Catholic community speaks out against political scandal

The Hankyoreh, August 21, 2013

"Kingdoms without justice are mere robberies."

Bishop Linus Lee Seong-hyo, the vicar general at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Suwon, quoted St. Augustine to denounce the South Korean political situation in the wake of the National Intelligence Service's (NIS) interference in last December's presidential election.

"Where are we heading now in 2013?" he asked. "We're seeing things that have never happened before in the history of constitutional government. Our politics are going back to the 1970s."

He was speaking at an "emergency mass" organized at the diocese to demand a thorough investigation of the NIS's actions and punishment of those responsible. The event, which was held at the diocese's cathedral in Suwon's Jeongja neighborhood on Aug. 20, was attended by around 100 affiliated priests and nuns as well as 600 congregants.

In the manifesto, the clerics demanded that President Park Geun-hye investigate and apologize for the NIS's political interference, as well the intelligence organization and ruling Saenuri Party's (NFP) illegal release of classified inter-Korean summit transcripts, and develop a plan to prevent similar incidents in the future and reform the NIS.

A total of 627 people took part in the manifesto, including 304 priests with the diocese and 227 nuns and priests affiliated with different convents and monasteries. Delivered after the mass by the bishop in the name of the whole diocese, rather than individual priests, it was the first such manifesto made by the Suwon Diocese. To date, manifestos have been issued by archdioceses in Busan, Musan, and Gwangju and the dioceses of Incheon and Jeonju, and by priests affiliated with the archdiocese of Daegu and dioceses in Andong, Daejeon, and Wonju.

Lee addressed the reason for the proliferation of manifestos in his sermon. "By defying laws prohibiting political involvement, illegally interfering in a presidential election, and behaving in a way that goes beyond the scope of its duties, the National Intelligence Service destroyed democracy," he said.

He went on to say the NIS had "trampled the Constitution after its illegal election interference by muddying public opinion and confusing decent citizens, which is a more serious deed than all its past political maneuvering."

Before the sermon, Bishop Mathias Ri Iong-hoon, who heads both the Suwon diocese and the diocese's justice and peace committee, railed about the irresponsibility of a "brain dead" President, National Assembly, and media that failed to respond appropriately to the NIS damaging the country's image by "distorting democracy" with its public opinion manipulation and incitement, and the illegal release of transcripts from the 2007 inter-Korean summit.

"The National Assembly should be responding to the NIS's destruction of national morals, but it's been brain-dead," Ri said. "They can't even conduct a proper hearing. And the broadcasters like KBS and MBC are all trying to keep the administration happy, so they remain quiet and complicit about the scandal, which prevents them from doing their duty as the press."

Ri also issued an appeal to the President. "President Park Geun-hye needs to confront the misdeeds of the NIS and demand accountability. We cannot expect a state organization to clean itself up when it has lost the ability to do so. I hope the President will take action to selflessly resolve the situation and usher in an era of happiness for the public," he said.

By Hong Yong-duk, south Gyeonggi correspondent

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