From the Editor:
After Ad Limina Visit
The Ad Limina visit of the Bishops of Korea was successfully concluded at the end of March.
Most Rev. Paul Ri Moun-hi, president of the CBCK, on behalf of the Korean Bishops, informed Pope John Paul II about the present situation of the Catholic Church in Korea. He explained to the Holy Father especially about the impact of the cultural shock which followed the economic progress during the past decades and which can be summarized as an individualism generated by materialism and the collapse of the traditional moral values of the Korean people. Most Rev. Paul Ri thanked the Holy Father for his special concern expressed by generous gesture of donation for the flood victims in North Korea. He also assured the Holy Father that the Church in Korea will do her best for the evangelization of the Asian continent including China.
The Holy Father, on his part, gave the Korean Bishops many words of encouragement, but did not forget to ask their active cooperation in mission.
It is true that the Catholic Church in Korea, on the one hand, is making constant growth and progress, producing relatively a good number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life but, on the other hand, she has a great deal of difficulties among which is the problem of non-practicing Catholics. However, we have to strive for the evangelization of our neighboring countries as we promised the Holy Father and also because a positive mission activity of evangelization at home and abroad is the best healing remedy for the interior problems of the Church. The way to free ourselves from the trend of mammonism to create a culture of love that respects human life and its value is achieved through self-detachment and sharing. Concretely speaking, the time has come for us to show an example of sharing by being a donor Church both spiritually and materially.
We ask your continued interest and support for our efforts towards the northern mission. Thank you.
Msgr. Dionysius Paik Nam-ik
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea
Ad Limina Visit of Bishops of Korea:
“Defend the Inviolable Sanctity of All Human Life From Conception to Death”
Holy Father encouraged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea when he received them in audience March 26, at the conclusion of their Ad Limina visit, to continue their missionary outreach within their own country and beyond for this is an essential feature of the Church’s life in every generation and in every part of the world. The Pope also spoke of the importance of combatting a materialistic view of life and of providing future priests with sound formation.
Dear Brother Bishops,
“I thank God in all my remembrance of you ... making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1,3). With these words of St. Paul, and in that same spirit of thanksgiving and joy, I greet you, the Bishops of Korea, on the occasion of your Visit ad Limina Apostolorum. You have come to Rome, to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in order to express your communion and that of the whole “household of God”(Eph 2,19) in Korea with the Successor of Peter who “presides over the universal communion of charity”(cf. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, preface).
Your ad Limina visit comes as the Holy Season of Lent is drawing to a close. After our meetings you will return to your Dioceses to lead the faithful in the celebrations that commemorate the most sacred events of our salvation: our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. These most holy mysteries cannot fail to inspire us as we seek to fulfill with fidelity and diligence our duties as Shepherds of God’s People, nor can they fail to make me share my reflection with you today. “For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, that of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”(1 Cor 5,7-8).
In the context of the Paschal Mystery we understand more clearly that “a Bishop should stand in the midst of his people as one who serves”(Christus Dominus, 16; cf. Mt 20, 28), for Christ himself came not to do his own will but the will of the One who sent him (cf. Jn 6,38). A Bishop must be a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, to the point that this bond leads him to be ready to lay down his life for his sheep(cf. Jn 10,14-15). He must be a true father who shows love and concern for all, so that the whole family of believers may be gathered together and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(2 Pet 3,18). This then is the calling which the Lord renews to us each day. Our response can never be that of the “hired servants”, but must always be the totally committed response of the Apostles(cf. Mk 1,20), called to be the very foundation of the whole edifice of the Church(cf. Eph 2,20).
As Bishops and shepherds of souls, this response of ours becomes a living witness, drawing into more intimate communion with theLord those already in the sheepfold, and drawing to Christ and his Church those who do not yet know the full truth of the Gospel, “the power of god for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1,16). In your homeland, this saving power of God is being clearly manifested: the overall number of Catholics continues to grow, programs of formation for catechumens and neophytes are well attended, and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are numerous. Responding to the signs of the times, the lay faithful are becoming ever more actively involved in the Church’s life and apostolate, in parishes and associations, in evangelization, catechesis and the study and application of the Church’s social doctrine.
Above all, through their witness of Christian living according to the standards of the Gospel and through their responsible involvement in the nation’s social, cultural, political and economic life, the laity are assuming their specific role in the transformation of the temporal order in the perspective of God’s Kingdom, by promoting human dignity, building solidarity and serving the common good. There is no question of the many spiritual gifts with which the Lord is blessing your Churches. Your task is to cultivate these gifts, nourishing, refining and directing them, so that the whole of human reality will be more fully imbued with Christ’s saving presence and love. In this way the Church will truly serve “as a leaven and a kind of soul for human society”(Gaudium et Spes, 40).
And is there not a great need for the Church in Korean to take on this role with ever increasing vigor and zeal? As you yourselves point out, your society’s economic development is accompanied by a certain materialistic view of reality, which is coming to the fore and even seems to dominate people’s outlook, especially among the younger generation. Not in Korea alone, but throughout your whole region of Asia, certain cultural influences are gaining ground which are in contrast with some of the more authentic human values upon which your society has hitherto based itself. As Pastors of the Church, you are well aware that a great effort of discernment is called for in relation to this phenomenon. You have a specific contribution to make through your vigorous efforts to implement pastoral initiatives and programs which adequately address the crisis of values which is being widely felt.
Among the specific tasks of your ministry in this respect, I encourage you never to tire of proclaiming, teaching and defending the inviolable sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Be spokesmen of the culture of life, seeking effective cooperation with all those who share your deep concern for the “extraordinary increase ... of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless” (Evangelium Vitae, 3).
We must all be convinced that the coming Jubilee marking the 2000th Anniversary of the Birth of our Savior is a providential opportunity for the whole Church to reflect on what has been achieved so far and on what is required for a deeper, more generous following of the Lord. In your particular Churches you have already begun a pastoral program of preparation for that year of grace. it will be most important to help everyone-priests, religious andlaity-to grasp the true significance of this event. Its justification, content and purpose are well expressed in the words of the Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through his Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point, and the goal of all human history (Gaudium et Spes, 10). This whole period therefore must be a time of conversion, grace and renewal, centered on the living presence of the Redeemer.
Among those who have a special claim on your pastoral concern and charity are those Catholics who for one reason or another have drifted away from the practice of the faith. Likewise, you will be making special efforts to involve young Catholics in the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee. This is essential, since it is they who will carry the Church into the next century and into the next millennium. Christ expects great things from young people(cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 58).
In a similar context, I also encourage you to continue your missionary outreach, within your own country and beyond. This remains, after all, an essential feature of the Church’s life in every generation and in every part of the world. It is therefore a fundamental part of our role as Successors of the Apostles, who themselves preached the Good News to all without distinction. The Church in Korea is in a unique position in your region to make known “the boundless riches of Christ”(Eph 3,8). In this regard, I am grateful to you for your generosity in sending religious personnel to certain parts of Asia where circumstances make this particularly necessary, and for your willingness to receive candidates from elsewhere into your own Seminaries, a tangible sign of your commitment to “missionary cooperation”(cf. Redemptoris Missio, 85).
On another level, I wish to comment the Korean Church’s efforts to show solidarity with your brothers and sisters in the North, especially in response to the recent floods which devastated several provinces.
In fulfilling all of your various pastoral responsibilities, you are assisted by your brother priests, who are your “necessary helpers and counselors” in the sacred ministry(Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7). I rejoice with you that your Dioceses are blessed with many devoted priests and that priestly vocations continue to increase.
Since the “first representative of Christ in priestly formation is the Bishop”(Pastores Dabo Vobis, 65), you must strive to ensure that candidates possess sound motives, genuine piety and sufficient talent, and that they seriously strive to become men of irreproachable moral character. “An extremely important element of a priest’s education” (ibid., 45) is his spiritual formation, the necessary foundation of all the rest. But this formation does not end with priestly ordination, since, as every priest knows, faithfulness to the priestly ministry involves “a process of continual conversion”( ibid., 70). By making provision for the spiritual support and continuing formation of your priests, youwill help them to acknowledge at all times their true dignity and express in their lives their priestly identity as “men of God”, “servants of the Church”, “alter Christus”(cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 5).
The annual “Day for the Sanctification and Renewal of the Clergy”, which you have established, is an invitation to the faithful to pray for the holiness, dedication and fidelity of their ordained ministers. Thus clergy and laity together will raise a common prayer to the Lord of the harvest th at his promise may be fulfilled in your own local churches: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding”(Jer 3,15).
My reflection would hardly be complete without an affectionate mention of the consecrated men and women - Religious and members of Secular Institutes - whose special consecration to the Lord enables them to bear a particularly effective witness to God’s love for his people. In each local Church, they are living signs of the truth that “the Kingdom of God is at hand”(Mk 1,15). You know how much the Church in your country depends on their generous service. I urge you to be close to them and to cherish their charisms as an extraordinary gift of the Lord. Within a few days I will issue the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation which presents the fruits of the 1994 Synod of Bishops on the role and mission of the consecrated life in the Church and the world. I entrust this document to you and to the consecrated men and women of your Dioceses, as a token of the love, trust and expectation with which the whole People of God looks to them at this particular moment of salvation history.
Dear Brother Bishops, these are some of the thoughts which your visit inspires. I thank you once more for the generosity and commitment with which you discharge your pastoral duties. With Passiontide almost upon us, let us continue to look to him who freely laid down his life that he might take it up again(cf. Jn 10,17). I pray unceasingly for you that you may faithfully fulfill your apostolic task of “preaching the word. convincing, rebuking, exhorting and being unfailing in patience and teaching”(cf. 2 Tim 4,2). And the same prayer I ask of you, that the Lord may strengthen me in my ministry as primary guardian of the deposit of faith, for the good of the Church throughout the world.
I commend all of you to Mary, our Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, and entrust to her the needs and hopes of the Church in Korea, as well as the burdens and joys of your own ministry. To each of you and to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
March 26th, 1996
Pope John Paul II
From the Vatican
Message on Sunday for Life:
The message on the 2nd “Sunday for Life” issued by the Family Pastoral Committee reminded the faithful of the priceless value of human life, its sacredness and thus the respect due to it. The committee and other organizations related to the “pro-life” movement conducted a nationwide street campaign in all dioceses. Pamphlets and “precious feet” badges were widely distributed.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a blessing that our Church celebrates a “Day for Life” every year. “Day for Life” is a blessing because it is a day when we pledge respect for life. “Day for Life” is a day to recall the value and inviolability of life, to understand the importance of life that we often have overlooked, to celebrate the conception and birth of life and to learn how to make life the central value of the universe. Finally the “Day for Life” is a day when we commit ourselves to renew society with new values on life and to create a new culture of human life.
1. Power of Life and Power of Death
In our days, there exist two contradicting signs of the times. One is the expansion of sensibility and responsibility for all life, and the other is the appearance of new risks, clear and discreet, against life itself. The signs of the times challenge us to bring our attention to a new wave of pro-life movements and new world outlooks as we prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
It is indeed providential that the East and West, the Christian Churches and other religions could meet together in “life”. However, the loss of value of life, emergence of a culture of death, indiscriminate destruction of the ecology, weak becoming the victim of strong, war, genocide, crime, mistrust, moral nihilism, drugs, the destruction of human fraternity and murders are an increasing reality in our world of today.
While a movement of social awakening about life is taking place, legalized homicide is occurring simultaneously. This is our reality.
2. Life is a Mystery
The problem is that biology and science are not able to explain life sufficiently. There is no clear answer as to how life originated, how a human being becomes a specific person, and where we go when we die. If there is no Christian answer it is not surprising then to see why the meaning of life itself is unclear. If the human body is downgraded to a material thing, simply to a living thing, to a highly developed organic thing, to an object on which people can experiment with birth and death manipulating it at their will, it is because modern people have rejected God’s plan of creation. Ultimately people are getting afraid of themselves more and more because they have lost the ability to experience the mystery of the human person in themselves due to being caught up in pragmatism and ethical relativism.
Despite the Church’s strong opposition to the government’s population control policy and nationwide pro-life campaign the practice of abortion remains unchanged and is in fact increasing day by day. The most abominable crime is the abortion of the female fetuses after prenatal gender testing. In this regard we have to be vigilant to direct, indirect, social, cultural and structural evils that pressure woman to abort the female fetus because of Koreans’ preference for sons over daughters. Likewise we have to watch out for conspiracies against the human embryo and fetus. There are, for example, partial abortions, abortions in relation to multiple pregnancies, abortions for eugenical purpose, the aiding and abetting of suicides and euthanasia. What is the meaning of this destruction of life? The human being is not a simple organic being but an eternal being. When we raise questions about capital punishment it does not mean that we oppose heavy sentences on criminals. What we mean is that the punishment has to take into account the dignity of the human person.
3. “You Shall Not Kill”
The Catholic Church proclaims the Gospel of life in a very concrete way. Jesus said that he is life. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”(Jn 14,6). And he came into the world to protect life. “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full”(Jn 10,10). He is reminding us once again of the inviolability of life expressed in the Commandment of God given on Mount Sinai: “You shall not kill”(Ex 20,13). This is necessary for the survival of humanity, both in the world of today and in the future.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a grace for us, a people of lifeand people for life, to praise life in this “Day for Life”. This is because the renewal of the culture of life begins by praising God and praying for life. It is time to pray for all those who are working to preserve life and to support them. Our life will become meaningful only when we take care of the elderly, handicapped and terminally ill patients. Our lives will be fulfilled when we are vigilant against the culture of death and when we express our belief in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until to the natural death.
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity... I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live”(Deut 30,15.19).
May 26th, 1996
Day for Life
Most Rev. Alexander Sye
President Family Pastoral Committee
Caritas Coreana Appeals for Aid to North Korea:
“You give them something to eat”(Mt 14,16)
With the message on aid to North Korea the Caritas Coreana of the CBCK initiated an extensive campaign to collect money and goods on behalf of the flood victims in North Korea. Most Rev. Ignatius Pak appealed to Korean Catholics and all dioceses to take part in the project with generosity and love. He reminded them of the Holy Father’s request to the Korean Bishops at the Ad Limina vist “not to forget your North Korean brothers and sisters in their trial”. According to the UN investigation 45% of towns and cities, or 75% of the country was affected by floods last summer. This affected 5.2 million people of whom 500,000 lost their homes. This spring Caritas Coreana donated US$320,000.00.
Every year in June we recall the pains of the fratricidal Korean War 46 years ago. The Korean people have lived for half a century bearing in their hearts pain, mistrust and hatred which are all deeply interwoven. We, Christians, have to know that unless we are healed from these pains and hatreds we cannot approach the path that leads us to become one people and rebuild one Korea.
These days, in the northern part of the Korean peninsula people are again suffering and in distress due to food crisis. Innocent people are afflicted with hunger and a tragic devastation caused by the floods of last summer. We cannot ignore the reality of their suffering as we had experienced exactly the same misery and starvation 46 years ago. Embracing their sufferings as our own will be the starting point to the undoing of the accumulated hatreds and pains caused by half a century of division. This will be the initial path that will lead our people towards an authentic unity.
We, as Christians, who are called by the Lord to be messengers of peace and reconciliation are called also to bear his yoke that is “easy and light”(Mt 11,30). Therefore the primary duty of all Christians toward those who are in need is to help them, especially “give them something to eat”(cf. Gaudium et Spes, 69). In this regard, the Catholic Church in Korea has made constant efforts to assist the needy people around the world regardless of race, religion, ideology or the color of their skin. This sharing is a sign that all human beings are children of the One God the Father, and thus we are all brothers and sisters of each other.
The government authorities of South and North Korea who seek the reunification of the nation should do so not only by word but with sincerity. Government authorities of South Korea should understand that the genuine efforts to lighten the burden of the North Koreans is the first step to bring the Korean people together into a single nation. When someone among our brothers and sisters is in difficulty no condition should be deemed necessary before coming to assist him or her and by the same token there are no reasons to be ashamed of accepting assistance.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us help them to overcome their hunger. Let us feed them. Let us share with them what we have. This is our ardent supplication to you. Many Churches and organizations in the world already have shown their concrete gestures of love and solidarity vis-a-vis the North Koreans in need. Pope John Paul II himself has demonstrated his spiritual and material concerns. At the audience during the Ad Limina visit of Korean Bishops the Holy Father asked them not to forget their brothers and sisters in North Korea.
I pray that June may be a privileged time of a new step towards national reunification. This can be shown by our unconditional efforts to assist our brothers and sisters in North Korea as a gesture of reconciliation and forgiveness of pain, mistrust and hatred for half a century.
June 1st, 1996
Most Rev. Ignatius Pak
President Caritas Coreana
● News from the Church in Korea
● Meaningful Easter for the Catholics of the Divided Korea
This Easter Sunday was especially meaningful for Korean Catholics because Masses for unity, offered simultaneously in three major places of worship, brought them each other closer. On Easter Sunday at 10:30 a.m., Mass for unity was offered simultaneously at Myongdong cathedral in South Korea, at Changchung church in Pyongyang, North Korea and at the Korean Martyrs’ Church in Orange, New Jersey, in the USA.
At the Myongdong cathedral Bishop Andrew Choi, president of the National Reconciliation Committee of Seoul archdiocese, presided over the Mass and appealed to all Korean Catholics in the South and North and overseas to seek national reconciliation in the spirit of the Gospel by emptying themselves of selfinterest.
“This first Mass which is simultaneously offered for the nation’s reconciliation in three major places of Korean Catholic worship will be considered as a meaningful sign of peace in the Korean peninsula and the entire world,” Bishop Choi said. He also asked the people to pray to “God who governs human hearts to grant us the grace of a forgiving heart, a heart yearning for unity, a reconciling heart and finally a heart of peace and love”.
Rev. Augustine Park, vicar general for the pastoral ministry of overseas Koreans in North America, travelled to Pyongyang on April 6th to celebrate Easter Mass for North Korean Catholics at Changchung church in Pyongyang, capital of North.
● Catholic Hospital To Be Opened in North Korea
A ground-breaking ceremony for the International Catholic Hospital in North Korea took place last April 27th in Najin-Sonbong.
Abbot Notker Werner Wolf, superior general of the Benedictines in Ottilien, Germany, and two other priests attended the ceremony at the site in Najin-Sonbong, a port city that is being developed as a major free-trade economic zone. The contract for the construction project was signed by the Benedictines and Najin municipal authorities last Jan. 29th after various meetings and negotiations. The Najin International Catholic Hospital or People’s Hospital of Najin, a general hospital, will be jointly administered by the Banedictines of Ottilien and the Health Department of Najin City in accordance with the agreement. The Hospital which is expected to be opened in May, 1997 will have 200 beds with 10,909 square meters of floor space.
The project was initiated in 1994, when Abbot Wolf visited Pyongyang to investigate the possibility of such a project and further developed by the visit of Msgr. Kim Young-hwan last Summer. The Benedictines, the first male religious institute to come to Korea in 1909, had administrated the Hamhung apostolic vicariate and the Tokwon Abbatia Nullius, both in Hamkyong Province, during the Japanese colonial rule but were expelled from there in 1949 when the Communist regime was established in North Korea. Then they came to work in South Korea and were settled down in Waekwan, near Taegu.
● Pastoral Committee for 2010 to Assess Pastoral Vision
The Pastoral Committee for 2010 affiliated to the Pastral Institute of the CBCK has mapped out the pastoral orientation of the Church in Korea in order to be prepared for the next century.
To do this a seminar was held on April 23rd at the CBCK conference hall having as its theme “The Evangelization and Globalization of the Korean People in the Light of the Coming Third Millennium”. Key points emerged from the seminar were: renewal of the Catholic Church in Korea; a renewed impetus for the new evangelization as proposed in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Tertio Millennio Adveniente”; new evangelization of the Korean people in the spiritual heritage of the Korean martyrs; the evangelization of Korean culture; the formation of lay leaders and their active participation in the decision making process of the Church; dialogue with other religions and concrete efforts for the reconciliation and unity of Korea.
● Korean Government s New Life Policy Welcomed by Church
The Catholic Church has welcomed the Korean government’s new measures on prenatal gender testing and population control policy that were announced in early June.
According to the revised regulations, the control on prenatal gender testing will be reinforced with severe punishment and regulations related to population control will be lifted. Under the announced Medical Treatment Law a medical doctor involved in the illegal practice of prenatal gender testing will have his/her medical doctor’s license revoked immediately. And also the Korean government’s practical measures to curb population growth for three decades such as denial of medical insurance coverage from third children, the priority enjoyed by sterilized people in lotteries for apartments and flats are to be abolished and equal privileges and right to scholarship will be granted.
Rev. Antonio Seung, Exec.Sec. of the Family Pastoral Committee, remarked that “the prenatal gender testing is one of the key causes of abortion and it damages the mystery of human life. Therefore the government should root out such anti-human conduct by a sincere implementation of the law. Sound medical ethics on the part of medical doctors and a mature mentality on the part of the people are necessary”.
Koreans’ preference for sons over daughters has led to an indiscriminate abortion of female fetuses and a serious disparity in the male-to-female ratio. It now stands at 115 males to 100 females according to the data released by the National Office of Statistics in 1994.
Since 1992, the Catholic Church in Korea has fought vigorously to defend the inviolable sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death and to promote a culture of life by various campaigns and actions including direct appeals and visits of Bishops to the National Assembly to remove the pending Criminal Law Art. 135 which favored abortion.
● Handicapped are Humans and So Must Enjoy Equal Right to Life
Stephen Cardinal Kim of Seoul said he longs for a world where the handicapped can enjoy a life of equality with all other human beings. In his message on Sunday for Handicapped People May 16th, the Cardinal emphasized that nobody should be discriminated against just because they are disabled. “All humans are precious beings in the eyes of God for they are created in his image regardless of their defects. Thus they should equally enjoy the quality of life and respect that their healthy brothers and sisters enjoy,” he said. The Cardinal presented four propositions: the rooting out of all social prejudices against handicapped people; the establishment of a society where the handicapped can enjoy equal rights with everybody including the promotion of a better welfare system for them; development of vocational education system on diocesan level. He welcomed the government’s new initiative of 5-year plan to promote social conditions for the disabled including a project of building 15 more factories for seriously affected ones and a new high school curriculum under which disabled students will undergo specialized job training in their senior year.
According to a government report there are 1.05 million handicapped in the country and of these 992,000 are 15 or older but only 30 percent
● Church Commemorates May 18th People’s Democratic Movement of Kwangju
The memorial Mass for the “May 18th People's Democratic Movement of Kwangju” was concelebrated at Mangwoldong cemetery by Archbishop Victorinus Youn Kong-hee of Kwangju and many priests come from around the country. Some 1500 people participated in the Mass at the burial ground of several hundred victims of the military crackdown on the democratic movement of Kwangju citizens in 1980.
Rev. Albert Chang Yong-ju from the Priests’ Association for Justice said in his homily, “Let’s be united in our struggle so that the noble deaths of the victims for democracy live on in the history of the Korean people and the world. The tireless fight of the Korean people to right the history has brought to court the masterminds of the coup after 16 years. However they are still stubbornly justifying their sins”(*see CBCK Newsletter No. 13, p.4). The 1st International Youth Camp for Human Rights and Peace aimed at educating youths around the world about the Kwangju citizens’ democratic struggle and making Kwangju a center for the international human rights movement, was held in Kwangju with 40 university students from 20 countries and 100 leading members from various human rights groups from Korea and abroad.
● Korean Catholics Ask for New Law for Foreign Workers
With the 105th anniversary of the promulgation of the encyclical letter “Rerum Novarum” of Pope Leo XIII the Pastoral Commission on Labor of Seoul archdiocese urged the government legal protection of foreign workers here in Korea.
The statement of the Commission entitled “Proposal on Behalf of Workers’ Rights” called on the government, now working on labor reform under a new paradigm of labor relations, to show concrete efforts to promote the good of the workers and to repeal evil labor laws such as the prohibition of third party intervention and forming plural labor unions. They asked the government to apply fully all labor related insurance laws concerning industrial accidents to all work places without exception and especially urged the government to establish laws to protect migrant workers’ full rights while working here in Korea.
A joint signature campaign for this purpose was launched by the Justice and Peace Committee of Seoul archdiocese. “Foreign workers in Korea are not guaranteed from their minimum human rights and suffer from poor labor condition and inhuman treatment. The Korean government has promised on several occasions to improve these conditions but nothing has happened yet” they pointed out.
Besides this several civic human rights groups and the Major Superiors Association of Religious Women and Men, on their part, are committed to a signature campaign asking the Korean government to enact Laws for the protection of foreign workers’ rights.
● Open Letter Sent to the President of Brazil
The Seoul based Catholic Human Rights’ Committee(CHRC) and Priests’ Association for Justice sent on May 29th an open letter to the president of Brazil to protest 20 farmers' death by police brutality during a land reform rally.
Addressed to Ferdinando Henrique Cardoso, president of Brazil, the open letter of the CHRC said that the 20 farmers shot dead by police April 18 were innocent victims of the Brazilian government. Expressing profound sorrow and shock it denounced the killing of innocent farmers as a grave criminal act against human beings. The CHRC’s letter reads; “Your police massacred farmers who were making a peaceful march to claim their rights concerning land reform. What they wanted to express was legitimate. A state that violates and misuses public power that is given by God and the people to be used for the common good of the people has to be denounced. Therefore we urge your government to make a sincere apology before the international community and punish all responsible for the massacre. We demand of you a visible act of repentance and a promise not to let such a thing happen again in your country. We will monitor your government’s effort to solve this problem together with all the people in the world who are concerned with human rights and peace for humanity.”
News in Brief
● CBCK reported 3,451,266 Catholics as of the end of Dec. 1995 which is a 3.36% increase from 1994 and 7.69% of the Korean population. 438 Catholic-run institutions for social welfare services were reported with an increase of 120 in the five years from 1990 to 1995.
● Three religious women from The Korean Foreign Mission Sisters were sent to Taiwan to set up their first foreign mission. Sisters Samuel Lee Mal-suk, Jacqueline Yoon Eun-soon and Esthel Choi Hyon-mi left for Hsinchu diocese in Taiwan after a “Mission Mass” presided over by Most Rev. John Choi Jae-son who founded the Congregation in 1984.
● In the 15th general election of South Korea held last April, 62 Catholics were elected giving a Catholic presence of 20.4% in the National Assembly which has 299 seats. The Seoul based Priests’ Association for Justice sent an open letter reminding them of their special mission and responsibility as Christians to work towards just and clean politics.
● A “Return-to-the-Farm” Community Movement was launched by the Catholic Farmers’ movement in solidarity with a dozen of the leading civic organizations promoting the same cause. The new movement’s goal is to bring people back to their farming land and to educate the youth about the reality of the Korean farmers and fishermen who are coming under threat because of international changes, especially WTO.
● On Holy Thursday, 70 young priests of Pusan diocese promised to donate all their bodily organs through the social welfare office of the diocese. The gesture of young priests has stimulated many others to do the same.
● Some 3,500 Korean Catholic civil servants took part in a day of prayer at the Olympic Park in Seoul on May 12 to confirm their Christian identity in the workplace. Cardinal Kim reminded them of their important role and mission as laypeople to be “light of the world and salt of the earth” in society and encouraged them to bear authentic Christian witness through their good examples, friendship, Biblesharing and prayer life.
A Brief History of Catholicism in Korea 
by Cho, Kwang, Ph.D.
Prof. of Korea University Department of Korean History
Divided Era and the Church (2)
4. Korean War and the Church
The Korean War, which started on June 25th, 1950, caused terrible damage to the Catholic Church in South Korea. Clerics and those in leading positions in the Church who remained in the territory occupied by the North Korean Army were captured and put to death and Church buildings were destroyed. The number of priests and religious men and women both Korean and foreign who were captured by the communists was about 150 including five bishops. Many of them were killed and that was a serious loss for the Catholic Church. Many activities that the Church was engaged in since the national independence were seriously affected by the Korean War, e.g. Catholic-run schools and publications lost their normal function. The greatest tragedy for the Catholic Church was the hatred and enmity against the communists which many felt justified because the War was triggered by them.
During the War, the Church in North Korea was seriously affected also. Even before the War, the Ordinaries of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pyongyang and Abbacy Nullius of Dokwon were captured by the communists in 1949 and imprisoned. Later on the Apostolic Vicar of Pyongyang, Most Rev. Hong Yong-ho disappeared and Most Rev. Sauer, OSB who was the superior of the Dokwon Benedictines died in prison. Just before the Korean War in 1950, most of the clergy who were in North Korea and active in mission, were captured or killed or just disappeared. The Dokwon Benedictines were asked to close their convent in 1949 and the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help had to do the same in 1950. During the War most of the Church buildings in North Korea were completely destroyed. No priests were left and the Catholics suffered very much.
On the other hand, the Church in South Korea survived and continued her mission. When North Korea was retaken by the ROK and UN Army, the Southern Catholics took initiatives to restore the Church in the North. However, very soon, these efforts came to nothing because the war situation was reversed. However the Church kept on working by taking care of refugees and by being involved in the pastoral care of the military. Military chaplains of the US Army took the responsibility of ministering to the POWs of the communist Army. The Church tried diligently to overcome the damage caused by the War and to carry out her missionary task with courage.
5. Settlement of McCarthyism and the Anti-Communist Movement
During the Korean War a great number of Catholics were engaged in the anticommunist struggle. Some of the Korean Catholics even attempted to take effective action against communism by organizingthe Catholic volunteer army. Most of the faithful believed that fighting against communists was a meaningful thing for believers. Some went to battle ready to die as martyrs. This attitude of the Catholics was deeply influenced by the anti-communist ideology that the Catholic Church stressed during the first half of the 20th century.
On the other hand, because it was believed that the Korean War was caused by a preemptive strike from the Northern side, anti-communist feelings were widespread in South Korean society. The Catholic Church and Christians were no exception. They were part of this trend that existed in society too. Their own experiences of the War and the negative teaching of the Church against communism became a single feeling. On occasion some of the Church leaders of Korea said that the Korean War was a holy war against the atheism of the modern era. People were ready to offer their lives for their country thus expressing a martyrs’ spirit. The Church leaders of South Korea thought that communism was an incarnation of the devil. In such a climate the Catholic Church in South Korea continued to pursue McCarthyism, the radical anti-communism, and it has lasted partly to this day.
In the course of the deepening of the Cold War era between East and West after the end of World War II, Korea found itself with two governments of different ideology. It became a meeting place where the East and West camps met and had to suffer conflict and war. In the process of the establishment of the two governments, the Catholic Church in the North suffered difficulties and upheaval. In the South, where people were aware of the reality and the situation of the Church in the North under the communist regime, they were continually on the alert against communism and wanted a non-communist government there. Consequently the position of the Catholic Church in South Korea was one of having a separate government from the North. In doing so, the Church leaders of South Korea overlooked the importance of building a unified nation. The Catholics had, in reality, no opportunity to learn valuable lessons about various national causes, even though they lived through this important era.
Very soon after the settlement of the separate governments on both sides, the Korean War occurred. During the Korean War, the Catholic Church in North Korea was destroyed, while that South Korea, even though it was seriously affected by the War, survived and overcame the situation. It was not only the Church that suffered from War damages, but all Koreans. The McCarthism was widely prevalent in Korean society and the Church was very much influenced by it. The mentality of the Church leaders and of the faithful was under the domination of anti-communist ideology not only during the War, but for quite a long time afterwards. This anticommunist mentality handicapped them in their work for the authentic development and the salvation of humanity and also in their work of stressing the dignity of human beings.
Some Korean Catholics today ask the question as to whether the attitude of the Church during the period of the establishment of the divided government and the Korean War was in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel. The Church in Korea of today, based on this historical experience and her own self-examination, is trying to strengthen her spirit and to cultivate an attitude of true service for humanity and the Kingdom of God.