SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Korea Bizwire) – On August 16, Pope Francis will preside over a historic Mass at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square to beatify 124 Korean Catholic martyrs persecuted during the Joseon dynasty. But, the Pope is expected to face unexpected guests during the feast of the Catholic Church in Korea.
Since July 14, about ten bereaved family members of the sunken ferry Sewol accidents have staged a hunger strike asking the Korean government to legislate a special law empowering a fact-finding investigation into the accident.
Among them, a father of a high school student who died in the ferry accident has staged a hunger strike for the past 24 consecutive days as of August 6 and others are joining the sit-in strike with relay fasting. In a collective ‘over my dead body’ stance, they are grim and resolute in making their requests of introducing the special law pass at the National Assembly.
However, the ruling Saenuri Party (New Frontier Party) and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy are in a tug-of-war in dealing with the proposed law especially over the investigative right of the fact-finding committee and their bickering doesn’t seem to settle soon.
Grieving families of Sewol ferry victims want independent South Korean probe (Washington Post, Aug. 5)
Sewol families embark on hunger strike (Hankyoreh, Jul. 15)
Family members demand truth behind ferry Sewol sinking (CCTV, Jul. 25)
Singer joins hunger strike by Sewol families (Global Post, Aug. 4)
At stake is the very place the sit-ins of the bereaved families are playing out. They are staging their sit-in strike in the Mass venue in which up to a million of people including 200,000 Catholics are expected to gather at the square. If the sit-in strike of the families continues until the date, there might be a controversy over the forced removal of their tents in the square.
According to the Catholic Church in Korea, the preparatory committee for the papal visit met with the bereaved families over the issue and it said that the families responded “positively” not mentioning in detail. However, a local Catholic media reported that if the special law were not legislated until August 16, the bereaved would keep their strike in the current venue.
Considering the pontiff’s tendency giving priority to the underprivileged and alienated and urging Catholics to go to the street for the social advancement, it could not be an appropriate option for the government to remove the sit-ins which are increasingly burdensome to the organizer and even an eyesore.
In addition, the Pope who will visit Korea from August 14 to 18 is scheduled to meet and comfort the bereaved families in Daejeon just before another Mass to be held at Daejeon World Cup Stadium on August 15.
As time advances after the tragic ferry accident that claimed 293 lives — and 11 still missing for now, most of them are high school students going for excursion to Jeju Island, the social mourning and anger to the government which failed to rescue them during the early stage of the accident are fading away in Korea.
The bereaved families’ voice for thorough probe into the accident is unheard to the government and even some conservative groups urge the bereaved families to stop teasing the government. Lines to memorial altars nationwide petered out already.
Kim Jang-hoon’s Charitable work
In South Korea, Kim is widely known as the “Donation Angel”, donating over 10 billion South Korean won over the course of ten years to various causes. He is very active in the Liancourt Rocks territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea. In July 2012, while during his concert at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in California, Kim received a letter signed by U.S. President Barack Obama, notifying him of his winning the President’s Volunteer Service Award. (Wikipedia)
In the meantime, a Korean singer Kim Jang-hoon joined the hunger strike to support the bereaved families on August 4. His joining in the strike attracted lots of media attention to the striking venue and other entertainers showed their willingness to join the strike, which will make the tents in the square enliven.
Kim, who is famous for being a “socialtainer (social entertainer)” for his social activities including the Dokdo campaign, twitted saying that “Except the hunger, I’m very well now. Staying here together with the bereaved families is not an option but a must for me.”
He plans to stay with the families until they finish the hunger strike and keeps his other activities including concerts by getting the IV injections.
By John Choi (email@example.com)