ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Parliamentary elections: the Church questions the political parties

Thursday, 4 April 2024 politics   elections   human rights   human dignity  

Conferenza episcople della Corea

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic Church believes that the purpose of politics is to promote human dignity and achieve the common good and that, by exercising its mission among men, it can "pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it". (Gaudium et Spes, 76). This is what the Episcopal Conference of Korea recalls on the eve of the XXII elections to the National Assembly, which will be held on April 10. In the Catholic world, in view of the elections, various issues of interest have emerged, such as low birth rates, climate crisis, social security reform, relations and reconciliation with North Korea.
In the National Assembly (the 21st), of the 300 seats, there are about 70 Catholic politicians, of whom about 50 are from the Democratic Party of Korea and about 20 from the People's Power Party.
Now, in order to help Catholic voters judge and elect the candidates running for the National Assembly, the Episcopal Conference wanted to send a questionnaire to each political party, which addresses issues such as "Work", "Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula", "Bioethics", "Environment and Ecology", "Justice and Peace" and others. The questionnaire was sent to the Democratic Party of Korea, the People's Power Party, the Green Justice Party and the New Reform Party (the main political parties), but the New Reform Party reportedly did not submit the responses. The Episcopal Conference then published a summary of the responses received.

For the first area, that of labor, the Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party "strongly agree" on reducing working hours with the premise of maintaining workers' salaries. The People's Power Party agreed on reducing actual work "to ensure balance between work and personal life", but points out that maintaining the same salary level is not realistic. All political parties agree on measures and laws to protect workers due to rapid technological changes, such as artificial intelligence.

Korean Reconciliation
On the need to discuss accession to the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for national reconciliation and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the Democratic Party of Korea expressed "firm agreement", while the People's Power Party expressed a "neutral" position. The Green Justice Party hopes that "both North and South Korea will adhere to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, thanks to the interest of the great powers.
Regarding inter-Korean civil exchanges, the Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party are very supportive, while the People's Power Party, recalling that North Korea continues to launch provocations and threats, points out the need to guarantee national security. All political parties express their "firm support" for the urgency of avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula and declare that they will work for peace on the peninsula.

Bioethics and respect for life
Following the 2019 ruling, which decriminalized abortion and gave freedom of conscience to doctors and medical institutions that refuse to practice it, the People's Power Party has reiterated its support and protection for life in the womb, also taking into account the decline in the birth rate, and has called for laws that "harmonize the right to life of the fetus and the right to self-determination of women." The Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party have expressed a "neutral" opinion. Regarding the abolition of the death penalty (South Korea has not carried out executions since 1997), the Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party are in favor. The People's Power Party calls for "a mature consensus in society on the abolition or maintenance of the death penalty." All parties support palliative care services for the terminally ill and the expansion of public and home hospices.

Environment and Ecology
On dismantling old nuclear power plants, the Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party "strongly agree," while the People's Power Party "strongly disagree". The Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party call for the complete elimination of nuclear energy, while the People's Power Party does not agree with this position. The first two parties would like to prevent the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima, while the People's Power Party prefers to "control whether the discharge will be safe in accordance with international standards, and carry out inspections and verifications", but without preventing it.
The Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party are strong supporters of expanding renewable energy, while the People's Power Party does not want a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels such as oil, coal or nuclear fuel.

Justice and Peace
A new ""Basic Law on Life and Safety", with the creation of an independent body for security incidents, the establishment of an independent investigation body to clarify the "Itaewon Disaster" of October 29, 2022 (in Seoul, a crowd of people on Halloween evening resulted in the death of 158 people and 198 were injured) finds strong support from the Democratic Party of Korea and the Green Justice Party. The People's Power Party, for its part, considers the current "Basic Law on Disaster Management and Safety" adequate.

The political parties have completed their lists of candidates by including a large number of Catholic deputies. The Episcopal Conference wishes that, in the political activity of believers, "conscientious efforts be made to reconcile politics and religious teachings". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 4/4/2024)