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Market place parish

SEOUL (SE): A group of merchants who work in the Garak Market in Seoul, South Korea, founded a quasi-parish 25 years ago at a time when it was difficult to find a place where Mass was allowed to be celebrated.

On April 12, the 25th anniversary of its foundation in 1991, the archbishop of Seoul, Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, came to the third floor venue to celebrate Mass for the 200 or so regulars.

Although the people began gathering at the venue in 1985 and had even begun a soup kitchen, which at a time when poverty plagued the area, it was not until 1991 that it was declared a quasi-parish and formed a parish council.

Jung Ok-gi, the first president of the council, teared up as he recalled the old days before the community settled at Garak Market. He said that at the time, all religious activities were banned in the market rental area; so the community had to move around to different markets to find a place for Mass.

“At that time, Garak district was nothing more than a wildland,” Jung said. “It was very difficult for us to settle here and start our business again. But then we saw homeless people freeze to death in the cold streets. We decided to build a soup kitchen for them despite our difficult situations. Fortunately, the late Stephan Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan visited our community and gave much support to our community. Eventually we could build a chapel in the market.”

Cardinal Yeom expressed his gratitude to the community and promised to pray for the community. He encouraged them to continue their Good Samaritan outreach to the marginalised and the poor.

A former pastor of Garak Market, Father Gerhard Kwon, encouraged the merchants to be a light in this world of darkness and the salt which has no special flavour, but seasons otherwise bland food.

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