemed to have been settled in our comfortable lives while accepting as something normal the division of nation and neglecting our brothers and sisters who were in difficulty. We were satisfied within ourselves and ignored our dark past including our needy neighbors. In our excessive self-satisfaction we were preoccupied with justifying even our unjust and unethical lives. We gave no room to self-examination.
    We were not faithful to God who taught us to love our neighbors and to give bread to the hungry. We seem to have forgotten the true meaning of the Jubilee Year which is the promise of the liberation of oppressed people. For us the current crisis should be an opportunity to be reborn in the love of Jesus and to follow his teachings. God may have allowed this difficulty to hit us so that we might learn how to collaborate with each other and work for peace and reconciliation together. Trusting in God, the Master of the impossible and with love for our neighbors, we have to carry out the relief campaign towards the North and overcome the IMF crisis.

4. National Reconciliation Movement and Task to Help North Koreans
    The national reconciliation movement should be considered as a repentance movement based on a self-examination of our past that has been stained by hatred and indifference. It needs to be a movement for peace and the unity of the Korean people and also a movement for life, self-restraint and sharing. First of all this movement needs to be a movement of faith and evangelization.
    In North Korea 2 million people have died of starvation while in the South nearly 2 million people suffer from unemployment. Even if we have lost the right to work we have to protect the human dignity of our neighbors. South Koreans can overcome the suffering of unemployment but the North Korean who have died of hunger have no chance to witness to their sufferings. There is a great difference between the difficulties of the North and the South. If we care about the dignity of the human being then we must help our brothers and sisters who are starving in the North.

5. Continuing Campaign to Help North Koreans
    We Christians have to share even the sufferings of the North Korean people. Suffering is relieved when it is shared. We should not forget the fact that they are in danger of death because of famine. Sharing with our starving brothers and sisters is a shortcut that leads us to the Holy Year. Helping the North Koreans is the proclamation of our Christian faith. Sharing is a supreme act of witness of our love for God. Each time we share our rice with the North Koreans we share it with Jesus and experience moments of divine grace. Our brothers and sisters in North Korea face a high mountain (of food shortage) they have to climb. Let's join them and climb it together. By helping them we will be reborn as true Christians and prepare for the Jubilee Year.

 

 

 

"In Jesus, I Found Freedom and Love"
Experience of Conversion of Paul Chang, a North Korean Defector:

"In Jesus, I Found True Freedom and Love"...

    Many people have the impression that the North Korean people believe that freedom is more precious than life. In fact North Koreans risk their lives to come to the South to find freedom. However what Paul Chang Young-jin(40), a defector found in the South was love. Paul Chang reached the South in dramatic fashion by crossing the military demarcation line in April, 1997 after having failed in several attempts to escape from NK via China. He is now helping 15 mentally retarded and handicapped people at the Little Family of Jesus in Yokgok, Inchoon. Unlike many defectors from the North who are preoccupied with making money, Chang has dedicated his life to helping handicapped.
    Paul Chang is from Ch'ongjin, Hamkyongbuk-do, northern part of North Korea. He wanted to escape from NK to seek freedom and tried on March 20th, 1996 leaving his mother(70) and wife behind. He succeeded in crossing the Tuman River on the border by swimming it and reached Beijing. He asked the help of the S. Korean Embassy in Beijing in order to go to the South but he was refused. He often had to beg for rice and money and at times helped Chinese farmers in order to get food. After a year of wandering he was completely exhausted and decided that death was better. He bought rat poison and sleeping pills to commit suicide. As he was about to swallow the pills the thought struck him that if he struggled all this time only to die and if he had the courage to take his own life then that must mean he had courage to do many more things. This led him to decide to make one more effort to cross the divide to the South.
    He came back to his hometown but headed immediately South without even stopping at home... He was crying. He took the train part of the way but he walked most of the way by day and night. One night in April 1997 he finally got to the border, near the 38th parallel that divides the North and South.
    What welcomed him there was a triple iron railing carrying 10,000 volts of electricity, North Korean soldiers, a ground dotted with mines and fear ... Everything there was a threat to his life. He found himself alone in a deserted area with not even one tree in sight. In the darkness he saw two NK soldiers approaching. "This is the end. I'm destined to perish," he said to himself. He called on God instinctively and made the sign of the cross, a gesture that he saw once in a movie. He called to that unknown being and cried; "Lord, I want to live." Then he ran and ran to the South with all his might. He suddenly realized that he was at the DMZ. He was on South Korean territory!
    "Thank you God. You rescued my life. Thanks to your protection I am here alive. I was able to escape the mine field unhurt because you protected me ..." That was his first experience of God. He remembered his mother who occasionally mentioned God but he never thought that this "God" of his mother would save his life. He had vague memories of his mother speaking about God, Jesus and Mary, but he never asked her who they were or what she had to do with people with such strange names. However when his life was in danger he remembered them and prayed, and his prayers were heard.
    Later on, in Seoul, he decided to seek the Catholic Church and to become a catholic.
    He was introduced to the Church by a friend. He decided to dedicate his life to the poor, weak and marginalized people. This decision was influenced by his experience while he was in China. One day in China he was sitting in a train that was passing a country village. Through the window of the train he saw a little child beggar sitting on the ground crying... The little boy was looking at the train and asking for food. Chang felt helpless and frustrated because he could do nothing for that poor little creature.
    "China, this immense country, is incapable of filling that small stomach ..." he muttered to himself.
    That little boy reminded him of the innumerable "Kotjaebi" (children beggars) in North Korea. "When I get to South Korea, I will work for those poor children," he said to himself.
    He spent 6 months getting to know South Korean society. One day he went to Kottongnae or the Flower Village, in Umsong, Kyongki-do, which is a sprawling complex that houses some 3,000 homeless elderly, handicapped, beggars and orphans who have been rejected by their families and society. There he found many poor people to whom he wished to give his love. He felt at home. He knew that that was what he longed for deep in his heart. He wanted to do something for the God who saved his life by helping them.
    Many people promised to help him find a good job and advised him on how to have a good life in South Korean society. However he could not get the word "love" out of his mind. Many of his friends and particularly the defectors, did not understand his choice of such a hard life.
    One day he got a telephone call from a defector who had became a Catholic asking him to meet him at Mansudae Catholic Church. His intuition told him that he would find something he wanted there. He went to meet his friend and decided to become a Catholic. He was baptized on July 23rd and became a child of God. As a Christian he wanted to dedicate his life to the poor. He decided to join the Little Family of Jesus on last Aug. 1st, a religious men's community dedicated to mentally handicapped.
    "I am very happy to be living with them. I hope other defectors find true freedom, true love, true life, true value... As for myself I want to work as a missionary for North Korea," he said.
    His greatest wish is to help the poor especially those little beggars(Kotjaebi) in North Korea and China.
    "The scenes of starving children on the streets in NK are still vivid in my mind. I want to help them... I think that it is God's providence that led me to this point. All that I saw and heard in North Korea and in China, all that I experienced there, my family back ground, my mother, my hard life ... are graces from God.
    Chang wants people to be aware of the real situation in North Korea so that they can help them.
    His plan is to work for the evangelizaton of the North with the Brothers of the Little Family of Jesus beginning next year.

 

 

 

News from the Church in Korea

News from the Church in Korea

* New Archbishop of Seoul to Introduce Vicar Forane System

    The new archbishop of Seoul, Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong introduced the Vicar forane system at the extraordinary meeting of the presbyterial council on July 16th. According to the new system the archdiocese will be divided into 15 pastoral districts that will function as small dioceses. Priests will pledge obedience to the vicar forane whom they have chosen by vote and who will be appointed by the archbishop. The vicars forane will be given authority and responsibility comparable to that of the ordinary so that they can do their pastoral work with creativity. This new system will start by Sept. 30th.
    On Sept. 5th, Archbishop Cheong announced at the meeting of the Lay Apostolate Council of Korea his pastoral plan for the coming 10 years. According to the plan Seoul archdiocese hopes to increase the percentage rate of Catholics from 9% to 18%, and to increase the number of parishes from 198 to 400. "This is the purpose of the pastoral restructuring of the archdiocese into the vicar forane system," he said. Pastoral efforts will focus on those Catholics who don't practice their religion. "We will send priests to places where the presence of the Church is necessary but where the method of approach may be difficult such as markets, transportation stations, airports, factories and hospitals etc," the archbishop said. "The affiliated parishes will be encouraged to use prefabricated buildings and they will be transformed into real parishes later on. In this way we will increase the number of parishes so that one parish will have about 3000 Catholics instead of the present 5000," he said.

* Overflowing Fraternal Concern for Flood Victims

    Korean Catholics continue to show their fraternal concerns and solidarity with the flood victims of the torrential rains which battered the whole nation from the beginning of August. In Seoul archdiocese alone 11 parishes including Tongduchon were severely hit, 220 graves in the Church-run cemetery were destroyed, 3 Catholic were killed and over 1,500 people lost their homes. In Kumchon parish 460 Catholic homes, including the priest's house and the sisters' convent were completely flooded and Kwon Peter unfortunately lost his life.
    Caritas Coreana made an emergency appeal to all the dioceses who showed a very quick response by organizing campaigns to help the flood victims and by taking up second collections on Sundays. Emergency committees were set up at diocesan and parish level throughout the country. Catholic-run hospitals offered volunteer medical service and many young people offered their physical services. As of the end of August Seoul archdiocese alone contributed about 850 million won to help the flood victims in various areas and situations. The Catholic University of Seoul decided to offer the students from farming and fishing villages affected by the floods complete exemption from school fees for a year. The floods which were the biggest since 1920 caused 206 deaths and 35 are still missing. 159,385 people are homeless and 77,876 homes were flooded, 80,684 hectares of farmland were inundated and 2,142 bridges were damaged.

* Korean and Japanese Youth Meet to Build Dialogue

    The third Korea-Japan youth exchange meeting was held from Aug. 7th to the 14th having as its theme "We Are one in the one Lord, one faith, one baptism"(Eph. 4,5). 40 youth from Korea and 22 from Japan participated in this meeting organized by the Committee on Education of the CBCK. Rev. John Kim Jong-su, Sec. General of the CBCK, encouraged them to become a symbol of love and unity between the two people by having a correct historical understanding of the past and by overcoming obstacles.
    Besides the 4-day meeting at Aaron House in Uiwang-shi the Japanese youth enjoyed 3 days experience of Korean family life. They heard a special lecture on "The Historical characteristics of the Catholic Church in Korea" by Prof. Lee Won-soon, the president of the National History Compilation Committee and they visited historical sites. Discussions and cultural programs were a good opportunity to build mutual trust and friendship. "To solve delicate problems relating to the past we should meet often and build solidarity and fraternity in Christ," Rev. Siano Koowuji, secretary of the CBCJ's Committee for Youth, said. "While I was visiting the Independence Hall I came to understand some of the painful relationship between the two countries," said Ohara Sayoko from Japan. Chong Yoo-chol, a Korean studying at the Tokyo archdiocesan seminary who was a coordinator for the Japanese youths, observed that the young Japanese were very impressed with the dynamism of Korean youths' faith life and that the exchange would "make an important impact" on their faith lives when they return to Japan.
    The Korea-Japan youth exchange program which aims to promote friendship between the youth of the two countries had its first meeting in Lourdes, France in August, 1997.

* Protestants Worship in Catholic Hospital

    Christian consideration for other religions at the Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul is much appreciated by non-Catholic patients. Since last December the Department of Pastoral Care in Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital (Dir. Rev. Joo Kyong-soo) has provided a place and time for Sunday worship for Protestant patients in the hospital, and has invited Protestant minister Rev. Kim Deuk-joong to preside over the services. Rev. Joo said that "We decided to do so after considering the position of Catholics who are hospitalized or working in Protestant hospitals and are not able to attend Sunday Mass," and added "We are very happy with the present arrangement and want our brothers and sisters from Protestant Churches to find peace and happiness in our hospital, and to feel at home with Catholics..." Some 100 patients and hospital staff attend the Protestant service to worship and pray."

* Street People Want Jobs Rather Than Just Food and Shelter

    Street people say they need a helping hand from the Church in finding jobs and not just food, clothing or shelter. According to a survey made by the Catholic Times at Catholic-run shelters, including the Peace House at Myongdong cathedral for IMF victims, 70.1% of those who responded said that they need help in finding a job more than just material help; 21 percent said they need a place to sleep. Only 3.7% said they appreciate the food they receive at Catholic shelters.
    72.9 percent of them also said that they find respect, kindness and sincerity at the Catholic Church-run shelters but 11.3 percent found them rather superficial and unfriendly. What the needy people expect from the Church is moral support, respectful service, effective help to find employment and intercession on their behalf with the government. In response to their spiritual needs the Peace House has set up doctrine classes exclusively for people who have lost their jobs.
    "The classes have proved beneficial for them because as well as receiving religious instruction they make friends with others whom they can dialogue openly and they can encourage each other. We have about 30 participants and every week there are 4-5 more new comers. If everything goes well they will be baptized on Dec.13th," Fr. Kim Ji-young who is in charge of the program said. As the number of runway girls and boys increased due to the economic crisis in the country 31 Church organizations opened 10 counselling centers in different places across the country to help them.

* Catholics Not Satisfied with Special Amnesty

    Many Catholic organizations involved in human rights and social justice expressed their disappointment with the special amnesty that the government granted on Aug. 15th, on the occasion of both the 50th National Foundation Day and the 53rd National Liberation Day. The Priests' Association for Justice's statement said that "We are deeply disappointed with the special amnesty. The government released constitutional criminals jailed over the "May 18" and "December 12" incidents but has refused to release prisoners of conscience because they refused to sign a pledge to observe domestic laws. Only 94 political prisoners were released but they are still under surveillance and thus not completely free. This is a clear sign of the current government's unwillingness to improve it's human rights policies."
    Catholic human rights activists regret the fact that the two Pakistani foreign workers, Amir Jamil and Mian Mohamad Ajaz, who were on death row and for whom Cardinal Kim petitioned were exempt from the special amnesty. The government released and reinstated over 7,000 criminals including those who were involved in large scale corruption and political uprisings but they retained 17 long-term political prisoners who have served 30-40 years in prison as well as many students and labor activists.

* Society of Korea Hospice Founded

    On July 4th, the "Korea Hospice: appeasement medical society" was founded at the Catholic Medical Research Center in Seoul with Prof. Ko Chang-soon, the president of the school of medicine of the Catholic University, as its president and Dr. Paul Lee Kyong-shik as director of the board. Members of the society include volunteer medical doctors, nurses, clergy, religious and lay people.
    The Hospice which focuses on helping terminal patients prepare for death in peace rather than on healing is very much appreciated by society and especially by the families of patients. However, to date, the supporting system has not been strong enough to meet the increasing needs of patients who require the necessary human attention which is different from professional medical care. Modern medical systems that focus on complete cure of diseases cannot solve both the physical and spiritual sufferings of patients. The Korea hospice wants to make its contribution in this area," Dr. Paul Lee said.

* "Rice Hang-a-ri" of Love to Spread out

    In this difficult time of economic crisis the brotherly concern of Korean Catholics seems to know no bounds. The "Rice Hang-a-ri of Love" movement, aimed at collecting rice for needy people which first started at Kansok parish in Inch'on diocese is now spreading out all over the country.
    The "Rice Hang-a-ri of Love" is a simple movement showing concern for others in a very human way. A big Korean rice jar on which is written "Rice Hang-a-ri of Love" is placed discretely in a corner of the church. People can come there anytime with whatever amount of rice they wish and place it in the hang-a-ri, and those in need can come there anytime to take whatever amount of rice they need.
    Nobody takes note of who puts rice in or who takes rice out and so in this way nobody will be ashamed of being seen or expect praise if they put in anything. Rev. Ho In-su the pastor of Kansok parish, developed this idea after seeing the reality of many people losing their jobs and who as a result were finding it difficult to provide daily meals for themselves and their families. Rev. Ho encourages the faithful if at all possible not to leave the jar empty. So far this has never happened. Now, this movement is spreading out to parishes in Seoul archdiocese and to parishes and dioceses nationwide.

* Kunpo Parish Welcomes 1,195 New Comers

    Kunpo parish (Rev. Park Kon-soon) on last June 2nd launched a "100-day campaign to find new sheep" and set 1000 as the target number of new comers to the Church.
    As a result, on Sept. 13th the parish welcomed 1,195 new comers with a special Mass and ceremony of initiation.
    "New sheep are the most precious gift that we can offer to Jesus for the Great Jubilee Year which is His 2000th birthday," Rev. Park said. "The success of the Kunpo parish drive is a model case for mission, an important model case which confirms our potential when we do our best together," Rev. Kim Young-ok, the director of the evangelization office of Suwon diocese said.

 

News in Brief

   Interreligious youth from the six main religions in Korea got together for a 3-day peace camp that began on Aug. 17th at Uijongbu, Kyongkido. The camp was sponsored by the Religious Peace Conference of Korea and the Peace Chain and had as its theme "The Encounter of Religious Youth for a Peaceful 21st Century". 50 young representatives from the six religions, including Catholics, vowed to tear down the walls of division and to build a world full of harmony. "It was an excellent time to test the potential of the Korean youth facing a new religious culture in our context where we often experienced a lack of understanding of other religions before," Prof. Byon Jin-heung of the Religious Peace Conference of Korea said.

*

   The overseas medical service team founded in 1992 by the Catholic Medical Doctors' Association and the Hospitals' Association, visited Ulan Bator, Mongolia, from July 21st to Aug. 4th. A group of nurses and a systology team from the Catholic Medical College in Seoul joined the team of 10 medical doctors. 2,350 people were treated during the two-week visit. The team plans to open a clinic for urban poor in Ulan Bator in 2001. The team previously visited Kenya.

*

     The Priests' Association for Justice(PAJ) objected to the arrest of Fr. Moon Kyu-hyon on Aug. 27th for his activities in North Korea during his recent visit there. The PAJ said that the goal of their visit was solely pastoral and regrette d the distortion of news presented by the authorities. Regarding the question of Fr. Moon's visit to the tomb of Kim Il-sung for which he is accused of violating National Security Laws, they said that it was natural for Fr. Moon, who believes in eternal life and resurrection after death, to pray for the leader's soul.

*

   Rev. Lee Young-chun has found in his study of the Korean martyrs that 98 people died as martyrs at the Sosomoon execution ground. Of these 39 (m:31, f:8) died during the Shinyu persecution in 1801, 3 (m:1, f:2) died in 1819, 41 (m:11, f:30) died during the Kihae persecution in 1839, 12 (all men) died during the Pyongin persecution from 1866-1873. 41 who died during the Kihae persecution and 3 who died during the Pyongin persecution have been canonized.

 
 
 
A Brief History of Catholicism in Korea

A Brief History of Catholicism in Korea - 24

By Cho, Kwang, Ph.D.
Prof. of Korean History
Korea University

Korean Society of Today and North Korean Catholics

1. Context of the Times

    As we approach the third millennium a new political development has emerged in Korean society. In 1992, the 30 years of military rule came to an end and civilian control was restored. In 1997 political democratization was achieved as a result of the long struggle of the Korean people for democracy. A peaceful change of political power which for long time was a dream of the political history of Korea was realized with the election of President Kim Dae-jung(Thomas), the first Catholic president. During this time Korea introduced many changes in its foreign policies. It normalized diplomatic relations with Russia and China and made a joint entry into the United Nations with North Korea. In 1991 the Korean government established principles for national reconciliation by signing "The agreement on nonaggression, exchanges and cooperation between the South and the North". However this agreement is yet to be implemented.
    During this time the economy continued to grow. In the process Korea was asked to open its markets more and in 1991, with the application of the Uruguay Round the Korean market for agricultural products was opened and outside control over exported goods was intensified. Up to that time the Korean people were proud of their economic achievement and modernization which required them only 30 years while it took 200 years for Europeans and 100 years for Japanese to achieve. However sadly at the end of 1997 the national economy of Korea virtually went under the control of the International Monetary Fund(IMF). As a result of the aftermath of the financial crisis in many Asian countries, government controlled financing and the cozy relationship between politics and economics which had almost become a traditional practice came under close scrutiny. Consequently Korea was requested to reorganize its economic structures and at the moment it is endeavoring to achieve this.
    Korean society's main tasks in the second half of the 1990s were to strengthen political democratization, to overcome the economic crisis and promote quality of life, to overcome national divisions and to achieve national reconciliation and unity.

2. Church in Korea of Today
    In the 1990s the Church in Korea focused its efforts on self examination and renewal. As a result of these efforts some significant events occurred in the formation of Catholic culture. The most significant was the development of the study of Catholic theology through writings and publications in the Korean language and the publication of good quality books on Biblical, moral pastoral theology and the history of the Church in Korea etc. The study of the theology of inculturation was pursued with much zeal and research in the domain of situational theology was increased. As well as this lay scholars emerged in the theological domain which was once considered the exclusive right of the clergy. Lay Catholics have made great contributions to the progress of the Church by their research. Thanks to many eminent Catholic writers literary works permeated by Christian spirituality are highly valued in Korean society.
    The Church in Korea strove to cultivate a sense of self-criticism over the question of its being considered by many as a church for the middle classes. By a new approach the Church centered its efforts on social welfare development and participation in social issues. Quite a number of religious and lay people committed themselves in these activities under the leadership of the Church. Compared to the early 1990s the voice of the Church in social and political matters has lessened but the Catholic Church is still estimated by non-believers as the most positive religion in Korea.
    The Church in Korea in the 1990s intensified its efforts regarding mission and assistance to foreign countries. Actually there are some 200 Korean clergy, religious and lay missionaries working abroad for the evangelization of mission countries.
    The Church is also fully engaged in its preparation for the Great Jubilee Year. In 1995, the CBCK introduced a Special Episcopal Commission for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and four dioceses including the Taegu archdiocese are holding diocesan synods as part of their preparation.

3. Encounter with North Korean Catholics
    Since the 1980s the North Korean government has adopted a new policy towards religions and the Catholic Church. As a result, in 1980, the Bible was published for the first time since the Korea War(1950-1953) and existing religions were allowed to practice publicly. In 1988 a Protestant church and a Catholic church were built in Pyongyang and the Korean Catholics' Association of the DPRK was established as the representative body for Catholics in North Korea. In South Korea the CBCK established a Committee for the Evangelization of North Korea in 1984 and the Seoul archdiocese established the Korea Reconciliation Committee of Archdiocese of Seoul(KRCAS) in 1995.
    Since 1984, Korean priests who have foreign citizenship have been able to visit North Korea. In 1989 the late president of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung, invited His Eminence Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan then archbishop of Seoul but he was unable to make the trip. Meanwhile the Catholics of South Korea and North Korea met intermittently in third countries. They also met occasionally at international christian meetings. In May, 1998, a team headed by Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mu, the president of the KRCAS, visited North Korea and directly met some North Korean Catholics.
    Through these meetings the Church in South Korea has come to understand better the situation of the Catholics in the North. In 1945, the year of liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the number of Catholics living in NK numbered about 52,000. However in 1988 the number was down to about 800. As of May, 1998, it is said that there are about 3,000 Catholics there. Of these some were baptized before the Korean War and some are new Catholics who were baptized since 1980. There are neither priests nor religious there and so we cannot say that the hierarchical Church as "the people of God composed of clergy, religious and lay people" exists. The community is led solely by lay leaders, who nevertheless confess an authentic faith in God and accept Christ as their Savior and are legitimately baptized.
    Since 1995 the KRCAS has had contact on five occasions with North Korean Catholics and has studied the possibility of evangelization there. The North Koreans have suffered from natural disasters such as drought and floods since 1995. Their economy deteriorated dramatically since the collapse of the socialist regimes and has been made worse by successive natural disasters. The Church in South Korea has carried out various emergency relief campaigns to help them. These were not mission oriented but were solely done for humanitarian reasons. Since 1996 the KRCAS' campaigns collected some 5.6 million US dollars and with this purchased food and fertilizers to be sent to the North. Such efforts were made by all dioceses in the South for the same purpose. In this way the Church in South Korea is working towards national reconciliation and the evangelization of North Korea in the future.

List of Articles
No. Subject Date
32 CBCK Newsletter No.32 (Fall 2000) Aug 27, 2009
31 CBCK Newsletter No.31 (Summer 2000) Aug 27, 2009
30 CBCK Newsletter No.30 (Spring 2000) Aug 27, 2009
29 CBCK Newsletter No.29 (Winter 1999) Aug 27, 2009
28 CBCK Newsletter No.28 (Fall 1999) Aug 27, 2009
27 CBCK Newsletter No.27 (Summer 1999) Aug 27, 2009
26 CBCK Newsletter No.26 (Spring 1999) Aug 27, 2009
25 CBCK Newsletter No.25 (Winter 1998) Aug 27, 2009
» CBCK Newsletter No.24 (Fall 1998) Aug 27, 2009
23 CBCK Newsletter No.23 (Summer 1998) Aug 27, 2009
22 CBCK Newsletter No.22 (Spring 1998) Aug 27, 2009
21 CBCK Newsletter No.21 (Winter 1997) Aug 27, 2009
20 CBCK Newsletter No.20 (Fall 1997) Aug 27, 2009
19 CBCK Newsletter No.19 (Summer 1997) Aug 27, 2009
18 CBCK Newsletter No.18 (Spring 1997) Aug 27, 2009

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