‘Hope bus’ brings the hopes of our society & our church!

The following is an unauthoritative personal translation of a statement released by the Catholic Priests Association for Justice in Jul. 25 in support of struggles by the laid-off union workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (HHIC) and efforts by ‘hope bus’ riders. The Catholic Priests Association for Justice has played pivotal roles in countless critical moments of modern Korean history during the process of democratization of authoritarian military regimes by awakening dormant consciences of ordinary people through poignant but illuminating statements aiming directly at the heart of authoritarian governments and by supporting and comforting the poor souls in need. This time, the Catholic Priests Association for Justice announced it would hold a life and peace mass praying for the cancellation of layoff and for laid-off workers in front of HHIC Youngdo shipyard in July 30, 8:30 PM. Hopefully, this mass would mark the turning point for the peaceful resolution of Hanjin incident. The original statement of this translation (in Korean) can be reached by the link at the bottom.

1. To our eyes, the Youngsan people who were on the watchtower at the top of Namildang in January 2009 and the Hanjin union workers who are on the tower crane already over half a year look the same. The fact that they chose such high and dizzy places as their bastions for resistance and their desperate voices “We are humans too. Let’s live together!” are not different either.

2. We hear the screams Jin-suk Kim is making with all her heart from herculean patience uneasily. We also think deeply about the true nature of ‘layoff’ she demands them to withdraw. Let’s try to fathom the feelings and sorrows of a woman worker who spent freezing winter times in an unheated cold room for eight years because she could not forget piteous endings of her fellow workers. Unnecessary anger or hatred is not courteous to human beings. With the power of introspection from think after think should we stop this incident where ‘people keep dying.’ If we look for improvements without thinking deeply about them, unfortunate incidents of the past will follow us today and tomorrow.

3. It is not a matter of days that Korean enterprises move production facilities abroad looking for bigger profits and global competitive edge. Whenever this kind of thing happened, our society respected that considering that top managers must have thought thoroughly about it. However, the layoff problems of workers who had been working at those companies were left uncared for helplessly. To the continuous “layoff is murder” screams by workers, we either lived indifferently or considered it as the fate of the weak. We believe this kind of tendency must have played its part in nurturing numerous maladies of our society.

In due course, a social phenomenon called ‘hope bus’ took place. Although people argue about the nature of it, it is something citizens initiated realizing that misfortune and failure of others are tragedies we all share and imploring each other to overcome today’s difficulties by going back to the minds of empathy. We ask the government and people who block and criticize the hope buses heading for Busan to answer what kind of principles of life other than the live-together-cherish-together spirit can heal the despairs and damages of our society.

4. The employment reality that hire ‘at will’ and fire ‘at random’ will drive our society towards codestruction. We need to look for a new transition before it gets too late. Although our future depends on the low carbon green development as the government puts it in right way, since scale down or relocation of our core industry is already going on for the same reason, businesses should create new green jobs so that their employees and their families would not suffer from the pains of layoff. Also, the government should support businesses for such tremendous projects and be a sturdy security net for workers at the same time. Transition from gray industry to green industry should be this merciful and righteous.

5. The reason why Jin-suk Kim and Hanjin union workers went up so high up there was to make this suggestion. Let’s pray for workers so that they can safely come back to us. Let’s pray for breadwinners who lost their jobs and their hearts, and let’s pray for those who despair in grief. Let’s pray so that we all can meet at a wise road for coexistence.

July 25, 2011

Catholic Priests Association for Justice

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