One of our very outspoken elder priests, 86 years old, who has been president of the Catholic University and a professor at Sogang University, was interviewed by one of the Korean dailies on the present situation in the country. Though the priest was not enthusiastic about either the past or present political conditions in Korea, the interviewer said he would always end up on a hopeful note.
He gave his opinion on the state of affairs with the North. The regime in the North, he feels, will not last long. We had the tyrannies of Mao Zedong and Stalin and our own tyrannies of past dynasties. But 29-year old Kim Jong-eun, who has studied in Europe, will have difficulty following in the steps of past dictators and keeping control of the country. Once the internal structures are in place, the priest believes that Kim Jong-eun will be open to giving his people more freedom. Having learned and seen a lot outside of the country, he will try to realize these dreams by changing the way the country is governed, the priest said.
He reflected also on our recent Seoul mayoral contest between candidates from the two major parties, neither one getting much support from the voters, compared to the non-aligned candidate. Next year's election for the presidency also has an independent candidate who is popular with the voters. The young especially are showing distaste for the two major parties. Attempts of the government to reach the young people have not been successful. The reality of the current situation is that Korean college graduates are not finding work or are underemployed, and that the suicide rate for the young is high. Some of the younger people, the priest said, are members of the '88 Generation' because they are taking jobs for an average of less than a thousand dollars a month, a very low salary for a college graduate.
Korea is a small country, and it is impossible to put all the college graduates to work. His solution is to send them overseas like our Olympic ice skating queen Kim Yuna. If the young are kept in the country, he believes it will foster the leftist philosophy of our future leaders.
His solution is to create a Culture Corps. We have learned a great deal from the time of the Korea War, he said. It is time now to help other countries by sending our graduates where they are needed: to eradicate illiteracy, to help schooling the disadvantaged, and to setup medical projects. At least 200,000 workers will be needed and should be given from 2,500 to 3,000 dollars monthly, a very attractive salary. It will be a great drain on the country, he admits, but he believes it will all come back to us when they return. This will help alleviate the conflicts between the younger and older generations and be a good example to the rest of the world.
He points out that they will not be going out as workers with specialized skills but simply as persons intent on helping others live a better life. Is there any other work that will have so many good benefits? he asks.
That we will ever see this happening is not very likely. But to have one of our elders thinking these thoughts may inspire others to do the same, and in time maybe what now seems unlikely may become reality.