Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Concern for the Alienated in Korean Society

"Who in our society are the most alienated?" It's a question she  often asks herself. " Since society is not interested," she says, "we have to find  and help them."  Park Sun-young (Teresa), a former  lawmaker, is recognized for her work with the marginalized in Korean society.  Called the Godmother of  North Korean defectors living in the South, she worked as a lawmaker for their human rights. She fasted for eleven days in front of  the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to bring the public's attention to China's policy of returning North Korean defectors in China back to North Korea.

Most of the  20,000 North Koreans who have defected to  South Korea have come from China.  In China, they would be  considered  illegal migrants and are sent back to North Korea where they are severely punished, even though International law prohibits the forcible repatriation of any individual to a country where they are at risk of facing persecution.  World opinion continues to appeal to China to abide by International law.

Teresa,  besides working with the defectors,  concerns herself with the "comfort grandmothers" (Korean young women forced by the Japanese military to become prostitutes for the pleasure of their soldiers; also with the Sakhalin stateless people, ( the children of Korean workers who were conscripted to work on this Russian island by the Japanese and have not received Korean citizenship.);  with former prisoners of the Korea War, and all those who are suffering and society has forgotten.

She said that when she became a lawmaker she was going to live the Catholic vision of social justice and be concerned with the forgotten in our society, in the way Jesus showed us. She was saddened when her fellow Catholic lawmakers approved of abortion, the  death penalty, and were against the culture of life movement.

She left politics, she said, because it was an obstacle to  doing what she wanted  for human rights. Many saw her activities in the service of others as political;  others poked fun at her efforts as merely disguised attempts to make the limelight. She was unconcerned about the personal attacks, and was happy to put aside the lawmaker's credentials and concentrate on  working for the rights of those who were not recognized by society.

Unfortunately, Catholics have not been as active, she says, as the other religions have been in helping the North Korean defectors. Today, she still  teaches in the law department of a Korean University, while continuing  her activities for the marginalized of Korean society.

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