Right after ordination in his first parish as an assistant, a priest who is now president of a theological department in a Catholic University, recalls a high school student now in his early thirties.
He graduated from a private college, and
joined the labor force in a couple of small firms near his home, and is now seeking to emigrate. The priest asked him why did he want to leave
the country since his not living a life of poverty? His answer came very quickly and as if prepared.
has looked at Australia and North Europe and noticed that no
matter what job they have there is no problem in living a decent life.
In Korea the hourly wage is about 5 dollars which makes it difficult to
have a good meal. This minimum wage is not
even followed in many work places. In most countries difficult work receives a higher pay, but not Korea.
its difficult to find places of rest during an eight hour day of work
and when present we are conscious of the boss. In
foreign work places, restaurants, shops, factories the time to begin
and end work, and times of rest are clearly known and even if the work
is difficult it is not seen as demeaning.
reason the young man wants to leave, he says, is lack of hope in the future. Even if there were difficulties along the way with a dream of
something better in the future, all can be overcome. Without hope we
fall into a bottomless pit. These thoughts expressed by the young man
are not unique with him adds the writer.
Comparing Korea with similar
economic developed countries the pay is low, the hours of work are long,
and the difficulty of work is higher. The pensions are lower, and health and chances for education are little, and societies outreach to the
workers is less.
Over half of the workers are not
regular in Korea and non-regular workers make only 60 % of what the
regular workers make. The number of irregular workers that become
regular workers is very small. Once irregular many remain in that
position for life. Also the numbers who are able to break out of the
poverty level continues to decrease over the past 10 years. Children
inherit the parent's poverty and their irregular work position.
priest remembers the words the young man repeated: "We young people
have no future, no possibilities , no possibility." How are we to address
these young people? What is the Church to do and say? What is a
Christian to say? The Social Gospel of the Church is to try to answer
this absence of hope.