Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Hypothetical Korean WYD

The recent World Youth Day in Spain, attended by well over a million young people without serious problems, prompted a journalist for the Peace Weekly to imagine what  a WYD  would look like in Korea in 2020. He imagined a new pope who would be taking his first trip to Korea for the event. Although Brazil will host the next WYD in 2013, the journalist wanted to take a look at the difficulties of  hosting a WYD in Korea.

For the Church to host an event of this size without  government help would be, he believes, impossible. Finding appropriate meeting places and sleeping facilities, and making the necessary travel arrangements would be obstacles difficult to surmount. The Church did host, in 1984, the 200th  anniversary of the beginning of Catholicism in Korea, and the 44th Eucharistic Congress in 1989, but these events were, for the most part, internal to the country, and foreign visitors, even for the Eucharistic Congress, numbered only about 7000. With an expected 300,000 visitors coming to Korea for WYD for a stay of about a week, the journalist wonders how the citizens of Seoul would  react to the noise, the regulating of the transportation, and the disruption of city life--all to accommodate one religion.

In a country like Spain, where 90 percent of the population acknowledges Catholicism as their religion, this inconvenience was accepted, but what would be the reaction in Korea where Catholicism numbers just over 10 percent? If we did  have a WYD in Korea it would  be hosted in a country that would  have, in comparison with other host countries of the event, the fewest Catholics.

It would be necessary, the journalist says, to get the permission of the citizens to accept the inconveniences, and also of the  other religions.  In Madrid, even late at night, there would be young people singing and playing the guitar, and causing a commotion in the subways. In Korea recently, a young foreigner who was making a loud noise while on the subway was told to keep quiet, which started a fight. This small incident would very likely  be multiplied thousands of times during WYD because of the large number of young people.

Even if the week were arranged as well as could be expected, there would still be the difficulty of having enough varied  programs to keep everyone interested.  In Madrid there were over 300 different programs available. WYD would also be an opportunity of introducing the Korean Church to the rest of the world: a Church that began without foreign missioners, nurtured with the lives of the martyrs,  and developing into a dynamic Catholicism, in which we take much pride.

The majority of the attendees in Madrid came from Europe, and many others came from Central and South America, attracted by the short distances and fewer expenses.To attract the young people to come to Korea will be an even bigger task.

To come to Korea from the West would mean a plane ride of over 10 hours and an expense three or four times that of going to Madrid from the West. The first time they had the WYD in the Orient was in the Philippines. And most of those who attended were from the Philippines, which made the image of a worldwide youth event  questionable.  Total expenses for the Madrid WYD was 72 million, 63 percent from registrations, 33 percent from sponsors, and 4 percent from donations.

The journalist seems to be rather pessimistic on the ability of the Catholic Church to host such an event, believing that the conditions necessary for a successful WYD would be outside the control of the Church. Although the organizational ability of Koreans is exceptional, organizing a WYD would be the least of the worries. 


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