Thursday, September 23, 2021

Parades In North Korea

North Korea held a military parade at midnight on September 9, the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of the regime. The late-night military parade was filled with unusual sights compared to past military parades. It reflects Chairman Kim Jong-un's unique style of governance. A member of the Far East Research Problem Study Center gives the readers of the Catholic Peace Weekly in the Diagnoses of the Times column some thoughts on North Korea.
Chairman Kim has always been unpredictable. Almost all domestic media predicted that strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) would appear at this parade. However, instead of the regular army equipped strategic and tactical weapons, the reserve army, the Workers and Peasant Red Guard, police, the Social Security Force, were mobilized. The mechanized units of the Labor and Peasant Red Guards riding on motorcycles and tractors, were mobilized and attracted attention. A fire engine manufactured by German Mercedes-Benz also appeared. It was also unusual that the Emergency Quarantine Guard in charge of quarantine of the new coronavirus infection, marched wearing orange protective suits and gas masks. North Korea called the military parade a "civilian security force parade" for the first time.
What is the purpose of holding the military parade in the midst of the worsening economic hardship due to COVID-19? The labor force has more than 2 million troops and military equipment. The labor force is organized in all of society, including businesses, cooperative farms, and universities.

These are the reserve forces that are focused on economic projects in peacetime and become armed forces during wartime.The military parade has the purpose of showing off their comprehensive national defense capabilities, but at the same time it also has the character of a festival.

On the occasion of the establishment of the North Korean regime, the festival atmosphere was raised through celebratory nights and outdoor art performances from all over the country, gathering the hearts of the people tired of triple hardships: COVID-19,  sanctions against North Korea and low  morale. In other words, it is a North Korean-style prescription to soothe the public tired of COVID-19.
This is also the reason why three consecutive night parades were held in less than a year, including the parade commemorating the 8th Labor Party Congress in January of this year and the parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the party's founding on October 10 last year. During difficult times, the North Korean authorities hold military parades to inspire people's pride in their country, and to achieve nation  building through internal solidarity. 
The biggest task facing the Kim Jong-un regime now is to achieve the economic construction goal set at the 8th party congress. The labor force is not only a local defense armed force, but used as a catalyst for internal solidarity and to energize the populace.  Looking at the composition of this military parade, only those related to agriculture, youth, economy, and people's livelihood, participated. The military parade was used to encourage the people to be more active in the implementation of the five-year economic plan in their  workplaces.

The military parade is also a place to enforce the promises to the people. The ultimate goal of the current Kim Jong-un regime is to build a socialist state. In order to achieve this goal, "we are carrying out grandiose operations for the overall revival and development of the country and the promotion of the welfare of the people." At the same time, the government  emphasized that "the people's first principle should be thoroughly implemented in state activities and social life in general." This leads to a message that we should prioritize economic work and focus our efforts on improving people's living standards. After all, the parade is not only a place to show off combat power and unity, but of festivity and to remind them of their promises to the people. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Chance of Pope's Visit to North Korea

The present government administration, is nearing the end of its term, and is very much for a visit of Pope Francis to North Korea. On July 6th the head of the intelligence agency attended a Mass at the cathedral and said: "The government is pushing for the Pope's visit to North Korea."The government has been silent on the  progress since then. So begins the peace column by the press director of the Catholic Peace Weekly.

Discussions about the Pope’s visit to North Korea began three years ago, in October 2018, after President Moon delivered an invitation to the Pope to visit North Korea from Kim Jong-un. At that time, the Vatican and North Korea operated a communication channel for the 'Pope's visit'. San Egidio, (a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service),
visited Pyongyang, and a North Korean diplomat attended a San Egidio event in Rome. Italy has diplomatic ties, with North Korea and North Korea will be sending representatives to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.
Was it because of this movement? In January 2019, the Pope said, "There is a positive signal coming from the Korean Peninsula." However, the Pope's visit to North Korea was canceled as the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi ended in failure in February of that year. However, with the establishment of the Joe Biden administration in the United States in January this year, the hope for the Pope's visit to North Korea revived. Unlike the former Trump administration, the Biden administration's policy toward North Korea is quite flexible and dynamic. It is summarized as strict reciprocity.  President Moon said on several tours to the U.S. and Europe in May and June, "The day of the Pope's visit to North Korea will come soon."
Pope Francis has already made a decision to visit North Korea. In a Mass commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Kim Dae-gun, Andrew,  on August 21, Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik the first Korean to be appointed to the Roman Curia, he
assumed the position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy on August 2, this year. He has made known that the Pope twice emphasized: "I hope I can go to North Korea." In the meantime, he also delivered the Pope's message, "I hope you prepare well."
Earlier on August 16, Unification Minister said in a congratulatory speech for the video of "Inter-Korean Peace Day" to mark the 200th anniversary, "I hope the Pope's visit to North Korea will take place soon." In the meantime, if the visit to North Korea is made, he stressed, "A blessed seed of peace will be planted in the North Korean land, reconciliation to the global community, and a message of true life will be delivered."

In September and October, international meetings will be held, which could be important turning points for the Pope's visit to North Korea. First of all, the 17th is the 30th anniversary of the two Koreas joining the United Nations. Also, the 19th is the 3rd anniversary of the September 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration. At that time, the leaders of the two Koreas expressed their willingness to turn the Korean Peninsula into a peace base without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats in Pyongyang. The next day, the 20th, is the very day when the leaders of the two Koreas climbed  Baekdusan Mountain three years ago and promised to "invite the Pope to visit North Korea." The 76th UN General Assembly will begin discussion on the 21st. In addition, the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and the Pope will meet at the G20 summit in Rome at the end of October to discuss peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Now, the key to the "visit to North Korea" depends on North Korea. It is "North Korea's Invitation." Fortunately, North Korea, which cut off the inter-Korean communication line criticizing the ROK-US joint training, has not issued a hard-line message to South Korea and the U.S. after the training. 
The Pope's visit to Pyongyang will be a golden opportunity for North Korea to return as a member of the international community and receive support at a time when U.S.-led economic sanctions against North Korea and the COVID-19 pandemic continue. All the Pope's actions go beyond ideology, politics, and even religion. They are present unconditionally wherever there is poverty, discrimination, and conflict. Although it is a silent North Korean church, as long as there are brothers and sisters who share the faith in the North, the Pope will go there in search of a stray sheep. The South is urging Chairman Kim Jong-un to make a decision.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

All Life is Sacred

"Angulimala! I am always trying to stop violence against all living beings. However, you are not controlling yourself to do the same." The Buddha had stopped killing and harming and now it was time for Angulimala, to do likewise. Angulimala was so struck by these words that  he stopped; he threw away his weapons and followed the Buddha back to the monastery where he became a monk.

In the Catholic Times Eyes of the Believer column, a lawyer gives the readers the well known story in Buddhism about the criminal Angulimala who killed 999 people one after another and cut off their fingers to make necklaces. His original name was Ahimsa which  means non-killing, (the ethical principle of not causing harm to other living things)
Mahatma Gandhi always taught about non-killing and non-violence. Even those who wanted to harm him he would not resist them with violence and prayed for them. Angulimala, who was about to kill one more person to fill 1,000 people, was  converted by the Buddha, "Stop violence against existence," and became truly Ahimsa, a true disciple of the Buddha.
Recently everybody was talking about the prisoner Kang, who was released from prison broke the electronic anklet and killed two women. Even though the writer advocated for the abolition of the death penalty, for a moment, he thought that the prisoner deserved severe punishment. It turned out that he was the person who sent him a letter a few years ago that started with 'Dear Lawyer Kim'. He wanted a solitary cell so he would not have to listen to music, entertainment, and TV programs for 8 hours on weekdays and 12 hours on holidays. Since then, he has  given help through the Catholic Human Rights Commission, so his heart was heavy for a while hearing the news that he had killed two people after being released from prison.
The Angulimala story also came to mind. Just as Bible stories do, that story must be a metaphorical teaching. A parable that we humans do a lot of hating of our  brothers and sisters several times a day, and do a lot of killing of animal life as non-Buddhists. How many times have I hated people only 1,000 times?

Pope Francis also said this: "Even if you commit a very serious crime, the death penalty is unacceptable. The death penalty is an insult to inviolable life and human dignity. It is against God's merciful judgment on humans and society, and it interferes with a fair ending to sin. The Ten Commandments' 'Don't kill' has absolute value and applies not only to innocent people but also to sinners. We shouldn't forget that criminals also have the right to 'respect for life', a gift from God."
 According to the Pope, even the life of a person like Kang, is a gift from God, and his execution is violence against God's merciful judgment. For many this is hard to accept, but what can we do? Jesus also gave his life for these Angulimalas.
A presidential candidate promised to make a law that 
anyone given a death sentence must be executed within six months. Here in Korea the death penalty has been effectively abolished because it has not been executed for 24 years. 
The Norwegian Prime Minister said in remembrance of the 69 youths killed by one terrorist in 2011. "We are shocked, but we will not give up our values. Our response to terrorism is more democracy, more openness and more humanity. A simple violent response to violence  is never the answer. If one person can create so much hate, just imagine how much love we all can create." That's right. Only Ahimsa is the answer to Himsa (violence, killing).

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Leaven That Brings Change and Creativity

"No man can live happily who regards himself alone, who turns everything to his own advantage. Thou must live for another if thou wishes to live for thyself." "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." These two quotes the first from Seneca and the second from Nietzsche are examples that life is rough, non-believers who in the difficulties of their own lives knew what made sense even if they did not live according to their ideals.

In the Catholic Times the priest writer of Light of the World column reminds the readers that with faith we have the leaven that brings about change and creativity. He begins with an account of person who helped another not with any thing material but inviting him to work together for others. He realized later that the material aid he was looking for would not have helped as much as the invitation to help others.

The writer is concerned with  social issues and their solutions. The difficulties always remain with many conflicts, tensions over the limited goods in society which require  maturity and effort to deal with them properly.

Solving problems is by no means easy. When one is solved, another problem develops and seems to go on endlessly. God loves the world, and God's salvation exists in this world, but endless fights, disputes, alienation, and poverty never end. Is that why in the end, the social, political, and economic achievements of civilization are only relative and tentative, so the apostle Paul said that the world we see is going to disappear? (1 Cor. 7,31).

However the church exists in this world. "Humans live in this world, but should not be manipulated by the world. The Church's social doctrine is presented as a 'work site' where the work is always in progress, where perennial truth penetrates and permeates new circumstances, indicating paths of justice and peace. Faith does not presume to confine changeable social and political realities within a closed framework.
Rather, the contrary is true: faith is the leaven of innovation and creativity. The teaching that constantly takes this as its starting point develops through reflection applied to the changing situations of this world, under the driving force of the Gospel as the source of renewal" #86 Compendium of the Social Gospel.

What puts human activities in crisis is our excessive narcissism and arrogance that keeps faith and gospel away, which is also the most important lesson of faith learned from the Scriptures— Arrogance, the biggest root of sin and helplessness.

If you work hard on anything, you will suffer. Faithful efforts, good deeds and charity, interest and patience, and all activities that have a good influence on neighbors and society will naturally become depleted and exhausted. The most appropriate prescription for this is to take the time to pray and stay close to the teaching of the gospel.

Many great people who have dedicated their lives for their neighbors, such as Cardinal Kim and Sister Mother Teresa, did not leave out prayer in their activities resonates with the writer. 
We gain new strength and motivation through the teaching of the gospel to continue the work of the Lord. The gift of faith  does not stop there. Faith makes a path for us to walk and new things to do when we enter dead-ends, despair and darkness. Faith one of God's most precious gifts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Life Giving Porridge


"I am sorry, it's stomach cancer." Words after a biopsy said with great delicacy by a fellow doctor, some 30 years ago to the writer of this article in the Catholic Digest. At that time the writer was busy as a doctor in internal medicine on hospital duty.

The words were like being hit on the head with a mallet. That evening at the hospital he watched the Japanese Emperor's Funeral broadcast on CNN. He was the one lying in the casket.

The next day when his night duty ended, he returned home; the whole world seemed to have changed. Everybody he saw on the way home seemed happier than he was at that moment.

How was he going to tell his wife of the biopsy? He wanted to grab the two hands of his wife and pray, it was the first time earnest words of prayer were uttered. He told his wife of the stomach cancer.
"I was not living as I should, was the reason for the disease; I will from now on start living well and I will be healed" these words flowed from his lips as if beyond his control.
He asked his wife to wash the dirt away soaking himself in the bathwater of the tub, his wife's tears mixed with the water. His future hidden by a large rock broke and thru a crevice, he began to see light.

At first, he wanted to go overseas to a famous cancer hospital but finally decided to pick an operating doctor who considered his work as art and with skillful hands.
Waiting for the operation he read many books, watched videos that gave the readers hope. Persons with incurable diseases and with their stories and recommendations on what to do, and eat. He was surprised to see the number of books on the subject. Eating and living correctly he would achieve health.

In stomach cancer surgery, the lower part of the stomach is cut and the remaining upper part is connected to the small intestine in many cases.
But his cancer occurred in the upper part of the stomach, close to the esophagus. He had no choice but to undergo major surgery to completely remove the stomach and connect the small intestine to the esophagus. He doesn't have a stomach or spleen, and only half of the pancreas is left, he is no longer a normal person with five organs and 6 intestines but firmly believed that healthy life activities were possible with only the rest of the organs because of the resiliency of the body.

The operating doctor in the biopsy said that cancer had spread to the lymph glands. He was struck another blow but quickly: What do we do now? Whatever be the case he was determined to regain health. He was asked if he wanted to begin chemotherapy? He politely refused for he felt it would interfere with his natural healing power. Health would come by eating, drinking, resting, and living a life of moderation so that the healing power that the Creator had prepared would be activated.

No matter what the statistics say no matter how bad they looked he would overcome the statistics, even though he felt  he was being reckless he continued to harbor the hope he had from the beginning.

The menu he received was from the United States, no menu for Koreans. After surgery, his wife started making porridge for him. The main ingredients were brown rice, corn, peas, onions, carrots, and dried mushrooms soaked in anchovy broth. The porridge was nutritious and tasty and felt good after eating; it felt like every cell in his body was washed and cleansed. In the past, soft drinks, sausages, bacon, he once enjoyed, lost all their attraction.

After 6 weeks he returned to the hospital and his internal medicine position. Fellow doctors recommended he take his medical disability money and live peacefully taking care of his health but he found the work more satisfying.

After cancer surgery living 10 years is considered to be close to a cure. The reasons for the results are the porridge and his wife's love.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Policies To Eradicate Fake News in Korea


What are the three disasters facing the people on Earth in this new century? Perhaps it's climate change, coronavirus, and fake news. Recently, people around the world have experienced these three disasters. A university professor in the communication department gives the readers in the Eyes of the Believer column of the Catholic Times his ideas on the subject. 

All of these disasters are the natural consequences of our actions. In particular, digital technological progress has given us a media revolution, but it has also brought us fake news. Humans have long witnessed how fake news destroys world peace and democracy. (this fake news is often not unintentionally misreported facts, but intentionally manipulated false information)


The origin of the overflowing fake news is mainly digital media. Currently, about 75% of the 9,400 registered Internet media applications handled annually by the Press Arbitration Committee, are Internet media. Single-person media such as YouTube, which conveys opinions such as speculation and confirmation bias as if they were true, are more of a problem.


Meanwhile, traditional media such as newspapers and broadcasting are also responding to the media ecosystem—often deviating from journalistic rules and causing exaggeration, distortion, and manipulation due to profitability and politics.


Koreans have little confidence in the media. For example, just looking at the results of last year's media reliability survey of 40 countries by the Reuters Journalism Research Institute in the UK, Korea is at the bottom.

This reality is also in line with the results of a public opinion poll on the revision of the Media Arbitration Act. The result is that 60~70% of the survey subjects are in favor of the ruling party's amendment to the Media Arbitration Act—a different result from the situation that many media and legal officials hold. 


It shows that the general public has a great sense of distrust and rejection of fake news and the media in general. Media experts estimate that the number of daily news stories in Korea is between 60,000 and 70,000. Much of this news is fake news that goes through the production process of plagiarism and manipulation, omitting proper coverage and fact-checking. Is this not the reason we hear the sarcastic remark of 'news reincarnation'? 


First of all, there are legislative regulations on countermeasures against fake news disasters. So far, 18 countries have introduced various media regulations despite controversy over being "anti-democratic."

In Korea, the amendment to the Press Arbitration Act submitted by the ruling party heated up the political situation throughout the summer. In the end, the National Assembly's process was delayed as the ruling and opposition parties compromised to submit it to the plenary session on Sept. 27. However, due to the wide difference in opinions between the ruling and opposition parties, the revision is likely to eventually be handled by the ruling party alone or postponed. 

Looking at the public's distrust and rejection of the media alone, the purpose of revising the Media Arbitration Act seems reasonable. However, at least two points should be pointed out.

First of all, some controversial provisions need to be addressed. These have been controversial at home and abroad because of the possibility of restricting freedom of expression and information, especially those pointed out by the UN Human Rights Office. The law already has 56 laws and regulations to crack down on fake news, from the Criminal Act on defamation to the Telecommunications Act. 


An ambiguous clause: "requirements for presuming intentional or gross negligence," and a clause that raised concerns that the media could be censored and punitively charged five times the previous amount for damages were problems. It is also absurd that one-person media, which is said to be a hotbed of fake news, was excluded from the regulation.


Second, as a universal countermeasure against fake news, it is essential to ▲ support and strengthen the fact-checking system of media companies ▲ implement media literacy (education to awaken media literacy) for all citizens in addition to legal regulations. However, in Korea, the focus is mainly on legal regulations. Support policies are few or being implemented very slowly. We should not focus only on legislation in the revision of the Media Arbitration Act expecting approval ratings of opinion polls but work together to support the public and the media with policies.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Leaving Religion in Korea

A professor of religious studies in a secular university writes in a bulletin for priests on the religious situation in Korea. For over 50 years, the religious population of the country continued to rise but then sharply began to decrease. From 2005 to 2015 it decreased from 53.1 % to 43.9%.

The Korean Gallup survey made earlier this year showed the same results. In 2004 the religious population of the country was up to 54%, in 2014 it was 50% in 2021 it was 40%. The percentage of the younger generation was even more pronounced. In 2021 those in their 20s who are believers 22%, in their 30s, 30% in the 40s, 32%. 98 percent of the believers in Korea are members of the three main creeds.

Among the religions, Buddhism decreased from 22% to 16 %, Protestantism from 21 % to 17 %, and Catholics from 7% to 6 %. Surprisingly the good feeling towards religion has gone from 33% in 2004 to 46% in 2014 and in 2021 it went up to 61%. The professor believes this is the result of the many who have left their religion.

It was understood that in a society where fears of danger were present we had a demand for religion and its growth. In Korea because of the pandemic for well over a year, in a 'high-risk society, paradoxically, the decline in the religious population in Korea, is a mystery.

At that time, he thought it was necessary to distinguish in predicting the change in the religious population, to distinguish between the entire external religious terrain and the internal. (I wonder if this is not what the West sees in the phrase I am not religious but spiritual)
He sees in the last 20 years in Korea a noticeable increase in hazards to the good life. Jobs are harder to find, less security in labor, small business problems, the five day week and 40 hours have brought about voluntary and involuntary problems which has made religious life more difficult for many.

The overall decrease in the frequency of social remarks by the church, selective remarks, and when dealing with political, social, and ethical topics it's only conservative images that the citizens hear.

Working together in the Church, in establishing a human network that will proclaim an integrated Catholic policy would be the best emergency prescription to reverse the trend of abandoning religion.

In the mid-to-long-term outlook, important to prevent polarization of society, a situation that keeps vulnerable people away from the church, and to help everyone enjoy weekend life.