03/29/2007, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Abortion and embryo manipulation tools of economic progress causing society’s death, say bishops

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
All of Korea’s bishops have signed and released a message in which they attack the South Korean government for promoting abortion and stem cell research in the name of economic progress. For them abortion and embryo manipulation destroy man’s dignity and sacredness, and are the cause for a declining birth rate and society’s perversion.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Abortion and embryo manipulation in the name of science are tools used in the relentless search of economic progress, but far from making society go forward, they destroy its values. These accusations are made in a statement released by the Bishops’ Conference of Korea which calls on the government to give priority to fundamental values and the protection of human dignity, neglected in their view in the name of economic development. One of the consequences of this situation has been the lowest birth rate in the world, and especially the destruction of human values, which have been replaced by a culture of death.

The pastors, who bear witness first hand of the negative effects of embryo research and the abortion culture, are making their appeal at a time when the Western world is debating the value of the family and what limits to impose on scientific research. Following the faked embryonic cell research by Hwang Woo-suk, Seoul’s one time “cloning pioneer,” Koreans are asking themselves questions about the various arguments.

South Korea’s government is guilty of adopting a new ‘Bio-ethics Law’ (which authorises embryonic stem cell research) and of pursuing anti-family policies for more than 30 years, including abortion.

In light of these attacks, the prelates stress that “[t]rue progress is possible only when it is based on well-ordered [ethical and moral] values;” however, in “a society where the fundamental value and dignity of human life and the family are disregarded, authentic progress and development cannot be realized.”

Here is the full text of the message:

Toward a culture of life

Human life and dignity must always be respected regardless of sex, race, color, nationality or age. We should not forget that the human embryo and the unborn child undeniably possess human life.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea has long and constantly insisted on the dignity of human life and has expressed great concern for the birth control policy found in the .Mother and Child Health Act,’ a law which legalizes abortions and experiments on human embryonic stem cells, an issue that has recently emerged as a matter of grave concern on the international level.

Unfortunately, however, law-makers still promote policies and laws violating the dignity of human life under the pretence of economic efficiency. As a result, Korea has had to face the sad realities of the lowest birth rate in the world along with a seriously high rate of suicides and abortions.

Reiterating our stance on the widespread trend of devaluing life and on the spread of the anti-life culture, the Korean Catholic bishops hereby make clear our position toward recent policies which we think violate the dignity of human life.

First, a human embryo definitely possesses life. Therefore, we denounce as acts destroying the dignity and sacredness of human life all experiments or research using embryos. We call for the government to reject the amendment of the ‘Bio-ethics and Bio-safety Law’ that would legalize research on cloned embryos developed from somatic cells. As an alternative, we have developed the donation of haematopoietic stem cells for patients with incurable diseases and have promoted research and treatment in this direction.

We urge the use of adult stem cells, a method which is ethically safe and clinically proven to be very effective. It is very dangerous to recommend the cloning of somatic cells and research on embryonic stem cells that involves many ethical problems. This path follows the current ways of thinking that regard life as a means for economic gain. Such anti-life research must stop immediately.

Second, the Catholic Church clearly points out that in vitro fertilization and artificial procreation are unethical. New human life cannot be artificially manufactured by man; it is always a gift from God as the fruit of conjugal love and union. While we share the suffering of infertile couples, we cannot but point out that artificial procreation is unethical both in its methods and in its process.

Artificial procreation leads to selecting a few healthier embryos while at the same time destroying the rest of the implanted embryos or it leads to the production of surplus embryos for research and experiment. Thus, we the Korean Catholic bishops object to the government policy of financially supporting couples using artificial fertilization and procreation in this way as a solution to the low birth rate.

Third, the Korean Catholic bishops have repeatedly urged the revision of the ‘Mother and Child Health Act’ that has for over thirty years been used as a means to facilitate abortions. The stipulation of the Act that permitted abortions conforming to the birth control policy of the past is the main cause of Korea's low birth rate and also of the widespread culture of death that deadens the conscience of people. When the government invests an enormous portion of its budget to encourage child birth while at the same time it permits abortions, it is acting in a self-contradictory way and neglecting its duty.

Our society has seen rapid development in its economy as well as in other sectors. On the other hand, we have also witnessed a serious reversal of values so that material and economic values are placed over spiritual and ethical values.

True progress is possible only when it is based on well-ordered values and on truth. In a society where the fundamental value and dignity of human life and the family are disregarded, authentic progress and development cannot be realized.

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