Many in Korea are experiencing a recession. Looking around you saw faces that lack vitality. A priest columnist with a doctorate in social science writes about the situation in the Peace Weekly. He mentions the MERS virus, the Sewol tragedy as some of the factors but the most pressing problem is the economic condition of society. The gap between the upper 10 percent, and the lower 10 percent continues to grow.
Those able to leave poverty over the past 10 years were one out of five. Which means that no matter how much they try to leave poverty it is not working. The wealthy and the powerful are able to transmit what they have to the next generation, and the poor are also transmitting their poverty to those that follow. The columnist feels that we are getting much like the capitalism of South America.
How does one break out of this way of living? Dreaming about making it big in the lottery or the stock market is not going to work. Even if all are going to be workers, parents don't see that as a possibility for their children. He wants the laborers to start getting their proper treatment-- government, and society should facilitate this change. Everyone should not only be working to get out of poverty, but all should be working to help the welfare system in the country. Korea is one of the lowest in the money spent on welfare in comparison to the other developed countries.
Korea's problem is not that the people are lazy or that morality is the issue, but we don't have a good distribution of the wealth of the nation. We need a prescription that is proper for the ailment.
In 1891, Leo XIII wrote the encyclical Of New Things in a time similar to the present conditions we have in Korea. The pope's prescription was to return dignity to the workers, respect for rights of the workers, and a just wage. This teaching from 120 years ago is also now a valid teaching for society.
To beat the recession, we need to do something-- change the way we live and our attitude. In a consumer society, the big companies keep on stroking the greed of the citizens to buy more. When a car is bought, they are selling a fantasy, an image when buying an apartment. We need to free ourselves from materialism and consumerism, which will do much to weaken the recession. When we separate ourselves from the material and live a little bit more uncomfortably we will be fighting our recession and return to a deeper Christian spirituality.