Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Loss of Hope

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.

First, he 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.

Secondly, 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.

The main 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.

The 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.

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