Monday, October 14, 2019

Passing Down Social Status

Pope Francis in August of  2014 beatified  Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions. The writer in the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly reminisces and gives us some thoughts on the kind of society we have made. Blessed Paul impressed the writer in refusing to have the funeral rites for his mother according to the customs of the time because for him it had elements which he considered superstitious and because of this died a martyr. Not following social custom was shocking to the Joseon society and the Confucian tradition.

Another of the Blessed was Hwang Il-kwang, Simon (1757-1802). He was a member of the lowest class in society but was treated so well that he felt he was already in heaven. He was just moving from one heaven to another. For him the church was a light that opened the way for us to live in heaven.

Recently Korean society has seen the way some of the elite in society have used their influence to gain benefits that the ordinary citizen would find impossible, showing the inequality and unfair structures of society. Blessed Simon may be looking down from heaven with a sad heart. In the believers' village in which he lived, the upper class lived with the commoners and the lowest of society, and all sharing what they had, poor they were, but nobody in that village was dying from hunger in the Confucian society of that day.

In our society argue some: children are born with gold, silver, copper, and earthen spoons depending on their parents' wealth and power. In addition to inheriting wealth, the homes where they live, children inherit the parents high social status, and specialties: the best work, professorships,and positions in law and medicine. But if they inherit such positions  through fair competition there is no problem but through unfair competition and corruption, this angers the young people.

Status patrimony is usually more associated with the conservatives in society but it doesn't matter for it is now pretty much  the same on the right or left. It is more common with those financially better off and the desire to secure a better future for their children with illegality, shortcuts and ethical irregularities.

We often hear that the 386 generation (The '386 Generation' is the generation of South Koreans born in the 1960s) are now in the mid to late 50s in age and the generations who live the best since Dangun, the founding father of the Korean nation. Those in their 20s and 30s are the first generation to live a more difficult life than their parents. Difficulties of those in their 20s and 30s can be quickly recognized by the problem of expanding irregular jobs, booming home prices, late marriages, low birth rates and the cost of children's education. The starting line for the young people who have inherited the earthen spoons will be left behind.

The late Cardinal Kim Su-hwan said he was more concerned with the peace of life in this world more than the peace of the future, and with the peace in life, not the peace of mind. A famous Buddhist monk had the same thoughts in that we need to work towards a heaven on this  earth with our efforts.

It is said that more than 10,000 of our ancestors in the  faith sacrificed their lives from the persecution of 1791 to 1866. Many of the ancestors like Blessed Simon Hwang would have dreamed of a world with equality with no  passing on of social status. Just as the Catholic Church was a light to our ancestors, it is now the time the church needs to speak for the young people in their 20s and 30s and feel their pain and understand their hearts and lead them to a present-day heaven.

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