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Bishop raises alarm at Korea’s empty cradles

DAEJEON (AsiaNews): Looking at the empty cradles dotting the nursery’s of South Korea, Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, from the Commission for Pastoral Care for Migrants, commented, “The country needs a new culture of life.”

The bishop of Daejeon continued, “The Catholic Church always points this out, but for us Koreans, it is a major challenge on the ground. We must strive to change social attitudes by example and teaching, but also through concrete help.”

Bishop You explained, “The problems of birth and of respect for life are central to the survival of our society. But there are many factors that threaten them. There is a cultural factor, of course, which, however, is in addition to an economic and labour system that penalises giving birth.”

He added, “The growth in the standard of living is accompanied by an increased automation of industrial production and this eliminates jobs, so people are afraid and think less and less about having children.”

Bishop You’s fears are supported by data. Out of a total of 222 nations or sovereign entities worldwide, South Korea comes in at number 217 in terms of its annual birth rate. 

For many years now it has been listed near the bottom rung of the ranking pole, but has slipped yet again.

Currently, a Korean household averages 1.2 children, a figure similar to Taiwan, Japan and Macau. All enjoy a high degree of well-being, but their economies are threatened by aging populations and social disintegration.

Bishop You went on to say,  “Cherishing and nurturing children … is seen as important in the Catholic worldview. Conjugal love has to pass through conception to make the family complete. The love of the Lord, then, does the rest. If you forget this factor, it is useless to talk about anything else. Korean Catholics know this, but we’re trying to improve their sensitivity towards this.”

However, the bishop said that he is aware that it is not just a matter of talking about it. 

He added, “We realise that the cost of living is a limit to births, and for about 10 years in my diocese we have been trying to help families with several children from the material point of view. Each year on the Feast of the Holy Family, we give an award to the five largest families of the diocese.”

The award is worthwhile, “A scholarship to the tune of five million won ($32,670) for each family. These are funds that we collect from among the faithful during the year and we hope they will continue to give ever more generously. Life is a gift which should be fostered at all costs and is a great challenge that we intend to win.”

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