Saturday, October 22, 2016

Drinking Habits of Young Koreans

The Seoul Diocesan Bulletin had an article on the drinking habits of some of our young people. The writer is the head of a center for the treatment of alcoholics attached to a Catholic Hospital. He mentions a visit to the clinic by a high school girl. She meets with friends about 3 times a week and drinks about  3 bottles of 'soju' ( Korean vodka). Recently she had a fist fight with her friends and has inflicted harm to herself and decided to come in for help.

Young people, drinking is no longer something out of the ordinary, 75% of our young people have taken alcoholic drinks and 25% have imbibed more than twice  a month.  Many may want to ask if they drink how much do they drink? They are just imitating the adults and have little to drink. Strange as it may sound, he says, they drink more than the grown-ups and goes on to explain why.

When the young people drink it may be 3 or 4 bottles, they feel better, but there are no other accompanying symptoms. The brains of the young people are still growing and the frontal lobe does not mature until the early twenties. The frontal lobe is the last to develop which is where the  faculty of judgment resides. Drinking during this period we have serious problems.

They are not able to control their drinking. Usually, when the alcohol is in the blood there is drowsiness, headache, nausea, preventing one from drinking more. With the young, this built-in gauge with its break is not present. Consequently, when intoxicated they are more impulsive with dangerous results. In one year's time, there are about 4,000 incidents of intoxicated youths, violence, and suicides. Their personalities are also opened to change.

When the young people are exposed to drinking at a young age the chances that they will become alcoholics is 5 times that of the other young people. Society overlooks this. Popular television dramas have the young drinking in romantic scenes. We have young people drinking in advertisements. Drinking is  made attractive to the young with very little of the negative results of drinking.

Our Christian teaching tells us often and clearly that when we lose the ability to discipline ourselves and become attracted to instant gratification we are preparing oneself for despair. Addiction and alcohol are present possibilities. Once a person becomes addicted the process to overcome the problem is difficult. Preventing the problem is much easier.

According to the OECD, of the 30 countries reporting Korea was listed as 22nd in its consumption of alcohol. He mentions that the developed countries do not look upon drinking revelry as a good. He ends the article with a wish that the young people take to heart the words of Pope Francis to make a mess  in making a better, more honest and decent world. Put simply, to get rid of much of the harmful aspects of our culture will be a challenge and a need to confront what we have made.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Educating for Mature Sexual Lives

Sex education is a controversial topic but necessary.  The Catholic Times had an article on a seminar sponsored by a diocesan ministry to the young on the need and  direction to be taken.

Society has made sex into a recreational pastime and all the participants have with one voice stressed that contraception is not what sex is all about. The first speaker spoke about the way the media has made sex a recreational activity without commitment and destroyed its meaning for reproduction and responsibility. For many sex education is enjoying  sex but preventing pregnancy.

The first speaker,  before speaking of contraception there is the need to stress:  'life, responsibility, character, self-restraint, and chastity'. Hedonism which is spread widely in society by the media requires that programs in  media literacy be inaugurated in schools.

One of the speakers mentioned how in schools sex education is comprised  of contraception, abortion, sex diseases, a very negative approach to the whole topic. The positive beauty and seriousness of the act needs to be explained: responsibility to life.

The final participator, a priest, working in a parish expressed his experience in the pastoral work with the young and what they understand about sex. There is no connection with their religious belief  and ignorance of the responsibility of sex; a sign that little  education was present in the community of faith.  

We need groups within the Church who are sympathetic to the cause of education for sexuality in the schools and want to stress the need to internalize love, responsibility, and temperance in sexuality.

Some parents present at the seminar  have made known that the elementary school children have already been exposed to education in sexuality from the culture in which we live and it is not what we  want. Consequently, from the 5th grade on we need programs in the schools.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Selfishness vs Altruism

Humans are  basically selfish. This is true of all of life. Existence is to protect what one has received. If one is to continue to exist, selfishness is necessary. One's concern and actions for oneself are to one's advantage. Those who are soft-hearted will be used and the kind will be losers in the competitive reality in which we live. Existence is a fierce struggle: deceiving, pillaging, and even killing.

With these words, a Peace Weekly columnist gives us a topic for the readers to reflect on. We see how in many cases those who are selfish maintain their lives and wealth. In the recent ferry tragedy, the captain was one of the first to leave the ship. The teacher that hesitated went down with the ship. A president of a company before failure and the news became known, sold his stock.

When a nation  is perishing  to work for independence is foolishness for the chances of losing one's life are great. Those who are unmarried lose their chance to have children. The married will lose their means of livelihood and the family will scatter  and be in desperate straights. Better is it not to surrender to the invaders and cooperate with the plunderers: hoping for success and advancement in life, and prosperity of the clan. Independence?  Someone will work for it and we will benefit from the results.

Strange, however, even though gain and loss are rather clear we have people who act quite differently from what we would expect.  Recently we had the young man who was dreaming of a bright future who escaped from a burning building only to run back in, notifying the different tenants of the fire and ending up dying after going up to the top floor and collapsing on the stairs.

The number of those who sacrifice for their fellow brothers and sister is not negligible. We have those on the Titanic who while the ship was going down stayed on deck to help others take the lifeboats to safety. In the concentration camps, we had those who gave their lives to save others. Altruism is not dead.

Within us is both the selfish and altruistic character, in conflict and at cross-purposes. When selfishness  is the winner the individual appears to win but society suffers. When the altruistic character takes the upper hand and sacrifice is made the whole community  benefits. 

Altruism: honor, virtue, and conscience are the medicines that invigorate and support society. When  leaders in  society throw their responsibility to the wind and nourish their own greed that society falls apart from the inside. 

When the leaders of a society begin to have their banquets and' love shots' ( two people hook arms and take a shot of liquor)-- when money and power interact the just persons turn their backs and we have the breakdown of society. "When the pillars are overthrown what can the just man do?" (Ps. 11:3).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Need to Change Our Social Structures

In 2015  the world news reported that in the last 25 years, globalization, a strong violent wind has  blown on the global village. In every facet of the village, we see an embarrassing  polarization which needs to be adjusted. Eighty of the richest individuals possess as much as half of the world's population.

An article in the Catholic Times introduces us to the need to bring about a change in the world. This is not only a difference in material goods but with money you have an entrance into all the benefits and privileges of society. These are also passed on to the future generation in an even stronger way.

Income influences marriages, the lower the income the later the marriage, and fewer children. Obesity is seen more in the poorer;  the rich live longer.  Income will determine the education level of our citizens and give rise to many problems in society.

The polarization of the citizenry is the temporary worker issue. Employment insecurity, lower wages, inhuman treatment, and discrimination, goes to forming the lower strata of society becoming its scapegoats.

Pope Francis in his encyclicals, exhortations, talks has stressed this concern for the poor and asks that we hear their cries.

"Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility." (Joy of the Gospel #58).

Pope Francis makes clear that the unfairness in society is a reason for some of the violence we see in society. "Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape" (Joy of the Gospel# 53).

The structures of society especially the economic system from the very beginning the inequality was  ready to foster violence. Unbridled capitalism, consumerism,and the throwaway culture make the poor poorer, and miserable. The pope's sharp words in criticism of mammonism is a lament in seeing the poor driven from the  mainstream of  society and to an inhumane way of living.

Pope Francis and our recent popes have presented us with the same message same from the beginning: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

Life More Frightening Than Death

What frightens us the most? A medical school professor, writing in the View from the Ark of the Catholic Times answers: death. A fact common across all of the categories of biological life. There are millions of different species  active in the competition for life. However, the human species is the only one that finds life at times more frightening than death. Pain, both physical and mental, makes life no longer worth living and we have suicides.

Korea leads the world in the number of suicides. The government is concerned and is working on possible solutions. The National Bioethics Committee has published  a constitution on the dignity of life. Why is Korea the world leader in the number of suicides?

Many scholars mention the challenges that come with economics  bringing great stress to many. Whenever we have problems with foreign exchange, credit card problems, and world economic uncertainty we see a rise in the number of suicides around the world: not unique to Korea. However, in the past when the  foreign exchange problems subsided we saw a decrease of 30% in the number of suicides in other countries but in Korea, they continued to rise, especially among the elderly and the young.

The pain that comes with economics is a factor. However, there are many other nations that have had to deal with the problems that Korea has experienced. Korea has had many difficulties to overcome in its past and has done an admirable job of surviving. Why is Korea so prone to giving up on life?

Victor Frankl a psychiatrist who while in the concentration camp learned a great deal about life. After freedom, in his books, he stresses that his incarceration enabled him to see life more in depth  and finding meaning in life allows one to overcome all difficulties.

With the economic growth in the country, we have become colder and hardhearted, lost our leisure and fail to see the weak in society. A Korean psychiatrist saw the problem originating with the 36 years under Japanese rule which gave birth to a mass neurosis. Koreans lost their collective self-esteem: (instead of finding their worth in themselves they search for it outside of themselves). This was the results of the trauma of colonialism. Consequently, a person's own standards are not important,  appearances are everything. It is better to die than live with embarrassment. 

We search for  superlatives, fame, and ostentation; failing to see those who are alienated in society and at the same time see ourselves as good-for-nothing and not able to accept ourselves as we are. This is another division we have in ourselves and the pain that comes with it, we pass off to our children and others.

The professor finishes the article with the hope that we will come to an understanding of ourselves and overcome the shame of  being the suicide leader of the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Anti-Corruption Movement

The Anti-Corruption and Bribery Prohibition Act  also called the  Kim Young-ran Act went into effect on Sept. 28, and  will  bring  great changes to the culture. A religious sister writing in the Catholic Times introduces the law to the readers and what we can expect.

Kim Young-ran, the former chairwoman of the Anti-Corruption Civil Rights Commission started working on the eradication of corruption in Korea from 2002 and proposed a law in 2011 which after much conflict, five years later finally is the  law of the land.

The  object of the law is the correct understanding of  conscience in society. This applies to all public servants: government officials, judges, prosecutors, teacher, police, journalists... Any solicitations or taking of bribes in return for favors are banned.

The writer expresses her belief that the tacit understanding that was part of the citizens' consciousness has now been made clear with this law, a big step. Consequently, the success or failure of the results will rest with the citizens.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of the world’s most developed economies, in 2015  reported that Korea was 27th out of 34 members in its sensitivity to corruption. Denmark had the highest rating for sensitivity. The sister hopes with water on top becoming clean the water below will  also become clean.

Sister mentions how she has already heard the many expedients that are being planned to get around the law. Restaurants, and the giving of presents and entertainment has helped to prosper many in society, also the  live stock industry will face serious problems is a worry of many. Money as long as it circulates is good: 'If one want to go to Seoul, it matters little how one gets there', is a prevalent way of thinking.

Now is the time to begin gathering in the bubbles that are afloat and to purify the muddy water in the  network and replace it with clean running water.  The prosperity of the country that is tied to blood relationships, friends, and schools has to give way.

We have had many scandals in recent years that have depressed many in society and many are looking for solutions to the problems. We have a lack of material resources but a plentiful number of qualified citizens that we need to utilize. That will allow us to live in peace and be freed from the tiredness that infects society.

Over 50 % of the society are either Christian or Buddhists which means we can make a difference in society. Christians are the largest number in society; we have a lot to be sorry for and a need to ask for forgiveness, and hope to be tools in the hands of God.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Situation of the Elderly in Korea

Both Catholic papers and the Kyeonyang magazine remembering Oct. 1st, the  International Day of the Elderly,  had front page space on the issue and the magazine had a series of articles on the situation in Korea. The aging of Korea is one of the fastest in the world and consequently little time for  preparation.  Spirituality for  the elderly needs to be emphasized. In Korea we have help  with the phrases used  often in society: 'well living' and 'well dying'.

In a recent seminar on the situation of aging, faith and spirituality  a bishop mentioned the need to prepare the elderly to live fulfilled lives and know how to prepare for death. In Society and within the Church there has been a movement for 'Group Homes' for the Elderly.

By 2017 the number of elderly will be over seven million which will be 14% of the population. In 2025  it is estimated we will have over 10 million. In 2000 those living alone were about 540 thousand which was 3.7 % of the total families. In 2010  this reached one million. In 2013 this  rose again to 1 million 250 thousand which is 7% of the total number of families. 20% of the total number of the elderly are  estimated to be living alone.

There are  no  systematic programs in place to take care of the problems of the  sick, and those dying alone. We have few  statistics on what is happening. According to a report in 2014  we have 55. 5 suicides  for every 100,000 of the population, the highest in the world.  As the aging population increases, problems increase,  one of the articles mentioned the need for Group Homes. These homes provide the elderly with the care they need and living in an environment that is comfortable and personal similar to their own home.

The first Group Home was introduced into Korea in 1995, called a home for the aged. According to the Department of Welfare, places that can be called Group Homes  in 2015  numbered 131, a decrease from the 142 from the previous year, a sadness which the writer laments. They take care of about 1000 seniors.

One of the articles by a scholar  on problems of the aged laments that many of the elders have worked for the nation, society and the family and now they are neglected. The families of many have turned their back on them. Many have broken hearts hurting economically,  mentally, emotionally and we shouldn't  overlook this reality.  This will be  the self-portrait of our young people.

We all have a desire to live long lives. In the Old Testament this was considered a blessing. In the  ancient Roman world the average age of the citizens was about 22 years.  Koreans average age from 1926-30 was 33.8 years.  In 2013  for men it was  78.5 and women was 85.1. If we live to be over a  hundred  half of our life will be living as an elder. 

"Do not abandon yourself to sorrow, do not torment yourself with brooding. Gladness of heart is life to a man, joy is what gives him length of days"