Sunday, May 20, 2018

Programs To Overcome Arrogant Behavior

Arrogance is a trait often experienced, an offensive display of superiority or self-importance, and overbearing pride. In Korea, we have in recent memory seen displays of this which have made the  international news.

The Korean word 'Gap' used in contracts for the first party is a new word appearing often for the arrogance exhibited by authoritarian figures who have positions of power over others. A college professor who teaches in the humanities gives us insight into problems on how to work against this arrogance in society in her article in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

She gives us  an example  of a person who  famously showed her arrogance, that was bettered by the parent in a recent incident and goes on to show that we learn much from those with whom we spend most of our time. From whom do we learn our techniques for communicating? In the womb the fetus after just five or six weeks, the sense of touch is the first system to develop. The mother's emotional life and the enviroment will influence the fetus.

What we have picked up by our studies often disappears after a period of time; what we sense, even within the womb, remains with us a great deal longer. A baby in diapers wiill not be influenced by words but by the emotional activity of the caregiver and the way they solve their conflicts. When overcome by stress, unless we understand, we can emotionally revert to our animal nature.

The mental faculties of children and teenagers, compared to adults are less developed and without experience that comes with age, the ability to control and tune the senses has been reduced. Consequently, a person who has not grown from their experience may look like an adult but emotionally still a child. When such a person receives a position with authority how will he act? It's not difficult to guess what the results will be.

As we get older without some strong stimulus changes do not come easy. With experience we do have change. Even children with small stimuli are changed, that's why the caregiver's emotions, words and  behavior are so important. The 'Gap type of behavior' with experience and training can be prevented.

All of us get angry and irritable but we know that  we don't want to express this feeling with violence and  criminal activity. We acknowledge our anger and feelings and proceed to take control, tune down and regulate the feelings.

Being overcome with emotion is not unconditionally a bad thing. This is a part of being human. However, since we are members of communities we need to learn how to regulate the emotions. To repress the emotions we are possibly preparing for a time bomb to explode. We need to train ourselves, only knowledge of the situation will not do it, we need the techniques which come with training.

She concludes the article with examples of how this is done in certain big companies and in organizations in other countries for the members and recommends that programs be conducted in Korea.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Moral Regulation Demanded

After the release of the first Terminator film in 1984 and the last film in 2015 we have had five in a series where machines and humans do battle.The killer robot is no  longer a scene in a move but reality. An article in the Catholic Peace Weekly gives us some insight into what is happening in military robot manufacturing.

Boston Dynamics a US robot manufacturer, is developing a  killer robot  Atlas with a weight of 156 kg and 188cm in height. Atlas has arms and legs that move freely like human  limbs. Russia is also working on simliar robots.The killer robot will be equipped with artificial intelligence to shoot guns and throw grenades, planned for the year 2025. He will be named after the movie Terminator Ivan.

Korea has also been involved in research in the development of military robots for infantry support by the National Defense Science Institute. Killer robots are attractive to many in the military because they can minimize human casualties and massive attacks without human intervention. Initially, on sentinel duty, but with the development of technology it becomes possible to carry out  missions in places where human beings find it hard to enter: radioacrtive contaminated areas.  Military experts believe if the killer robots become combatants they will change the way war is waged.

In the past it was the victors right to plunder and murder. The idea of murdering unarmed civilians was not a war crime. However in modern times this has changed. An example if  this ethnic cleansing during the Balkian slaughter,  the commander of the Serb militia in 1995 was tried by the International Court of Justice for the killing of 8.000 Muslim men and boys.

In April scholars who are leaders in global artificial intelligence research refused to cooperate with the Korea Advanced Institute of Sciience and Technology in their work with artificial intellegenge. It was reported that KAIST was devloping autonomous weapons which would search for and elimanate targets without human control. This however has changed  and the researches have ended the boycot since KAIST's President affirmed that they have no intention to engage in develoopment of lethal autonomous weapons and killer robots.

With the the military robots we have another problem that faces humanity. If the Balkan slaughter had been ochestrated by artificial intelligence controlled killer robots would not those responsible need to be punished as war criminals? These and many other similar situations will arise with the new technology.

The Sicience fiction wirter, Issac Asimov in 1941 devised  three laws to protect human beings from interactions with robets. A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human being to come to harm, robots must obey the orders given by human beings and a robot must protect it own existence  as long as it does not conflict with the first and second statements above.

When human control over these robots is missing we will have the destruction of human dignity and a calamity for humanity. This requires the  making and developing these robots to follow a charter on morality and rights of human beings, otherwise we will return to the past ages.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Third Korean Summit

In Korea, we have four Chinese characters which make a noun phrase, an idiom that describes a situation or feeling a proverb like expression. Something like our own Latin expressions from the past that come up often in print and in our conversations.

In the Catholic Peace Weekly, an article begins with the four-letters (寧靜致遠) which in English would
mean to face the future with peace and tranquillity in our hearts ('festina lente' make haste slowly may be one understanding of the phrase). 
He reminisces over what has happened in recent weeks with our relationship with North Korea. We have those who were moved to tears at what they heard and saw in the media, on the other hand, those who acted with anger seeing the way the enemy was welcomed. In both cases we had too much emotion, which our writer does not believe is the way to go.

This is the third inter Korean summit between the North and South. The first summit was held in Pyongyang in 2000 between former President Kim Dae-Jung and the former Korean leader Kim Jong-il. We expected peace on the Korean peninsula. The second summit was between Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il in 2007 with similar hopes raised.

The recent Panmunjom Declaration was the third summit. President Moon and Kim Jong-un agreed to the  denuclearization of the peninsula, the end of the 65 years cease-fire, and the establishment of a peace regime in preparation for the coming summit with the United States.

The first summit broke down with hostilities in the Yellow Sea between the North and South. At the second summit, they made plans to overcome these problems but failed. After the third summit, they installed a hotline, hoping for a thorough preparation.  
Trust between the North and South is necessary and this requires keeping the promises. We need to practice what is contained in the Panmunjom Declaration. The agreement is more important than the declaration, a consensus process and experts and ongoing staff for study is necessary and the accompaniment of society.

The efforts in the past have for various reasons failed to bring about any peace treaty. In 1990 with great efforts at preparation on four different occasions, it failed to get the approval of the national assembly. In 1994 in the Geneva accord, the Clinton government and North Korea signed an agreement but this fell apart for they failed to get the approval of Congress.

Real peace will come when the Panmunjom Declaration becomes an agreement. For this to happen it requires the cooperation of the opposition party. Otherwise with the change of government you go back to the beginning. Better than going two steps forward alone is to go one half step together. This is progress. May God help us. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Korean Catholic Symposium Commerating the Pope's Five Years

Last month an international academic symposium was held at the Catholic University with representative theologians from seven countries: Italy, France, US, Philippines, Mexico, Australia,  and Korea. The subject was the teachings of Pope Francis and the acceptance and challenges in the local church. Both Catholic papers gave reports on the symposium. It commemorated the fifth year of Pope Francis as the leader of the church.

How the pope looks at the world and what his actions have taught and how each local church has embraced the teaching, overall, they agreed the pope urges changes on the basis of gospel values. Clear also that he has changed the church. Renewal begins placing Christ at the center of the church and our lives. Repentance and mercy are necessary to have success in our actions. 

The pope has gone out to the excluded and marginated and brought them to the center of society and the church and asks that we accompany them. He is showing us a new pastoral theology. Doing things together.

The issue of consensus, the importance of synodality in the thinking of Pope Francis. Common consensus is an important keyword to understand when the pope speaks about church renewal. This collective consensus is not only the bishop's synod but the way all the people of God live their lives with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the spirituality of fellowship. To the question: How do we walk the path of renewal can be answered with the need of collective consensus. 

The difference between boundaries and limits was a subject of one of the presenters. The pope has attempted to change boundaries of the universal church and the local church and stresses the oneness and turns our attention to the kingdom of heaven.

Another presenter mentioned the boldness of his words and the humility of listening to all without any rush to solve problems. Many see the  pope's actions of breaking rules as in no hurry to see change, with a great belief in the Holy Spirit's leading the church. The sexual scandals within the clerical ranks are helped by the pope's words and actions.

Others mentioned that in South America he has led a common consensus to defend human rights and make social justice a reality. We need to respect the spirit of walking together. At the end was mentioned that local churches around the world are facing various crises. We should not turn all the problems  into problems of the  universal church nor would we leave all the problems to be solved by the local church. We cannot limit ourselves to just one principle but on many principles in search of realistic solutions. For the pope unity is not uniformity but a respect for diversity.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Leisure is Necessary to Enjoy Life

Everything should be good, our study, our work. Competition is fierce. If you don't do well you will fall behind. Everybody likes to be first both in their work and studies. Everybody searches for the best. So begins an article in the Catholic Peace Weekly by a member of the staff. 

To be good you have to work hard. To do it half-heartedly is not right. You have to give it you're all. You have to give up many things: time,  peace of mind, at times family and friends, sleep, holidays and you will be complimented as faithful.

Labor is sacred. Work is precious. This is what we learned and lived. Work and employment is the ground of life. It allows us to take care of our families; realize ourselves and contribute to the world, a reason for our pride and feeling of accomplishment.

This is also at first glance the teaching of the church. Work is both a right and a duty, both a grace and an offering. Paul the apostle said: "Anyone who doesn't work should not eat." "Work in silence, and earn your bread" (Thess. 3:12). St. Benedict said: "idleness  is the enemy of the soul." The teaching on 'pray and work' summarizes such a spirit. It is the way of salvation and sanctification.

Why did he praise work so highly? The circumstances of the times required it. At that time labor was largely the responsibility of slaves and serfs. Hand labor was considered to be a lowly task. The monastery helped to change that perception. They rejected the material abundance and pursued a life of asceticism and abstinence. Labor and self-sufficiency was a value.

Times have changed. We can not compare our lives to that of the past. We are overcome with work. There is a goal to achieve and production goals. Each has a performance goal and appraisal follows. I go to work at dawn and work to late at night. Holidays are few and work is piled up. Companies strive for survival. Need to reduce labor costs to adjust the balance. Employees become working machines.

Labor destroys us. I work for my family but it becomes second in concern. Many work for the future but are not happy. Many are depressed, sad, sick, and lonely. Frequent irritation arises and anger. We need a break. I want to rest. I want to recite poetry on a lake shore. I want to walk in the forest and sing. I want to praise the creator for the great mystery of life and to embrace mother nature. I want to pray together with nature a beautiful prayer to the creator.

The church does not only emphasize the sacredness of labor. The Sabbath tradition is also in the church. For six days you shall do your work,but stop on the seventh day so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the son of your slave girl have a breathing space, and the stanger too" (Exodus 23,12).

Earlier, Pope Leo XIII saw the destruction of the  human spirit  due to labor. In 1891, more than 100 years ago, he proclaimed the way of New Things (Rerum Novarum). In that flow, Saint John Paul II awakens us: "Work is for man, not man for labor" (Laborem exercens) 'Through Work'.

Thoughts  on the way to work by our writer on the morning of Labor Day. Where on earth has God's  grace gone?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why Are They Leaving the Church?

Korea is cited often as a country with the fifth largest number of atheists. The last census showed the number of non-believers rose to 58.1 percent which number continues to grow. For the  first time, officially, there are more Koreans who consider themselves non-believers than believers. 

The numbers of believers in the 2005 census were 52.9% but in the latest census, the number was 43.9%. The Catholic Church's own statistics in 2017  registered 11.1 % of the population as Catholic but the 2015 census only registered 7.9% which is a more realistic figure.

Attempting to give an objective picture of the religious situation in Korea may be more difficult than many other countries. Shamanism is still strong within the country. This doesn't show on the census. Confucianism is considered a philosophy rather than a religion by many. Cultural Buddhists would very likely be missed in the census. Eight religions were listed on the census and a blank. Consequently the non-religious may not be what we may think.

The number of convinced atheists according to a 2012 Gallup International poll found that 15% of the population would be convinced atheists a figure which will continue to rise. An increase from a poll in 2005 which showed 11%, however, presently the atheists are not the militant type but this is beginning to change.

Where is Korean Catholicism heading? Korean Catholics visiting Europe do see a once thriving religious life that seems to be on life support. A reporter for the Catholic Peace Weekly recounts a visit to the eldest daughter of the church, France, on news coverage for the paper and her impression on the visit.  

Are you Catholic? The answer should be 'Yes' or 'No' however, she says, this is not the case instead a long explanation. This she says was the consistent answer to her question.

She went to France last month to cover some of the less known religious shrines in the country. Many were enthusiastic about France's historic Catholic history and holy sites, but when it turned to their own personal faith the response was vague and half hearted. "I was baptized as a child and my whole family is all believers." Mimicking the words of a song: 'a believer and not a believer,' is her take on what she continued to hear. Some will tell you they don't go to church but they believe in God and live accordingly. They consider themselves believers.

They asked numerous questions about the Korean church and were surprised to hear that with so few Catholics Korea had a comprehensive media with TV, newspaper, and radio run by the church and the number of believers continues to increase. Jokingly they told her they should be giving them many of their empty churches.

She mentions that out of a hundred of the French young people 64 are non-believers, 23 are Catholic and 10 are members of the Islam faith. Why did the French leave the church? A valid question for the Korean church to ponder.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dreaming about the Changchung Cathedral

In March 1984, according to an article in the Catholic Peace Weekly a Canadian was the first Korean priest to visit North Korea after the division of the country. The following September Bishop Tji Hak-soun of the Wonju Diocese, a member of a group visiting relatives in the north, said  Mass in the Pyongyang Koryo Hotel. This was the first time for a South Korean to say Mass in the North. In June of 1987 Fr. Chang-ik representing a delegation from the Vatican met some of the Catholics of the North.

At that time a church building committee was formed to build a church in the Pyongyang area. In March 1988 the construction of the cathedral began and on Oct 9th the Changchung church was completed. In June during the building of the church, the Korean Catholic Association was established. On Oct. 12, the first prayer meeting was held and Fr. Chang-ik and Fr. Chong on Oct. 30, and on All Saints Day said the first Masses as delegates of the Vatican in the new cathedral.

After that many Korean priests from other countries said Masses in the new church. In April of 1996 on  Easter Sunday, Mass was said for peaceful unification and reconciliation of the nation in both Myeongdong, Seoul and the Changchung church of North Korea. The atmosphere for reconciliation blossomed with the beginning of the 'People's Government' in 1998.

On May 15, 1998, Bishop Choi chairman of the committee for National Reconciliation with 4 delegates visited the North. Two days later the bishop said Mass in the Changchung church. This can be considered the first Catholic pastoral visit of the South to the North. According to one of the monthly magazines, there are about 3000 Catholics in the North as of 2004, but some estimate it to be closer to 10,000 secret believers.

No priests have resided in the North since the Korean War and the division of the country. Every Sunday believers gather at the cathedral and have a mission station service which is conducted by the leaders of the community. Catholic foreign diplomats, foreign workers, and students staying in Pyeongyang often come to the church.The Changchung church has played a role in connecting the believers in the North with the South Korean Catholic Church, the Holy See and the Catholic churches abroad. This is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Changchung Church.

Efforts to send a priest to the Changchung Church was initiated by the bishops of South Korea in 2015. An  agreement was finalized to send a priest for the big feast days of the calendar but because of the political situation, not getting any better, it was never implemented.

In 2014 in Myeondong Cathedral, Pope Francis prayed: "May new opportunities for dialogue, and meetings to overcome the differences spring up. Let us pray that all Koreans who are all brother and sisters, members of the same family have the same perception of being one nation become widespread." 

New opportunities have arisen since the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. North and South Korea are taking steps to resolve the problems separating the country. On April 27, the North-South summit was held and soon the North and American summit will take place. Is it too early to dream of a Mass of Peace and Reconciliation that the pope will deliver at the Changchung Cathedral? Dreaming alone is just a dream, but the dreams that everyone dreams bear fruit.