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ACN KOREA

 

Pray for Peace in Korea – Aid to the Church in Need

26.04.2018 in ACN KOREA, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Asia, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Prayer

Historical meeting in Korea on April 27th.

Please, Pray for peace in Korea! 

 

Aid to the Church in Need has a National office in South Korea for three years. At several occasion, people who were visited were brought beyond the boundary line. Just below, one delegation visited in 2017.

 

The ACN Delegation in front of the border line. From left: Sister Kizza, Father Raymond, Mark v. Riedemann, Archbishop Shaw, Johannes Klausa, Bishop Yu Soo-il, David Jones, Samuel Maksan and Philipp Ozores

The PDF File is a prayer card to Our Lady, prepared by the National office in Korea.
You can share it and pray with it as well.
ACN-20180426-70416.

 

 

ACN Interview – Korea – After the Olympic, will romance continue?

02.03.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN Intl, ACN KOREA, Asia, By Maria Lozano, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau

Korea:

What will happen to the inter-Korean Olympic romance after the Olympic fire has gone out?

Rarely have current politics played such a key role in the Olympic Winter Games as they did in PyeongChang. Maria Lozano spoke with the director of the South Korean office of Aid to the Church in Need in Seoul, Johannes Klausa, about the fragile step the North and South have taken towards one another and the situation of Christians.

 

Johannes Klausa, National Director of Korea. “Unfortunately, the arguments of those who support taking a hard line against the North cannot be dismissed that easily. If there is serious interest in a lasting solution and real change to the situation on the Korean peninsula, I believe that there is no way to avoid starting a dialogue, building up mutual trust and signing a peace treaty.”

 

ACN-International – The Olympic Winter Games have just drawn to a close. Some have called PyeongChang a historic show of unity. What is your opinion?

In spite of all the tensions and unsolved problems, the Olympic Spirit briefly brought divided Korea one step closer together. Athletes from the south and the north marched under a united flag at the opening ceremony. A unified women’s Korean ice hockey team was even set up on short notice, which may not have exactly shone on the ice, with 28 goals scored against them in five games, but still captured headlines all over the world. The actual achievement lies in the fact that it was even possible to set up a team. Just a few months earlier, no one would have been surprised if Pyongyang had sent missiles over to the Olympics instead of athletes and cheerleaders.

Johannes Klausa – Do you believe that the progress that was made will last?

It remains to be seen whether the step the two Koreas took towards one another on the sidelines of the Games will last beyond the Olympics and Paralympics. After all, during the opening ceremony, a lot of people were not only watching the handshake of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the sister of the North Korean dictator, Kim Yo-jong, but also the just as noteworthy handclasp of the South Korean president with the titular North Korean head of state, Kim Young Nam. All this, of course, unfolded under the sceptical gaze of US Vice President Mike Pence, who did everything in his power to avoid any such reconciliatory gestures. This is also noteworthy and a cause for concern, because it could certainly mean that the “delicate flower of inter-Korean dialogue”, as Korean expert Hartmut Koschyk recently called this careful step towards each another, may be “Trumpled” before a true Korean Spring can even begin.

 

What do you mean by this? Do you believe that this will be followed by military manoeuvres and missile tests in the near future?

Unfortunately, it is certainly possible that this public intermezzo of inter-Korean Olympic romance could end just as quickly as it began. It is questionable whether a serious dialogue, or even direct talks, between the US and North Korea are possible in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the arguments of those who support taking a hard line against the North cannot be dismissed that easily. If there is serious interest in a lasting solution and real change to the situation on the Korean peninsula, I believe that there is no way to avoid starting a dialogue, building up mutual trust and signing a peace treaty. This would also finally bring the Korean War officially to an end; to this day, there is only an armistice. A military solution should not even be on the table because of the number of casualties this would bring to both North and South Korea. For this reason alone, it should not be considered a serious option. I also hope that the resurrected inter-Korean channels of communication will at least remain open after the Olympic fire has gone out, and that the course may even have already been set for a better future behind the scenes. Then, the Olympic Games will really have provided an urgently needed way out of a formerly gridlocked situation.

In your opinion, how much was the northern Korean population aware of the events that took place in PyeongChang during the past weeks?

It is impossible to say from here if they were aware of anything, and if so, just how much. The same can in general be said about any statements that are made about the current situation in North Korea; these can only be considered with caution.

Visit of ACN delegation with Mauro Cardinal Piacenza – président of ACN-International – in South Korea, November 2015:
A South Korean Soldier demonstrates the current situation and the latest clashes at the demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to Cardinal Piacenza and the ACN delegation. Visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Even though the information we receive is scant, we know that terrible things have happened in the past, not only to those of a different political persuasion, but also to Christians. What can you tell us about the situation of Christians there?

There is sufficient evidence that horrible crimes were committed against Christians by the North Korean regime in the early 1950s, one example being the martyrs of Tokwon. And I think that we all have heard the heartbreaking stories about North Korean refugees, as well as the reports and rankings released by prominent NGOs on states that persecute Christians. I do not dare judge what is going on in North Korea right at this moment. However, I very much assume that three generations of prescribed state ideology and propaganda have largely succeeded in driving out and replacing the Christian faith in the country. Moreover, I fear that the Christian doctrine, as well as its symbolism, have, in the meantime, become completely foreign to the majority of North Koreans. It may be that, within the very immediate family, a small flicker of faith has been passed down and survived in secret. Pyongyang was once called the Jerusalem of the East. Today, only four official churches are left, whose leaders and parishioners first and foremost have to prove on a daily basis that they are loyal citizens and patriots. It would otherwise be impossible for them to live in the capital city. However, we cannot look into their hearts. After all, who are we to pass judgment on their faith? I believe that several members of Pyongyang’s parishes had already been baptized before the division of Korea.

 

You and various delegations from your organization Aid to the Church in Need went to the inter-Korean border and the blue barracks of the “Panmunjeom” within the so-called demilitarized zone (DMZ). This is the place where North and South meet for negotiations and where the border line between the two countries is. How did this make you feel?

Every time I go there, it is a very emotional experience for me. I have had the opportunity to visit the same place from both sides. Both sides are operated by friendly Korean men who, although they are wearing different uniforms, are very similar to each other in many essential areas. The young soldiers who stand eye to eye with each other day after day are brothers who no longer know each other and have been trained to hate one another. This becomes painfully obvious to me every time I visit the border region.

Galmaemot Holy Ground, a place where Korean Martyrs have been killed in 1866. 

Visit of ACN delegation with Mauro Cardinal Piacenza in South Korea, November 2015: Visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

 

ACN Feature Story – A crucified people

06.04.2017 in ACN International, ACN KOREA, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, North Korea, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom

In March, from the 23rd to the 27th, our colleagues from the French office of Aid to the Church in Need held an event called ‘Nuit des témoins’ (Night of Witnesses) held in Paris.  Here are the stories of some of these witnesses.  Here is the story of Philippe Blot, a missionary from the Foreign Missions of Paris dedicated to refugees from North Korea.

 

North Korea

A crucified people

As we know, for the past 60 years and more the « Land of the Morning Calm » has been cut in two, following a particularly bloody fratricidal war…

Earlier, I was able to travel to North Korea and, despite the constant surveillance by the police, I was able to verify the truth of various reports and hear numerous witness stories from North Korean refugees.

First of all in the hospitals: the situation is critical – no antibiotics, no dressings, not even any soap. To give you just one example, instead of bottles of serum for the transfusions, they use beer bottles filled with boiled sugar water!

I was able to visit some schools. They illustrate the chronic malnutrition of the entire population – with the exception of the apparatchiks of the regime of course! One needs to know that a North Korean child, aged seven, measures on average 20 cm less and weighs 10 kg less than a child in South Korea. The refugees were unanimous in telling me that in North Korea, « you have to bribe some member of the party or of the army in order to obtain basic necessities ». Hence corruption is the order of the day.

I was also surprised not to see any disabled people… The truth is that the North Korean regime, racist and eugenicist, is obsessed with the notion of racial purity in which those designated « abnormal » have no part. And, consequently, expelled from the major cities.

How to describe this communist regime in a few words? North Korea is a country so closed that no one can enter or move around without a visa… “Including God,” as the refugees, add with a touch of black humour. The two principal pillars of the repression are, on the one hand, total control over all the movements of the population and on the other, the ignorance of the outside world… So much so that the North Korean refugees who have succeeded in escaping discover to their astonishment a reality that is totally different from what they have been told ever since birth.

North Korea Monument to Party Founding

They describe all the unbridled Marxist propaganda inflicted on the people in order to make them zombies, submissive to the Communist Party. The dictator is presented as a veritable “god”, an idea unfailingly promoted in every speech, in all the teaching, all the information… The Kim dynasty – from grandfather to the grandson currently in power – is the object of a frenetic propaganda, with its 30,000 giant statues and portraits in every town and village and it slogans inscribed on vast billboards on every street and road… The North Koreans are taught to spy on their neighbours and colleagues and denounce one another for any failing in their duty towards the “Great Leader”. After the arrest of the transgressor, the whole neighbourhood and family are rounded up in order to criticize the transgressions of the supposed delinquent. Then, he is either deported, or everybody witnesses to his execution.

Speaking of the deportation camps, this gives me the opportunity to report on the Christian presence in the country. The gathering of witness statements and the observations of Western satellites enable us to estimate the number of persons detained in these veritable concentration camps – anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals. The brutality of the camp guards is the daily bread of these prisoners, who work 16 hours a day, suffer atrocious tortures, to say nothing of the public executions of those deemed to have been recalcitrant.

Among these “political prisoners”, those who suffer the worst treatment are the Christians, since they are regarded as spies, as “anti-revolutionaries of the first class.” According to the regime, there are around 13,000 of them, but according to humanitarian organizations, there are 20 to 40,000 – and they are singled out for the cruellest treatments of all – they are crucified, hanged from bridges or trees, drowned, or burned alive… Some witnesses describe tortures so horrible that decency prevents me from describing them to you…

For the rulers of North Korea every form of religion must be banished – in other words, both Christianity and Buddhism – since, as the Marxist “catechism” tells us, religion is the opium of the people. North Koreans do not know what a Bible is, nor consequently who God is. A few years ago, with great fanfare of propaganda, the government opened a Catholic church, a Protestant temple, and an Orthodox church in the capital – but of course, they are nothing but mere showpieces!

Yet despite all this, there is indeed an underground Church in North Korea, which is the object of continued persecution. When I asked North Korean refugees “ Have you heard mention of or have you seen a neighbour arrested for having been caught in the act of praying, either at home or in a secret place?”  many people answered in the affirmative. And, some information does manage to filter through; for example, two years ago, a pregnant woman aged 33 was arrested in possession of 20 Bibles. She was beaten severely, then hung by her feet in public. In May 2010, some 20 Christians were arrested; they were part of a clandestine Church. Three of them were immediately put to death and the rest were deported. It is thought that since 1995 at least 5,000 Christians have been executed, solely because they were praying secretly or distributing Bibles. Many North Koreans have become Christians thanks to the presence of foreign missionaries on the border. It is also known that some American and Canadian pastors of Korean origin are currently imprisoned in the political prisoners’ camps for having helped the refugees.

I met with some refugees in a country bordering on North Korea who, if arrested, risk being forcibly repatriated – which means prison, torture, the camps and death. If they are not repatriated, they risk falling into the hands of criminal organizations which traffic in human organs. Women and young girls risk being kidnapped by gangs and sold to peasants or, still worse, to brothel owners. A young Korean girl can be sold for $800-$1,2000…

For over 60 years, thousands of North Koreans have attempted to escape to a free country, but it is not so easy. They have to pass through China, which refuses to recognize the refugee status of those whom it persists in describing as « illegal immigrants ». Without papers, and therefore clandestine, there are numerous such people, who find work however they are able: ill paid, ill treated, without any rights and at the mercy of their employers…

Willing to extricate these refugees from this impossible situation are the people traffickers, who risk their lives but make sure they are well paid. They will smuggle people to South Korea if they wish it, or to Canada, or the United States and other countries, via Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand… To smuggle someone from North Korea to a third country, you need around 4,000 to 5,000 Euros for a false passport, transport, food; to pay the smuggler and the bribes to customs officials and police… And of course such “contracts” are entirely arbitrary, and it can happen that at the last moment the smuggler demands more money.

The longest Ways of the Cross in human history

In my meetings with North Korean refugees, I have heard stories that were so unbearable that tears of suffering and shame were pouring from my eyes… How is it possible for human beings to commit such atrocities? How can so many human lives be trampled underfoot in the midst of such total indifference?

 

And so, as a missionary and as a Catholic priest, I am speaking here on behalf of all those Koreans who for over 60 years have been living one of the longest Ways of the Cross in human history. I speak on behalf of those who have had an eye torn out, or another organ, without anaesthetic, so that they can be transplanted into rich Chinese, Japanese or others! I am speaking on behalf of all those North Koreans who are victims of the slave traders!

The attempts by these thousands of men, women and children to flee are a fact of major importance, and we need to emphasize the political and diplomatic aspects of it. Unfortunately, the countries closest to North Korea, and those further afield in Europe or America, are demanding no more than a few changes, in the name of “human rights,” without actually challenging the status quo – seemingly for the sake of “maintaining international relations,” they tell us – in reality to guarantee a “peace of compromise.” In effect they are postponing indefinitely the liberation of North Korea, and hence also the reunification of the country.

In conclusion, calculating things on a strictly geopolitical basis, the 21 million North Koreans risk having to wait a long time before seeing any radical improvement in their lot… Barring an intervention of God, that is, something we pray for ardently every day for this crucified people.

 

Merciful Lord Jesus,

I beg you to deliver our North Korean brothers and sisters from the chains that have held them captive now for over 70 years already.

Turn your loving gaze upon this suffering people …

Teach peace to the Korean nation, cut in half, north from south, by a fratricidal war. Help us to contribute to reconciliation and do not let us be carried away by despair.

Good Shepherd, reunite in your arms all our North Korean brothers and sisters, one by one. Envelop them in your tender saving love.

May Our Lady of Fatima bring down the wall of communism and help them to discover the freedom and joy of living as children of God.

 


 

 

 

 

New ACN Office Opens in South Korea

19.11.2015 in ACN International, ACN KOREA, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan

South Korea

“It is important to pray for peace and reconciliation in Korea”

Aid to the Church in Need President Cardinal Mauro Piacenza opened the new office of Aid to the Church in Need in Seoul – and visited the demarcation line between South and North Korea

Following his visit to South Korea, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza talked about how impressed he had been by the vitality of the local Catholic church. “The people came in droves to the services I had the honour of celebrating. And their sympathy for the situation of the persecuted Christians across the world was remarkably high,” the president of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said. Cardinal Piacenza travelled to Seoul last week to celebrate the opening of the South Korean office of the pastoral charity. The Melkite archbishop of Homs in Syria, Jean Abdo Arbach, also accepted the invitation to talk about what was currently happening in his church.

Le cardinal Piacenza, président de l'AED, en visite au nouveau bureau national en Corée du Sud. Ici, lors du symposium sur l'Église de Syrie organisé pour marquer l'événement.

Visit of ACN delegation with Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need, in South Korea, where he addresses the audience at the first ACN Symposium for Syria in Seoul, South Korea.

Visite de la délégation de l'AED dans la zone démilitarisée entre les deux Corées. “I was particularly moved by the visit to the intra-Korean border. We were able to look the North Korean soldiers in the eyes; that was how close we were. We were only separated by a sheet of glass. I noticed how suspicious they were about our visit. However, I also saw curiosity in their eyes. This is certainly a positive thing,” the curial cardinal said following the visit to the demarcation line between North and South Korea. “The South Korean soldiers, some of them Catholic, were very welcoming. The same can be said for the Buddhist general, who reacted to our prayer for peace with sympathy.” Cardinal Piacenza recalled a recent incident at the intra-Korean border, during which two South Korean soldiers lost their legs. “All along the border there was evidence that there really is a war going on there. We saw how bleak the towns along the imposed border are. It was therefore very important to pray for peace and reconciliation in this wonderful country as well as for the healing of the inner and outer wounds of its people.”

 

The ACN delegation visits the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas

The executive president of Aid to the Church in Need, Baron Johannes Heereman, was also impressed by what he saw at the opening ceremony of the Seoul office. “In South Korea we saw the great power of prayer of the faithful. This will strengthen us in our mission to pray for the suffering church.” Baron Heereman added that South Korea is currently transitioning from a receiving to a giving country. “Aid to the Church in Need acts as an intermediary between churches that are free and those that are oppressed or even persecuted. We are happy that South Korea has joined the international family of Aid to the Church in Need,” Baron Heereman said.

Aid to the Church in Need maintains offices in 22 countries around the world. The international pastoral charity supports pastoral projects of the oppressed and persecuted church in more than 130 countries.

 

 

South Korea – “South Korea is full of joyful anticipation”

13.08.2014 in ACN International, ACN KOREA, Pope Francis
ACN-20140811-12418

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From 14 to 18 August Pope Francis will be visiting South Korea. In the interview below Johannes Klausa, the director of the new South Korean office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), talks about the background to this visit and the expectations within the country.

An interview with André Stiefenhofer

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

 

Why has Pope Francis decided to visit South Korea?

Clearly, the Pope has a special affection for the young people of the world, as torchbearers for the Faith; this was evident from the choice of destination of his first foreign trip – to the World Youth Day in Rio. This time, during the Papal visit, the Catholic youth of Asia will likewise be gathering in Korea for the “Asia Youth Day”. Pope Francis is cleverly taking advantage here of the opportunity to address himself, from Korea, to the young people of the entire continent.

Like few other countries in Asia, Korea typifies the two issues – of the persecution of Christians and of growth – that are particularly important to the Holy Father. In 1953, after the end of the Korean War, there were some 190,000 Catholics in Korea. Today, just 6 years later, there are already more than 5.4 million of them!

But at the same time, the Korean Church is built on the blood and the witness of almost 10,000 martyrs. Those Christians who refused to publicly disavow their God generally paid for it with their lives. Already in 1984 Pope John-Paul II canonised 103 of these martyrs. The central focus of this visit will likewise be the beatification of another 124 of these martyrs, among them Paul Yunji Chung. Just one of them was a priest – for Korea’s Church was a Church of the laity. At the end of the 18th Century, when the first priest actually set foot on Korean soil, there were already 4,000 Catholics in the country.

Finally, like few other Asian countries, Korea exists in the glare of world public attention. After the Holy Land, the Korean peninsular is one of the major conflict flashpoints on the world political scene, one which flares up with frightening regularity, sending shockwaves throughout the world. It is not impossible that the papal visit may bring about new initiatives for the currently frozen relationship between the two Koreas.

How are people in the country preparing for the visit?

A  few weeks ago, when I was received by Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung for a meeting in his office, I was struck immediately by a cushion with a comic Pope on it. In Korea there is no contradiction between the notion of authority and portrayal as a comic figure. Politicians in elections, and even policemen use this form of portrayal as a way of engaging sympathies. And since then I have seen similar pictures of the Pope throughout the country. The portrayals range from Pope Francis key fobs,  through plastic figures, headscarves, and of course T-shirts. What I find particularly interesting is that the T-shirts that the thousands of volunteer helpers will be wearing were actually made by North Korean workers in the Kaesong Special Economic Zone. It’s a place where South Korean employers are employing almost 50,000 North Korean workers. I wonder if these workers actually know that they have been helping to prepare for a papal visit?

Also, 38 well-known Korean personalities have recorded an official hymn, which will be played of the various important occasions. Naturally, they have all waived their normal fee and the proceeds will go directly to a social project.

There are security issues on the agenda of the preparatory committee as well. The Pope has officially requested that during his visit he is not driven through the city in a bullet-proof limousine, but in an ordinary Korean small car.

Needless to say, Korea is preparing not only with pop songs and plastic toys but also with prayer groups, Scripture readings and with a special prayer for the papal visit. The priests are urging their parishoners to read up on the life and the encyclicals of the Holy Father, and especially his encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium”. In the secular bookstores too the tables are sagging beneath all the biographies and other books about Pope Francis. The whole country is looking forward to the visit of the Holy Father and is thououghly well prepared for it.

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Can you describe something of Catholic parish life in South Korea for us?

Belonging to a particular social group is of central importance in Korea – much more important than in Western culture. In particular one’s own year group in school and at university tends to determine one’s circle of friends for life and is a central starting point for the sense of self-identification.

In the world of work it is rare for new friendships to be forged, and it is very difficult to gain admittance to new groups. Church communities are one of the few exceptions. A great many Koreans only find their way to the faith in adulthood in fact. Of course there are also families that have been Catholic for generations, but these are a minority today. In the Church community people are welcomed with open arms, and as a result the parishes are also something of a gathering place for those seeking friendship, of all ages.

Religious worship in Korea is very reverent, emotional and well-attended. For example, in the cathedral of Myeongdong ten Masses are celebrated on Sundays. Equally impressive is another statistic published by the bishops’ conference, namely that the Catholics of Korea, who number just a little over 5.4 million, went to confession over 4.6 million times during the year 2013.

What, in your view, will the priorities of the papal visit be? What will be Pope Francis’ principal aim, and what emphases and utterances can we expect?

The main emphasis of this year’s papal visit can be very well seen from the programme. The heading for his visit is the verse from Isaiah 60:1 “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” It is a direct exhortation to each one of the faithful.

At the Asia Youth Day in Daejeon the Pope will be directly addressing the Catholic young people of Asia. The meeting will be held under the slogan: “Youth of Asia, awake! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you.”

The beatification of the 124 martyrs will of course be a high point of his Korea trip.

Also part of his 5-day programme will be a meeting with leading figures of other religious faiths, and the visit to a major social project of the Catholic Church. Especially in South Korea, where the striving for material wealth and social status is all too often overemphasised, this Pope will undoubtedly take the part of the weak and needy and speak out clearly against the exaltation of “vile Mammon”.

At the big Mass in the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon the Pope will remember the victims of the ferry disaster in Sewol and speak words of comfort to their relatives. Currently no high-ranking visitor to Korea can visit the country without expressing sympathy for this shocking event. It is also to be expected that Pope Francis will speak out on the issue of human trafficking, at the same time recalling the terrible fate of the so-called “comfort women” who were forced into prostitution in the Japanese zone of occupation and whose fate was hushed up in Korea, out of shame, right up until the 1990s. Some of the handful of survivors of this atrocity will actually be present at the Mass of reconciliation.

How strong is the public presence of the Catholic Church in South Korean society?

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The Catholic Church in South Korea has a very high reputation. It is seen as tolerant and modest and enjoys moral authority and integrity in the public perception. In a recent survey which asked: “Which religion is the most trustworthy in your opinion?” the Catholic faith held first place with 31.7%.

One reason for this positive image may be the fact that the Korean Church has always been on “the right side of history” and that its faith was not imposed by foreign missionaries but tested by Korean scholars, found good and then brought into the country. In the darker chapters of Korean history she always fought on the side of the poor and oppressed, against the Japanese occupiers and later also against home-grown dictators, and stood up for democracy and human rights. She plays a major part in the social system today, has established universities and runs many social institutions such as hospitals, children’s and old people’s homes, and cares for the forgotten and the outcasts of society.

What role has South Korea to play in the future of Southeast Asia and what are the special prayer intentions our South Korean fellow Christians would wish to commend to us?

The future has already long since begun in South Korea, especially in regard to its unparalleled economic development. As the economic powerhouse of the region, it has gained admittance to the club of the economic powers and established itself as an Asian heavyweight.

With all this rapid development, however, the development of the individual has in many areas been neglected. Often tradition is forgotten, every novelty pursued, and in the modern “balli-balli (quickly-quickly) society” humanity has suffered first of all. For many people the riches came overnight and before they had learnt how to handle riches. Both for the winners and for the losers in this game, the anxiety over status and the pressure to succeed have been unbearable. Social climbing and social fall are often very close together here.

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Among the important intentions for your prayers for Korea, apart from the constant need to pray for peace, reconciliation and reunification, one might include some less popular and in some cases even toboo social and political concerns. For example a prayer for a “deceleration” and a lessening of the intolerable pressure that is exerted from top to bottom within our bone-hard society. Or perhaps the way society is torn apart between tradition and modernity, poor and rich, progressive and conservative forces.

ACN has a long history in South Korea. As early as the 1960s Father Werenfried van Straaten, our founder, visited this country – at that time still deeply scarred by the War – and prompted a wave of generosity for Korea in Europe. Can you tell us a little of how this help has unfolded since then?

Before I returned to Korea in May, I scoured through the archives in Königstein. In hundreds of project requests, annual reports, and of course the Mirror newsletter,  you can find innumerable testimonies to the commitment of Father Werenfried and ACN to Korea. Again and again I come across his footsteps, even today.

There is evidence of at least two journeys here by the “Bacon Priest”, in 1961 and 1962. He described Seoul as a “city of destitution”. How times have changed!

Thes developments are also more or less reflected in the projects of ACN in South Korea. We contributed with comparatively large sums to certain individual construction projects, such as the construction of the seminary in Suwon and the enlargement of the seminary in Seoul. But I also found numerous smaller projects, such as support for religious sisters and brothers, for books, for transport and vehicles, and regular support for Catholic institutes and individuals, all of which – thanks to the kindness of our benefactors – helped to build up the Korean Church of today. By now the Catholic Church in Korea is very well-off financially. Never before have I seen so many well-equipped and modern churches and parish centres. The seed, to which ACN also contributed, has now borne rich fruit.

You yourself are so to speak the latest “milestone” on this long road of help. How long has ACN actually had its own office in South Korea and what are your plans for the future?

Actually, the milestone is not yet fully planted! But against the background of the history of the Korean Church, her martyrs, her own experience of suffering, poverty, destruction and war, but also the awareness that things can change and that revival is possible, I think Korea, like almost no other country, has evolved a profound understanding of what ACN is all about. It is an understanding that I now hope to build on, here in Seoul.