Question number nine: What is the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice that we have heard so much about in the news and newspaper articles from the time of the military rule?
This year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice. In 1974 one of the Diocesan Bishops, Chi Hak-sun, was imprisoned by the Military Government for his opposition to the human rights violations to extend the military rule of the government over the country. The Korean bishops made it clear that the work for justice is the duty of the bishops and supported Bishop Chi. He was released and put under house arrest living in a convent. He opposed the Yushin Constitution proclaimed by the military government and called it null and void, and was arrested again and sentenced to 15 years in prison. This was the start of the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice.
From this time, the Association began to have Masses and prayer meetings and declarations for the protection of human rights, restoration of democracy, freedom of the press and the protection of the laborers and the weak in society. Many of the priests where arrested for violation of the emergency measures of the government and imprisoned. They continued their opposition and suffered for it.
In 1980 they worked to stop torture, the release of prisoners of conscience, and to restore democracy. In 1987 the torture and death of Park
Jong-chul became a critical blow to the dictatorial rule. The student died during a police
interrogation. The Priests' Association began making the facts of the case known, and this extended the Association's influence in Korean society, and helped bring an end to the military rule of the government.
The Catholic Priests' Association for Justice continued to work for reconciliation and unity, and the end to harassment of workers, farmers, and students. With the help of a well known lawyer the corruption in big business was exposed, where money became the new God. The well know whistle blowing lawyer tried to bring his case to the mass media, but no one was interested, and finally went to the Priests' Association.
They continue to speak about issues that are in the news and seek to shed light, working for justice in society. The recent Sewol tragedy is one of the latest issues in which they are working to make known the truth behind the tragedy.
For the last forty years they have worked to make a just society with prayer and action. Many say what they did during the military rule was necessary and appreciated but now they are involved in too many issues. We had the same words expressed during the military rule. It is always necessary to see the evils we have in society and make them known. When the idol of money is attacked, the priests are called leftists; when authority is challenged we hear: servants of North Korea. The financial conglomerates, says the professor, have the mass media under their wing, and in search of money and power do the bidding of big business.