Go to contents

[Opinion] Korean Starlight

Posted March. 27, 2006 03:09,   


St. Francis of Italy (1181-1228) was one of the Catholic Church’s most significant leaders. He was the first to acknowledge “freedom of choice” regarding rules as mandated by the Church in the Middle Ages as the rule of law. But he stated that even without attending missals, one could still attain goodness by implementing the teachings of the church. He shed a ray of light for the people of the Dark Ages.

His humanized form of church reformation movement later served as the spiritual basis for the Renaissance. In the secular world of today, the role of a religious leader has only increased.

Ordained on March 24, Cardinal Cheong Jin-suk said that he wanted to “be a little starlight in the evening skies to lead the distressed.” It was a statement of his aspirations as a cardinal. From his words, “little starlight,” Cardinal Cheong is a humble person. He confessed, “People ask me to adopt the role previously held by Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, but it is impossible for me to reach his level of religious charisma.” Cardinal Cheong thus courteously humbled himself.

The cardinal has refrained from opining on matters outside the church. But after being installed at his position, he has prescribed remedies to national leaders. In his first press conference, he emphasized social cohesion, while around the time of his ordination, he stressed that “those who do not strive for the happiness of the people should relinquish their positions as leaders.”

In response to the collective self-chastising perception on history, as exemplified by the words, “The history of the Republic of Korea was a history of failure,” he assessed Korean economic development favorably by saying, “It was due to the increase in national power that Korea has been able to produce two cardinals.”

It is his philosophy that political and economic leaders strive for the material happiness of the people, while religious leaders strive for their spiritual happiness. The cardinal’s promise to become “starlight” for the mentally and physically exhausted is touching in the sense that it is in stark contrast to the noisy but vacuous politicians. The cardinal added that “we cannot see stars in the Seoul skies.” It was a painfully apt metaphor for the politicians lacking in leadership.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com