Saturday, March 23, 2013

Working for the Common Good of Northeast Asia

Land disputes and North Korea's nuclear aspirations are just two of many issues causing tension in Northeast Asia. Japan's move to the political right, the weakening global influence of the United States, and China's increasing influence in the region are being watched closely.

Writing in the opinion column of the Catholic Times, a Jesuit professor of sociology sees these developments as having a great impact on Korea. Because of the geographical location of Korea, her future--political, financial, cultural--will be influenced by Japan, China, and of course by North Korea, and as always by the still substantial economic, political and military outreach of the United States.

Historically, the influence on Korea in the first half of the 20th century was wielded primarily by Japan; in the second half of the century by the United States, and it now is obvious to many that China will be the big influence on Korea during the first half of the 21st century. If this turns out to be the case, the Church, with its concern for peace and the common good of Northeast Asia, will also have to prepare for the changes to come. Though the threat of instability that this shift in influence suggests, desiring peace for our country alone, the professor says, is a short-sighted goal without the possibility of success.  If there is a head-on collision between China and Japan, as in the past, Korea will be involved so the Church needs to be concerned with the problems of the region.

The social doctrine of the Church (unfortunately not well-known) should be propagated in every way possible, he says, to mitigate the likely negative effects resulting from shifting geopolitical influences in the region. By emphasizing the need to search for  the common good, the reduction of armaments, the solidarity of humanity, and the other universal principles in its social message, the Church, he believes, should be working to  spread its message throughout the Northeast Asia region, making the evangelization of the region one of its priorities. The 16th century Catholic Church did not hold back on the personnel sent or the monies it spent in evangelizing China and Japan, but despite all the efforts and resources the results were small, and Catholicism in these two countries is still considered a foreign import.

Korea on the other hand did not receive the personnel nor the financial help given to China and Japan, and yet the results in Korea are far superior.  The Church after the Second Vatican Council was involved in trying to solve the  many social   issues that Korea faced which he feels contributed to  the development of Catholicism in Korea.

He wants the  Church to  transmit this learning experience to Northeast Asia.  Cardinal Stephen Kim often said that the Church does not exist for itself but for the world. More important than personnel and monies, the learning that the Korean Church has garnered from its experience should be given to the churches of these countries. He hopes the religious leaders of Korea, China and Japan will continue to meet often to deepen this learning experience and their understanding of their common mission in the region.

The professor sums up his thoughts by recalling how, after liberation, the Korean elite were educated by America, and he fears that there will be a similar educational move by the pro-American and pro-Chinese  factions within the country, if the common good is ignored, that could lead to conflict. This is reason enough, he says, to use the social doctrine of the Church to educate our future leaders to work for the common good of the region.                                                                                   

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