For the bishop of Daejeon, the country’s low birth rate is the result of constant focus on careers. Physical labour is denigrated; only white-collar jobs are appreciated. Families teach to outperform others. "We love the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters."
Daejeon (AsiaNews) – For Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the National Justice and Peace Commission, South Korea’s declining birthrate is due to a culture where coming first rules society, where hard work and sweat are less appreciated, and outperforming others is taught in the family.
In South Korea, the authorities are concerned by the drop in the country’s birth rate, a potentially dangerous trend for its continued economic growth. Last year, the number of births reached a historic low, with only 406,000 newborns, and a fertility rate (number of babies per woman) at 1.17, the lowest in the last seven years.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr You reiterated that the only answer to the declining birth rate is "living according to the Gospel", which teaches us to live together as brothers and sisters.
For the prelate, the problem of fewer births begins in families, which should be "the first school where one learns to live with others. Unfortunately, now this happens less, and so the right human preparation is found less and less in young people and children. It is a very worrying issue."
"Throughout South Korean society there is a widespread pressure to compete. The current situation in society is disquieting, since everyone has to run vigorously to beat the competition. The social climate drives young people to consider others as competitors as they fight for their career."
"Young people like white-collar jobs, with giant conglomerates or government. Jobs that require sweat and hard physical labour are less appreciated in society. In Christianity, labour contributes to the Lord’s creation but in today's society physical labour is despised. In addition, there is the problem of unemployment that stems from technological progress that has reduced the need for blue-collar workers. For this reason, it is important to highlight the importance of the evangelical spirit of brotherhood, to share what we have with other people, and tackle this problem together."
"Unfortunately, after the Korean War (1950-1953), which destroyed everything, South Koreans became obsessed with economic development, sacrificing certain precious values . Now, our society is facing the results of that obsession in its shockingly low birth rate. The Church in Korea, therefore, is doing its best to teach our young people to acknowledge that others are not the object of competition, but brothers and sisters with whom one has to walk together. The world is not a battlefield, but a place to live together with others."
"For the Korean Church, the answer is very simple: live according to the Gospel. The Word of God helps us live with others. We love the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters. It is important to prepare ourselves through the Gospel. At the same time, it should be said that young people have great potential. We saw it this past winter, for example, during the peaceful candlelight revolution”, which led to the resignation of then-President Park Geun-hye.
“Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the squares of South Korea’s main cities to demand a just society without the temptation of expressing their grievances with violence. Most of the protesters who gathered when the temperature was close to zero were young people. In addition, young South Koreans can be found all over the world to provide services to others, especially in economically less developed countries. Seeing all this, I believe our young people still have, deep down, a righteous, pious and generous heart."
"Catechism lessons to educate children and young people about the Gospel in each parish serve this purpose. To be honest, it is a difficult task, since in society the spirit of competition is still promoted as a value to be jealously guarded. Many push young people towards ruthless competition arguing that they must pass their exams, be more competitive in their field, and be first if they want to survive or avoid joining the poor classes.”
“Whilst it is true that competition is useful and necessary in some situations, humans were not created to outperform each other, but to love one another. This is the truth about human beings that the Gospel teaches us. In any case, difficulties do not discourage us; they accompany today’s young people because they follow the path of the Good News, which gives life to everyone, and teaches them that the Lord wants us to help, work, study, and be good with others."