Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Justice Comes with a Price

"As a Society of Apostolic Life, our first priority has always been and remains the mission apostolate. We have always placed mission ahead of both community life and our own personal growth." These are the words addressed to the members, by the Maryknoll  Superior  General, in a report on the state of the Society at the end of the year. 

Fr. James Sinnott is a good example of a person whose priority was the mission apostolate, and it cost him a great deal. A recent book published by the Pauline Books and Media "A Critical Biography of James Sinnott," the subtitle was revealing: "The  People's Revolutionary Party and the Dong-A Newspaper fight for press freedom, shook my life completely."
In the forward to the book Kim Jong-cheol explains how he came to write the book. During the difficult years  under the Yushin Constitution from 1972 to 1981, Fr. Sinnott was well known by those who were imprisoned  under the Yushin Constitution. Families of the eight members of the so-called People's Revolutionary Party were hanged for being spies. They were later exonerated, and the  Revolutionary Party was seen as a fabrication of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency,  and  families  compensated. Fr. Sinnott together with Rev. George Ogle a United Methodist Minister worked to show the falseness of the allegations against the eight. Both Rev. Ogle first, and later Fr. Sinnott were expelled  from the country. 

Mr. Kim Jong-cheol mentions the last public appearance of Fr. Sinnott was at the 40th anniversary of the declaration of press freedom on Oct. 24, of last year. Fr. Sinnott gave a congratulatory message and very shortly after left the group. They noticed his weak condition and heard that he was admitted to a hospital shortly after where he remained until death. 

Two months after the death of Fr. Sinnott those who had great affection for the priest met together and agreed to write a biography of Fr. Sinnott before his first anniversary of death.  Others were willing to write the book, but because of lack of time to do the interviews and gather the material, Kim Jong-cheol was given the task. He knew Fr. Sinnott from the time when many of the reporters and those working for  Dong-A newspaper were having difficulties. The Korean Intelligence Agency was preventing commercial enterprises from advertising in the Dong-A and Fr. Sinnott and Fr. Ben Zweber, along with many other citizens, were putting ads in the paper giving the paper encouragement to continue the fight, but  lack of advertising and the control over press freedom by the government eventually weaken the will of the Dong-A company,  and they fired many of the  reporters and employees.

The  fight for the Peoples' Revolutionary Party ended with justice being done, and Fr. Sinnott lived to see the reversal, but the Dong-A reporters are still waiting for justice in their forty-year  battle against the State in the firing of the reporters. The recent court battle dismissed the state's liability for damages. The Hankyoreh Newspaper is the result of the fight with the State  and a free press. Dismissed reporters  started the Hankyoreh, which is still far behind the conservative press but gets high marks from journalists for reliability.

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