Religion, and spirituality in general, continues to receive the respect of many Koreans, even though most have no religion and despite an increasingly secular lifestyle approaching that of the West.
Surveys over the years have consistently shown that Catholic clergy are very much respected and trusted for what has been described as their "authenticity" and "sincerity." They placed first in this category in surveys taken in 1970 through 2000; after 2000, respect for the priesthood slid to 11th place overall, perhaps due to the increase in the number of priests. (Firemen came in first, nurses second, environmental workers third. ) However, within the field of religion priests still came in first.
Regarding the respect factor generated by organizations, the Catholic Church placed first, ahead of the Buddhists, and Protestants. A monthly bulletin for priests attributes the high rating to the involvement of the Church in past human rights issues.
In one survey that sought to determine the happiness index of workers from a variety of occupations, 100 in all, the priesthood placed 4th. Although the priesthood is not considered an occupation by the Church, most people see it as a job just like any secular activity that receives remuneration. (Grammar school principals were first)
In 2006, a survey of 143 priests in a Korean diocese revealed that personal relationships among some priests were not ideal. Among fellow priests 37.1 percent were uncomfortable with the relationship, and 27.3 percent of them considered their relationship with the ordinary and bishop uncomfortable. It's the quality of the relationship with the bishop, according to the monthly bulletin, that will determine to a great extent the spirit of the priest.
Although the Holy Spirit is active in the work of the Church, this does not guarantee that all priests will be in a trusting relationship with their bishop.
It's important to remember that the Church is not a place where clergy and laity are looking for ease and comfort or even looking for respect; nor is it an association of friends. It should be a place, the writer says, where we wrestle with the problems in the world, and work for peace. This is the work given to us as our core ministry by Jesus.