Thursday, April 30, 2009

Justice- Too Late for Sung Hee

Sung Hee was a happy girl getting good marks in high school. In fact her teachers held her up as a model student. But after two years of outstanding study she developed a skin disease that was diagnosed as leprosy. This was 1943 when the Korean government segregated quickly all those with Hansen's Disease(leprosy). Once committed to the isolated island of So Rok Do in Cholla Nam Do , she was forcibly sterilized like all the other men and women there, marriage Yes, children No!

But this is 2009. The Korean Government has finally yielded to the long protests of these people treated so unjustly. On April 20th, the Korean Prime Minister, Han Sung Soo, in a formal session with a Special Commission and in the presence of 150 H.D. people, issued a solemn apology for all past injustices- also with a plan for financial compensation.

However good... too late for Sung Hee. Her right to family life, given to her by God, had been tragically violated. How could any words or money ever compensate?
But she remarked: "It's all hard to forget, but I am a Person of Faith, a Christian,... I must forgive!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Preparations for the 50th Anniversary of Incheon Diocese

The Incheon Diocese will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of it establishment in 2011. It will
be the same year that Maryknoll will be celebrating the 100th. The organization behind the celebration is being done in a Korean manner, extremely thorough in every way.

The motto will be "New Pentecost 2011"

In remembrance of our 50 years we plan:

[1] Development of the Diocese and the spiritual growth of priests.

[2] Renewal of our Faith and evangelization.

[3] Share loving life

[4] To build a 50th commemorative Church and center for spirituality.

[5] Development of our pilgrimage sites and compilation of our 50 year history.

There will be a Road Map for the 3 years:

[1] 2009 Renewal year

[2] 2010 Year of growth

[3] 2011 Year of thanks

The Prayer for the 50th ( a very free translation)

God the Father who has sent Jesus for the salvation of all human kind,
with unlimited mercy you enabled us to establish this diocese and with
the passing of the years daily to nurture its growth we give you thanks.

As we are prepare for the 50 anniversary we look back over the years
"Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former" (Haggai 2,9)
Allow us to takes these words as a pillar of fire, a promise to serve as springboard for the future.

"Go to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1,8) you have given us a mission,
with the help of the Spirit we will make use of all our strength,
for the new evangelization , the evangelization of those who have left, and the
evangelization of our society. Help us to have visible results .

Let the diocese grow even more and may we be beginning a new spring.
Help us be an instrument in the evangelization of Asia and the whole of the world.
We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen

When the Diocese was established in June,1961 Bishop William J. McNaughton,M.M was the first bishop. The diocese was characterized as a mission area where the Gospel had not yet been proclaimed. As a result, there was a remarkable growth of the Church. At the time of the establishment of the diocese, there were only 9 parishes with a total number of 23,169 Catholics. The priests working in the diocese were all Maryknollers. Today there are 243 priests working in the diocese. There are 111 parishes and 35 mission stations and not one Maryknoller left working in a parish. That is progress and we pray that there will be more of the same in the years to come.

An E-mail from Mexico

One of the priests of the diocese is now in Mexico taking care of the pastoral needs of Koreans residing in Mexico. He sent all of us an e-mail which I will put into English.

"Hello everybody.I am sorry that I am again sending you an e-mail.
Since you are hearing news about Mexico I am unhesitatingly sending you
another e-mail. The news you are hearing is the reality of the situation.
The city I am in is the center of the swine virus epidemic.

The results are: The schools are all closed.
Daily Mass and Sunday Mass all forbidden. Replaced by a
broacasted Mass. This is an order from the Cardinal of Mexico City.
All meetings are forbidden
Masks can't be found, the government has supplied simple masks which are used (you can't buy masks and I am looking around for them)

All events canceled.
All selling along the roads forbidden.
All the taverns and eating places closed.
Business in the markets are recommended to stop.

However, I am in good health. No need to worry. I am also participating in the fast. I give thanks to God's providence for presenting me with this road to maturity. I ask for your prayers and will be with you in my prayers."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Naju Is Still In The News

In the May issue of the Kyunghyang Catholic Magazine there is an article about "the Blessed Mother's Mountain" of Naju. Julia Youn the visionary behind Naju says that she has experienced messages and many supernatural phenomena but the Diocese of Kwangju has made it very clear, after a prolonged study, that there is nothing supernatural on what has taken place in Naju. Below is what the diocese has stated and reported in the The Catholic Bishops' Conference news report.

Archbishop Youn declared, "Various strange phenomena which happened to Mrs. Julia Youn …… produce no evidence which prove that they are truly supernatural [
non constat de supernaturalitate] ……."

"The Archdiocese of Kwangju strongly urged the faithful not to follow the members of the group, who try to do damage to the relationships between the Apostolic See and the CBCK, as well as the Archdiocese of Kwangju. The Archdiocese also admonished those who promoted the so-called 'Julia Youn and the related phenomena', to stop disturbing the proper faith of the faithful and agitating their false hope."

This past Christmas there were about 200 people present for a Mass at the Naju center. The article mentions how sad it is that some Catholics feel a need to take their personal opinions and spread them even though the diocese and the bishop have stated that they should desist doing so. The article ends with a quote from 1 Cor. "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace."

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Very Profitable Emmaus Day

Four of us Maryknollers went to Cheongju yesterday for our monthly Emmaus Day. It is a time to be with each other in prayer and fellowship in the presence of Jesus. Chapter 24 of Luke has the incident where unknowingly two disciples were accompanied by Jesus on there way to Emmaus. The origin of the name comes from this incident. .

The day begins with prayer, we then take turns sharing what we have done for the past month and after the meal we spend time talking about an article that was given to us to reflect on before the Emmaus Day.

We usually meet at the Seoul House but yesterday we went to the Peace and Joy Center in Nai Su where one of the Maryknollers is working with the severely mentally handicapped. He has four young men who attend the center each day and there are two teachers who take care of the daily program.The young men spend time with the teachers in different projects that help adapt them to life at home and in society. They eat together and then take a walk. They come together again for another learning session, and around 4:30 they return to their homes.

You have three persons involved with the care and education of these four young men. If one wants to see love in action I can't think of a better object lesson. You are not going to get any thanks for the effort and you are not going to see great results. But you do see the value of each person and his dignity before God, in a very concrete way. I am certain that all those who spend time watching the transaction between teachers and the mentally disabled can't help but be moved.

After spending about an hour at the center we went to the Maryknoller's apartment for the sharing but the time spend at the center, short as it was , for me was the most important part of the Emmaus Day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Migrants in Korea (World Day for Migrants)

On the 26th of April the Catholic Church in Korea is celebrating the 95th World Day for Migrants. There are over 1 million foreigners living in the country. Of that number there are many who have entered into marriage with Koreans. Some are happy but some are faced with many problems. Both Catholic papers had editorials on the migrants this past week.

The migrants in Korea especially those that come from poorer countries and are workers are still finding it difficult. The head of the Bishop’s committee on immigration said there has been improvement but still they are not treated equally. The problems are not just limited to the individual but to the families and the children of these families.

The percentage of marriages of those living in farming areas with foreigners will increase. At present one of ten marriages in Korea are international marriages. On the bus that I take to return to my mission station you have advertisements for foreign brides. The price is listed and all is taken care of by the brokers. The young Korean girls, for the most part, are not interested in spending their life on the farm.

The Catholic Paper had for its lead article the problem of divorce in the migrant woman’s life. When the marriage breaks up they have no place to turn. Since many of the migrant workers come from the Philippines and are Catholic, it is a most pressing problem for the Church. The number of divorces is on the rise. It is not easy to adapt to the Korean Culture. The stress of living in Korea, the need to support the family take a toll on these frail marriages. There is a lot of depression, stress and many woman end up in the world of prostitution. There are also problems with the children of these unions for must of them fail to learn the language well and at times remain outside the culture. The Church sees the need, and although it has been active in this area for sometime, there is more effort and interest necessary in alleviating the many problems that face the whole society.


A professor at a university in Seoul wrote in our Diocesan bulletin that recently he was giving out leaflets at the entrance to a subway station in Seoul. It was busy with people going to work and he wondered why they all seemed to have a rigid look about them. He would smile at them, giving out the leaflets, and greet them but they would remain with their very stiff facial expression. It was rare he said to find anyone with a kind and gentle expression. Nobody is planning to harm them or threaten them he thought, so why the somber facial looks? He quoted a foreigner as saying all the Koreans look as if they are angry. He agreed with this assessment.

He mentioned that the Japanese, the Americans and other foreigners do smile and look you in the eye and greet you with a short greeting such as Hi and the like but with Koreans that is not the case. I am not sure that his evaluation of the situation of the Koreans was correct and so different from the rest of the world . He did go on to say the reason for this is the education that they are given as children.. Koreans are told to be kind to people they know but people you do not know you don't act as if you know them. Consequently when those we do not know smile at us, according to our culture he said we tend to misunderstand it and it causes anxiety. Is that person kindly disposed to me?Does that person know me from somewhere? We are left with a feeling of anxiety.

For the Korean it seems that they are much more at peace when they do not greet the ones they do not know for there is no anxiety. He concludes the article that we should not have a double standard for those we know and those we dont . He mentioned that in another culture a refined person would even be gentle and kind to the person who he or she had divorced. He concluded that we are still discriminating between those we know and those we dont and he feels this should change.

I read the article with a feeling that I as an American am not much different from the Koreans. I also have a double standard and would not find it easy to treat those I know and those I do not in the same way. I would like to be less self-conscious but I would not find it easy to smile and greet those I passed on the street. Would that not be considered strange? That possibility he did not mention.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I have been following many of the most popular Catholic English blogs for sometime and some years ago was happy to see that there was one right here in our own Country of Korea. I have gone often to The Western Confucian and have rarely been disappointed. I am surprised to see how he keeps it updated and with many Catholic issues taken from around the world.

Webmaster Joshua Snyder lives in Pohang with his family. He lectures English at a science and technology university. He has a link to this blog for which I am thankful and embarrassed. Since we are a baby in blogland we have no links to other blogs. We haven't earned the right yet to be considered a stable blog. It is not an easy task to keep a blog updated and current with the news that it has selected to share. Hopefully we will be a blog with a future but only time will tell. . The Western Confucian has been around since July, 2006 and may it continue for many years. A blog that is updated daily and is interesting to read and has a message to give is a work of great perseverance and vitality. Joshua's blog is catholic and Catholic. I invite you to go see:

My Experience as English Teacher for Grammar School Children

Up until a few months ago I was teaching English at the neighboring grammar school. It was an “After Class English Program”. I started 3 year ago with two days a week, changed to one day the following year. I found it very difficult but continued because it was seen as a help to the children.

An American teaching English to Koreans always gets a good response for they think that it will be an easy way to pick up English. They are quickly disabused of this after a few months of study. Children in grammar school would probably have greater hopes and bigger disappointments.

I tried to do a good job and took the time with the children as a serious commitment. I started off the first year with close to 20 students, went to 14 and this final year I had 7. The interest did not seem to be there and the time the students spent looking at the clock annoyed me but I also waited for the class to end. The students wanted games and expected to be entertained besides learning English. At my age trying to teach English and do it in an entertaining way was just beyond my ability.

I worked very hard on my last class, at that time not knowing it was to be my last class, to prepare a song for them. To learn and to teach the meaning of the words, I selected the song, "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)".
It took me many hours to prepare the song and I memorized the two verses of the song so that I would have the confidence to teach the words and music since we had no piano or keyboard in the class. I thought that I had a good class prepared. Well it was not to be. The children kept on looking at the clock and I finally lost my patience and told them this class was torture for me and hoped the end would come soon. At the end of class we all left with not much spirit. The following week when I came to the class no one showed up.The students decided that they were going to end the torture and give me a break. I was disappointed that it had to end the way it did but they were telling me that I was not the teacher that they needed. It was also good for me for my efforts were of little use and a retired old man trying to deal with 5th and 6th graders was just too much.

I have a different admiration now for the teachers who can handle the children in their classes. With all the stimulation that the children are getting these days, to keep children interested for 40 minutes is a tremendously difficult task. In Korea as well in the other parts of the world children are children of the 21st century and it takes a teacher of this century to deal with them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Korean World Day 2010

The Catholic paper had an article reporting on the trip to Rome of Bishop Jo,
who is the head of the Bishops' committee for youth. The article mentioned the proceedings of the meeting of the international youth leaders. The Bishop said there was a positive change in the Australian Society towards the Church and the youth in consequence of the WYD.

The leaders of the youth movement in the different countries met in Rome for 3 days to discuss the 23rd World Youth Day that was held in Sydney in 2008 and the 2011 WYD to be held in Madrid. This will be the second WYD to be held in Spain, the first was 20 years ago in Compostela, the famous Pilgrimage Site in Spain.

. The WYD are held every three years, during the in-between years there are small
international youth group meetings in Vatican Square.

The Holy Father has designated themes to be considered during the years leading up to the WYD.

This year:(Timothy 4:10 “Our hopes are fixed on the living God.")

In 2010 the theme will be: (Mark: 10:17 “Good Teacher what must I do to share in everlasting life?”)

In the WYD of 2011: (Colossians 2:7 “ Be rooted in him and built up in him, growing ever stronger in faith.”

Next year the second Korean World Youth Day will be held in Ui Jeong Bu. The Bishop said that we are not having a KWD just to have a KWD but a time to relate with the youth of other dioceses and to exchange ideas. The Bishop hopes that the youth will take these themes that the Pope has given and use them to prepare our own
KWD. He hopes that someday they will be able to host the WYD.

The Bishop mentioned that the early disciples of
Christ were in their age bracket and asked that they be missionaries in giving the Church to the world and carrying this out in their lives.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The First Non-matyred Korean Saint?

One of the editorials in the Catholic Paper this past week was about the second Korean priest, Choe Yang Eop (Thomas). April 15 was the 160th year of his ordination. He is being proposed for beatification with 124 Korean martyrs. He will be the first non-martyred Saint. His cause is separated from those of the martyrs. He worked for 12 years in pastoral work among his Korean Christians. Kim Andrew was the first Korean Priest but died a martyrs death shortly after ordination. Fr. Choe was actually the one who helped the Church to grow. He can be considered a Korean Church Father. He was born in 1821 and died in 1861 overworked and dying of typhoid fever.

The editorial went on to say It is sad that the spirituality of Fr. Choe is so unknown among the Christians. They all know he was the second Korean Priest but they are not familiar with his spirituality.

This is also a time it said to look into the life of his mother, Ri Seong Rye. She temporarily denied her Faith because of her bond with her breast feeding son. She was able to overcome her maternal instincts,separating herself from her son and entering jail on her own to face beheading. This example of his mother was instrumental in making Fr.Thomas Choe the heroic figure that he was.

The editorial finishes on hope that he will soon enter the ranks of the Saints and be a new model of spirituality for the Catholics.

The Biggest Church in the World

According to 2005 statistics compiled by the South Korean government, approximately 46.5% of the South Korean population expresses no religious preference. Of the population, 29.3% are Christian (of which 18.3% profess to be Protestants and 10.9% to be Catholics), 22.8% are Buddhist, and the rest belong to various other religions.

South Korea has the largest mega church in the world. The Yoido Full Gospel Church has over 250,000 in attendance on an average Sunday. The membership is well over 800,000. It is reported that the 10 largest mega churches are in Seoul.

The Protestant Church demands a great deal of the Christians. The common understanding would be: no alcoholic beverages, no smoking, no work on Sunday,not to participate in the Korean Confucian Rites and to tithe, besides taking all the teachings of Jesus seriously. The Korean Protestant Church, for the most part would be evangelical and puritan in tradition.

It is difficult to make general statement about the Protestant Churches since they do differ much among themselves. The Yoido Full Gospel Church’s website says that “Full Gospel” means taking literally the Bible and accepting fully and totally all that is in the Bible. They list the Seven Theological Foundations of the Full Gospel as:

Faith in the Cross on Calvary

Faith in the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

Faith in the Spreading of the Gospel to All the World

Faith in the Good God

Faith in Christ Who Carries Our Diseases

Faith in Christ Who Will Return

Faith in Sharing (blessing through tithing)

We as Catholics would have little difficulty with most of this but the emphasis on the Gospel of Prosperity would have to be qualified a great deal.

The following report below was taken from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

2008 Annual Report on Religious Freedom in North Korea

“This report is based on a survey of 2047 North Korean defectors who entered in South Korea between 2007 and 2008 and on the data of 345 cases of religious persecutions in North Korea with 252 related persons.

According to the report, 99.7 percent of respondents said they cannot freely practice their religious belief in North Korea. When a North Korean practices or proclaims his/her religious belief in public, possesses religious things, or comes in contact with religious people, he/she is persecuted in North Korea.

Mr. John Yun Yeo-sang, who as an expert member of the CRKP took a charge of the survey and prepared the report, gave suggestions for solution to relieve and prevent the North Koreans from the religious persecutions: a regular monitoring of the reality of religious freedom and persecution in North Korea; working on a method to prevent North Koreans from the religious persecution and help its victims; inter-Korean religious exchanges and examination of a connection between humanitarian aid of the religious world to North Korea and the extension of religious freedom; strengthening official and unofficial religious approaches to North Koreans; organizing an interreligious federation to extend the religious freedom in North Korea; strengthening assistance to North Korean defectors in South Korea in practicing their religious belief; developing a long-term strategy for evangelizing North Korea.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Korean Church and Cyberspace

There are a few difficulties for the foreigner living in Korea and one of the least trying is the inability to register on the internet when it is required. We all have a 13 digit registration number. When it is used to access Korean websites most of them do not accept the alien registration. The government keeps on saying this will change and it probably has changed but the websites have not.

Even if this is true Korea has a wonderful internet system. In my understanding they have the world's fastest internet connection speed which will be getting even faster. It is a pleasure to work with the internet in Korea and the after service is just exceptional. All one has to to do is call KT and within a few hours he is at the house and no charge.

The Catholic Church in Korea has a great technical tie up with all the other dioceses for exchange of data but they are not in the forefront of using the internet for communication within the diocese between the Christians and the Diocese.

The Suwon Diocese has taken a lead with the starting of an internet newspaper. It will facilitate the mutual communication of the Christians and the Diocese. Since they are limited by the funds they have: a lot of people involved are volunteering their time and know how. Congratulations are deserved. Hopefully this will be a priming of the pump for the other Dioceses to follow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


This is pumasi" time in Korea (품앗이). Life without it would be very difficult. This is a word that is used to signify exchanging labor. It is not easy to find laborers to work in the fields so the farmers lend their hands to others to be repaid in kind when asked. This is partnership where the results are easily seen.

In the district in which I live there are usually 6 families that group themselves to help and be helped during the busiest times of the farming season. That means that with the husband and wife it usually is 12 people. Here in our district they are presently getting ready the rice seedling beds.

When I first came to Korea I remember seeing 3 farmers with one shovel working together. The one in the middle would hold the shovel and you would have one man on the right and the other on his left with a rope that each held that was tied to the shovel handle. It was like a dance. The man in the middle would take the lead with the shovel moving it from the earth that he was digging and letting the dirt in the shovel fly off in the direction that he chose. The other two with a similar rhythm would go back and forth helping the man with the shovel. It seems that they could do more work doing it separately but it would not be as much fun.

The word synergism can teach us a lot. I have heard it over and over again that two horses, pulling in unison, can pull more than three times the amount that each horse can pull separately. You hear this

so often that there has to be some truth to what is being said. I would like it to be true also in our human society. This would revolutionize everything. I also believe this is the reason Our Lord sent his disciples out in twos. One plus one can be more than two.

It has been said that the society we are living in has set the task of making it

unnecessary for one human being ever to ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business This is certainly not Christian nor very human either. Would it not be better to do nothing alone that could be done better with another? The Korean pumasi is a good lesson for us.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Catholic Website "HERE AND NOW"

A group of Catholics in Korea have launched the first "independent" Catholic news "Here and Now" website.

It is an attempt to focus on the poor and socially underprivileged ; it desires to stress the justice of God. It wants communication between the Church and the World. They do not desire to just follow the ways of the world but do not want to ignore it either. The group wants to take the Second Vatican Council seriously and attain its ideals. The priests, religious and laypeople as equals in communicating will make for a stronger Church.

The group wants two way communication between the Church and the World and within the Church. The group says the Church must not be like other groups that just selfishly think of themselves and become like a big business. They feel that the Church must search for ways to heal itself and overcome laziness.

The head of the Korean bishops' Committee for Social Communication admitted that existing Church media mostly highlights the clergy. He hopes that the new website "would help the Church mature by addressing laypeople's voices in various ways"

It was reported that over 3500 visitors a week visited the website even before it was launched. May it be a blessing for the Church in Korea.

Message for the Day for Persons with Disabilities

On the occasion of the 29th National Day for Persons with Disabilities, to be held on April 20, 2009, the Most Rev. Lucas Kim Woon-hoe, Episcopal Vicar for the Social Ministry of the Archdiocese of Seoul, issued a message with the theme of “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13,34).

In his message, Bishop Kim stressed that our neighbors with disabilities are same human beings with dignity and rights as I am. He said, “A person cannot be valued by the degree of his/her physical or mental disabilities, but by his/her human dignity.” Then he emphasized that we, human beings, are invaluable beings because we are loved by God.

Then he added, quoting the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II Laborem Exercens: “They too are fully human subjects with corresponding innate, sacred and inviolable rights, and, in spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man” (n. 22).

He concluded the message, saying, “I hope that this Day for Persons with Disabilities gives all the people in this land an opportunity to realize our Lord’s love for all of us with or without disabilities.”


There was an article in the Catholic Paper this week mentioning that the Catholic Church
in Jeon Jyu Diocese was defaced by graffiti. The Church is the Jeon Dong Church which was the oldest Romanesque Church built in the Honam district on the site where the first martyrs Yun Ji Chung (Paul) and Gwon Sang Yeon (Jacob) where martyred. This Church has been designated by the government as a place of historical interest.

In Korea it is rare to hear about the defacing of monuments or public places and Churches of any kind. I do not remember having ever heard of such a problem although there must have been situations where it has occurred. The article's big print had : "Who? Why? this Evil Deed?"

The understanding is that it was a deliberate act of at least 3 persons. It was done during the night and discovered in the morning by the Sisters of the parish. The writing was in three colors, blue, white and red. The words were ANTI CHRIST, PSEUDO and FUCK and similar words. There was also an upside down cross.

It is sad to see this type of defacement especially when it seems to be religiously motivated.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Conflict of Values

We are replacing presently an old fence behind the Church with a block foundation and a new fence. The property was surveyed. We are not claiming all the land that we own but trying to keep close to the line of the old fence. I thought this would be appreciated by our neighbors. Well, when the contractor started to work we had all the neighbors there complaining about the drainage. I thought that since we were so generous and were also interested in handling the drainage problem correctly all would be well. The contractor has his own views on what should be done. He was involved in the initial conflict and doesn't want a problem with the neighbors.

Even the Catholics and not only our neighbors are guided by the traditional Korean values. I am a Westerner with a more individualistic appreciation of my rights. The Korean Culture emphasizes group awareness, over my personal concerns. They are much more sensitive to the feelings of the others, and they on the whole do not like conflict.

These traditional Korean values seem to be more Christian than the values that I have been brought up with and consequently the conflict. I have decided to stay out of it for my own peace of mind but it is difficult.

We Need 3 Different Set of Eyes

This Korean e-mail was received yesterday in my e-mail and thought it worth sharing even though it is a poor translation.

First we need eyes to see ourselves. What do I want?
I need eyes to see truly what I need.

Secondly we need eyes to see the other.
To know what the other expects of me.
Not losing the core of what one live in harmony with the other
is forming a healthy personal relationship.

Thirdly Eyes to see the world.
How is the world changing?
I need eyes to see what I can do for the world.
If the society that I am part of does not grow then my growth will be limited.
We need to see ourselves and others with the eyes of wisdom to discern the society to which we belong.
When we have these eyes we can cultivate our will and strengths to positively change the society to which we belong.
First see myself, see the other and then extend to seeing the whole of society.
It is then that our ideal and the real world begin to come into harmony.
The person with these 3 set of eyes will walk firmly in the real world: the head and heart in the direction of the ideal.

What the Business World Want?

All of us who work in Korea know how strong the desire for education is on the part of parents.
I can recall when the family would raise a bull for the future education of the child. The times have changed but the sacrifice made on the part of the parents for the child is as strong as ever.
They strive to send them to the best schools and take the means to do this. The cost at times is very high.

Over the years the Country has made some big changes in their education policy. Many thought that the system was too rigid and the system did not produce flexible, creative people with the human touch. This has improved a great deal. However, I was surprised to see an article in the Chosun Ilbo ( 3/30/2009) that had many in the the business world saying that the students come out of college standardized . They were all too similar according to one manager. Another mentioned that a person loses his individuality. Another mentioned that they have the language ability and the technical expertise but they lack the creativity for the job. The statement that surprised me the most was a personnel manager who said that companies are looking for candidates who do not just have high scores on the Toeic and generally high marks in their studies but "they are looking first for people who can sacrifice for others but they are difficult to find."

Even if this was a statement of a very rare type of personnel manager it was rather surprising to see. It is a good sign that our Korean world of business is still influenced by the traits that we have come to see as important for a good life. And there are those who are not embarrassed to make it known publicly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Blessing of the Rainbow" Cha Dong-yeop

Fr. Cha Dong-yeop of the Incheon Diocese is a man on fire with the message of " positive thinking". His book the Blessing of the Rainbow has sold close to a million copies. He is intelligent, charismatic, well educated, confident and a propagandist for the 'will to do'. The publishers blurb for the book, mentions:

"Happiness and success depend on how you think.
You will be owner of your life if you throw away your
negative and passive thoughts and change them to
positive and active thoughts. The future is yours
when you challenge yourself with the faith that
'I can do it' ."

It is a happy reality that we have a Catholic Priest giving a very important message to all who are interested. In our theology we start off with a very important principle that "Grace builds on Nature". Fr. Cha is giving us a great deal of that foundation which is common sense and just basic natural principles that have worked for so many people.

The people in the States are very familiar with Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Another man a Protestant Minister, Norman Vincent Peale, had a best seller in, Power of Positive Thinking .These books have sold in the millions and are still popular. They have helped many to achieve a sense of self that they had lacked before.

Fr. Cha knows that he has detractors but this does not deter him for he is confident that what he has to say will be able to stand on its own with the passage of the years. Last year he gave over 600 talks, an indisputable sign of one who is on fire with a message.

Besides the Korean Edition there is also an English edition that may be ordered.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

English Excitement

I have been living in Korea for many years now and yes I have been working hard trying to learn the Korean language. But now, I hear many Koreans want to learn English- Why? Well business reasons of course but also the Koreans want to connect better with the world-

Korea used to be called the "Hermit Kingdom" but , wow, how that's changed.They are very curious, intensely interested in travel, hosting visitors from other countries. They want to live, study, meet young people overseas- So we "have to learn English" -- American English that is!


Kids in Korea want to study and learn-not only for better jobs but because they are curious about every thing- and want to understand. But often because many must go to work in factories to help support the family- they have little chance for school.

But about 30 years ago Maryknoll in Pan Song Dong in South Korea, set up a NIGHT SCHOOL for young factory workers, from 6pm to 9pm every day. It was tough to work and study but many finished the course.

Just last week I got a call from one of the students: Do you remember me-from your old night school? We're having a reunion- can you come? I went - didn't remember names but I recognized almost all the faces. They were not rich but I was so pleased that all were doing quite well with jobs and happy families.

Hostility and Beauty

I am a Maryknoll Priest living in a H.D.Village in Busan, a port city in South Korea. You possibly
have heard that the North Korean military has fired its rocket-missile. The countries didn't know where this rocket was to land- they were prepared to intercept and destroy it should it cross into international air space. So in the country and in neighboring countries the hostile feelings were high.

But a bit in contrast-last week I went with one of my young H.D. (leper disease) friends to the nearby city of Jin Hae. We went to take part in the Cherry Blossom Festival. Thousands from all over, sharing the magnificence of the spring Cherry, Plum, Apricot and Magnolia blossoms. It's hard, we were thinking, to keep hostility and beauty in your heart at the same time. Beauty seems to win out every time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The German Bishops and Korean Small Christian Groups

The Korean Church has a knack of being able to take a foreign program, adapt it to its own needs and very often do a better job with the results than the initial program. A good example of this is the Basic Christian Community Movement . There are many names for these small group meetings in homes. They are often called village meetings, ban meetings.They can meet weekly or monthly. Originally the movement came to Korea from South America.

They meet in the homes of the Christians. They share the word of God, share fellowship, and are united with the parish and the Universal Church. There is someone in charge of the proceedings usually a person appointed by the pastor to represent the Catholics in the village or different sections of a parish. It is an attempt to get more intimacy and experience Church as it should be and not as we have it in so many large parishes. "There is the desire to reestablish human relationships within the Community: to form church communities of a size that allow for true human relationships in the parish to which such groups belong and with the entire diocesan and universal church. In such a human context, it will be easier to gather to hear the Word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this Word, and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ."

It is obvious that there are many difficulties in forming these communities. The different expectations of the parish priests towards these groups is also a point of dispute. They are not always successful and the need for the families to have two working full time has put obstacles in the way. The movement, however, continues and efforts are being made to strengthen and improve it frequently.

There will be a workshop,this coming week, for the German Bishops and some other bishops from other countries who are associated with the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences). The German Catholic Church will be looking for help in renewing the life of the Christians in Germany with the pastoral model of small Christian Communities. The Church in Korea especially the dioceses of Suwon and Cheju have a good reputation in this area. That the German bishops will be coming to Korea for exposure to village groups is a good sign of this success.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Now that the mourning period is over for Cardinal Kim the diocese of Seoul has begun distributing stickers with the words: thanks' and 'love one another'. These are the last words that the Cardinal is recorded as saying before his death.

It is surprising, in many ways, to see how he touched the hearts of so many people. Certainly to be thankful and to love are two very basic teachings of all the religions and even of civic virtue.

The Cardinal was a simple man who became a superstar without any effort on his part. It was the humble insistence on respect for all that drew so many people to him before and after his death. No one was able to deter him from this message and it caused pain for some both in the Church and out. It was the Christian message expressed at a time when it was most difficult. There is no doubt that this is the reason for the love that has been shown him. I am sure this love will continue even with the passage of time

The sticker movement will get many of us to be more conscious of what he stood for during those many years as the Ordinary of Seoul and even after, in retirement.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Happy Easter

Just recently the diocese of Incheon had a program of study for those involved in the liturgical programs of the parishes. 270 members of 47 different parishes attended the educational program. They had a professor from the seminary give the lectures. I am always surprised at the interest many of our Catholics have to participate in these diocesan programs.

Tomorrow the priests of the diocese will participate in the Mass of Chrism at the cathedral. This is also the Day for Priests, with a meal together after the Mass. We were told that there is even a gift for all of us who attend. Most of the priests of the diocese will attend with many of the faithful. It is a visible sign of the unity and love that our Lord prayed for at the Last Supper. After the meal the priests and people will return to their parishes for the parish Masses that evening.

There will be a break in the posting until after Easter. A Happy Easter and may we all be better from our participation in the liturgy during these high days of the liturgical year.

텃 세 (Teo Se) Protecting Our Turf

As we approach the last days of Lent many thoughts come to mind. Certainly our Lord was not jealous of his turf. Nobody needed to worry about coming to him. These last days of Holy Week enable us reflect on the way he related with people. It was precisely because he did not protect his turf that he suffered much.

Some years ago while working in a small country parish I noticed a new parishioner and spent some time with her after Mass. She had decided to come to the parish to spend her last years, for she had heard of the good air and pleasant surroundings. She appeared to be a person with wealth and education. I tried to make it clear that she made a good choice for it was a nice part of our Korea. After a few weeks passed I noticed that she was no longer present at the daily Mass and asked some of the Christians. Well, it seemed that the 텃세 reputation that we had was experienced viscerally by the woman. She liked the area and everything was perfect except for the fact that she found it difficult to put roots down. I had heard the word 텃 세 over and over again but I now knew the results of this. They say this is rather a common experience of those relating to people living on an island. She did not receive the vibes from the Christians that made her feel welcomed. She was an outsider and she remained such. What she experienced was too much to overcome. She returned to where she had left.

Living in an area for a long period of time and especially when having a position of authority this phenomenon does not apply as it would for a simple member of a community. Teo se could be translated "advantage of being on one's own ground to act highhandedly." It is often seen in the animal world.

During these last days of Lent I wonder how much of this is a part of my life and those with who I am living. It is not easy for us to see ourselves as we are and this may be a blessing at times but not very Christ-like.

Monday, April 6, 2009


This story and reflection appeared in the Pastoral Newsletter sent to the priests in Korea. The following story taken from the daily paper was followed by his reflection.

A father took his son to the movies.
The man at the ticket booth asked : " how old is the boy?"
The father lying about the age of the boy was able to enter
without a ticket. The boy said to his father: "when I grow up
I am going to be as shrewd as you."

The problem here is honesty of the elder. At home and at school we teach
children not to lie. But in this case we have the father, who the son respects, without any shame, lying in front of the child. And with the lie
he enters without buying a ticket.The son learns from the father that to be honest you are going to lose out. The boy when grown up
is not going to have any qualms of conscience in lying and deceiving others.

The priest mentions that in our society there are too many lies.
On television we hear politicians lying brazenly.
Those in finance lie very naturally.
It seems that few see anything wrong with lying.
Neither do we have difficulty in lying.
To live without lying is difficult.
If we speak only the truth then things become difficult for us and others.
So even without a second thought we come out with a lie.
Even renowned leaders when something is disadvantageous come out with a lie.
Some one deceiving himself and others is a serious problem.
People for the most part do not think well of liers and avoid them.
On the other hand we like those who are honest and open.
In countries in which lying is prevalent we have lack of trust, progress and disunity.
It is not good for society. 'Do not lie' is not only part of the ten commandments but appears in many parts of Scripture: "Delight not in telling lie after lie, for it never results in good."
Sirach 7:13
The article ends with a quote from Nobel Prize winner Solzhenitsyn, " a simple person with
simple courage will always refuse to lie. "

It seems that transparency is a value that we all admire but fine very difficult to incorporate into our daily living.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Retired Life of Priest Scholar

There was an article in the recent Catholic Paper about Father O Kyeong Hwan ,a retired priest of the Incheon Diocese, who has in his seventies started a new life. He has always been a scholar but in the last 4 years he has begun the study of Science and Religion. He spends from 5 to 6 hours a day in the study of the relationship between the two.He feels somewhat frustrated that no Korean scholar or priest has entered this field to give us a lucid explanation of the relation between the two. This is the reason he has begun the study.

Fr. O thinks that the deeper we get into the study of the Natural Sciences there are many who are beginning to face many doubts. A great number of the scientist and intellectuals who rely on Science are denying the 'Existence of God'. The famous biologist Richard Dawkins puts forward evolution to deny the 'Existence of God.' The Catholic Church back in 1633 condemned Galileo for his holding the heliocentric theory. There has been from that time a conflict between the two fields of study. Fr. O feels very strongly this is no longer necessary and mentions this is also the direction of the Vatican. Evolution and Religion are both compatible and compliment each other. There is no conflict between the Church's idea of Creation and Evolution.

Father has his own website which is in Korean but he also has links in English to Theology and Natural Science, Vatican Observatory, and the International Society for Science and Religion. For those who are interested they may enter his website by going to: